Moshe’s Retirement

“….Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, and i will speak these words into their ears…. (Devarim 31:28)

On this day they did not blow the trumpets to assemble the congregation (as they usually did, see Bamidbar 10:2-3,7)… thus affirming the words of the verse, ‘and there is no ruling on the day of death’ (Koheles 8:8). —Rashi

  הקהילו אלי את כל זקני שבטיכם ושטריכם ואדברה באזניהם את הדברים האלה – דברים לא, כח

On the day of Moshe’s passing, he asked to gather Bnei Yisrael. Rashi points out that the method with which he normally summoned them – trumpets, sounded by the Kohanim – was not used, affirming the words of Koheles, “there is no ruling on the day of death”. On the day of his passing, Moshe could not rule over Bnei Yisrael, and therefore could not summon them using the trumpets.

Yet, could it be that a tzadik, who is constantly rising “from strength to strength”, should experience a decline on the last day of his life, at the pinnacle of his life’s achievements?

Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech


We must explain that though the ruler is superior to the ruled, rulership necessitates a relationship between the two nonetheless. On the day of his death, however, the leader – especially a tzadik – becomes so utterly transcendent of the people, that he is removed even from the relationship inherent in ruling over them.

Here we see the unique bond of Moshe and the Jewish people. For though “there is no rule on the day of death”, and it would seem that Moshe was completely detached from Bnei Yisrael, he nevertheless insisted that Bnei Yisrael “assemble to me”.

On the day of his passing, Moshe’s very essence was revealed – ‘Moshe is Yisrael and Yisrael is Moshe’ (see Rashi, Bamidbar 21:21). The effort of sounding the trumpets was out of place on this day; the revelation of their essential and inextricable connection was itself sufficient to summon the people to their beloved leader.


—Likutei Sichos, vol. 24, pp. 220-221

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