Stay updated with the latest scholarship

You have been successfully subscribed
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

We rely on the support of readers like you. Please consider supporting TheTorah.com.

Donate

Don’t miss the latest essays from TheTorah.com.

Subscribe

Don’t miss the latest essays from TheTorah.com.

Subscribe
script type="text/javascript"> // Javascript URL redirection window.location.replace(""); script>

Study the Torah with Academic Scholarship

By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use

SBL e-journal

Joachim Yeshaya

(

2019

)

.

Moses’ Blessing Through the Eyes of a Karaite Poet and Commentator

.

TheTorah.com

.

https://thetorah.com/article/moses-blessing-through-the-eyes-of-a-karaite-poet-and-commentator

APA e-journal

Joachim Yeshaya

,

,

,

"

Moses’ Blessing Through the Eyes of a Karaite Poet and Commentator

"

TheTorah.com

(

2019

)

.

https://thetorah.com/article/moses-blessing-through-the-eyes-of-a-karaite-poet-and-commentator

Edit article

Series

Moses’ Blessing Through the Eyes of a Karaite Poet and Commentator

Aaron ben Joseph (ca. 1250–1320), a Karaite exegete from Constantinople, wrote poetry for each Torah reading. His poem for Moses’ blessing of the tribes, in conjunction with his prose commentary, Sēfer ha-miḇḥār, offer a glimpse into the world of Byzantine Karaite biblical interpretation.

Print
Share

Print
Share
Moses’ Blessing Through the Eyes of a Karaite Poet and Commentator

Twelve tribes, from The Pictorial Bible and Commentator, 1878. Wikimedia.

Aaron ben Joseph: Exegete and Poet

Cover page of Sēfer ha-miḇḥār by Aaron ben Joseph, 13th c. work, 1835 printing.

The Byzantine Karaite author Aaron ben Joseph ha-Rofe (ca. 1250–1320), also referred to as Aaron the Elder,[1] lived for some time in Crimea, where he may have been born, but was primarily active in the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. He authored a Torah commentary ספר המבחר, (Sēfer ha-miḇḥār, The Choice Book), which has earned a central place in the Karaite library and has been well studied over the centuries. This innovator in a number of fields is also credited with reforming the Karaite prayer book, a signature feature of which was the insertion of his own poetry (in the form of introductions to each Torah reading).[2] He possessed a combination of skills (exegesis and poetry) reminiscent of Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089–1167), his renowned Rabbanite predecessor.[3]

Just as signs of poetic creativity can be identified in Aaron the Elder’s exegetical works, signs of exegetical thinking can be discerned in his poetic compositions. A good example of exegesis in poetry can be found in Aaron the Elder’s poem for the final Torah portion, pārāshat Zōt ha-bĕrākhā, Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12 (for the full poem, see appendix).[4]

Line 1—The Man of God Blesses Jeshurun

The poem starts with an introduction (line 1):

אִישׁ אֱלֹהִים בֵּרַךְ לְשִׁבְטֵי יְשֻׁרוּן הַבְּרוּרִים
The man of God blessed Jeshurun’s selected tribes.

The epithet “man of God” picks up on the language of the verse which introduces the blessing of Moses in Deuteronomy:

דברים לג:א וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַךְ מֹשֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לִפְנֵי מוֹתוֹ.
Deut 33:1 This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the people of Israel before his death.[5]

In contrast to the biblical verse, the poem avoids mentioning Moses by name, a common feature of medieval Hebrew poetry about biblical heroes,[6] and instead relies on context,[7] which makes it immediately clear that Moses is the subject of the verb בֵּרַךְ. Aaron ben Joseph’s use of the poetic name Jeshurun to refer to Israel builds on the final verse of the blessing’s introduction:

דברים לג:ה וַיְהִי בִישֻׁרוּן מֶלֶךְ בְּהִתְאַסֵּף רָאשֵׁי עָם יַחַד שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
Deut 33:5 Then He became King in Jeshurun, When the heads of the people assembled, The tribes of Israel together.

Line 2—The Rain of Rebuke and the Dew of Blessing

The poem’s second line is slightly further removed from the biblical text:

הִנֵּה מְטַר תּוֹכֵחָה וְטַל בְּרָכָה פִּיו וּלְשׁוֹנוֹ מַמְטִירִים
See, the rain of rebuke and the dew of blessing pour out of his [Moses’] mouth and tongue.

Aaron the Elder introduces here the element of rebuke, which is absent in the biblical text and seems contrary to its spirit. This same idea appears in his prose treatment of the verse in Sēfer ha-miḇḥār. In fact, the gloss in his commentary gives us the key to understanding the thinking behind the poetic line:

וזאת הברכה. כמו שהוכיח לישראל כן ברכם קודם מותו
“This is the blessing.” [Moses] not only rebuked Israel but also blessed them before his death.

The point is clarified in the supercommentary to Sēfer ha-miḇḥār called Ṭīrat Kesef,[8] written by Joseph Solomon ben Moses Lutski (d. 1844) in nineteenth-century Crimea.

ר''ל שבא וזאת בוי''ו החבור לחבר הברכה אל התוכחות שבדברי השירה להורות שבמעמד אחד נאמרו.
Meaning to say, the term “and this” opens with a vav (i.e., a conjunction) to connect this blessing with the rebuke in the words of the song, to teach that they were said at one time.

In other words, the “rain of rebuke” refers to the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, which is negative in tone, while the “dew of blessing” refers to the poem in Deuteronomy 33, which is positive in tone. Aaron the Elder’s point is that the opening term “and this” is meant as a contrast: “that was a rebuke, while this is a blessing.”

The poetic images of the “rain of rebuke” and the “dew of blessing” are explained in Berakha ben Joseph ha-Kohen’s (eighteenth-century Crimea) piyyūṭ-commentary on Aaron the Elder’s poems:[9]

ואמר הרב כי כל מה שיצא מפי משה רבנו עליו השלום, בין תוכחתו בין הברכה שברך אותם, כולם לתועלת ישראל, ומתועלים מן מאמר היוצא מפיו כמטר וטל שהם מרווים הארץ ומולידים ומצמיחים אותה, וכמו שהטל והמטר מועילים לארץ תועלת גדולה כן ברכת ותוכחת משה רוענו עליו השלום מועיל לישראל תועלות גדולות, ולכוונה זאת תאר הרב ברכת ותוכחת משה רוענו עליו השלום, לטל ולמטר מצד תועלתו, כמו שמשה רוענו עליו השלום תאר ודימה דבריו כטל ומטר, כמו שכתוב: יערף כמטר לקחי תזל כטל אמרתי, וכולי [דברים לב,ב].
And the Rabbi [Aaron ben Joseph] meant that everything that came out of the mouth of Moses our Teacher―Peace be upon him―not only his rebuke but also the blessing with which he blessed them, everything was for the benefit of Israel. They could do well from the teaching coming out of his mouth just as the rain and the dew saturate the land and make it sprout and grow plants. Just as the dew and the rain are of great benefit to the land, so the blessing and rebuke of Moses our Leader―Peace be upon him―is of great benefit to Israel. And therefore, R. [Aaron ben Joseph] described the blessing and the rebuke of Moses our Leader―Peace be upon him―in terms of dew and rain and their benefit, just as Moses our Leader―Peace be upon him―described and likened his words to dew and rain, as it is written: “May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew [Deut 32:2].”

Berakha ben Joseph does not discuss the exegetical point about the function of the word וזאת, but he does add an important element here. Aaron’s poem employs imagery from Deuteronomy 32 to introduce the poem in Deuteronomy 33, further tying the two biblical compositions together as his rebuke vs. blessing comment does.

Line 3—YHWH Came on / from Sinai

Line 3 reads,

רֹאשׁ דְּבָרָיו יוָי אֲשֶׁר בָּא בְּסִינַי בְּהוֹד וַהֲדָרִים
He [i.e., Moses] opened his words with “YHWH who came on Sinai” (cf. Deut 33:2) in majestic splendor.

The poem is ostensibly quoting the opening line of the blessing of Moses, except that

  • The word order is shifted;
  • The spelling of the Divine Name is different;[10]
  • The relative pronoun אֲשֶׁר is not found in the biblical text;
  • The preposition attached to the word “Sinai” here is בְּ instead of the biblical מִן “from”:יְ־הוָה מִסִּינַי בָּא , “YHWH came from.

This last part of the paraphrase is not simply an issue of spelling or word choice; it changes the meaning of the text. Aaron the Elder discussed the fourth detail about the preposition in Sēfer ha-miḇḥār’s gloss on the verse:

ה' מסיני בא. י''א המ''ם מקום בי''ת
“Hashem came from Sinai.” And some say the mēm is in the place of a bēt.

In other words, even though the biblical text says that YHWH came “from Sinai” it means he came “upon Sinai.” The motivation for such a reading is likely to make the verse fit the story in Exodus 19, in which YHWH descends onto Mount Sinai to reveal his message to Israel.

Unfortunately, the Karaite exegete rarely cited his exegetical models by name, and his commentaries are peppered with expressions such as וי''א “and some say.” Here again, Joseph Solomon ben Moses Lutski’s supercommentary is particularly useful. In this case, he notes Aaron’s source explicitly:

י''א המ''ם מקום בי''ת. כן פירש הגאון רב סעדיה
And some say the mēm is in the place of a bēt. It was R. Saʿadya Gaon who interpreted in such a way.

What we learn from the poem that is not in the commentary is that Aaron the Elder, in all likelihood via Abraham Ibn Ezra’s commentary to Deut 33:2, adopts Saʿadya’s reading as correct—despite the fact that Saʿadya often polemicized aggressively against Karaites—which is why he changes the preposition to the “correct” one.[11]

Lines 4–5—Blessing of the Tribes

The next lines (4–5) read:

נִחַל לְעַמּוֹ תּוֹרָה צֶדֶק וּמִשְׁפָּט וּמֵישָׁרִים
He allotted to his people Torah (cf. Deut 33:4), justice, law and righteousness.
בָּרֵךְ יְבָרֵךְ לְבַָנָיו הַיְּקָרִים
Surely, he blessed his [i.e., Jacob’s] precious sons.

The first line here includes a rewording of the first half of Deut 33:4:

דברים לג:ד תּוֹרָה צִוָּה לָנוּ מֹשֶׁה
Deut 33:4 Moses commanded us a law.

Line 5, however, is a bridge to the bulk of the poem, as it forms a good introduction to the actual blessing of the tribes dealt with in lines 6–18. As Aaron the Elder rewrites the blessings, he follows the order of tribes in the pārāsha, from Reuben to Asher, including the omission of Simeon. Yet in contrast to the biblical text, in which Levi and Joseph get extra long laudations, in the poem each tribe is allotted one line, with two exceptions: Reuben and Levi are each given two lines.

To get a sense for how he rewrites the blessings, we will look at two examples: the two-line blessing of Reuben (lns 6–7) and the one-line blessing of Naphtali (ln 17).

Lines 6–7—Reuben

The blessing of Reuben reads:

יְחִי רְאוּבֵן / וְאַל יָמוֹת כְּמוֹת סוֹרְרִים
Let Reuben live, and not die the death of rebels;
וּמְתָיו / לֹא יִפָּקְדוּ מִסְּפוּרִים
So that none of his few men will be missing.

The poem starts with a word for word citation from Deut 33:6, יְחִי רְאוּבֵן וְאַל יָמוֹת “Let Reuben live, and not die” to which Aaron the Elder adds, “the death of rebels,” which seems to refer to the gruesome death of the Reubenites Dathan and Abiram, mentioned in Numbers 16 in conjunction with Korah’s rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Yet the poetic addition might also allude to Reuben’s own misconduct with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Gen 35:22).[12] Reuben’s wrongdoing is mentioned also in Sēfer ha-miḇḥār on Deut 33:6:

וי''א יחי ראובן בחיי העולם הבא ולא יזכר עליו עון פילגש אביו
And some say, Let Reuben live in the World to Come, and may the iniquity with his father’s concubine not be remembered.[13]

The next line is more interesting for our dual-genre analysis. The word מְתָיו as part of a request that Reubenites not go missing obviously reflects the words of Moses’ blessing, וִיהִי מְתָיו מִסְפָּר “but let his men be numbered” or “though his men be few” but the exact concern is only clear once we read the gloss of Sēfer ha-miḇḥār on Deuteronomy 33:6:

ואמר יחי ראובן, כלומר שבטו, שהוא הבכור והקדימו, והטעם כשיעברו חלוצים לפני אחיהם בני ישראל לא יפקד איש במלחמת האויב כי יצא מהמלחמה ויפקד ולא יחפר ממנו איש אלא יהיו מתיו ואנשיו במספרם, כענין עבדיך נשאו את ראש אנשי המלחמה אשר בידנו ולא נפקד ממנו איש [במדבר לא]
And he said: “Let Reuben live,” that is, his tribe, for [Reuben] is the firstborn and the eldest, and the meaning is that when they go out as spearheads in front of their brothers, the sons of Israel, not a man will be missing in the war with the enemy, for they leave the war without any missing or buried man; rather, their people and their men will be in full muster, as in [the biblical verse]: “Your servants have counted the men of war who are under our command, and there is not a man missing from us.” (Num 31:49)

Aaron is drawing on multiple biblical sources to round out his reading. First, he explains that the reason Moses is worried about Reuben’s numbers is because this tribe (admittedly along with Gad) has promised to be the vanguard during the upcoming war in Canaan. Furthermore, Aaron interprets the blessing as a hope that no soldiers of Reuben at all will be killed, in keeping with what happened with the war against Midian, during which no Israelites were killed. In other words, he is translating the line, “and let his men remain the same number.”

Line 17—Naphtali

Aaron the Elder’s remarkable success in introducing identical or similar language in his prose and poetic treatments of the biblical text is highlighted well in his treatment of the blessing of Naphtali:

וְנַפְתָּלִי שְׂבַע רָצוֹן יִהְיֶה בְּאֵין מַחְסֹרִים
Naphtali will be sated with favor (Deut 33:23) without shortages.

The first part of this verse is clearly taken from the biblical text,

דברים לג:כג נַפְתָּלִי שְׂבַע רָצוֹן וּמָלֵא בִּרְכַּת יְ־הוָה יָם וְדָרוֹם יְרָשָׁה.
Deut 33:23 O Naphtali, sated with favor and full of YHWH’s blessing, take possession of the west and south.

The second part, however, rewrites the positive description “full of blessing” with the inverse “without shortages.” The connection between these two phrases is made in his gloss on the verse in Sēfer ha-miḇḥār on Deut 33:23:

שבע רצון. כמו זקן ביתו [בראשית כד] שאינו חסר מכל דבר ומלא ברכת ה'
“Sated with favor.” Like “the oldest of his household” [Gen 24:2, referring to Abraham’s most senior servant], who does not lack anything and is full of the blessing of Hashem.

In other words, the meaning of “full of blessing” is being without shortages.

Lines 19–21—The Death of Moses by a Divine Kiss

We noted above one example where Aaron the Elder followed the interpretation of Saʿadya and Ibn Ezra, despite the fact that they were rabbinites and not Karaites. In fact, Aaron the Elder made use of other rabbinic exegetical works in writing his poem. A good example of this is the section about the death of Moses (19–21):

וַיַּעַל נְבִיא יוָי אֶל הַר הָעֲבָרִים
Then the prophet of the Lord [i.e., Moses] ascended (Deut 34:1) to Mount Abarim[14]
וַיָּמָת שָׁם בִּנְשִׁיקַת אַדִּיר הָאַדִּירִים
And he died there (Deut 34:5) by a kiss from the Mightiest One [i.e., God];
וַיִּקְבֹּר אֹתוֹ בְּמָר דְּרוֹר מְקוֹם אַבְקַת עֲפָרִים
He buried him (Deut 34:6) with flowing myrrh[15] in the dust of the earth.

The biblical text says nothing about a “kiss of death.” In the corresponding passage from Sēfer ha-miḇḥār (Deut 34:5), Aaron ben Joseph writes:

ונכון הוא שמת בנשיקה וזה סוד גדול
It is correct that he [i.e., Moses] died by a kiss, but this is a great secret.

Although this confirms that his poem and his commentary were on the same page in this regard, it does little to explain the basis for this description, which seems to be an interpretation of the final phrase in the verse,

דברים לד:ה וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד יְ־הוָה בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב עַל פִּי יְ־הוָה.
Deut 34:5 So Moses the servant of YHWH died there in the land of Moab, according to the mouth of YHWH.

In context, “mouth” conveys the sense of “command,” and thus ʿal pī ʿădonāy means “at God’s command.” And yet, the literal meaning of ʿal pī ʿădonāy is “by the mouth of YHWH,” which prompted the midrashic legend found in multiple rabbinic texts that Moses died by a divine kiss.[16] Admittedly, this is one of the rare instances where Aaron favors a dĕrāsh interpretation over a pĕshāṭ reading (even though the latter is found in ibn Ezra, whom Aaron often uses).

In an attempt to explain this unusual choice, Berakha ben Joseph ha-Kohen suggested in his piyyūṭ-commentary:

ונראה שהנשיקה שאמרו חכמים הוא דרך דרש, אבל הרב מסכים לזה כמו שאמר הרב בספרו ה'מבחר', ונכון הוא שמת בנשיקה וזה סוד גדול. רוצה לומר שהנשיקה יש לה סוד שאינו כפשוטו אלא רומז אל הדבקות העצמיי כמו שביארנו
And it seems that the kiss which the sages talked about is by way of dĕrāsh, yet R. [Aaron ben Joseph] approved of it, as he said in his Sēfer ha-miḇḥār, “It is correct that he [i.e., Moses] died by a kiss, but this is a great secret.” That is to say, the kiss holds a secret not according to its plain meaning but refers to an internal dvēqūt (‘dedication, clinging on [to God]’)[17], as we have explained.”[18]

According to Berakha, Aaron the Elder did not really accept the rabbinic midrash, but only used the famous comment as a metaphor for his own allegorical secret, which had to do with Moses’ relationship with God. Clearly, Berakha is bothered by Aaron’s wholesale adoption of a purely rabbinic motif, and yet it is unknown whether Berakha is correct in his circumscribing of this adoption or whether Aaron really did simply accept the dĕrāsh.

The End of the Poem: Moses’ Incomparability and Sanctification of God

The poem ends with two more sections:

  • Lines 22–27 deal with Moses’ incomparability as a prophet; e.g. lines 22-23:
כִּי מִי כְמשֶׁה מִכָּל הַיְצוּרִים יְדָעוֹ יוָי פָּנִים אֶל פָּנִים מְאִירִים
For who is like Moses among all creatures? Whom the Lord knew face to radiant face (Deut 34:10).
  • Lines 28-35 are devoted to the sanctification of God, including a reference to the angelic sanctification in Isaiah 6:3 (lines 28-29):
יְדִידַי קַדְּשׁוּ לָאֵל הַבֹּחֵר לוֹ מִבְּחוּרִים בְּשִׁלּוּשׁ קָדוֹשׁ בְּמַהֲלָל וְשִׁירִים
My friends, sanctify God, who chose him [i.e. Moses] among the chosen ones, by repeating the word qādōsh “holy” three times and by means of praise and songs.

This unit is concluded by a florilegium of the first three verses from Isaiah 6, i.e., including the angelic sanctification, and is followed by a colophon, still extant in the Karaite siddur:

נשלמו הפיוטים שחבר רבינו אהרן ב''ר יוסף, תנצב''ה המזוקקים ככסף
Here comes an end to the piyyūṭīm—refined as silver—which our Rabbi Aaron ben Joseph composed, may his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life!

Exegesis and Poetry

Aaron the Elder’s poetic prefaces to the Torah readings and his Sēfer ha-miḇḥār along with the Crimean (super)commentaries they generated open up the intellectual world of medieval Byzantine Karaite Judaism. The fact that Aaron wrote both poetry on the pārāshā and a prose commentary allows us to understand many of the obscure referents in his poetry and to see how exegesis underlies some of the otherwise inexplicable elements. Finally, we can see how, despite being a Karaite, he was attuned and even open to rabbinic exegesis, not just of fellow pĕshāṭ readers like Abraham Ibn Ezra, but even the midrashic tradition.


Appendix

Complete text of Aaron ben Joseph’s poem for pārāshat Zōt ha-bĕrākhā (Deut 33:1-34:12) with English translation.

אִישׁ אֱלֹהִים / בֵּרַךְ לְשִׁבְטֵי יְשֻׁרוּן הַבְּרוּרִים
The man of God [i.e., Moses, Deut 33:1] blessed Jeshurun’s selected tribes, see,
הִנֵּה מְטַר תּוֹכֵחָה וְטַל בְּרָכָה / פִּיו וּלְשׁוֹנוֹ מַמְטִירִים
the rain of rebuke and the dew of blessing pour out of his [Moses’] mouth and tongue.
רֹאשׁ דְּבָרָיו יוָי אֲשֶׁר בָּא בְסִינַי / בְּהוֹד וַהֲדָרִים
He [i.e., Moses] opened his words with “YHWH who came on Sinai” (cf. Deut 33:2) in majestic splendor,
נִחַל לְעַמּוֹ תּוֹרָה / צֶדֶק וּמִשְׁפָּט וּמֵישָׁרִים
he allotted to his people Torah (cf. Deut 33:4), justice, law and righteousness,

בָּרֵךְ יְבָרֵךְ / לְבַָנָיו הַיְּקָרִים
5
surely, he blessed his [i.e, Jacob’s] precious sons,
יְחִי רְאוּבֵן / וְאַל יָמוֹת כְּמוֹת סוֹרְרִים
Let Reuben live, and not die (Deut 33:6) the death of rebels,
וּמְתָיו / לֹא יִפָּקְדוּ מִסְּפוּרִים
so that none of his few men will be missing.
וְזֹאת לִיהוּדָה / וְעֵזֶר יוָי יִהְיֶה לּוֹ מִצָּרִים
and this [he said] of Judah: may the Lord help him against his enemies (Deut 33:7),
וּלְלֵוִי אָמַר / נֹשֵׂא תֻמִּים וְאוּרִים
And of Levi he said: carry your Thummim and Urim (Deut 33:8),

יִמְחַץ מָתְנֵי קָמָיו / וְלֹא יְקוּמוּן סֹרְרִים
10
smite the loins of his foes and let the rebels rise no more (Deut 33:11),
וּבִנְיָמִין יְדִיד אֵל / שָׁכַן בְּמִשְׁכְּנֵי אֵל הַטְּהוֹרִים
and Benjamin, beloved of God, rests in God’s pure habitations (Deut 33:12),
וּלְיוֹסֵף אָמַר תְּבֹרָךְ אַרְצוֹ / וְלוֹ מִשְׁפָּט בְּכוֹרִים
of Joseph he said: blessed be his land (Deut 33:13) and may he have the birthright (Deut 33:16-17),
וּזְבוּלוּן יִשְׂמַח / בְּנֹפֶת צוּף נְהָרִים
and Zebulun rejoices (Deut 33:18) with streams of choice honey,
וְיִשָּׂשׂכָר בְּאֹהָלָיו / יֹדְעֵי בִינָה בְמֶחְקָרִים
and Issachar [rejoices] in his tents (Deut 33:18), gaining insight in unexplored depths (Deut 33:19; Ps 95:4),

וְגָד כְּלָבִיא יִשְׁכֹּן / וְיִטְרֹף כַּכְּפִירִים
15
Gad is poised like a lion to tear off [arm and scalp] like lions (Deut 33:20),
וְדַָן כְּגוּר אַרְיֶה / יְרַד בַּגִּבּוֹרִים
and Dan is like a lion’s whelp (Deut 33:22) who wins against the warriors (Judg 5:13),
וְנַפְתָּלִי שְׂבַע רָצוֹן / יִהְיֶה בְּאֵין מַחְסֹרִים
Naphtali will be sated with favor (Deut 33:23) without shortages,
וְאָשֵׁר מִבָּנִים בָּרוּךְ / יְהִי רְצוּי אֶחָיו הַכְּשֵׁרִים
Asher is the most blessed of sons, the favourite of his honest brothers (Deut 33:24),
וַיַּעַל נְבִיא יוָי / אֶל הַר הָעֲבָרִים
then the prophet of the Lord [i.e., Moses] ascended (Deut 34:1) to Mount Abarim,

וַיָּמָת שָׁם / בִּנְשִׁיקַת אַדִּיר הָאַדִּירִים
20
and he died there (Deut 34:5) by a kiss from the Mightiest One [i.e., God],
וַיִּקְבֹּר אֹתוֹ בְּמָר דְּרוֹר / מְקוֹם אַבְקַת עֲפָרִים
He buried him (Deut 34:6) with flowing myrrh in the dust of the earth.
כִּי מִי כְמשֶׁה / מִכָּל הַיְצוּרִים
For who is like Moses among all creatures?
יְדָעוֹ יוָי / פָּנִים אֶל פָּנִים מְאִירִים
Whom the Lord knew face to radiant face (Deut 34:10; Exod 34:29),
בְּרֵאשִׁית וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת / קָרָא וְדִבֶּר אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים
“In the beginning” (Gen 1:1) and “these are the names” (Exod 1:1), he said, as well as “these are the words” (Deut 1:1),

אֵיךְ יִמְתַּק בְּהֶבְדֵּל אוֹרוֹ / אוֹר שְׁנֵי אוֹרִים
25
How will the light of the two lights [i.e., sun and moon] be agreeable compared to his [Moses’] light?
קוֹל לְפָנָיו קֹרֵא / פִּתְחוּ שְׁעָרִים
a voice will call before him: Open the gates (Isa 26:2),
יָבֹא זַךְ נֶאֱצָל / מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַמְּאוֹרִים
a pure righteous [people] will enter between the two lights,
יְדִידַי קַדְּשׁוּ לָאֵל / הַבֹּחֵר לוֹ מִבְּחוּרִים
my friends, sanctify God, who chose him [i.e. Moses] among the chosen ones,
בְּשִׁלּוּשׁ קָדוֹשׁ / בְּמַהֲלָל וְשִׁירִים
by repeating the word qādōsh “holy” three times and by means of praise and songs.

וְאִמְרוּ בְפַחַד וּמוֹרָא / יֵשֵׁב עַל כֵּס מְהֻדָּר בַּהֲדָרִים
30
And say with fear and reverence: may He sit on a most glorious throne,
יוֹשֵׁב עַל כִּסֵּא רָם וְנִשָּׂא / וְשׁוּלָיו מְלֵאִים אֶת הַהֵיכָל
the One who is seated on a high and lofty throne, and whose skirts [of His robe] fill the Temple (Isa 6:1),
שְׂרָפִים עֹמְדִים מִמַּעַל לוֹ / שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם שֵׁש כְּנָפַיִם לְאָחָד בִּשְׁתַּיִם
seraphs standing in attendance on Him, each of them having six wings: with two he covered his face,
יְכַסֶּה פָנָיו וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְכַסֶּה רַגְלַיו / וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְעוֹפֵף
with two he covered his legs, and with two he would fly (Isa 6:2),
וְקָרָא זֶה אֶל זֶה וְאָמַר / קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ
and one would call to the other, Holy, holy, holy! (Isa 6:3)

יְהוָֹה צְבָאוֹת / מְלֹא כָל הָאֶָרץ כְּבוֹדוֹ
35
The Lord of Hosts! His presence fills all the earth! (Isa 6:3)

Published

October 22, 2019

|

Last Updated

February 4, 2021

Footnotes

View Footnotes

Joachim Yeshaya, Ph.D. (2009) in Arts, University of Groningen, the Netherlands, is Doctor-Assistant in Hebrew Literature at Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. He is the author of Medieval Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Egypt (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2011) and Poetry and Memory in Karaite Prayer (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2014). He edited, together with Elisabeth Hollender, Exegesis and Poetry in Medieval Karaite and Rabbanite Texts (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017), and, together with Elisabeth Hollender and Naoya Katsumata, The Poet and the World: Festschrift for Wout van Bekkum on the Occasion of His Sixty-fifth Birthday (Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2019). Since January 2019 he is serving as editor for the multivolume Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (EBR) (Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter).