Rashi understands Moses" last words to the civilization as an expression the Hillel"s viewpoint of self-examination.

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ByRabbi Neal J. Loevinger


Moses addresses the Israelites one critical time, recounting the offering of the Torah and also blessing them people by tribe. The Israelites room standing on a hill overlooking the Jordan valley from the east, however Moses will certainly not be enabled to go into the soil of Israel with the remainder of the people. The dies, and also is buried; the story that the Torah is currently finished, and also the story the the judges and prophets begins.

In Focus

“And this is blessing through which Moses, the male of God, blessed the Israelites prior to his death.” (Deuteronomy 33:1)


The finalchapter the the Torah contains a very condensed history of the Israelites because Sinai, and also a particular blessing for each that the 12 tribes.


I want to emphasis on the subtle monitorings of the greatest darshan (commentator) of lock all, Rashi. I’ve tried to present how nearby readings of the Torah text permit us to discover layers of definition that a quick glance cannot expose — and nobody go this better than our girlfriend from middle ages France. Rashi notices every word: In the verse above, he appears to be picking up ~ above the apparently unnecessary phrase, “before his death.” (After all, can Moses have actually blessed the human being after his death?) Thus, Rashi’s explanation, based upon earlier sources:

“before his death”–“before” means close come his death, for if no now, when?

In his usual terse manner, Rashi hints at the urgency of Moses’blessing, imagining the Moses felt the his fatality was imminent and also this was his last opportunity to impart any kind of final words of wisdom come the human being he had actually shepherded because that 40years. Moses might put turn off no longer any words which he longed to speak, for this chance was fleeting.

Now, if we stopped right right here with Rashi’s midrash, we’d have actually a an effective reminder the words in between intimates can not be postponed indefinitely, for no one knows the work of his or her death. If you desire to bless your loved ones, or say anything else of significance, execute so now, for you can not have the warning the Moses got that his work were shortly ending. This is solid wisdom, often repeated, and still true for the repeating.

Yet Rashi clues at miscellaneous else, as well. The phrase “If no now, when?” was almost certainly well-known to that as part of a bigger statement in the name of Rabbi Hillel, from the section of the Talmud referred to as Pirkei Avot <“Ethics of the Ancestors”>:

If ns am no for myself, who is because that me? when I am because that myself, what to be I? If not now, when? (Pirkei Avot 1:14)

Now Rashi’s midrash takes on a various meaning, for it hints that Moses’ blessing that the people was motivated by a entirety philosophy the life, not simply the urgency of brewing death. Moses can have stated nice things to everybody and also died basking in the adoration the the human being — however “what am I” if i don’t speak the truth, even if it’s not pleasant? ~ all, his blessing because that the people of Reuben — the they “live and also not die” — is fairly lukewarm, most likely recalling earlier prophecies concerning their forefather Reuben in Genesis 49.

On the various other hand, Moses is rather willing to cite his own function in the people’s history, explain in city 3 that the Torah to be “commanded by Moses,” back it came from God. Again, think that our saying from Pirkei Avot: “If i am not for myself, who is for me?” also though the was called a really humble man, he had every appropriate to repeat the people of what he actually did. Possibly this gave his blessings much more legitimacy and his words better power.

By linking Moses blessing to Hillel’s mini-philosophy that self-examination, Rashi seems to be offering an interpretation of the whole chapter, not just of this one verse. According to this reading, Moses spoke the end of a sense of urgency, a feeling of truthfulness, and a legit desire for acknowledgment of his real contributions. Thus, Moses’ final blessing additionally becomes his final moment the teaching united state by the instance of his life, a life committed to ideals, actions, and also truth. That’s what renders him Moshe Rabbenu <“Moses our teacher”>, not simply Moses the leader.

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