31:1) “Vayelech Moshe-And Moshe went"
This phrase appears in Rashi without a comment, an unusual arrangement which requires explanation. R. Moshe Feinstein suggests that Rashi felt these words were self explanatory. In other words the entire nation sensed that Moshe was leaving them, even though he was still standing before them. Perhaps because of the next verse where Moshe says (31:2) “Lo Uchal Ode Lotzeis V'lovo-" I am no longer able to go or come" not that Moshe had lost any of his greatness in his final days, but that he no longer was able to lower himself enough to be able to communicate with the people. (See comment 31:2 below) After so elevating his physical essence in this world, Moshe in his final moments was closer to the heavens than this world.
Moshe was not the same leader they had come to know these past forty years even though his replacement, Yehoshua was already in place, he was merely a reflection of what Moshe was. As the Gemarrah (Bava Basra 75a) comments "Moshe's face shone like the sun, while Yehoshua's shone like the moon." Rashi is thus implying that the Moshe we knew has left, we cannot relate to him any longer, no comment!
(31:1) “Vayelech Moshe Vayidabaer es-Hadevorim H’ayleh El-Kol-Yisroel-Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel. Thus the parsha begins by Moshe speaking these words to ALL of Israel. Not only the generation of the desert but all future generations. The parsha ends by saying “Vayidabaer Moshe B’oznei Kol-Kahal Yisroel es Divrei Hashira Hazos Ad Tumom-Moishe spoke the words of this song into the ears of the entire congregation until their conclusion.” The words Ad Tumom means until the end of time. What was this message that Moshe conveyed for all future generations? Perhaps it was the last two mitzvos of the Torah, which are the Mitzvah of Hakael to assemble all of Israel, men, women and children, to hear the reading of the Sefer Devorim plus the mitzvah to write a Sefer Torah. The reason is that this was the last day of Moshe’s life. He wished to secure the continuity of Klal Yisroel. How is it possible for a nation to have survived centuries of persecution? The greatest of civilizations have come and gone and yet we stand here today? The answer is our connection to the eternity of Torah. This was the message Moshe wished to convey.
One who is alive is a “holeich” one who “walks and accomplishes,” while one who has died is an “Omeid,” he remains stagnant, not being able to do more after his passing. Moshe was able to continue "walking" even after his passing, "Va'yeilech Moshe," specifically because his words affected all future generations, “el KOL Yisroel.”
(31:1) “Vayelech Moshe-And Moshe went.” Exactly where did Moshe go? Until now whenever he needed to speak to the nation they would be assembled before him. Now on his last day of life, he is the one going out to speak to the nation. While Moshe was in the role of leader i.e. King he was not permitted to forgo honor. Now, after giving over that role to Yehoshua he was permitted to go out to the tribes and strengthen and encourage them.
(31:2) “Anochi Hayom-I am today” Moshe is saying that today he is 120 years old and on this day he would die. The Gemarrah says that no man knows the day of his death? How could Moshe have known it was his day to die? The Ohr Hachaim writes that 40 days prior to a person’s death his Neshama leaves him and is shown its final resting place. If that person is worthy he remembers this journey, if not he will have no recollection of it. Moshe therefore knew that 40 days after this journey he would be passing on.
What happens when the Neshama stands before its maker? It is asked its name. If he was a wicked person he will not be able to remember his name and this is a source of great pain for that Neshama. But if he was righteous he will be able to remember his name. This is why there is a custom to recite the verse in the Torah that begins and ends with the letters of the person’s name at the end of Shemoneh Esrei. Why is this so? Why is forgetting your name so painful? The answer is that a person’s name is his essence. It defines his life’s mission. If he lived an empty life never knowing his purpose in this world, he will arrive before Hashem not knowing his name. There can be no greater pain than discovering that your entire life had been unfulfilled. This Parsha is usually read on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashana. It is the time to re-evaluate our life’s mission, to make course corrections if necessary.
(31:2) “Lo uchal ode lotzeis v'lovo-" I am no longer able to go or come - Even though Moshe's soul had already been on this earth in the form of other people (Hevel, Sheis, Noach) his soul was reincarnated to accomplish what was incomplete in previous lives. Now he will not “leave and come” again as a reincarnation, as he has lived a complete life, fulfilling all that was not accomplished previously. (Imrei Kodesh)
(31:2) “Lo uchal Ode Lotzase V’lovo-I am no longer able to go or come.” Rashi says that its not that he didn't have the strength any longer because we know that he was as strong at 120 years as he was in his youth. But rather that he no longer had permission since he gave over the leadership to Yehoshua. This is therefore the answer to the question of the word “Vayelech” in the first posuk. While Moshe was the leader of Klal Yisroel he could not forgo his honor by going out to speak to the nation. They had to honor him by coming to their leader. But now after giving over the reins to Yehoshua, it was possible for Moshe to give up some of his honor and go out to the people. This is what Rashi is trying to convey. “Vayelech Moshe-And Moishe went.” This means that Moshe’s going was the first act performed not as the King of Israel.
Alternatively the Midrash explains that Moshe was on such a high level of Kiddusha that he had to lower himself to be able to relate to Benei Yisroel. At this point at the end of his life he was no longer able to relate to this lower level. He had reached the apex of Kiddusha that a human could attain. As is evident from the following parsha, “Hazinu” the level at which Moshe is communicating is far above our comprehension.
In this parsha Moshe gives over the leadership of Klal Yisroel to Yehoshua. It says that Moshe called to Yehoshua. Later Hashem refers to Yehoshua as Yehoshua ben Nun. Why is this different than the way Moshe called him? The posuk writes that Moshe was giving him advise on leadership saying he should confer with the elders. Hashem was giving advice too, saying you should be your own man and make decisions from your own convictions. There is a remez to this in the name Ben Nun. The letter Nun comes two ways. The bent nun and the end nun that is straight. In this Hashem is telling Yehoshua that at times a leader must be bent and humble himself to the opinions of others. But at times he must be straight and decide on his own. The word Ben represents Binah. With this Binah he should decide when to use each nun.
(31:2) “Ben Mai'ah Ve'Eserim Shanah Anochi Hayom-.” Moshe say's “Today I am one hundred twenty years old.” Rashi says, “Today my days are complete. On this day I was born and on this day I shall die.” (The 7th of Adar) The Alshich asks what is Moshe's purpose here to state that today is his birthday? The Gemarra relates that at the time of the story of Purim, Haman cast lots (Hepil Pur) and wanted to kill the Jews at a time when the Mazal would be bad for them. He found that the month of Adar was a good time to do this because Moshe died in this month. What he did not know was that Moshe was also born in Adar. Here in our posuk Moshe Rabeinu before his death saw B'ruach Hakodesh that in the future there will be a bad time for the Jews in the days of Haman that he will want to kill the Jews on the same day that Moshe Rabeinu died. On this Moshe says to Yisroel that they need not be afraid because even though I died on this day, but as Rashi says, “I also was born on this day and that Zechus should shield and protect you.” Afterward the Posuk says “Chisku Ve'imtzu Ve'al Tirau”-Be strong Don't be afraid. But what does this mean? Why didn’t Haman know that Moshe was also born on that day? The Gemarrah in Kiddushin (72b) writes that whenever a Tzaddik leaves this world a new Tzaddik is born to replace him. The Zohar even says that there are sparks of Moshe’s Kiddusha in every generation’s leaders. Haman actually knew that Moshe was born on that day. However, since he also died then he considered this a cut-off period for Klal Yisroel. He did not know that when one Tzaddik leaves this world, a new Tzaddik- a new Moshe- is born as well!
(31:16) “Vayomer Hashem el-Moshe Hinchah Shochev Im Avosechah-Hashem said to Moshe you will lie with your forefathers.” Since Moshe was buried on Har Nevo and the Avos are buried in the Moros Hamachpelah how can we justify this statement? However, the Yalkut Reuveini writes in the name of Sefer T’munoh that Moshe and Tziporoh were buried in the M’oras Hamachpeiloh. If so, we can take these words of our verse literally. Although the Torah tells us that Moshe was buried in the land of Moav (Devorim 34:6), the Torah says (Devorim 1:37) “Gam Atoh lo SOVO Shom – also you will not come to the land” but you will be brought there by angels. (Shaa’rei Aharon)
(31:18) "V'Anochi Haster Aster Ponai-And I will surely conceal my face." Why is there a double Loshon of hiding? Plus we have already mentioned in verse 17, that Hashem will conceal Himself? R.Bechaye comments that the first mention refers to the Babylonian exile while the second refers to the current exile known as Golus Edom. That concealment will last a very long time, that is why the expression is repeated here twice. But this does not mean that Hashem is forsaking Israel as we find in the Talmud. Esther is found in the Torah in this verse. Even though Hashem's name is not found in the magillah of Esther.
(31:21) “V’Hoyo Ki Simtzaun Oso Raos Rabos V’Tzarus V’ansah Ha’Shira Ha’Zos-It Shall be when you will encounter great evil and distress, then this song shall be the answer.” How will this song answer the question for all the persecution Israel has endured? The centuries of exiles, torture and displacement, of attempted extermination? The answer is found in the promise given at the end of this verse. “Ki Lo Sishokach Mipi Zaroh-For it will not be forgotten from the mouths of your off spring.” Despite all of the attempts to eradicate the Torah from the mouths of the Jewish nation, Torah is perhaps more alive and thriving than ever. This promise, made thousands of years ago has been challenged, has been vindicated, has been questioned time and again and yet we find “Lo Sishokach Mipi Zaroh-It will not be forgotten from the mouths of your off spring.” It is eternal and is something that continues to guide us to this very day.
(31:29) “V’Koros Eschem H’Rah-And Evil will befall you.” The evil this posuk speaks about is as was found in Portugal, when the king decreed all Jews to convert or be burned. The Jews gathered and asked where the fire pits where? They marched to their deaths with their children, singing and with Simcha. This was because in a previous life during the times of the Judges, Jews desecrated Hashem’s name by worshipping Idols. They were therefore reincarnated to correct this sin and sanctify Hashem’s name. The words “V’Koros Eschem H’Rah-And Evil will befall you.” is equal to Al Kiddush Hashem Nisraf-To sanctify Hashem’s name they were burned. (Sifsei Kohen)