After Ha’azinu, some of which was beautifully rendered for us by Isaac Feldman, the story continues in the Torah inevitably to the death of Moses. However, it is not a totally sad end, for the last thing that Moses says to the people before ascending Mount Nebo to view the promised land is a blessing to all the tribes. And this time the blessings are not balanced by curses. Nor are there any words of dark warning. It is all joy. “Israel shall thus dwell securely, alone in a land of grain and wine, just like Jacob. Your heavens shall also drip with dew.” Besides, immediately afterwards, a new beginning is announced, as Joshua is “filled with a spirit of wisdom, because Moses had placed his hands on him.”
“No other prophet like Moses has arisen in Israel, who knew God face to face.” Despite this, the period of mourning is limited to thirty days, the same for everyone. There is a profound message here. However great any single individual may be, after death he or she merits the same consideration as everyone else, no more, no less.
The way we read the end of Devarim is not quite the same as the linear progression through the Torah. After Ha’azinu, there was Shabbat Chol Ha-mo’ed Sukkoth, for which the parsha returns to a much earlier passage in Devarim recounting God’s protection of Israel during her wanderings and, understandably, the laws of Sukkoth. Then comes Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, which does end Devarim for us, with the death of Moses, and immediately goes back – or is it forward? – to the beginning of Bereshit. At the same time, the Haftorah is Joshual 1: 1-9, definitely a move forward in time, but, as already said, a new beginning.
And this week, we mark a new beginning for David and Rachel Barral, whose B’nei Mitzvot we will be celebrating. The service will start at 10.30 and will be led by Harvey Kurzfield. So come along and begin again.