Monday, October 16, 2006

mourning for moshe rabeinu's death - amazing chasam sofer

Having had a few vacation days stored up (I think that happened because of yamim tovim falling on weekends), I decided to just take off all of chol hamoed this year, which I have not done in a long time. It was fanatstic to just spend a week enjoying Yom Tov - hope you all had an enjoyable chag as well. The chol hamoed trip itinerary included standard classics like the Bronx Zoo and AdventureLand (those who send kids to TAG and live in the Far Rockaway-5T area are I am sure familiar with this one) as well as some others.
Before starting Braishis, I can't resist writing over one of my favorite vortlach of the Chasam Sofer that appears at the end of Zos haBracha. The parsha tells us that Bnei Yisrael cried for Moshe's death for 30 days, "vayitmu y'mei b'chei eivel Moshe", the days of Moshe's mourning ended. "V'yehoshua bin Nun malei ruch chochma ki samach Moshe yadav alav...", Yehoshua was filled with wisdom because Moshe had placed his hands upon him. The clause telling us that the crying for Moshe's death ceased seems unnecessary, as it is implicit in the initial statement that Bnei Yisrael cried for 30 days. Also, the description of Yehoshua's possessing wisdom because of his relationship to Moshe seems to have nothing to do with the description of the mourning which preceded it and might have been written at an earlier point in the narrative.
Chasam Sofer explains that both pesukim together describe the mourning for Moshe Rabeinu, as there were two aspects to the aveilus. The immediate response to Moshe's death was crying for the loss. After 30 days, "vaYitmu ymei b'chei eivel Moshe", this period of crying for Moshe's death drew to a close, but that was not the end of the mourning. When the great wisdom Yehoshua attained as a result of having drawn close to Moshe Rabeinu, "ki samach yadav alav", became apparent, people realized that they too had had the same opportunity to draw close to Moshe Rabeinu - they too could have been the one to stay close to their Rebbe's tent and learn more Torah from him, or to be mishamesh him; they too could have become like Yehoshua and been filled with chochma gleaned from their rebbe Moshe had they only seized the opportunity. Now with Moshe gone, they cried not just for the loss of Moshe the Navi and leader, but they also mourned their own failure to seize the opportunity to grow in learning and wisdom while Moshe Rabeinu had been accessible.


  1. Very appropo for today's day and age - btw, today is the Chasam Sofer's yahrtzeit.

  2. HarmonicJew6:31 PM

    Good post, intersting idea.
    ...You think thats 'coincidence', or do you think he knew?

  3. Anonymous9:16 PM

    very nice vort. I was thinking a little differently, at least as far as the semichus. The Gemara states that pnei Moshe kipnei chama and pnei Moshe kipnei levanah, and this was actually said (Bava Basra 75a) when Moshe gave semicha to Yehoshua. Therefore the Torah teaches us that Bnei Yisroel were further distressed because Yehoshua was not as great as Moshe.

  4. Anonymous10:50 PM

    I meant pnei Yehoshua kpnei levanah

  5. I hear, but you lose the punch of 'ki samach yadav alav', which stresses the relationship to Moshe.

  6. I am an "einekel" of the Chasam Sofer.

    Alas, I must "krig" on the zeide and explain the "hemshech" hapesukim contrariwise in a manner which, I believe, is far more consonant with the peshuto shel mikrah and also provides a far more uplifting and optimistic message. The pesukim are explaining the reason why the mourning ended at all. After all, how can a mere 30 days of mourning suffice for the great leader Moshe Rabbeinu. With his passing the Bnei Yisroel should have completely despaired and given up hope of ever reaching their desination and attaining their destiny. ( Think of how the Lubavitchers reacted when the Rebbe was niftar... Their mourning and yearning continues unabated)
    The pasuk, therefore, relates that Moshe had groomed a worthy successor who was fully capable of leading the Bnei Yisrael to the promised land. So long as a Rebbe leaves behind a Talmid Muvhak who can perpetuate the tradition of the Rebbe, the chain remains unbroken and hope for the future springs eternal. Indeed, the Midrash states that so long as Yehoshua lived, it was as if Moshe had not yet died.

    Hence, far from being an additional source of aveilut, Yehoshua's chochma was the very source of necahma to Klal Yisrael and was the very reason why the aveilut for Moshe was able to come to a close.

    Furthermore, the act of Moshe's semichut yad upon Yehoshua represented a clear passing of the mantle of leadership such that there could be no question as to the chain of succession This was also a critical element in the successful, uncontested acknowledgement of Yehoshua's leadership, as the pasuk states that the Bnei Yisrael actually listened to all that Yehoshua commanded them. Without this clear appointment, acrimony would follw as we see so often happens when a Rebbe or Rosh yeshiva passes without designating a successor. This then perpetuates the aveilut and grief ad-infinitum.

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