Simhat Torah 5773 – Gilayon #768
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Be happy and rejoice on simchat
torah – on the difference between SASSON AND SIMCHA
[Translator's note: Contemporary Hebrew generally
translates both simcha and sasson as 'joy, happiness']
occurs with the advent of something which makes one happy; sasson is
present when that 'something' reaches its full and successful completion, as is
written "Glad [s'meichim]as they [the
celestial luminaries] go forth, exultant [sassim] as they return" (Artscroll translation). When
they go forth to illumine the earth, they are glad, and when they come to the
West, having completed their beneficent activity, they exult […] if this be
the case, why, on Simchat Torah, do we say "sissu"
before "simchu"? The reason is because it is recited between the
completion of the Torah reading, the conclusion of the Torah, and the immediate
beginning from anew, with Bereishit; so we say "sissu"
over the completion and "simchu"
over the beginning.
(Quoted in "Taamei HaMinhagim
attributed to the Gaon of Vilna))
for the fifteenth cycle of Shabbat
this issue, we conclude the fifteenth cycle of "Shabbat Shalom".
society has undergone much during these years. We felt then that, despite the plenitude
of flyers appearing in synagogues, there existed a need for one to proclaim a unique
religious Zionist voice emphasizing the values of peace, justice and respect
for humanity. It seems that today, ever more, in the light of the tendency towards
nationalist extremism, with troubling phenomena of racism and xenophobia, we
must continue to enunciate clearly the voice of the Torah of Life, whose ways
are the ways of pleasantness and all her paths are those of peace.
the years we tried to make this voice heard through quotations from Chazal and commentary which clearly expresses these values.
We also have been blessed with a pool of fine writers who have offered unique readingsof the weekly parasha, of midrashim
wish to give heartfelt thanks to all who participated in this project:
Lazare, who assiduously volunteers his attention to the graphic editing, to
publishing and to placing the page on the internet;
Langbheim, who, with great devotion, volunteers original challenging graphic midrashim;
*Kadish Goldberg, dedicated and faithful translator and also
to Jeff Green who volunteered translations of a few editions this year;
and the team of Graphos Print for the printing; and,
most of all,
*to my co-worker,
for raising funds to make our publication possible and the distribution
on our internet site and email.
And of course, to you readers and contributors, loyal
partners in our project.
Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazak – my we grow ever stronger.
"And no man has known his burial place"
The last of
the Tishrei festivals, termed "The Period of Our Rejoicing" concludes
with "Atseret" – "Assembly".
Since the time when Jewish communities adopted the yearly (Babylonian) cycle of
the Torah reading, this holiday has become "Simchat
Torah" – "The Joy of the Torah", a climax of joy, characterized
by many customs expressing that joy. It is interesting to note that in those
moments in particular when we call to the Torah the Chatan Torah – "the
Groom of the Torah", we read those verses which describe the death of Moshe
and his burial. A short and dramatic chapter paints Moshe's ascent to
his passing and his burial, concluding with the passing of this major figure.
From here on begins a new story; the entry of the Israelites into the
Let us examine
And he was
buried in the glen in the
and no man has known his burial place to this day.
The first part
of the verse describes the location of Moshe's burial, but in the second, the
Torah informs us that no man knows where Moshe is buried (according to Chazal in the Sifri and Tractate Sotah!!).
The Talmud in
Sotah (Bavli Sotah 13b) discusses the
paradoxical nature of the passage, without offering any explanation:
And he was
buried [translator's note: The Hebrew for "he was buried" may,
because of the lack of vocalization signs, be also read as "He buried"]
in the glen in the
despite this, "no man has known his burial place.
R' Hezkia ben Manoah, author of
the Hizkkuni commentary, develops Chazal's
reading into an explanation:
him in the glen – The Omniscient gave three signs for the location of Moshe's
burial place, as is written 'in the glen', and where is this glen? 'In
burial place', to teach you that Moshe was not buried by man." (Hizkuni, Devarim 34:6)
The view that
Moshe was not buried by man is buttressed by the lack of a clear
designation of the clause's subject – who "buried"? This lack
of clarity facilitates the possibility that Moses buried himself (Rabbi Yishmael in the Sifri on Naso, and Ibn Ezra). Rashi
argues that the Holy One himself buried Moshe (also based on Chazal).
none of these suggestions can be understood literally. R' Ovadia
of Solferino, author of the Seforno commentary, adds:
If he buried
himself, as some Sages suggest, it was his non-material soul [ha'nefesh ha'nivdelet],
because he died on the mountain, the
Here there is
a clear differentiation between the flesh-and-blood Moshe and "his non-material
surrounding the death and burial of Moshe prompted a Talmudic opinion that
Moshe never died:
It has been
taught: R. Eliezer the Elder said: Over an area of twelve mil
square, corresponding to that of the camp of
a Bath Kol made the proclamation, 'So died Moshe, the great teacher of
say that Moshe never died; it is written here, 'So Moshe died there'
and elsewhere (Shemot 34) it is written: And he was there with
the Lord. As in the latter passage it means standing and ministering, so
also in the former it means standing and ministering. (Sotah 13b)
Here, too, we
may assume that Chazal are referring to the "nefesh
ha'nivdelet" of Moshe and not to the
It seems to me
that the confusion created by the Sages and commentators' readings of Moshe's demise
and burial place in the Biblical narrative creates a unique mood, and comes to
make a number of important points, which we will discuss later.
of earlier and later periods, deal with the question of the location of Moshe's
burial site in different ways.
The Talmud (Sotah 14a), according to the BaCH's
version, attempts to answer the question "Why was Moshe's grave concealed?":
bar Chanina: Why was Moshe's grave concealed? Because the Holy One knew that
into exile, and that might they stand and weep and mourn over Moshe's grave,
saying to him: Moshe our teacher, stand and pray for us, and Moshe would
stand up and cancel the decree.
this understanding, God wanted to prevent the Children of Israel from arousing
his mercies (Moshe's? The Almighty's?). by turning his grave into a place of prayer.
Teitelbaum (the Elder) of Sátoraljaújhely
Chassidic author of the commentary "Yismach
Moshe", uses the juxtaposition of our passage to the one following in the
Talmud (Ibid., Soncino translation) for
the following exposition:
son of R' Hanina further said: What means the text:
Ye shall walk after the Lord your God? Is it, then, possible for a human being
to walk after the Shechinah; for has it not been said: For the Lord thy God is
a devouring fire? But [the meaning is] to walk after the attributes of the Holy
One, Blessed Be He. As He clothes the naked, for it is written: And the Lord
God made for Adam and for his wife clothes of skin, and clothed them, so do
thou also clothe the naked […] The Holy One, blessed be He, buried the dead,
for it is written: And He buried him in the valley, so do thou also bury the
dead. (Until here, the quote from the Talmud). I add
my explanation, for it is known that they [the Sages] interpreted "Let
them follow this order" [The reference is to the Thirteen Attributes of
God] (Rosh Hashana
17b) 'Saying is not sufficient, but
there must be action, they must act in accordance with the Thirteen
Attributes (quoted above in the Haphtara of Tetseh). R'
first exposition is problematic – Does the Holy One, blessed be He, hate
cancellation of the decree [to live in exile]? But the solution is that His
intention is to benefit them, for actually they could have themselves
cancelled the decree with the Thirteen Attributes. But in order for them [the Thirteen
Attributes] to benefit them, they must act in accordance with this
order, therefore was Moshe's burial place concealed, so that they would be
forced to act according to His attributes in order to cancel the
decree. Thus, the second exposition 'follow His attributes', and this is
His will as He cautions them to follow his attributes, therefore was Moshe's
burial place hidden, so that they would be forced to act according to His
attributes, thereby cancelling the decree… (Yismach Moshe II, 153b)
It is not
desireable that Jewish prayers at Moshe's grave offer an effortless substitute
for actions encompassed by "walking in His ways".
R' Hezkia ben Manoach, author of
"Hizkuni", emphasizes the non-establishment
of Moshe's grave as a place of worship, along with an additional reason:
day: So that no one else be buried alongside, such as was the case in
Bet-El, and so that inquirers of the dead not come with their requests.
explains the secrecy of the grave's location similarly, but in greater detail (RaLBaG on Devarim 34:6):
The Lord did
so [that no one know the location] because if the site were to become known, future
generations may mistakenly make of him a divinity because of the famous
wonders which he performed. Do you not see how the copper serpent which Moshe
formed resulted in some of
erring because of the greatness of its creator (II
Kings 18:4), and because God buried Moshe [secretly] as an omen, no one
ever touched his grave.
R' Shimshon Rafael Hirsch also explained in similar vein:
Let us recall
how rituals bordering on idolatry often developed around the graves of great
men who did much for humanity, and thereby we can understand the greatness of
this final stroke in the picture of Moshe's life.
R' Meir Simcha of Dvinsk took a
slightly different approach:
No man has
known: In the sense of has not recognized, i.e., had no relationship
whatever to his burial place. This is because he was "a man of God
in his lifetime, and very humble, and was not connected to, not involved, in
the material and in general matters as are all men, and this is the meaning of "and
no man has known" – not even Moshe.
shades of difference, the above explanations of the fog hovering over Moshe's
grave move in one direction:
man (incidentally, when the Children of Israel demanded of Aharon "Rise
up and make us a god" it was the concrete "the man Moshe" they
missed) of flesh and blood, whose life was partially described in the
Torah, died like every man. The Torah describes his plea to enter the Land.
Chazal, too, in different sources, depict his longing to realize this
dream and his desire for eternal life.
teacher, man of God, greatest prophet of all time, "nafsho hanivdelet"
in Seforno's words, did not die, because "the
righteous, even in death, are considered alive". He continues to live
within us through the Torah, written and oral, in which "every innovation
of future distinguished scholars has already been presented to Moshe at Sinai".
Therefore it is improper to desecrate his memory with idolatrous ritual. Rambam
writes (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Mourning 4:4):
monuments are not erected over the graves of the tsaddikim because their
words are their memorials, and one should not go to visit the graves"
Moshe should not be replaced with inanimate gravestones. Perhaps Moshe our
teacher teaches us even with his death and burial a most important lesson: Our
Torah is a Torah of life, and has no interest in turning graves into ritual
sites and 'holy places." Holiness is not found in the ground, in stones
and graves, not even in the tablets of the covenant (see RaSHar Hirsch's last
commentary on the Torah and the "Meshech Chochma" on Parashat Ki
Tissah). It is to be found in Man's striving to sanctify his behavior during
Leiser, editor of Shabbat Shalom, is a psychologist
Those with clean hands and
pure hearts can ascend the
The reason we repeat, at the
conclusion of the hakafot, "The earth is the Lord's and all that
is therein, the world and all its inhabitants" is to say that even
when we are engaged in worldly affairs, our heart is in Heaven. With regard to "Who
may ascend […] who may stand etc." (Psalm 24:3) I heard an explanation in the name
of our saintly R' Menachem Mendel of Riminov of
blessed memory, who said "So and so will ascend the mountain of the Lord",
but the main thing is "who is the man will stand in His holy place"
– and not fall because of his great accomplishment of having ascended the
mountain of the Lord. For this it is required that he be of clean hands in
action and of pure heart in thought, who has not taken false oath by his life–for
that which is not sustainable is called false–but that his service be in
truth, as is written (Proverbs 12:19) "Truthful
speech abides forever".
(Yeitav Panim I, p.
The tension between unity and
the struggle against idolatry
He became King in Jeshurun": When below
is unified, His great name is exalted above, as is written: "Then He
became King in Jeshurun" – when will this occur?
"When the heads of the people assembled."
Rejoice, O Zebulon, on your
journeys, and Issachar, in your tents.
Zebulon and Issachar entered into
partnership; Zebulon will dwell by the sea, set out for trade in boats, reap
profits and sustain Issachar, who sit and study Torah. Therefore did he place Zebulon
before Issachar, because Issachar's Torah was made
possible by Zebulon.
(Rashi, Debarim 33:18)
Zebulon by the sea will dwell.
In his land, for he will inherit along the coast. And he [Jacob] prophesied
regarding Zebulon the trader before Issachar the
Torah scholar. And so Moshe our teacher, in his blessings, said "Rejoice,
O Zebulon, on your journeys, and Issachar, in your tents" because one
cannot study Torah without first obtaining his needs, as the Sages said, "If
there is no flour, there is no Torah" and when one assists his fellow by
providing him with sustenance so that he can study Torah, as they said
regarding Zebulon, …the Torah study will be attributed to both of them,
and this was the intent of the Torah in requiring the donation of tithes to the
Priests and the Levites, that all the nation should help those who hold the
Torah, the Priests and the Levites, as is written "They shall teach Your
laws to Jacob" and all will merit everlasting life, as the Sages said :All
Israel has a portion in the world to come".
Our Rabbis taught: And thou shalt
gather in thy corn. What is to be learnt from these words? Since it says, This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, I
might think that this injunction is to be taken literally. Therefore it says, 'And
thou shalt gather in thy corn', which implies that
you are to combine the study of the words with a worldly occupation. This is
the view of R. Yishmael. R. Shimon b. Yohai says: Is that possible? If a man ploughs
in the ploughing season, and sows in the sowing season, and reaps in the
reaping season, and threshes in the threshing season, and winnows in the season
of wind, what is to become of the Torah? No; but when
the will of the Omnipresent, their work is performed by others, as it says. And
strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, etc., and when Israel does not
perform the will of the Omnipresent their work is carried out by themselves, as
it says, And thou shalt gather in they corn. Nor is this all, but the work of
others is also done by them, as it says. And thou shalt serve thine enemy, etc.
Many have followed the advice of Ishmael, and it has worked well; others have
followed R. Simeon b. Yohai and it has not been successful.
Whoever decides that he will
engage in Torah study and not work and will live from charity, has desecrated
The Name, and shamed the Torah and extinguished the light of the religion and
has harmed himself and removed his life from the world, because it is forbidden
to derive benefit from words of Torah in this world.
The Sages said that whoever derives benefit from Torah removes his life from
the world. And they furthermore commanded and said Make them not crown for
self-aggrandizement, nor an axe with which to dig, and they further commanded
and said Love work and despise being a master, and all Torah which is not
accompanied by labor will ultimately be voided and incurs sin and this person
will end up robbing people.
Torah, Laws of Torah Study 3:10)
"Before the eyes of all
decided to smash the tablets before their eyes, as is written (ibid. 9:17), "and smashed them before your eyes", and
The Holy One, Blessed Be He, consented, as is written (Shemot 34:1), "asher shibbarta" – congratulations for
smashing them. (A word play on "asher",
Hebrew for "which". It sounds
like "y'yasher". "Y'yasher koach"
means "Congratulations! Well done!")
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