And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. Deuteronomy 34:5
The Torah portion for this week is V'Zot HaBerachah, which means "this is the blessing," from Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12, and the Haftorah is from Joshua 1:1-18. This concludes the reading of the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy.
According to Jewish tradition, Moses wrote the entire Bible from the very words of God. God would dictate, and Moses would write it. This includes the final eight verses of the Torah which record Moses' death. The Talmud teaches that Moses wrote these last verses with tears.
What exactly does it mean that Moses wrote with tears? One opinion suggests that Moses literally wrote the words with his tears instead of ink, and after his death, Joshua filled them in. However, the simplest understanding is that while Moses wrote, he wept. But what exactly did Moses weep for?
I'm not sure anyone will ever truly know what feelings Moses held in his heart during those moments, but here is what we do know: We know that Moses was exceedingly humble. We know that he was entirely selfless. We also know that Moses was the most spiritual person to ever live and had a unique relationship with God.
Based on these characteristics we can assume that Moses did not weep for selfish reasons, such as not being able to go into the Holy Land. We can assume that he didn't weep because he would no longer hold the position of honor as leader of Israel. We can also assume that Moses wasn't crying because he was afraid to die. We have to expect that if Moses wept, it had something to do with others, something selfless in nature.
I am reminded about the story of Zach Sobiech, a teenager who died in 2013 after battling cancer. Zach's final months were made into a documentary and his song "Clouds," inspired by his experience, went to number one on iTunes. What made Zach's story so compelling is that as he was dying, he taught what it meant to truly live. He said these words: "What makes you happy is seeing someone smile because you put it there. That's what's awesome about living in this world - it's that you can help people."
I think that Moses wept because he knew that once he died, he would no longer be able to help people. That was his reason for living.
As Zach Sobiech said, "I want everyone to know that you don't need to find out you're dying to start living."
We can all start living by helping others. Today and every day, bring joy to another person. Make someone's day a bit brighter. Let's not wait until it's too late to appreciate this opportunity. So many people live their lives focused on making their material conditions better only to find out at the end that none of it really matters. Instead, let's focus on making someone else's life better - that's what living is all about.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President