In four verses of the last parasha of Torah, the same word appears five times. This frequency itself is enough to draw a reader’s attention. Even more remarkable: these are the only five times this word appears in all of Torah (Deut. 33:13-16). ‘Meged’ (מֶגֶד), appearing as it does in V’zot Hab’rachah, ties it to the upcoming parasha, Breisheit.
Moses, the greatest prophet in Jewish history, is blessing each of the tribes one-by-one. In the midst of the blessing for Joseph, but more poignantly on the day of his death, he seems to linger with longing on the glory and majesty of creation.
“And of Joseph he said:
Blessed of Adonai be his land,
For the precious things of heaven, for the dew,
And for the deep that couches beneath,
And for the precious things of the fruits of the sun,
And for the precious things of the yields of the moon,
And for the tops of the ancient mountains,
And for the precious things of the fruits of the everlasting hills,
And for the precious things of the fruits of the earth and the fullness thereof,
And the goodwill of the One who dwelt in the bush,
Let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph…”
(Soncino Press translation)
On first look, the blessing itself seems straightforward enough: the natural gifts of the world should be magnified by G-d for the tribe of Joseph. But that simple explanation does not explain the poetic repetition of the word. Moses seems momentarily lost is describing the beauty of the world he is about to leave. Moses reminds us of the preciousness of creation.
In Klein’s Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, ‘meged’ is defined as ‘choice of things’ and ‘excellence.’ It’s related to the Aramaic ‘migdah,’ meaning ‘fruit’ and ‘something precious.’ The verb root, mem-gimmel-dalet, means ‘to sweeten.’ Meged appears only three other times in all of Tanach, all of them in Shir Hashirim, Song of Songs. In six different Torah commentaries, the noun ‘meged’ (מֶגֶד), is alternatively translated as ‘bounty,’ ‘precious,’ and ‘sweetness.’
On the day of my own death — if I’m blessed as Moses was to keep full vigor and mental capacity to the end — I suppose that I’ll also linger nostalgically on the sweet, precious, bounty of G-d’s world. But Moses was a prophet writing his final words. And, as a prophet, perhaps he knew something critical to the moment. Perhaps he knew that generation after generation, on the very day we finish reading his magnum opus, we’d start reading it again anew, just as we did yesterday.
In his blessing to Joseph, Moses foreshadows the glory of creation. He tells us this: all G-d is about to create will become a blessing. Moses points us back to the beginning, which we began again symbolically yesterday, and which we will begin again in earnest next Shabbat, Shabbat Breisheit.
Life, creation, the sun, the moon, the mountains, the hills, the sunlight, the dew, are all precious gifts. For this is a precious life. On the day of his death, Moses sends us back to experience creation once again. And so, this coming Shabbat, just as Moses prophesized, we will experience, once again, sweet, joyous, precious creation.
Duet of Joy and Sorrow
When the beginning ends,
And the ending begins,
So that the beginning
Can begin again . . .
In the moment
That the flame jumps
From match to candle,
Extinguishing the match
To bring light
Until the light is gone . . .
From the first cry of birth,
To the last sigh of death,
This precious life
Sings a duet of joy and sorrow,
The song of living,
Sung to music from beyond,
Sung to the rhythm of the heavens,
And the beat of your heart.
Let this day be for song.
Let this day be for joy and laughter.
Let this day be for blessing.
Let us bind our days with holiness and love.
“Duet of Joy and Sorrow” by Alden Solovy is © 2021 CCAR Press from This Precious Life: Encountering the Divine with Poetry and Prayer the final book in his Grateful, Joyous, Precious trilogy.