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Moses went up Mount Nebo… Moses, the servant of G-d died… and no-one to this day knows the place of his burial (34:1,5).
When Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died, they were 'gathered to their people'. They were buried in the same place - at Hebron, in the Cave of Machpeila. In contrast, neither Moses nor Aaron was 'gathered to his people'. Both died on named mountains, but at unidentifiable locations. And unlike Jacob, neither made a plea to be buried within the Holy Land.
A simple explanation is that unlike the Patriarchs, Moses and Aaron carried out miracles for the benefit of the people. Their burial places might become objects of worship in future generations - in a similar vein to the Egyptian and, later, Greco-Roman gods. Indeed Rashi (to Gen. 47:29) explains that that was one of the reasons that Jacob made Joseph swear not bury him in Egypt. The Egyptians might make his burial spot a place of pagan worship; (following the tradition brought by Rashi) they would remember that the decreed seven years of famine stopped as soon as Jacob came down to Egypt.
In addition, it is well-know psychologically that a person yearns and even becomes jealous of something he cannot have. It can even be something quite trivial, as:
A friend was teaching a class of teenagers. He brought in a small, but attractively packaged box and placed it on the desk. He tried to open the lesson, but for some strange reason, the container on the desk was of much more interest to those seated in front of him.
'What's in the little box?' 'Is it for me?' They were desperate to know.
Our teacher, blessed with a healthy sense of humor, rejoined with: 'Well, what will you pay to see what's inside?'
The opening price was $3, and went up, up, and up to $30…
'No. I'm not closing on just that'.
But the students could not get into their work. They wanted to know. They were desperate to get behind the packaging, just to see what's inside the little box.
Abraham and Isaac were great in their day. They opened the gates for the 'way of G-d' (Gen. 18:19) to leave the confines of individuals and become the basis of the future Torah Nation. They were important milestones towards connection between humanity and G-d. But it was Moses and Aaron who brought that process to its highest development. Moses and Aaron strove together to turn a nation of slaves into a nation that was ultimately to be a light to other nations (c.f. 4:6-8). They created the interaction between G-d and His People, culminating at the Revelation at Mount Sinai, and the intensive meeting-point of the Divine Presence with the people in the Tabernacle. That this period was the peak of Israelites-G-d interaction is reflected in one of the final verses in the Torah:
No prophet like Moses, who knew G-d face to face, ever rose again in Israel (34:10).
And what reinforces their greatness is geographical mystery. People value what they know exists, but they cannot find. They want to know, but it eludes them. And it is indeed that feeling of not having it all on a plate which makes it less likely for people to take the unique teachings of Moses and Aaron for granted…
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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