Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12: The Death of Moses

The first Torah reading for Simchat Torah

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There are at least two readings that take place on Simchat Torah.  The first reading is taken from the very end of the Torah.  In this portion. Known in Hebrew as “Ve-zot Ha-berachah,”  “this is the blessing,” Moses offers  a blessing to the tribes of Israel.  After this he prepares for his death.  The portion concludes with the people mourning the death of Moses, and short eulogy stressing the uniqueness of Moses as a prophet.

This English translation is reprinted with permission from Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures published by the Jewish Publication Society.

33:1.         This is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, bade the Israelites farewell before he died.

33:2.         He said:

The LORD came from Sinai;

He shone upon them from Seir;

He appeared from Mount Paran,

And approached from Ribeboth-kodesh,

Lightning flashing at them from His right."

33:3.         Lover, indeed, of the people,

Their hallowed are all in Your hand.

They followed in Your steps,

Accepting Your pronouncements,

33:4.         When Moses charged us with the Teaching

 As the heritage of the congregation of Jacob.

33:5.         Then He became King in Jeshurun,

When the heads of the people assembled,

The tribes of Israel together.

33:6.         May Reuben live and not die,

Though few be his numbers.

33:7.         And this he said of Judah:

Hear, O LORD the voice of Judah

And restore him to his people.

Though his own hands strive for him;

Help him against his foes.

33:8.         And of Levi he said:

Let Your Thummim and Urim

Be with Your faithful one,

Whom You tested at Massah,

Challenged at the waters of Meribah;

33:9.         Who said of his father and mother,

"I consider them not."

His brothers he disregarded,

Ignored his own children.

Your precepts alone they observed,

And kept Your covenant.

33:10.     They shall teach Your norms to Jacob

And Your instructions to Israel.

They shall offer You incense to savor   

And whole-offerings on Your altar.

33:11.     Bless, O LORD, his substance,

And favor his undertakings.

Smite the loins of his foes;

Let his enemies rise no more.

33:12.     Of Benjamin he said:

Beloved of the LORD,

He rests securely beside Him;

Ever does He protect him,

As he rests between His shoulders.

33:13.     And of Joseph he said:

Blessed of the LORD be his land

With the bounty of dew from heaven,            

And of the deep that couches below;

33:14.     With the bounteous yield of the sun,

And the bounteous crop of the moons;

33:15.     With the best from the ancient mountains,

And the bounty of hills immemorial;

33:16.     With the bounty of earth and its fullness,

And the favor of the Presencein the Bush.

May these rest on the head of Joseph,

On the crown of the elect of his brothers.

33:17.     Like a firstling bull in his majesty,

He has horns like the horns of the wild-ox;

With them he gores the peoples,

The ends of the earth one and all.

These are the myriads of Ephraim,

Those are the thousands of Manasseh.

33:18.     And of Zebulun he said:

Rejoice, O Zebulun, on your journeys,

And Issachar, in your tents.

33:19.     They invite their kin to the mountain,

Where they offer sacrifices of success.

For they draw from the riches of the sea

And the hidden hoards of the sand.

33:20.     And of Gad he said:

Blessed be He who enlarges Gad!

Poised is he like a lion

To tear off arm and scalp.

33:21.     He chose for himself the best,

For there is the portion of the revered chieftain,          

Where the heads of the people come.

He executed the LORD's judgments

And His decisions for Israel.

33:22.     And of Dan he said:

Dan is a lion's whelp

That leaps forth from Bashan.

33:23.     And of Naphtali he said:

O Naphtali, sated with favor

And full of the LORD's blessing,

Take possession on the west and south.

33:24.     And of Asher he said:

Most blessed of sons be Asher;

May he be the favorite of his brothers, 

May he dip his foot in oil.

33:25.     May your doorbolts be iron and copper,

And your security last all your days.

33:26.     Jeshurun, there is none like God,

Riding through the heavens to help you,     

Through the skies in His majesty.

33:27.     The ancient God is a refuge,

A support are the arms everlasting.

He drove out the enemy before you

By His command: Destroy!

33:28.     Thus Israel dwells in safety,

Untroubled is Jacob's abode,

 In a land of grain and wine,

Under heavens dripping dew.

33:29.     O happy Israel! Who is like you,

A people delivered by the LORD,

Your protecting Shield, your Sword triumphant!

Your enemies shall come cringing before you,

And you shall tread on their backs.

34:1.         Moses went up from the steppes of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan;

34:2.         all Naphtali; the land of Ephraim and Manasseh; the whole land of Judah as far as the Westerna Sea;

34:3.         the Negeb; and the Plain-the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees-as far as Zoar.

34:4.         And the LORD said to him, "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 'I will give it to your offspring.' I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross there."

34:5.         So Moses the servant of the LORD died there, in the land of Moab, at the command of the LORD.

34:6.         He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, near Beth-peor; and no one knows his burial place to this day.

34:7.         Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated.

34:8.         And the Israelites bewailed Moses in the steppes of Moab for thirty days.

The period of wailing and mourning for Moses came to an end.

34:9.         Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands upon him; and the Israelites heeded him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.

34:10.     Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses -- whom the LORD singled out, face to face,

34:11.     for the various signs and portents that the LORD sent him to display in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his courtiers and his whole country,

34:12.     and for all the great might and awesome power that Moses displayed before all Israel.

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