WORD: A Word a Week from the World’s Best Seller. Follow the Annual Torah Re-Run Series with Amichai Lau-Lavie’s Newest Year-Long Blog. To subscribe via email click here. To listen to the audio version click here.
A year worth of words is coming to a close as the scroll reaches the end and then begins to roll, again. On Simchat Torah we will chant the last portion -V’Zot Ha’Bracha, before beginning again with Bereshit.
How many books get this much attention? How many times have we said goodbye, in tears, to Moses, before hitting play again to start the saga yet again?
Moses dies in verse 5 of chapter 34, and the next 8 verses, according to talmudic sources, were either written by Joshua, or written by Moses, in tears, describing his own death.
He dies as God kisses him on the mouth.
But you wouldn’t know it from most English translations that render the words ‘the mouth of God’ as ‘the word of God.’
So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
But the Hebrew ‘Peh – ‘mouth’ is right there, and the legends describe this mythic moment in loving detail, quoting the erotic yearning of the Song of Songs: ‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth’. All his life Moses sought the presence, intimacy of the Divine. Again and again he implores God to meet face to face. And now, at last, his wish is fulfilled and his last breath is intake of God’s love.
We hold our breath with the author of our Torah for eight long verses of farewell and then exhale and breath out again, as the scrolls rolls back to “In the Beginning” and here we go again.
This delicate drama of death and birth, the cycles of life reflected through this annual ritual. It’s breathtaking.
God’s mouth is code for words, voices, kisses, whispers, portals that let in air and let out song and story, mystery and more, always more.
The Torah is the record of the written and known, along with the ever-created commentary of our lives, our mouths. The more the better. Together, the written and the spoken, ancient and current, the Torah of Ktav and the Torah of Peh, are perpetual perfection.
Moses dies but the story lives on and on with each of us. And here we go again. Here’s one suggestion for year long read: Reboot’s UNSCROLLED came out in print yesterday, each Torah portion another wild spin by 54 big mouths, self included. Check it out: http://www.unscrolled.org/
Thank you for traveling with me throughout this cycle of the Torah, week by week, word by word. I hope to continue this public learning soon, through this or other sacred cycles.
A year’s worth of words comes to end, with gratitude, with wonder, sealed with a kiss.
(Your feedback, suggestions, ideas are most welcome: [email protected])