1.

This parshah contains the final words of Moshe that are a combination of berachah — blessing — to each shevet — tribe — and prophecy, in which he blesses each tribe according to its national responsibilities and individual greatness.

Rashi says that he first commenced with praise of the Omnipresent and after that he commenced with giving blessings which dealt with the needs of Israel. In the praise of Hashem with which he commenced, there is also a mention of the praise of Israel. With this approach, Moshe was engendering Hashem’s good will toward Israel, as if to say, these people are worthy of blessings.

The praise of Hashem and Israel is that He revealed himself majestically to the Jews to give them the Torah on Mount Sinai, after the nations of the world had refused to accept it. Moshe specifically mentions “He shone forth from Seir” — for He had proposed to the Children of Eisav (who lived at Seir — Bereishit 36:8) that they accept the Torah but they refused. He also mentions that Hashem “hofia meiHar Paran” — “He appeared to them from the mountain of Paran,” that is, He went to the Children of Yishmael (who lived at Paran — Bereishit 21:21) and proposed that they accept the Torah, and they refused. The Jewish people, in contrast, readily accepted it and proclaimed “na’aseh venishma” — “we will do and we will hear” — study.

Regarding this encounter between Hashem and the nations of the world, I always wondered why did Hashem reveal to the Jewish people that He offered the Torah to the nations of the world and that they refused to accept it? Doesn’t this cast the Jewish people in a bad light? To accept something that no one wants does not seem intelligent!

For example if one had a property to sell he would endeavor to make a perspective purchaser eager to buy and not cast doubts in his mind. Thus, the normal thing would be to tell the prospective buyer that many people want it but the seller would prefer selling it to him. Telling a buyer that no one is interested in the property would bring the intelligent response “So why should I buy it!”

By relating of His encounter with the nations, Hashem actually intended to convey a very important message regarding the sanctity of Torah. The people of Yishmael refused to accept the Torah because it contained the commandment “You shall not steal,” and the character trait of Yishmael was, “His hand will be extended against all people” (Bereishit 16:12). The people of Eisav declined the Torah because it included the commandment “You shall not kill,” and Eisav was told by Yitzchak, “You will live by your sword” (Bereishit 27:40).

Apparently, the entire Torah suited these nations, except for one commandment. If so, should they not have accepted the Torah and disregarded the single law which they could not contend with?

Hashem was thus emphasizing that the other nations realized that the Torah is comprised of 613 totally unified mitzvot, and the slightest omission takes away from the Torah in its totality: A Torah of 612 mitzvot is not an abbreviated Torah, but no Torah at all! After this introduction Hashem’s question to the Jewish people concerned their willingness to accept the whole Torah of 613 mitzvot, to which they unequivocally responded, “Na’aseh venishma” — “We will do and we will hear — we accept the Torah in its entirety.”

My dear Bar Mitzvah, we are living in a time and age when there are, unfortunately, movements and individuals who have abbreviated and tailored Torah to their convenience. Fortunately, this is not the education you received and not the Yiddish and Chassidish atmosphere you were reared in.

Your Bar Mitzvah day is your day of Kabbalat HaTorah. Today you have declared your na’aseh venishma — to do and to study. Remember always the important lesson that Hashem conveyed to the Children of Israel at the time he gave us His Torah. Be attached tenaciously and fully committed to Hashem’s Torah — the 613 mitzvot in their entirety.

Mazel Tov, and much Hatzlachah in the great mission you have undertaken.


2.

Each parshah in the Torah is read in public on a certain Shabbat. An exception to this is the parshah of Berachah. It is not read on a specific Shabbat, but rather, on one of the happiest days of the year — Simchat Torah. (In fact, according to our established calendar, in the Diaspora, Simchat Torah never falls out on Shabbat.)

One would rightfully expect that the Torah reading assigned for this auspicious day should only consist of happy and joyous subjects. How surprising is it, then, that on this day we conclude the Torah reading with the details of the passing of our beloved leader Moshe Rabbeinu.

It definitely was not a happy occasion. In fact, the Torah attests that “Vayivku B’nai Yisrael et Moshe” — “The Children of Israel bewailed Moshe” (34:8). Not only did the Jews weep over his passing, but Moshe did so too. Rashi writes that the Sages (Bava Batra 15b) raise the question as to who wrote the pasuk “So Moshe servant of Hashem died there” (34:5) and the following pesukim. According to Rabbi Meir, Hashem dictated the remaining pesukim of the Torah to Moshe, and he wrote them bedema — with tears — rather than ink.”

To compound the sadness, the Torah goes on to tell us in the following pasuk, that “Velo yada ish et kevurato ad hayom hazeh” — “And no man knows his burial place to this day.”

This is so sad. There is no known place where someone can visit to beseech Moshe to intercede on their behalf. Unlike the destroyed Beit Hamikdash, of which we still have the Kotel Maaravi — the Western Wall — or great Tzaddikim, whose graves are covered by an Ohel for people to be able to come to pray, Moshe Rabbeinu’s gravesite is totally unknown.

So why do we mar the joy of this happy day by reading about one of the most mournful and sorrowful events in the history of our people?

Moshe’s passing was indeed sorrowful, but with the words “velo yada ish et kevurato” the Torah is testifying that it had a happy ending.

If Moshe died so that he and all he represented, especially the Torah he gave us were, buried — gone and forgotten — it would have been the most painful and sad day in our history. But how pleasant and exhilarating is it to learn that no, Moshe lived on: the Torah he gave us lives on, the mitzvot he instructed us continue on, and the noble ideas and ideals he conveyed are still practiced. This is the happiest and most memorable testimony that can be given to the dedicated leader of Klal Yisrael — Moshe Rabbeinu.

The Torah is telling us that Moshe is buried in the valley, in a place where Torah light does not penetrate, and where Torah enlightenment is altogether absent. He is buried in the land of Moab, among primitive and uncivilized people. He is buried opposite Beit Pe’or — idol worshippers who may not have heard of Moshe. However, the Torah tells us, in the Jewish community where children go to Yeshiva and elders study the Torah and all conduct themselves in accordance with halachah no one knows his burial place to this day. Although Moshe physically expired, he still lives on and will continue to live as long as the Torah is studied and halachah is obeyed.

Thus, this is the most appropriate Torah reading for Simchat Torah, the day when Jewry rejoices with the Torah and manifests in a jubilant way that we cherish and love our golden heritage — the Torah.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, on the day that you are becoming an ish — a full fledged member of Klal Yisrael. I pray that as the contemporary “ish” — man — you will join the community of Jews who do not know of the burial of Moshe. To them Moshe and His Torah are not buried and forgotten, but live on in their daily lives and activities. By doing this you will be happy and bring happiness and joy to all those who know and love you.


3.

Eight pesukim before the conclusion of Torah we learn of Moshe Rabbeinu’s physical passing. Torah tells us that Moshe, the servant of Hashem, died in the land of Moab. Hashem, in His glory, buried him in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor. According to our Sages (Avot 5:1), his grave was one of the ten things created during twilight, on the eve of the first Shabbat of Creation. Beth-peor was a popular idol, whose site is well-known. Moshe was buried opposite it, to atone for the incident of mass immorality that took place there (see Bamidbar ch. 25). Therefore, one would expect that Moshe’s burial site to be a public shrine that would be visited by Jews and non-Jews alike.

Though Torah provides guidepost after guidepost describing this location, surprisingly, immediately following the notice of his death and burial, Torah says “Velo yada ish et kevurato ad hayom hazeh” — “And no one knows this burial place to this day.”

In fact the Gemara (Sotah 13b) relates, “The wicked government [Rome] once demanded of the governor of Beit Pe’or, ‘Show us where Moshe is buried.’ When they stood above, it appeared to them to be below. When they stood below, it appeared to be above. They divided themselves into two parties; to those who were standing above it appeared below, and to those who were below it appeared above.”

Why was the government so eager to know where Moshe was buried?

In the writings of my father HaRav HaGaon Rabbi Shmuel Pesach Z”l Bogomilsky. He gives the following beautiful insight:

This Gemara can be interpreted as a metaphor for the relationship between the nations of the world and the Jewish people.

Moshe was the one who gave the Torah to the Jewish people, and until this very day it is referred to as Torat Moshe, the Torah of Moshe. It is the spiritual life-source of Klal Yisrael, and throughout the ages, the nations of the world have endeavored to “bury” Moshe — i.e. influence the Jewish people to assimilate and detach themselves from Torat Moshe.

Some have advocated that “the burying of Moshe” can be accomplished through an approach of “amdu lema’alah” — “standing above” — elevating the Jews to high positions, giving them prestige and honor, so that ultimately they will join the secular society and abandon the teachings of the Torah.

When this method failed, others tried “amdu lematah” — “standing below” — pushing the Jews downward. They imposed harsh economic restrictions upon them, discrimination, persecution and oppression, anticipating that this would “bury Moshe” — force the Jewish people to assimilate or be physically eradicated. And there have also been advocates of combining the two approaches.

Thank G‑d, all efforts have failed and no one has been able to find a way to “bury Moshe” — extinguish the light of Torah from the Jewish people. Jews and Torah are inseparable, and their attachment will be eternally vibrant.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, when we speak of goyim — gentiles — there are two categories. One is the nations of the world who are not our friends and have often attempted to spiritually cause us to assimilate and sever our attachment with Torah. The other is the goy that is within the Jew, that is the Yeitzer Hara (on the pasuk “There shall be no strange god within you” (Psalms 81:10) the Gemara (Shabbat 105b) says, “What is the strange god” that is in the body of a person? You should say it is the Yeitzer Hara — Evil Inclination.” The previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, the 6th Rebbe in the Chabad dynasty (1880-1950) referred to the Yeitzer Hara as “hagoy shebeYisroel” — “the goy within every Jew.” See Likkutei Sichot vol. 30 p. 250.)

The Yeitzer Hara, too, works indefatigably to, G‑d forbid, distance us from Torah and mitzvot. Cleverly and cunningly, he utilizes the same two above-mentioned approaches. At times he will use the “high road” to lure the person into following him. He will entice a Jew by emphasizing the glory, success, and prominence that awaits one who joins his team. At times he will use the “low road,” warn the person that not following him will cause doom, poverty, and failure.

Be aware of him and his surreptitious tactics. With absolute firmness let him know that you are from Moshe Rabbeinu’s team and will under no circumstance forsake Torah.

Parshat Berachah is the conclusion of the Chamishah Chumshei Torah. However, Torah Shebichsav — the Written Torah — does not end there but continues with the Nevi’im and Kesuvim — Prophets and Writings. The last of the prophets was Malachi.

The closing words Malachi conveyed from Hashem to Klal Yisrael were “Zichru Torat Moshe avdi” — “Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant (observe the Torah)—“asher tziviti oto bechoreiv al kol Yisrael chukim umishpatim “— “which I commanded him at Chorev for all of Israel, its directives and its statutes” [Malachi continues that in merit of this] “Hinei anochi sholei’ach lachem et Eliyahu hanavi” —“I will send Eliyahu the prophet” “lifnei bo yom Hashem hagadol vehanora” — “before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem” (4:22, 23).

My dear Bar Mitzvah, now that you are added to the ranks of the Torah-observing Jews, may your Torah and mitzvah observance merit us the appearance of Eliyahu HaNavi heralding the great day — the coming of Mashiach Tzidkeinu bimeheira biyameinu — speedily in our days — Amein.