V'zot Habracha: A Man of G-d

By: rabbi jay kelman |

Even though Parshat Vezot Ha'beracha is read over and over again during Simchat Torah it is probably one of the least understood and studied parshiot of the Chumash. With all the hustle and bustle of the Yamim Tovim in general, and with the atmosphere of Simchat Torah in particular, serious study of the parsha tends to be neglected. Compounding the problem is the generally obscure nature of the parsha, with its difficult wording and opaque nature of the blessings that Moshe bestowed upon the Jewish people.

"This is the blessing that Moses, the man of G-d, bestowed upon the Israelites just before his death (Devarim 33:1)." This appellation, man of G-d, is not used elsewhere to describe Moshe Rabbeinu appears nowhere else in the five books of Moses. Furthermore, the Torah in describing the death of Moshe tells us, again for the first time, that Moshe was the "servant of G-d" (Devarim 34:5). Being a man of G-d means being a servant of G-d. And there was no greater servant than Moshe Rabbeinu.

Moshe's entire career was devoted to bringing G-d's message to the Jewish people. There is no one who toiled harder and more faithfully than he. "No other prophet arose in Israel like Moshe who knew G-d face to face” (Devarim34:10).

While each and every human being is created btzelem elokim, in the image of G-d, it is up to us to convert the tzelem, the image, into an Ish Elokim, a man of G-d. In Biblical Hebrew the word ish implies importance, dignity and accomplishment.

It was only after 40 years that Moshe reached this level of ish haElokim. When we first meet Moshe, we meet a person who, though he comes to the aid of his fellow Jew under attack, is not quite sure if he is an Egyptian or a Jew first. After saving his fellow Jew who was being attacked by an Egyptian, Moshe was forced to flee Egypt. As he arrives in Midian, he witnesses a group of young women who are being harassed by a group of male shepherds. Moshe forcefully intervenes enabling the women to quickly water their sheep. When the daughters arrived home early they told their father that "An ish Mitzri, Egyptian man, saved us from the shepherds" (Shemot 2:19).  

Commenting on this, the Midrash notes tells us that unlike Yosef, who never hid his identity from his Egyptian hosts, Moshe tried to hide his Jewish identity. After all, why create unnecessary problems? Thus, the Midrash claims, Yosef merited to be buried in the land of Israel whereas Moshe did not.

Moshe the Egyptian hesitates and even refuses to assume the mission that G-d has set for him. When he does finally relent and his task proves to be a difficult one he complains bitterly; "my Lord why have you done evil to this people, why have you sent me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name he did evil to this people but You did not rescue your people." (Shemot 5:22-23) The Midrash cites G-d's response that is paraphrased as follows 'Where are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Even though their lives were fraught with many difficulties they never questioned my promise to them. Why Moshe, do you lack this faith in Me?'

Moshe though, matured and rose to the challenge of leadership and beyond. He devoted every fibre in his body to carrying out G-d's will and bringing G-d's message to man. The ex- Egyptian thus became The man of G-d. Being a man of G-d means being the messenger of G-d. As we continue maturing throughout our lives we must realize that we are all messengers of G-d. We must carry that message with joy and dignity as we each in our own way become Ish haElokim, people of G-d.