Moses went . . . to all of Israel (31:1)

But the Torah doesn’t tell us where Moses went on this last day of his earthly life. The chassidic masters say: Moses entered into the core of every Jew of every generation, so that every Jewish soul possesess a spark of the soul of Moses.

(Maayanah Shel Torah)

I am one hundred and twenty years old today (31:2)

Today my days and years were fulfilled; on this day I was born, and on this day I shall die. . . . This is to teach us that G‑d fulfills the years of the righteous to the day and to the month, as it is written (Exodus 23:26): “I shall fulfill the number of your days.”

(Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 11a)


I can no longer go out and come in . . . (31:2)

G‑d said to Moses: “Such is the way of the world: each generation has its teachers. Until now was your portion to serve Me; now has come the portion of Joshua your disciple.”

Said Moses to G‑d: “Master of the Universe! If it is because of Joshua that I must die, let me become his disciple.”

Said G‑d to him: “If that is your wish, you may do so.”

So Moses arose early in the morning to Joshua’s door, and Joshua was sitting and teaching. Moses bent his frame and covered his mouth, and Joshua did not see him. . . . All of Israel came to Moses’ door, but found him at Joshua’s door, and Joshua was sitting and Moses was standing. The people said to Joshua: “Joshua! What has happened to you, that Moses our master is standing and you are sitting?” As soon as Joshua lifted his eyes and saw this, he immediately tore his garments and cried and wept: “Master! Master! Father, my father and lord!”

Said the people to him: “Moses our teacher! Teach us Torah.”

Said he to them: “I do not have license.”

Said they to him: “We shall not leave you!”

Then a voice came forth from heaven and said to them: “Learn from Joshua!” and they accepted it.

Joshua sat at their head, Moses to his right and the sons of Aaron to his left; he sat and taught, and Moses did not understand his teaching.

After they stood up, the people of Israel said to Moses: “Moses our teacher, explain the teaching to us.”

Said he to them: “I do not know it.” And Moses was stumbling and failing.

At that moment, he said to G‑d: “Master of the Universe! Until now, I asked for life. Now, my soul is placed in Your hand.”

(Midrash Tanchuma)

Gather the people together, men, women, and babies . . . that they may hear and that they may learn (31:12)

Rabbi Dosa ben Horkinas saw Rabbi Joshua [ben Chananya] and proclaimed: “‘Whom to teach knowledge? . . . those weaned of milk’ (Isaiah 28:9). I remember his mother bringing round his cradle to the study hall, so that his ears should pick up words of Torah.”

(Jerusalem Talmud, Yevamot 1:6)

And I, hide shall I hide my face from them (31:18)

There are times when G‑d hides His face. But then there are times when G‑d hides His face and we don’t even realize that His face is hidden; we dwell in darkness, and think it is light. This is a double galut, a concealment within a concealment.

(The Chassidic Masters)


So that this song may be a witness for Me . . . and this song shall testify as a witness for them (31:19, 21)

Thus the prediction that the people of Israel will abandon the Torah and will be punished for their sins serves as a “witness” both for the people and for G‑d. For the people, that they have been forewarned of the consequences of their deeds. And for G‑d, that He should not be too harsh on them, since He Himself foresaw it all and said, “For I know their inclination, and what they do, even now, before I have brought them into the land of which I promised . . .”


Moses commanded the Levites . . . “Take this book of the Torah, and place it to the side of the ark of the covenant of G‑d, that it may be there for a witness unto you” (31:25–26)

Our sages debated in [the Talmudic tractate] Bava Batra concerning this Torah scroll. There are those who say that a shelf extended from the outside of the ark, and on it the Torah scroll was placed. And there are those who say that it was placed to the side of the two tablets [inscribed with the Ten Commandments] within the ark.