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THE GRAND FINALE OF MOSES LIFE

Thursday, 4 December, 2014 - 12:29 pm

Barry announces to his wife Sylvia: “I am going to go away for the weekend to take a course to enhance our marriage.”

His wife asks, “A course on what?” Barry says, “Unconditional Love.” Sylvia is delighted: “Please please go. I can't wait for you to return!”
 
Barry goes and returns a week later. Sylvia asks, “Nu? So what did you learn?”
 
Barry says: “If you give me Unconditional Love, I'll give you
Unconditional Love!”
 
This Thursday night and Friday Oct.16th and 17th, 2014 is Simchat Torah, the celebration of dancing with the Torah . Friday, morning we complete the reading of the Torah and discover an astonishing fact. The ending seems to be puzzling.
 
In the closing verses of the entire Five Books of Torah we read:
 
"Moses, the servant of G-d, died there in the land of Moab... And there arose not since a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom G-d knew face to face; [who performed] all the signs and wonders which G-d sent [Moses] to do in the land of Egypt... [who equaled] that mighty hand, those great fearsome deeds, [and that] which Moses did before the eyes of all Israel."
 
Rashi explains that the last phrase of the entire Torah: “Which Moses did before the eyes of all Israel”refers to the episode when the Jews created the Golden Calf, Moses broke the tablets with the Ten Commandments before the eyes of all of Israel. Does this not seem strange? The Torah here is eulogizing Moses, enumerating his greatest achievements. What are the final words the Torah chooses to say about Moses? One would expect to read that he liberated the Jews from Egypt, split the Red Sea, or received the Torah from G-d. Perhaps we would read the exciting adventure of Moses giving the Jews the Manna or leading them in the wilderness for forty years? No! None of these. The grand finale of Moses’ life, the pinnacle of his life’s biography is that he broke the Two Tablets of the Covenant, inscribed with the Ten Commandments by the very hand of G-d.
 
How can this be? The breaking of the tablets was probably the lowest, most painful moments in Moses’ life. It was the greatest calamity in the history of the Jewish people—when forty days after Sinai they fell back into idolatrous paganism. Ironically, the Torah tells us that this moment, when Moses smashed the Divine tablets, was the zenith of his life! This was his greatest virtue?! Was this greater than being “the servant of G-d,” greater than his being the only human being with whom G-d communicated face to face;greater than the “signs and wonders” he performed in Egypt, birthing a nation and leading them to freedom, greater than his sustaining, protecting and governing a querulous 3,000,000 souls in “the great and fearsome desert” for forty years?!
 
Even harder to accept is that these are the last words of the Torah that will ring in our ears and to which we shout in response: Chazak Chazak Venitchazek! Let us be strong and strengthened! From what? From Moses smashing the Tablets! Why would the Torah climax with an account of its own devastation?!
 
Let us reflect for a moment and rewind the historical clock. Why did Moses break the tablets? Why didn’t he hide them or return them to G-d? Rashi gives a fascinating explanation- He threw down the tablets precisely because he wanted to destroy the “marriage contract” between the Jews and G-d, so that they would not be accused of “adultery” while worshipping the Golden Calf. By breaking the Tablets, the Jews would be judged as “single,” not “married” to G-d, since the contract was broken. The Torah considers this to be Moses' highest virtue: The most precious thing in the world to Moses was the Tablets, crafted by the hands of G-d and engraved with the Ten Commandments by the Almighty Himself. Words cannot describe the awe and reverence Moses, the greatest prophet in history, had to the Tablets. No one is more deeply identified with the Torah than Moses. “Remember the Torah of Moses My servant,” enjoins the prophet Malachi. The Torah of Moses? Is it not G-d's Torah? Explains the Midrash: because Moses gave his life for the Torah, it is called by his name.
 
And yet when his people are in danger, when the future of the Jewish people hangs in a balance, Moses takes this most awesome object, and smashes it to pieces! When the Jewish people are in jeopardy, Moses does not consult anyone. He does not even consult with G-d.
 
When Moses must choose between Torah and Israel, his devotion to Israel supersedes all—including that which defines the very essence of his own being. This is the hallmark of the true Jewish leader, of a “Moshe Rabeinu,” of a Rebbe—his love to Israel knows no bounds.
 
Do you assume G-d was upset with Moses? Comes Rashi and says: “G-d agreed to Moses and told him ‘thank you for breaking.” By “breaking” the work of G-d, to save the Jew, Moses touched G-d’s essence.
 
When the Torah speaks of the shattering of the Tablets, it speaks not of its own destruction, but, ultimately, of its preservation: if the breaking of the Tablets saved Israel from extinction, than it also saved the Torah from extinction.Because the deepest truth and the end sum total of Torah is—love.
 
It was during the Yom Kippur war "We're sorry, comrades…" crackled the voice being broadcast from military headquarters, "there's nothing we can do at this point… Prepare for the worst."
 
The Egyptian army was advancing quickly on their isolated brigade. The backup they so desperately needed would not be coming.
 
Within the hour they would all die. How to spend their last moments? One soldier asked for permission to speak.
 
"Have faith in G-d," he cried with his entire being, "Even if a sharp sword presses on your neck, don't despair of G-d's mercy!"
 
One of the soldiers, experiencing faith for the first time in his life, made a silent vow to G-d. "Master of the world, if we make it out of this hellhole alive, I promise to put on Tefillin each day!" All too soon it was over. By a miracle, the Egyptians were defenseless. After they had fled, the damage was assessed, and it was found that all but one soldier had escaped injury: the soldier who had made a vow to G-d. He had lost an arm. His left arm. The arm upon which Tefillin are wrapped…
 
He was broken. This was too much to bear. Could G-d be mocking him? The faith he had recently discovered threatened to disappear.
All of that changed at a late night meeting with the Rebbe. The soldier told the Rebbe his story. Together, they cried.
 
The Rebbe then gently said, "Perhaps this was G‑d's way of telling you that His relationship with you is unconditional. He loves you not for what you may or may not do, but as you are. Like a parent loves his child…"
 
It was then that his wound began to heal.
 
This year, make Simchat Torah personal Internalize and model the unique virtue of Moses- he was ready to put everything on the line for his people, even his own spiritual relationship with G-d. Don't just remember an age old tradition; celebrate a love that is infinite and limitless, a love that has kept us dancing for millennia.
 
Simchat Torah gives us each a fascinating and personal mission Sometimes you have to be ready to break your holiest tablets just to save another Jew.
 
And it is this love we remember and dedicate ourselves to continue throughout the year. Don't be afraid to love, to sacrifice and to put your honor at risk. Think positively of others. Imagine how different our world would be if we would all give that love to our children, our communities, our land, and our people. Try it!
 
Chag Sameach! Happy Holidays! 

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky
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