The closing parashah of both the Book of Deuteronomy and the entire Torah, Vezot HaBerachah (“This is the Blessing”), records Moses’ blessing to his people—the finale of his farewell address to them—followed by the vision that God shows him of the people’s future fortunes in their land, and finally, the account of his death.

Most of the parashah is devoted to Moses’ blessing. Just as Jacob’s blessing to his sons closed both the account of his life and the Book of Genesis, so does Moses’ blessing to his people close the account of his life and “his” book, the Book of Deuteronomy.

Also parallel to Jacob’s blessing, Moses blessed the people both collectively and as an aggregate of individual tribes, blessing each one with the unique qualities it would need to fulfill its specific role with regard to the greater good of the nation. In fact, many parallels can be drawn between the blessings of Jacob and those of Moses. This being the case, the natural questions that arise are: Why did God deem it necessary for Moses to bless the people when Jacob had already done so years before? What did Moses’ blessings add to Jacob’s?

Before addressing these questions, we would do well to compare these two sets of blessings with the blessings given in the one other instance in the Torah wherein the central figure of one generation blesses the next: Isaac’s blessings to Jacob (and Esau).1 Although Isaac’s blessings are shorter than those of Jacob and Moses (since there was no differentiation of his progeny into tribes, which would have occasioned unique blessings for each), they are wholly concerned with the bestowal of material plenty and security, intended to provide the recipients with the physical means to fulfill God’s will unencumbered by worries of earning a livelihood or the threat of war. In contrast, both Jacob’s and Moses’ blessings, although including similar wishes for material plenty and security, comprise a relatively equal amount of prophecy—and even (in Jacob’s case) reproach.

In fact, if we consider all these blessings together, we notice an unfolding progression: the blessings originate in Isaac, pass on to Jacob, and are finally channeled through Moses. In this context, the next natural question is: Why didn’t this progression begin with Abraham?

In a sense, it does. We recall that at the beginning of parashat Lech Lecha,2 God granted Abraham the power to bestow blessing, and that in parashat Chayei Sarah,3 Abraham bequeathed this power to Isaac. We further recall that Abraham would have blessed Isaac had he not foreseen that one of Isaac’s sons would be unworthy of being blessed; for this reason, he left it to God to bless Isaac, which He did immediately after Abraham’s death.4 In this context, Isaac was the first patriarch who was effectively able to bless his progeny, and indeed, the intrigue surrounding which of his two sons was to receive his blessing is a pivotal element in the drama of his life and the life of his children.

On a deeper level, however, it was Abraham’s very nature that prevented him from blessing Isaac, and it was Isaac’s nature that made him capable of being the first explicit fount of blessing. Abraham, as we recall, personified chesed (“loving-kindness”), concern for the spiritual and material welfare of others. This outwardly-directed involvement with others was reflected in his legendary hospitality, coupled with his successful efforts in disseminating Divine consciousness among the people of his time.

Isaac, in contrast, personified gevurah (“restraint, withdrawal”), the inner strength required to consolidate and preserve the great undertaking that Abraham initiated. His life was epitomized by his project of digging wells—externally, in order to facilitate the growth of already-settled communities in which his father’s teachings could be put into practice, but more profoundly, expressing his inward orientation, which was aimed at uncovering his hidden essence along with that of those around him.

In this context, only Isaac could serve as the wellspring of blessing, for only he embodied the intensity of living necessary to elicit potent and effective blessings. For all his greatness, Abraham did not—and could not—evince this sort of intensity, and therefore could not elicit Divine blessing powerful enough to be efficacious.

Nonetheless, due to of the very intensity of Isaac’s gevurah, his blessings had to be funneled through tiferet (“beauty, harmony”), as personified by Jacob, who therefore had to both receive and transmit Isaac’s blessings. Jacob’s successful contention with adversity throughout his troubled but ultimately vindicated life revealed him to be the expert in applying the ideals of his grandfather and father to the realities of life. Unlike his almost-hermit-like father, Jacob had a firm grasp on life and knew his sons well, and was therefore eminently capable of dividing up Isaac’s blessings, endowing each of his own sons with the gifts their tribes would need in the future.


Once Jacob’s family had grown into a nation, however, the blessings needed to be re-articulated, this time in a national context. Thus, the difference between Jacob’s and Moses’ blessings lies in the difference between their respective roles in the formation of the people. Jacob, the final and consummate patriarch, was the father of the nation; Moses was its first leader. Thus, even if the two sets of blessings are similar in content, they differ in nature by virtue of their source: one is the blessing of a father to his family, the other, the blessing of a leader to his nation.

In his capacity as the nation’s leader, Moses was able to elicit God’s blessings in a more palpable way than Jacob could as its father, for a leader must invest much more effort and make much greater sacrifices to fulfill his role than a father must in order to fulfill his. Indeed, we see from the Torah’s narratives that although Jacob did indeed have to struggle to educate and protect his family, Moses had to contend with much more serious challenges, even having to put his life on the line for his people on more than one occasion. This being the case, it was only natural that Moses’ greater efforts elicited greater consideration from above. The amount of “clout” one has with God is directly proportional to one’s selfless devotion to Him, as the sages say, “Make your will accord with His will, so that He may fulfill your will as He fulfills His own will. Nullify your will to His will, so that He may nullify others’ wills to your will.”5

The superior efficacy of Moses’ blessings is alluded to by the fact that they open with the heading, “This is the blessing…,” whereas Jacob’s do not. The demonstrative pronoun this indicates that the blessing that follows was so palpable that it could virtually be pointed to.


The ultimate reason, however, that the nation’s blessings had to be re-articulated by Moses is because Moses is the conduit of the Torah, and the Torah is the source of all blessing. The Torah is our guide to life, and therefore, all physical blessings must be received and utilized according to the Torah’s instructions; only thus can they serve their purpose: to enable us to transform the world into God’s holy abode. Therefore, despite Moses’ relative aloofness from the affairs of life (as contrasted to Jacob’s and Aaron’s familiarity with them), he was the one to bestow the patriarchs’ blessings on the nation.

Moreover, as we will see,6 Moses achieved the normally inaccessible fiftieth “gate of understanding”7 on the day of his death; this, too, constitutes part of his blessing to the people. This explains why both Moses’ vision of the future as seen on Mount Nebo as well as the account of his death are included in this parashah (named “blessing”)—even though the vision of the future is not a blessing per se, and Moses’ death seems the very opposite of blessing. Moses succeeded in transmitting to us his supra-natural Divine perception, which was granted to him only on Mount Nebo on the day of his death; this heightened Divine consciousness is the most sublime blessing possible.

The vision of the nation’s future that God granted Moses, up to and including the vision of the final, messianic Redemption, is a fitting conclusion for the Torah, for as we know, the Torah was given to humanity in order to enable us to make the world into God’s home, and this goal will ultimately be achieved only upon the advent of the final Redemption. We are taught that Moses, the first redeemer, will also be the final redeemer,8 and that a spark of his soul is present in every generation9 as the leaders of that generation,10 as well as in each of us as individuals.11 Thus, Moses’ blessings—which provide us with the means, the impetus, and the vision to fulfill our Divine mission and our destiny, bringing the world to its fullest completion—are consummately channeled first through the leaders of our generation and finally through our own selves, as we look to the Torah as our guide to living life to its fullest, to connecting ourselves with God, and to transforming our lives and our world into God’s true home.12