Haftarah: Yehoshua 1:1-18 (Ashkenazi) | Yehoshua 1:1-9 (Sefardi) | Yehoshua 1:1-9; Yehoshua 6:27 (Teimani)
הפטרה: יהושע א א-יח (אשכנזים) | יהושע א א-ט (ספרדים) | יהושע א א-ט; יהושע ו כז (תימנים) [על התורה]
Vezot Habracha, the very end of Chumash, is read on Simchat Torah, after which the Torah is immediately begun again with Parashat Bereshit. It includes Moshe’s departing blessing to each of the twelve tribes, after which Moshe ascends Har Nevo (Mt. Nebo), looks out over Eretz Yisrael, and is gathered to his kin.
Reminiscent of Yaakov’s blessings to his twelve sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel, Moshe’s blessing addresses each in turn. As with Yaakov’s blessing, the language speaks of future times and can be cryptic. The blessing affirms Israel’s acceptance of Hashem’s commandments and concludes with an assurance that Israel, collectively, will be protected.
Moshe Looks Over the Land
Moshe ascends the mountain and is treated to an expansive view:
וַיַּעַל מֹשֶׁה מֵעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב אֶל הַר נְבוֹ רֹאשׁ הַפִּסְגָּה אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי יְרֵחוֹ וַיַּרְאֵהוּ ה’ אֶת כָּל הָאָרֶץ אֶת הַגִּלְעָד עַד דָּן: וְאֵת כָּל נַפְתָּלִי וְאֶת אֶרֶץ אֶפְרַיִם וּמְנַשֶּׁה וְאֵת כָּל אֶרֶץ יְהוּדָה עַד הַיָּם הָאַחֲרוֹן: וְאֶת הַנֶּגֶב וְאֶת הַכִּכָּר בִּקְעַת יְרֵחוֹ עִיר הַתְּמָרִים עַד צֹעַר: וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֵלָיו זֹאת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב לֵאמֹר לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה הֶרְאִיתִיךָ בְעֵינֶיךָ וְשָׁמָּה לֹא תַעֲבֹר
Moses went up from the steppes of Moav to Har Nevo, to the summit of Pisga, opposite Yericho, and Hashem showed him the whole land: Gilad as far as Dan; all Naftali; the land of Efraim and Manashe; the whole land of Yehuda as far as the Western Sea; the Negev; and the plain—the valley of Yericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. And Hashem said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, ‘I will assign it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross there.”Devarim 34:1-4
At the command of Hashem, Moshe dies, aged 120, in the land of Moav. He is buried there, but “no one knows his burial place to this day” (וְלֹא יָדַע אִישׁ אֶת קְבֻרָתוֹ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה). At the time of his death, “his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated” (לֹא כָהֲתָה עֵינוֹ וְלֹא נָס לֵחֹה). For thirty days, Bnei Yisrael mourn for Moshe, giving us the traditional thirty-day period of intense mourning following the death of a close family member (defined precisely in the Oral Torah). A “spirit of wisdom” (רוּחַ חָכְמָה) comes to rest upon Yehoshua bin Nun, since Moshe had placed his hands upon Yehoshua, and the mantle of leadership moves to him. We are told:
וְלֹא קָם נָבִיא עוֹד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל כְּמֹשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר יְדָעוֹ ה’ פָּנִים אֶל פָּנִים
Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses—whom Hashem knew, face to face.Devarim 34:10
Haftarah Summary: ויהי אחרי מות משה
Just as we immediately begin reading the Torah again after completing it, we also immediately turn the page to read about the continuation of Israel’s story: when Yehoshua leads the people across the Yarden (Jordan River) into the Land of Israel. The opening perek deals with the passing of leadership to Yehoshua.
Image: Solomon Alexander Hunt, “The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law at the Synagogue in Leghorn, Italy,” 1850. Oil on canvas. The Jewish Museum, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Gruss. Image used with permission.