These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

וזאת הברכה, ve’zot ha’bracha

Posted on October 4, 2011 by Avi Strausberg

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the end of the road

this week’s ve’zot ha’bracha, in which moshe blesses each of the tribes individually and makes his final good-byes, marks the closing parsha of our yearly torah cycle.  he then hikes up to the top of mount nevo where God shows him the entirety of the land that was once promised to abraham, isaac, and jacob.  after seeing what they could only dream of, moshe, our leader and prophet, dies without ever entering the land.  in the way of epitaphs, the Torah remembers moshe as a prophet “כאשר ידעו ה’ פנים אל–פנים, whom the Lord knew face to face” (devarim 34:10).

what does it mean to know God face-to-face?  rashi understands this to mean that moshe spoke with God whenever he wanted.  and presumably, that at each of this moments, God listened to moshe and God responded to him.   the Torah has spent the past five books introducing us to God and bringing us into a commanded, covenantal relationship with Him.  rarely, do characters other than moshe get to speak directly with Him, let alone be spoken to in return.  rather, the dynamic is set early on in shmot, that the rest of us can’t handle being in such direct contact with God.  instead, all communication must instead be funneled through moshe.

in keeping with the theme of blessings that is the namesake to this parsha, i’d like to give each of us a final blessing as we sit with moshe’s death.  i hope that we too can cultivate a relationship with God in which we turn to Him and talk to Him whenever we feel compelled.  whether in moments of joy or sadness, moments of anxiety or fear.  and, that when we do talk to Him, we feel with surety that we are meeting God face-to-face and that He hears our voices.

i talk to myself
alone, in an empty room,
as if in prayer.

but, i feel something.
You surround me in this space.
prayer becomes two-way.

soon, we begin again,
but for now, let’s appreciate this sense of suspension,