"וילך משה וידבר את הדברים האלה אל כל ישראל...לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבוא"
Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel...I can no longer go out and come in.” (31:1-2)

QUESTION: Rashi always uses selected words of the pasuk as a heading for his explanation. Why does he quote the first pasuk, “And Moshe went, etc.,” without offering any explanation on it at all, and then goes on to quote the second pasuk, “I cannot go out and come in,” accompanied by a lengthy explanation?

ANSWER: The prophet Shmuel would personally travel throughout the Jewish community to judge the people (I Samuel 7:17), while it was Moshe’s custom to have the people come to him. The Midrash explains that Shmuel was allowed to relinquish the honors due to him, but Moshe was a king, and even if he renounces his honor, his honor is not renounced (Kiddushin 32b). If so, why did Moshe now go himself and speak to the entire community?

Rashi seems to be concerned with this question and therefore explains that the two pesukim are connected, with the second pasuk clarifying the difficulty. The reason why “vayeilech Moshe” — “Moshe went” — to the community and did not summon them to come to him, is because “lo uchal od latzeit velavoh” — “I can no longer go out and come in” — i.e. “the authority was taken from me and given to Yehoshua. Thus, I am no longer the king and I am permitted to forego my honors and go personally to the entire community.”

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)


"בן מאה ועשרים שנה אנכי היום"
“I am one hundred and twenty years old today.” (31:2)

QUESTION: This day was the seventh day of Adar and Rashi writes, “This day my days and my years are completed. On this day I was born and on this day I will die.”

The Gemara (Megillah 13b) says that when Haman was looking for a suitable day to annihilate the Jewish people, he was happy when the lots he cast fell on the month of Adar because he knew that Moshe died on the seventh of Adar. He did not know, however, that Moshe was also born on that day.

If he knew the day Moshe died, why didn’t he also know the day he was born?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Kiddushin 72b) says that before a tzaddik leaves this earthly world, a new tzaddik is born who will replace him. The Zohar (Bamidbar 273a) says that there are sparks of Moshe in every generation, and according to the Arizal, they are embodied in that generation’s leader.

Haman actually knew that Moshe was born on the seventh of Adar; however, since he died on the seventh of Adar, he considered this “a cut-off period” for Klal Yisrael. He did not know that when one tzaddik leaves this world, a new tzaddik — a new Moshe — is born to replace him and that Klal Yisrael will be victorious over all their oppressors in his merit.

(יערות דבש, ח"א דרוש ג' ע' כ"ג ע"ב)


"הקהל את העם האנשים והנשים והטף"
“Assemble the people — the men, the women, and the small children.” (31:12)

QUESTION: Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria asks, “Men come to learn, women come to listen, but why do the infants come?” He answers, “To give reward to those who bring them.” When Rabbi Yehoshua heard this he exclaimed, “Lucky are you our patriarch Avraham to have a descendant such as Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria” (Mechilta 13:102).

Why was Rabbi Yehoshua so excited about Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria’s explanation, and what does it have to do with Avraham?

ANSWER: Superficially, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria’s question is somewhat strange. If the parents and entire Klal Yisrael are assembling, obviously they must bring their infants, because otherwise who will care for them? Therefore, Rabbi Yehoshua deduced that Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria’s question was not merely “why are they coming?” but “why did the Torah have to mention that they should be brought?”

There is a rule in the Gemara (Kiddushin 31a) that one who is commanded to perform a mitzvah and does it, is greater than one who does it voluntarily. Therefore, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria explained that the Torah mentions the bringing of infants in order to make it a command.

When Rabbi Yehoshua heard that from the mitzvah of “Hakheil” we learn that fulfilling a command is greater than voluntary performance, he became very excited, because now he realized the justification for Avraham’s not circumcising himself until the age of 99, although he had fulfilled every other mitzvah of the Torah. The reason was that Avraham wanted to be in the category of “metzuveh ve’oseh” — one who performs a mitzvah as a fulfillment of Hashem’s command. Since circumcision can be performed only once, Avraham therefore waited for a direct command from Hashem.

(פרדס יוסף)


"הקהל את העם האנשים והנשים והטף"
“Assemble the people — the men, the women, and the small children.” (31:12)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Chagigah 3a) relates that once Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka and Rabbi Elazar (ben) Chisma went to pay their respects to Rabbi Yehoshua in Peki’im.

He asked them, “Who gave the lecture?”

“Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria” they replied.

“And what was the theme of hisAggadic discourse today?”

They answered, “The section hakheil — ‘assemble.’ ”

“And what exposition did he give thereon?”

“Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones. The men came to learn, the women came to hear, but why do the little ones come? In order to grant reward to those that bring them.”

He said to them: “There was a fair jewel in your hand, and you sought to deprive me of it.”

Why was Rabbi Yehoshua so intrigued by this teaching?

ANSWER: In Pirkei Avot (2:9) Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai said of Rabbi Yehoshua, “Happy is she who bore him.” It is related in the Jerusalem Talmud (Yevamot 1:6) that his mother strove to permeate him with Torah. When he was a little baby she would bring his cradle to the Beit Hamedrash so that he would hear the words of Torah.

Consequently, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria’s explanation that the reason for bringing very small children is, “To grant reward to those that bring them” was of special significance to him since it substantiated his mother’s efforts to connect him with Torah. Hence, he said to them, “You had a fair jewel in your hand which applies specifically to my mother and me, and I would have been deprived of it had you kept it to yourselves.”

(משך חכמה)


"ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל"
“So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel.” (31:19)

QUESTION: This pasuk contains the 613th mitzvah of the Torah — the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah.

The Rambam (Sefer Torah 7:1) writes: “It is a mitzvah for every Jew to write a Sefer Torah for himself, as the pasuk states, ‘So now write this song (Ha’azinu) for yourself,’ which actually means ‘So now write a Sefer Torah, which includes this song, for yourself.’ Even one who inherits a Sefer Torah is obligated to write his own.”

What lessons can be derived from the letters of a Sefer Torah?

ANSWER: The halachah requires that in a Sefer Torah every letter must be “mukafot gevil” — “surrounded by parchment.” (Menachot 29a) Therefore, the scribe must take heed that no letter touch another one. On the other hand, halachah also requires that the letters which comprise a word must be placed close enough to each other so that they do not appear as individual letters and not part of a word. From these two halachot we can derive a lesson of great importance regarding the Jewish people collectively and individually.

Firstly, it is imperative that every Jew stand on his own two feet and observe the Torah and its mitzvot. No Jew should “lean” on another and rely on him. The Torah is the inheritance of every Jew, and everyone is obligated to observe and maintain it.

Although every Jew must be independent in his observance of Torah, there is at the same time the principle of areivut — responsibility one for the other. One Jew should stand immediately alongside the other and be very close to him, to the extent that they appear as one collective body and not as egotistical individuals.

* * *

Another lesson to be learned from a Sefer Torah is that a Torah consists of many letters. Although each one stands independently, the kashrut of the Sefer Torah is dependent on all the letters together. The lack or incompleteness of even one single letter affects the validity of the entire scroll. Analogously, each and every Jew is an essential component ofKlal Yisrael, upon whom the wholeness of the Jewish people depends.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ב ע' 333)

* * *

A Sefer Torah is written with ink, and the only acceptable color is deep black. The following lessons can be derived from the ink:

While all colors can easily be combined one with another to form new colors, black is extremely difficult to change. Similarly, a Jew should not permit the influence of society or the vagaries of life to undermine or dilute his true “color” and strict adherence to Torah.

The ink must stick firmly to the parchment, and, if it “jumps off,” i.e. becomes detached, the Sefer Torah is pasul — disqualified. The implied lesson is that the Jew should adhere tenaciously to Torah and never became detached from it.

* * *

In 5742 the Lubavitcher Rebbe embarked on a campaign for Sifrei Torah to be written so that every Jew in the world should acquire a letter in a communal Sefer Torah. The intent of this was to unite Klal Yisrael through Torah.

Through this campaign the Rebbe was eager to accomplish that which is written in the Book of Daniel (12:1), “And at that time Michael will stand, the great [heavenly] prince who stands in support of the members of Your people, and there will be a time of trouble such as there has never been... and at that time Your people will escape; everyone who is found written in the book” (see Ibn Ezra).

(לקוטי שיחות ח"כ ע' 506)


"ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל"
“So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel.” (31:19)

QUESTION: At the end of many Chumashim it is written that in the Torah there are a total of three hundred and four thousand, eight hundred and five letters. How does this correspond with what the Kabbalists (Megaleh Amukot, ofan 186) say that there are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah, and that in fact the name of the Jewish people, Yisrael (ישראל), is an acronym for, "יש ששים ריבוא אותיות לתורה" — “There are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah”?

ANSWER: In addition to the basic letters of the words of the Torah, there are the letters א, ה, ו, י, which are “fill-in” letters and which are replaced by the nekudot vowels. For example, the kamatz takes the place of an "א". Were it not for the “kamatz” the word “baruch” — "ברוך" — would be spelled "בארוך", and many words would have a "ה" at the end of them were it not for the vowel under the final letter, such as “yadata” — "ידעת" — which would be spelled ידעתה. The “chirik” takes the place of a "י", and the “shuruk” or a “cholom” takes the place of a"ו". Thus, in addition to the written letters, there are many letters that one must visualize in his mind when reading the Torah. The total of the written letters together with these letters is six hundred thousand.

(לקוטי תורה ויקרא פ' בהר)

Alternatively, in writing a Sefer Torah there is a requirement to leave a small space between one letter and the other, and a larger space between the words. In addition, there must be spaces between one parshah and the other. A parshah setumah — closed parshah — is separated with a space in which nine letters can be written, and a parshah petuchah — open parshah — needs even more space and must start on a new line. There are required spaces in the Az Yashir, which is written in the form of brickwork, and the song of Ha’azinu is written in two columns with an empty space down the center. Also, between one sefer and the other one there are four empty lines. All these spaces are for letters which are not seen by the human eye.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Shekalim 6:1) describes the Torah Hashem gave Moshe as “white fire and black fire.” The black fire represents the written letters, and the spaces between them are represented by the white fire, and both have the same holiness. This is also evident from what the Gemara (Mo’eid Katan 26a) says that if one, G‑d forbid, sees a Sefer Torah being burned, he must rend his garment twice; once for the written content being destroyed and once for the parchment. Consequently, the written letters together with the letters in the open spaces total six hundred thousand, which only the holy Kabbalists, with their profound wisdom, were able to count.

(שמע שלמה מהגר"ש ז"ל אלגזי, ועי' ניצוצי זהר [שיר השירים] מילואים ע' קכ"ו,

ולקוטי שיחות ח"ב ע' 333, וח"כ ע' 419)


"ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל"
“So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel.” (31:19)

QUESTION: Why is the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah rarely performed? Moreover, why isn’t it common that when a boy becomes Bar-Mitzvah he should fulfill this mitzvah just as he endeavors to fulfill all the other mitzvot of the Torah?

ANSWER: The commandment to write a Sefer Torah is for the purpose of “velamdah” — “to study [from] it.” In olden days, all learning was done from the Sefer Torah. In contemporary times, the “velamdah” — “to study it” — is primarily the reading of the Torah in public, and each Jew when he receives an aliyah to the Torah, is at that time, personally fulfilling the mitzvah of “velamdah.”

To properly fulfill the mitzvah, it is not sufficient to just own a Sefer Torah, but one must actually write it, or have it written for him. The one having the aliyah, accomplishes this in the following way:

In communal matters there is a rule, “leiv beit din matneh” — the Beit Din makes a mental stipulation whenever necessary (see Ketubot 106b). When a community needs a sefer Torah, they engage a sofer — scribe — to write one for them, and the leiv beit din stipulates that it belongs to the entire community and is being written on behalf of everyone in the community. Moreover, they stipulate that it is being acquired on the condition, that when one has an aliyah, which is his time of “velamdah” — “to study it” — not only will he acquire total ownership of the Sefer Torah (שלו), but it shall be considered that he hired the scribe to write expressly for him. (There is no need for continued ownership of the sefer Torah, except at the moment of the observance of the mitzvah, i.e. when it is being used for the purpose of “velamdah” — “to study [from] it.”

A Bar-Mitzvah boy celebrates his new status by being called to the Torah. At that time he is fulfilling the mitzvah of “velamdah” — “to study it” — and through the rule of “leiv beit din matneh” he is simultaneously fulfilling the mitzvah of writing a sefer Torah.

Although the Bar-Mitzvah boy may not have been living when the Torah was written (and it is questionable if the rule “leiv beit din matneh would apply to the unborn), it is not a problem, since according to halachah, when one corrects even only one letter of a Sefer Torah, it is as though he wrote the entire Torah (Rambam, Sefer Torah 7:1). Hence, when a correction is made in a Torah after it has been written, all those who were born since it was written, through the rule of “leiv beit din matneh,” are now considered among the writers of this particular Torah. Thus, when they have an aliyah it is then considered their Sefer, which was written specifically for them.

Moreover, when one is called to the Torah, the reader shows him the first word of the portion to be read. When he looks at it, he is actually checking at least one letter in the Torah, which is equivalent to writing the entire Torah (ibid.), and the berachah he recites is a public testimony that the Sefer Torah is kosher.

Consequently, every Jew called to read the Torah at his Bar-Mitzvah fulfills the mitzvah of writing a Torah by personally checking and attesting to the kashrut of the Sefer Torah.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"ד)

* * *

The Midrash Rabbah (9:9) relates that prior to Moshe’s passing he wrote thirteen Sifrei Torah — one for each tribe and one which was placed in the Ark. Since it was impossible to expect every Jew to personally write a Torah at that time, Moshe arranged that each tribe have a Torah, and through the rule of “leiv beit din matneh,” when a Jew learned in it, it would be deemed as his personal Torah which Moshe wrote specifically for him.

Moshe thus set a precedent for future generations that when it is difficult to personally write a Sefer Torah, one may rely on a communal Sefer Torah for the observance of the Biblical mitzvah to write a Sefer Torah.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"ד)


"ויהי ככלות משה לכתב את דברי התורה הזאת על ספר עד תמם"

“So it was that when Moshe finished writing the words of this Torah onto a book, until their conclusion.” (31:24)

QUESTION: According to the Zohar (Shemot 156a) Moshe passed away Shabbat afternoon. According to Midrash Rabbah (Devarim 9:9), Moshe wrote thirteen Sifrei Torah on the day of his passing, giving one to each tribe and one to be kept in the Ark.

Writing on Shabbat is forbidden. Why did Moshe violate the law?

ANSWER: In his holiness, Moshe recited a Name of Hashem which instructed the quill to write on its own. Writing which is not performed physically by a human being is not forbidden on Shabbat.

(ליקוטי שו"ת חת"ס סי' כ"ט בשם השל"ה)

* * *

A difficulty with this explanation is that a Sefer Torah which was written miraculously, not by a human being, cannot be considered kosher.

Tosafot (Menachot 30a) writes that Moshe did not die on Shabbat but on erev Shabbat — Friday. Perhaps theMidrash that says he wrote thirteen sifrei Torah on the day of his passing follows this opinion.

Possibly, the Midrash agrees with the Zohar that Moshe died on Shabbat, but holds that his demise started on Friday and culminated on Shabbat, and Moshe wrote the sifrei Torah on Friday when he felt his end drawing near.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ו ע' 361, וחכ"ד ע' 208)


"כי אנכי ידעתי את מריך... הן בעודני חי עמכם היום ... ואף כי אחרי מותי"
“For I know your rebelliousness ... behold! While I am still alive with your today ... and surely after my death” (31:27)

QUESTION: The words “imachem hayom” — “with you today” seem extra?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachot 18a) says “The righteous are considered to be alive, in a spiritual sense, even after death.” Moshe was alluding to this concept. Thus, he said to them that though he would live eternally, he was speaking of his experience of when “odeni chai imachem” — “I am physically alive together with you.”

He also added the word “hayom” to allude that this was the last day of physical life with them. From tomorrow on, he would “live” with them and continue to look after them, but they would not view his physical being.

(אור החיים, ועי' אגרת הקדש לאדמוה"ז לביאור הזוה"ק "דצדיקא דאתפטר אשתכח בכלהו עלמין יתיר מבחיוהי")