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Deuteronomy Chapter 31
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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

Preparation for New Leadership
31:1 Moses went and spoke the following words to all Israel,
31:2 saying to them:

Today I am 120 years old and I can no longer come and go. God has [also] told me that I would not cross the Jordan.

31:3 God your Lord will be the One who will go across before you. It is He who will destroy these nations before you, so that you will expel them. Joshua will be the one who will lead you across, as God has promised.
31:4 God will do the same to [these nations] that He did to the Amorite kings, Sichon and Og. [As you know,] He annihilated them and their land.
31:5 When God gives you power over [these nations], you must do to them everything required by this mandate that I have prescribed to you.
31:6 Be strong and brave. Do not be afraid or feel insecure before them. God your Lord is the One who is going with you, and He will not fail you or forsake you.

Joshua; The Torah
31:7 Moses summoned Joshua, and in the presence of all Israel, said to him, 'Be strong and brave, since you will be the one to bring this nation to the land that God swore to their fathers that He would give it to them. You will be the one to parcel it out to them.
31:8 But God will be the One who will go before you, and He will be with you. He will never forsake you or abandon you, so do not be afraid and do not let your spirit be broken.'
31:9 Moses then wrote down this Torah. He gave it to Levi's descendants, the priests in charge of the ark of God's covenant, and to the elders of Israel.
31:10 Moses then gave them the following commandment:

'At the end of each seven years, at a fixed time on the festival of Sukkoth, after the year of release,

31:11 when all Israel comes to present themselves before God your Lord, in the place that He will choose, you must read [from] this Torah before all Israel, so that they will be able to hear it.
31:12 'You must gather together the people, the men, women, children and proselytes from your settlements, and let them hear it. They will thus learn to be in awe of God your Lord, carefully keeping all the words of this Torah.
31:13 Their children, who do not know, will listen and learn to be in awe of God your Lord, as long as you live in the land which you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.'

Final Preparations
31:14 God said to Moses, 'The time is coming for you to die. Summon Joshua and let him stand in meditation in the Communion Tent, where I shall give him orders.'

Moses and Joshua went, and they stood in meditation in the Communion Tent.

31:15 God appeared in the Tent in a pillar of cloud. The pillar of cloud stood at the Tent entrance.
31:16 God said to Moses, 'When you go and lie with your ancestors, this nation shall rise up and stray after the alien gods of the land into which they are coming. They will thus abandon Me and violate the covenant that I have made with them.
31:17 I will then display anger against them and abandon them. I will hide My face from them and they will be [their enemies'] prey.

'Beset by many evils and troubles, they will say, 'It is because my God is no longer with me that these evils have befallen us.'

31:18 On that day I will utterly hide My face because of all the evil that they have done in turning to alien gods.
31:19 'Now write for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites. Make them memorize it, so that this song will be a witness for the Israelites.
31:20 'When I bring them to the land flowing with milk and honey that I promised their ancestors, they will eat, be satisfied, and live in luxury. They will then turn to foreign gods and worship them, despising Me and violating My covenant.
31:21 When they are then beset by many evils and troubles, this song shall testify for them like a witness, since it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know their inclinations through what they are doing right now, even before I have brought them to the promised land.'
31:22 On that day, Moses wrote down this song, and he taught it to the Israelites.
31:23 [God also] gave Joshua orders, saying, 'Be strong and brave, since you will bring the Israelites to the land that I promised them, and I will be with you.'
31:24 Moses finished writing the words of this Torah in a scroll to the very end.
31:25 Moses then gave orders to the Levites who carried the Ark of God's covenant, saying,
31:26 'Take this Torah scroll and place it to the side of the ark of God your Lord's covenant, leaving it there as a witness.
31:27 I am aware of your rebellious spirit and your stubbornness. Even while I am here alive with you, you are rebelling against God. What will you do after I am dead?
31:28 'Gather to me all the elders of your tribes and your law enforcers, and I will proclaim these words to them. I will bring heaven and earth as witnesses for them.
31:29 I know that after I die, you will become corrupt, and turn away from the path that I have prescribed to you. You will eventually be beset with evil, since you will have done evil in God's eyes, angering Him with the work of your hands.'
31:30 Moses then proclaimed the words of this song to the entire assembly of Israel until it was completed.



Commentary:

went
  To each tribe (Ibn Ezra), to each individual tent, to the Israelite camp (Ramban; Malbim), to the study hall (Targum Yonathan; see Exodus 33:7), from the Communion Tent (Chizzkuni). Or, Moses went to the Israelites instead of assembling them to him as usual (Hirsch). Or, 'Moses took the initiative' (Sforno), or, 'Moses finished speaking' (Septuagint).

Today I am 120 years old
  This was actually Moses' 120th birthday, and it was the day he died; see Deuteronomy 34:7 (Sotah 13b).

come and go
  Literally, 'go out and come.' See Numbers 27:17. Some say that this denotes leadership in Torah learning (Sotah 13b; Ramban) or in war (Ibn Ezra).

also
  (Baaley Tosafoth; cf. Ramban). Or, '[because] God told me ...' (Rashi).

Sichon and Og
  See Numbers 21:21-24, 33-35.

by this mandate
  See Deuteronomy 20:10-18 (Chizzkuni).

strong and brave
  (cf. Adereth Eliahu; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah).

let your spirit be broken
  (cf. Targum).

Moses then wrote...
  Up to Deuteronomy 31:13 (Ramban; Abarbanel). See Deuteronomy 31:24. Other sources, however, indicate that he wrote the entire Torah (Lekach Tov).

in charge of
  (Chizzkuni). Literally, 'who carry.' Some say that this indicates their initial packing of the ark as outlined in Numbers 4:5. Others say that this alludes to the fact that the priests would carry the ark across the Jordan (Joshua 3:13,17; Chizzkuni).

Sukkoth
  Some say that it was read on the second day of Sukkoth (the first intermediate day) (Minchath Chinukh 612); while others maintain that it was read at night, on the eve of the second day (Tifereth Yisrael, Sotah 7:48). (See Sotah 41a; Yad, Chagigah 3:3).

after
  That is, at the beginning of the first year of the Sabbatical Cycle (Sotah 41a; Yad, Chagigah 3:1). See Exodus 23:16.

release
  Shemitah in Hebrew; see Deuteronomy, 15:1.

place that He will choose
  Jerusalem; see Deuteronomy, 12:5.

you must read
  A wooden platform was erected and the king would read the sections (Sotah 41a).

from this Torah
  According to tradition, the reading was Deuteronomy 1:1-6:9, 11:13-21, 14:22-28:69 (Yad, Chagigah 3:3; Lechem Mishneh ad loc.; Tosafoth Yom Tov, Sotah 7:8). Others say that it was Deuteronomy 1:1-6:9, 11:13-21, 14:22-27, 26:12-15, 27:11-28:69, 17:14-20. In most editions of the Talmud, however, the order is, Deuteronomy 1:1-6:9, 11:13-21, 14:22-27, 26:12-15, 17:14-20, 27:11-28:68.

proselytes
  (Lekach Tov).

stand in meditation
  (see Mekhilta on Exodus 14:13).

give him orders
  (Ramban). Or, 'appoint him' (Saadia), or 'give him encouragement' (Rashi).

in
  (Ramban). Or, 'near' (Ibn Ezra).

alien gods of the land
  (Ramban; Septuagint). Or, 'gods of the aliens of the land' (Targum; Rashi).

hide My face...
  Taking away providence and divine protection (Moreh Nevukhim 1:23, 3:51; Ralbag). Or, as a sign of love, as if God cannot bear to see Israel being punished (Baaley Tosafoth; Chizzkuni; Paaneach Razah).

their enemies' prey
  (Ibn Ezra). Or, 'devoured' (Septuagint); 'despoiled' (Targum Yonathan); or, 'destroyed' (Ralbag).

write
  The commandment was to Moses and Joshua together, so as to initiate Joshua (Ramban; cf. Sotah 13b).

this song
  The song known as HaAzinu, Deuteronomy, 32:1-43 (Rashi; Ramban). Others say that it denotes the entire Torah (Ralbag), possibly because the special Torah that Moses wrote contained vowel points and cantellation (cf. Tzafenath Paaneach). From this verse is derived the commandment for each Jew to write (or have written for him) a Torah scroll (Sanhedrin 21b; Yad, Sefer Torah 7:2). Some say that this is because with the writing of the song of HaAzinu, the Torah was completed; see Deuteronomy 31:24 (Torah Temimah).

Make them memorize it
  (cf. Eruvin 54b; Ibn Ezra). Literally, 'place it in their mouth.' See Numbers 23:5.

God...
  (Saadia; Rashi; Ramban). Cf. Deuteronomy 31:14. Or, '[Moses] gave Joshua orders [in God's name], saying ...' (Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 31:15).

scroll
  Or, 'book.'

to the very end
  Completing the Torah from Deuteronomy 31:14 until the end (Sforno). Some say that the section from Deuteronomy 32:44 had already been written, and with the song HaAzinu the Torah was completed (Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 31:1; Ramban; see note on Deuteronomy 31:19). In the Talmud there is a question as to whether Moses or Joshua wrote Deuteronomy 34:5-12 which describes Moses' death (Bava Bathra 15a).

to the side
  On a shelf attached to the ark (Bava Bathra 14b; Rashi). Others say that it was inside the ark, to the side of the tablets (Bava Bathra 14a). According to the first opinion, the Torah was later placed on the chest of gold sent by the Philistines, which was placed near the ark (Ibid.; see 1 Samuel 6:8).

Gather
  Personally, without using the trumpets, as in Numbers 10:3 (Rashi; Tanchuma, Vayechi 2).

eventually
  Literally, 'in the end of days;' see Genesis 49:1, 4:3.





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