Parshas Ha’azinu is primarily a song,
broken into different sections of Hashem (through Moshe) congratulating Bnei
Yisrael on accepting the Torah upon themselves and reminding them of the
advantages and responsibilities that face them for the rest of time. Near the
end of the parsha, when the song is finished, Hashem tells Moshe to hike up the
mountain to his final resting place. It was from this spot that Moshe gave Bnei
Yisrael their final brachos, which we find in the next parsha, V’Zos Habracha.
After Hashem tells Moshe to go up the
mountain, He continues and says, “וּמֻת בָּהָר אֲשֶׁר
אַתָּה עֹלֶה שָׁמָּה וְהֵאָסֵף אֶל עַמֶּיךָ” “And die on the mountain upon which you are climbing and be
gathered to your people” (Devarim 32:50). The Ohr HaChaim says that the structure
of the word “וּמֻת” means that Hashem
was asking Moshe to want to die at this time. (Remember, we mentioned in
Parshas Vayeilech that even though Moshe couldn’t enter Eretz Yisrael with the
nation, he didn’t necessarily have to die.) This request was made because
according to the medrash, Hashem does not kill any tzaddik unless the tzaddik
is ready to die. Therefore, He had to ask Moshe to want to die in order to be
able to do so.
The Ohr HaChaim gives
three reasons why Moshe had to die and why in this place on Har Nevo. The first
is based on a gemarah in Sotah (14a) that says Moshe was buried on Har Nevo
directly opposite Beis Peor, the location where Bnei Yisrael sinned with the Moabite
women. Every so often, the angel of Peor rises up towards the heavens to
prosecute Yisrael for their sin, but every time he reaches the kever of Moshe,
he stops, bows his head, and turns around. Moshe was buried there for that
The second reason is
more metaphysical. Hashem tells Moshe to go up, “אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה
עֹלֶה שָׁמָּה” “(the mountain) upon which you are climbing”. He is telling
Moshe to “go up” and take the reward that he cannot gain in this world. Even
though dying is hard, Moshe could leave this world with the knowledge that all
of his hard work was about to be rewarded.
The final reason has
to do with the final part of our quote from the pasuk, “and be gathered to your
people”. The standard translation for this line in the Torah is that the newly
deceased person follows in the footsteps of the righteous people of previous
generations and enters Gan Eden. The Ohr HaChaim explains that here is a
special case. Moshe was deeply connected with the generation of people who we
brought through the desert, more than any leader and nation have been connected
in any point throughout history. This connection lasted even after Moshe’s
death. Because of this connection, the people of that time were all brought
into Gan Eden, without exception, through their connection with Moshe! However,
if Moshe hadn’t been in Gan Eden first, the rest of the nation couldn’t have
followed; therefore, Moshe had to die too. But, as we mentioned before, Hashem
would not have done that unless Moshe agreed. So Moshe agreed, and made his
last sacrifice for the Jewish People.
Parshas Vayeilech brings us even closer
to Bnei Yisrael entering Eretz Yisrael, and with that, Moshe’s death. After
hitting the rock, told in Parshas Chukas, Hashem told Moshe and Aharon that
they would not be able to lead the nation into Eretz Yisrael. Now that Bnei
Yisrael were about to enter the Land, Moshe knew he was not going with them.
The parsha begins, “וַיֵּלֶךְ משֶׁה
וַיְדַבֵּר אֶת הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֶל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל” “And Moshe went, and he spoke all these things to all of
Yisrael” (Devarim 31:1). All the commentaries ask where exactly did Moshe go? The Targum Yonason says that Moshe knew he was going to die soon,
so he went to the Beis Medrash to give the nation one last mussar schmooze. The
Ramban explains that he went to say goodbye to the people before he died. However,
the pasuk is not clear if either of these answers (which are just two of many) is
correct. Furthermore, in pasuk 2, Moshe says that his time in this world is up.
Asks the Ohr HaChaim, how did Moshe know he was about to die? The gemarah
(Shabbos 30a) explains that no one ever or will ever know when they are
supposed to die, so how did Moshe know?
The Ohr HaChaim explains with the help
of a Zohar that says forty days before a person dies, his neshama leaves his
body. (What this means exactly, is beyond the scope or understanding of this Dvar
Torah, but it is not necessary to understand the overall theme.) As a result of
their close spiritual connection with their inner selves, tzaddikim can tell
when this happens. Furthermore, the name you have in this world is the name for
your neshama. Meaning, your name, your personal point of reference, is not
simply a title you are known by, it is actually the name of your neshama, and therefore,
it is what you will be known by in Gan Eden when your neshama returns to Hashem
(after you die).
Therefore, when the pasuk says that
Moshe “went”, it isn’t referring to Moshe physically going anywhere. Rather, it
is referring to his neshama leaving his body and “going” back to Hashem. Moshe wanted
to communicate this fact right away to Bnei Yisrael in order to prepare them as
much as possible for life in Eretz Yisrael (without him), so he immediately
told them and began teaching them what they needed to know (as evidenced by the
end of pasuk 1, pasuk 2, and the remainder of the parsha). So even though
generally people cannot know exactly when they will die, someone as spiritually
connected as Moshe would know right away when his neshama had left him and
would know he only had a few weeks to live.
What did Moshe do with his last few
weeks of life? He could have decided to take it easy; after all, he had successfully
led the Bnei Yisrael through the desert, brought them the Torah, and dealt with
every crisis that came his way. He could have easily justified spending the
last few weeks relaxing. But he didn’t. The pasuk tells us that he went, he was
proactive and spent all his remaining time teaching and guiding Bnei Yisrael as
much as he could.
must learn from Moshe this lesson of always being proactive. It’s currently the
Aseres Yimei Teshuvah; we must wake up and do teshuvah while we still have the
chance! Like Moshe before his death, we cannot coast through this; we must do
our best to improve before this uniquely opportunistic time ends.
This week’s Haftorah is the last of a
set of seven since Tisha B’av which offers consolation for Yerushalayim and the
Jews. This week’s speaks about the beautiful scene that will be Yerushalayim
when the Bais Hamikdash will be rebuilt and all the Jews will be back in Eretz
Yisrael. Reading these words, we can see the beautiful picture contained in
these words. This is the scene that will be if we can internalize the lessons
of this week’s parshah.
AIMeM would like to wish all our readers a Shana Tova, a healthy and happy year!
As the month of Elul comes to a close
and Rosh Hashanah and the Aseres Yimei Teshuva begin, it is time to look
forward to the next ten days, but also to look back at what we have accomplished
over the past month. One idea I wanted to focus on is the concept of eimas
hadin, fear of judgement. There are many stories told of not even 100 years
ago when the month of Elul was a serious time in the Jewish world. Many people wouldn’t
speak, there was little excitement or enthusiasm, and overall, there was a feeling
of overriding tension that weighed heavily on everyone’s mind.
Nowadays, even among the most pious of
people, while the idea of Elul is strong, the same sense of eimas hadin
does not exist. What happened? How come this feeling, so strong only 70 years
ago, has all but disappeared from our lives? And how do we bring it back in
time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?
The Alter of Kelm zt”l, one of the
foremost experts on the subject of mussar, says that in order for you to change your perception of anything, your
emotions and intellect must be on the same page; because if they aren’t, no
matter how logical a subject may be, you will not accept it as your perception.
This is one of our main goals at this time of year, to awaken our hearts to the
correct path, because otherwise, we can never change our actions.
There is a famous medrash that if we
want to bring Hashem into our lives, He only requires us to open a tiny hole for
Him, and He will enlarge that hole to fill up the entire space. This, explains
R’ Shalom Schwadron, the Maggid of Yerushalayim, in his famous sefer on Elul, Kol
Dodi Dofek, is referring to the effect of the physical world on our neshama.
If our hearts are totally filled up with Olam Hazeh, there is no room for
Hashem to come in. But by removing just a small piece, He will expand it until
it fills the entire space.
This, explains the Maggid, is the reason
why we don’t have the same level of eimas hadin nowadays. It’s not that
we are bad people, there are in fact many good, righteous Jews who have a
strong belief in Hashem and keep the Torah and mitzvos; however, we have all absorbed
the effects of Olam Hazeh more than previous generations. It’s not even
necessarily our fault, we have more opportunities to enjoy Olam Hazeh than our
ancestors did; however, it is our responsibility still to keep our hearts and
The good news is that it is well within
our abilities to return to this previous level. By removing the effects of Olam
Hazeh from a small place on our hearts and opening up that piece to Hashem, He
will quickly fill us our entire hearts and minds with the knowledge and
recognition necessary for us to connect to Him and make Him the biggest part of
our lives. (This doesn’t mean that we have to give up Olam Hazeh, just that we
must make sure our priorities are straight. Though that may mean giving up some
of the things we enjoy.)
During the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, Hashem
is more present in our lives than any other time of the year (See Yeshaya
55:6). There is no better opportunity than now to start training ourselves to
allow Hashem into our hearts and minds. And if we are successful at this time,
perhaps this will be the last Rosh Hashanah we spend in galus.
This week’s parsha, Parshas Ki Savo,
begins with the mitzvah of Bikkurim, to bring the first fruits to the Beis
Hamikdashas a gift to Hashem. This mitzvah
has many deeper connotations to it, some of which we have discussed in this
forum before. Here is another of those explanations.
The Kli Yakar points out an interesting
fact about Bikkurim. The pasuk says, “וְהָיָה כִּי תָבוֹא
אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְיָשַׁבְתָּ
“And it will be when you come to the Land that Hashem, your God, is giving
you as an inheritance, and you will inherit it and settle it” (Devarim
26:1). The only other mitzvah which uses the phrase “וִירִשְׁתָּהּ
וְיָשַׁבְתָּ” is in Parshas Shoftim by the guidelines of appointing a king.
The connection between the two is simple. The reason why Bnei Yisrael will want
a king is so they can be like all the nations surrounding them. Even though
Bnei Yisrael are not supposed to have a king, they will be so secure in their
possession of Eretz Yisrael that they will look to outside their heritage and
adapt other philosophies. Similarly, after possessing the land, Bnei Yisrael will
forget all the miracles performed by Hashem who brought them to Eretz Yisrael,
and will only remember all the battles waged by their own hands. They will look
at all the success they will have settling the land and conclude that it was
their own ability that brought them such prosperity. In both these cases, something
is needed to remind Bnei Yisrael of how they came to possess Eretz Yisrael.
These two words, “וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְיָשַׁבְתָּ”, are fitting to use
because we assume that we own Eretz Yisrael as an inheritance from our ancestors,
the Avos, and that we settled it under our own power and national right. But this
is not the case. By bringing the first of our fruits to the Beis Hamikdash,
specifically the Seven Species that are special to Eretz Yisrael, we remind
ourselves that we came to possess this Land only through the goodness of
As we approach Rosh Hashanah,
we can use the lesson of the Bikkurim to help us prepare for the big day. By
learning to appreciate Hashem as the true cause of everything good in our lives
(and by recognizing how much good we have), we can begin to truly make Him our
King. May we all be zoche to a favorable judgment.