On Simchat Torah we celebrate the completion of the reading of the Torah but we often forget that the Torah’s final story is also one of its most tragic.
A forgotten theme of Sukkot, the death of Mosheh is the most developed theme in all of midrashic literature. In the hands of the Sages, Mosheh dies in the desert not for the striking of the rock but for multiple other reasons – or perhaps simply because his life was a human life.
Through these beautiful and creative rereadings, the Sages develop thoughts about life and mortality, and make the story of Mosheh’s death relevant to their own times as well as our own.
Given at Mishmar at the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life in memory of Rabbi Eitam and Naamah Henkin, murdered on this day.
Note to listeners: the recording is an hour, but after the introduction can be listened to in separate sections, with each midrash giving its own message.