Was Moses’ Death Punishment or Reward?

On the holiday of Simḥat Torah (which fell on Monday in Israel and Tuesday in the Diaspora) the annual cycle of readings from the Pentateuch is concluded with the end of Deuteronomy. Here God instructs Moses to survey the land of Israel from a mountain vantage point, but forbids him from entering. This is generally understood as punishment of the Israelites’ dying leader, but James A. Diamond wonders whether it is really something else:

Should Moses have extended his leadership tenure and guided the people into the land, he would have been faced with . . . more of the same anguish and suffering he had experienced up until this point. It would surely have entailed the wrangling, the complaints, the jealousy, and the power struggles that accompany the burdens of state- building. . . . God does not invite Moses up the mountain to deny him entry into the Promised Land (“I have let you see it with your own eyes, But you shall not cross there”), but rather to preempt the pain of doing so, while assuring him that his vision will inevitably become a reality. The verse reads better as “I have let you see it with your own eyes, and there you need not cross.”

Moses is thus spared being mired in the partisan machinations that—as the historical record of the books of Joshua, [Judges, Samuel, and] Kings (let alone the contemporary history of the modern Jewish state!) evidence—would certainly have ensued. His record then of autonomy and initiative, even in the face of divine obstinacy, is preserved and remains untarnished by the political intrigue that would have inevitably consumed him to the very end.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Seforim

More about: Deuteronomy, Hebrew Bible, Moses, Religion & Holidays, Simhat Torah

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion