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 exact purpose.
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.
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