Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The final Parshah.

"And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face ..." (Deut. 34:10)

This found its way into Maimonides Thirteen principles, chiefly within the following:
7. I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses is absolutely true. He was the chief of all prophets, both before and after Him.
8. I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that we now have is that which was given to Moses.
Key in the initial citation to note is "in Israel," which makes one wonder if this is a foretelling that perhaps such prophets will arise in other nations, among other people. A midrash touches on this in the following:
Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses, in Israel there did not arise, but among the nations there arose, so that the nations should not have the excuse to say that if only we had a prophet like Moses we would have worshipped the Holy One. And which prophet did they have like Moses? Balaam the son of Beor” (Numbers Rabba 14:19).
Is it suggesting that other prophets of the caliber (in the eyes of worshippers) arose out of envy for Moses? Did envy or visions of grandeur birth the great prophets (visionaries) that birthed Christianity or Islam or Mormonism?

Or, perhaps, the key idea here is that what Moses (via G-d) gave to Israel was greater and unlike anything that would ever arise. Torah! As the greatest revelation from a prophet such as Moses, it never again will be repeated or regiven or redacted. It is THE ultimate final say.

Either way, this brief sentence at the very end of our Torah, before we begin again, inspired Maimonides in his Thirteen Principles (of course, which I'll discuss at some other time when I have more time to explicate on the many points, which I might not exactly agree or understand or GET), which says something. It is not enough to say that Moses was a prophet -- no, he was THE prophet.

This take on the situation seems pretty spot-on:
In the Yigdal prayer in the morning service, we read, "No one from Israel arose like Moses. . ." Could there have been another Moses? Theoretically, yes. But did anyone reach his lofty heights? Only Moses earned the right to ascend Mt. Sinai and accept the Torah directly from Hashem. Moses was just a normal human being who overcame his evil inclination and reached his vast potential. He was a man of physical defects who was slow in speech and spoke with a lisp. Nobody can say that it was his great oratorical skills that mesmerized an entire nation into following him. Moses was a far cry from one who could preach matters in his own words or give expression to divine truths. He was a scribe who could sit before Hashem on Mt. Sinai and take perfect dictation. Moses was the secretary who mirrored the ideals of his divine boss. Interestingly, Moses' Hebrew name Moshe, spelled mem, shin, hay, mirrors that of Hashem, spelled hay, shin, mem. Moshe spelled backwards reads Hashem.
Even the dissection of Moshe and Hashem is pretty compelling (if you're into etymology and a little superstitious like me).

Of this week's entire portion, this is the bit that moved me most. What a man, what an amazing man and what a gift -- or burden. And at the mouth of G-d, Moses passed. A thoughtful kiss goodbye.