Nelly Shulman
Nelly Shulman

A grand finale

For me, the very end of the Deuteronomy had always been one of the most poignant parts of the Torah. As one of my favorite historical writers put it, “At this point, the author, compelled by history to kill off his favorite character… is moved to a sorrow… the pen, as the old chroniclers say, falls off from his hand”.

It always hurts to kill the character, even the entirely fictitious one. We have witnessed the life of Moses from its very beginning on the Nile to the very end. He stands in front of the land he wants to return to but is denied entry. In the tradition of a great historical novel, the leader has the chance to bid farewell to his people in the poetic form. Moses does that, but the last part of the portion is written in prose, thus making it plainer and even more painful.

“You may view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter it,” instructs God. Rabbeinu Bahya explains why God referred to simply “the land” instead of the particular “the land of Canaan”, as in Deuteronomy 32:49.

“The reason is that the expression את הארץ includes both the land of Israel and the regions beyond death to which Moses would presently be transferred. Both the terrestrial Jerusalem and the celestial Jerusalem are included”.

Here he stands, on the mountain, ready to leave the constraints of the physical life, being on the brink of another life ahead. What a powerful way to finish the novel!

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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