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Who Wrote the End of the Torah?

Monday, 10 June, 2019 - 9:49 pm

 

Question of the Week:

 

If Moses received the entire Torah at Mt Sinai, how did it contain things that hadn't even happened yet, right up to Moses' death forty years later?!

 

Answer:

 

That's a great question! Moses didn't receive all five books of the Torah all at once. It was a process of unravelling. 

 

At Mt Sinai, G-d gave Moses the Ten Commandments along with all the Torah passages from creation up until that point. That included the book of Genesis, and part of the book of Exodus until the description of the revelation at Mt Sinai. Then in the following months G-d dictated to Moses the rest of Exodus, Leviticus and part of Numbers. The rest of Numbers and Deuteronomy were given to Moses in the last year of his life.

 

Moses wrote down each of these parts of the Torah in small scrolls as they were revealed to him by G-d. Just before he passed away, Moses combined all the scrolls into one, exactly the same as the Torah scroll we have today. 

 

As for the verses that describe Moses' death, how could Moses himself record his own death? Moses can't write "Moses died" in the past tense! On the other hand, if he didn't, the Torah would be left incomplete. The Torah is the revelation given to Moses, no other. 

 

The Talmud says Moses wrote those verses with tears rather than with ink. Then his student Joshua filled in the words with ink. But the question remains, if Moses didn't write those words, wasn't the Torah left incomplete? Could it be that the end of the Torah wasn't written down by Moses himself?

 

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the Hebrew word for tears (Dema) can also be translated as "scrambled". Moses wrote the letters of the verses describing his own death in scrambled form. Because on the one hand he had to write them to complete the Torah, but on the other hand he hadn't died yet. Joshua unscrambled the words after Moses' death.

 

The holy letters of the Torah contain the story of all future generations. All of our lives are written in the Torah too, but in scrambled form. As we live our life and make our choices, we unscramble our own story.

 

May we all receive the Torah again this Shavuos with true joy, and internalise its eternal message.

 

Good Shabbos and Good Yomtov, 

Rabbi Moss

 

Sources:

Talmud Gittin 60a, Bava Basra 14a

Sefer Baal Shem Tov al Hatorah Vezos Habrocho

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