Simhat Torah 5773 – Gilayon #768

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Simhat Tora

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

U'mekorei HaDinim,

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

and commentary.


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, Miriam Fine, who is responsible

for raising funds to make our publication possible and the distribution

in Israel,

on our internet site and email.

And of course, to you readers and contributors, loyal

partners in our project.

Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazakmy we grow ever stronger.


Leiser, editor


"And no man has known his burial place"

Pinchas Leiser

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 Mt. Nebo,

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 Land of Israel will be told in the Book of


Let us examine

verse 6 in

Chapter 34:

And he was

buried in the glen in the land

of Moab opposite Beth-Peor,

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 land

of Moab, opposite Bet-Peor" – Said R' Berechia: A sign within a sign, and

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:

He buried

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

the land of Moab', and where in this land? 'Opposite Bet-Peor', and despite all this, 'no man has known his

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 peak of Pisgah.

Here there is

a clear differentiation between the flesh-and-blood Moshe and "his non-material


The ambiguity

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 Israel,

a Bath Kol made the proclamation, 'So died Moshe, the great teacher of Israel'. Some

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

flesh-and-blood Moshe.

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.

Our exegetes,

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?":

Said R' Hama

bar Chanina: Why was Moshe's grave concealed? Because the Holy One knew that

the Temple would some day be destroyed and Israel would go

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.

According to

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.

Rabbi Moshe

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:

R' Hama

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' Hama bar Hanina's

first exposition is problematic – Does the Holy One, blessed be He, hate Israel , forefend, that He devises stratagems to avoid

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:

Until this

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 Israel

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.

Despite their

shades of difference, the above explanations of the fog hovering over Moshe's

grave move in one direction:

Moshe, the

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.

Moshe our

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"

The living

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

his lifetime.


Leiser, editor of Shabbat Shalom, is a psychologist


Those with clean hands and

pure hearts can ascend the Mountain

of God yet not fall.

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 Israel

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."

 (Sifri, V'zot

Ha'beracha 346)


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".

(Seforno, Bereishit



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 Israel performs

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.

Said Abaye:

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.

(Bavli, Berahot



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.

(Rambam, Mishneh

Torah, Laws of Torah Study 3:10)


"Before the eyes of all Israel"– he

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!")


Devarim 34, 12)


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