Most mundane facts are the most fascinating to question.

The Torah ends with Moses dying in the wilderness and the Israelites still camping on the other bank of the Jordan River. This plot sounds plausible except for one major intricacy - God does not fulfill his promise to bring his people to the coveted land, the pinnacle of the whole grand plan of Exodus was about. A naive reader is left puzzled - will God keep his promise or some unforeseeable conditions will jeopardize it (again).

But why, actually: the last lines cover the beginning of the post-Mosaic era anyway, Moses already knew the future, entering the Land was not a secret, and a nice closure would definitely contribute to the credibility of the book?

  • 10
    Ends on a cliffhanger. You have to buy the sequel too now.
    – Alex
    Dec 16, 2020 at 23:02
  • Joshua continues where Moses left off.
    – Turk Hill
    Dec 16, 2020 at 23:30
  • Mose's story ends where Joshua's begin.
    – Turk Hill
    Dec 16, 2020 at 23:30
  • @Alex Plausible for Hollywood, but less for God writing THE book.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 18, 2020 at 11:21
  • @AlBerko דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם
    – Alex
    Dec 18, 2020 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z"l addresses this question here.

He writes as follows (my emphasis) in his typically inimitable style:

Judaism is the only civilisation to have set its golden age not in the past but in the future. We hear this at the beginning of the Moses story, although not until the end do we realise its significance. Moses asks God: What is Your name? God replies: Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, literally, “I will be what I will be” (Ex. 3:14). We assume this means something like “I am what I am – unlimited, indescribable, beyond the reach of a name.” That may be part of the meaning. But the fundamental point is: My name is the future. “I am what will be.” God is in the call from the future to the present, from the destination to us who are still on the journey. What distinguishes Judaism from Christianity is that in answer to the question “Has the Messiah come?” the Jewish answer is always: Not yet. Moses’ death, his unfinished life, his glimpse of the land of the future, is the supreme symbol of the not-yet.

“It is not for you to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Mishnah Avot 2:16). The challenges we face as human beings are never resolved simply, quickly, completely. The task takes many lifetimes. It is beyond the reach of a single individual, even the greatest; it is beyond the scope of a single generation, even the most epic. Deuteronomy ends by telling us: “Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses” (Deut. 34:10). But even his life was, necessarily, incomplete.

As we see him, on Mount Nebo, looking across the Jordan to Israel in the distance, we sense the vast, challenging truth that confronts us all. Each person has a promised land he or she will not reach, a horizon beyond the limits of his or her vision. What makes this bearable is our intense existential bond between the generations – between parent and child, teacher and disciple, leader and follower. The task is bigger than us, but it will live on after us, as something of us will live on in those we have influenced.

The greatest mistake we can make is to do nothing because we cannot do everything. Even Moses discovered that it was not for him to complete the task. That would only be achieved by Joshua, and even then the story of the Israelites was only just beginning. Moses’ death tells us something fundamental about mortality. Life is not robbed of meaning because one day it will end. For in truth – even in this world, before we turn our thoughts to eternal life in the World to Come – we become part of eternity when we write our chapter in the book of the story of our people and hand it on to those who will come after us. The task – building a society of justice and compassion, an oasis in a desert of violence and corruption – is greater than any one lifetime. The Jewish people have returned to the land, but the vision is not yet complete. This is still a violent, aggressive world. Peace still eludes us, as does much else. We have not yet reached the destination, though we see it in the distance, as did Moses. The Torah ends without an ending to tell us that we too are part of the story; we too are still on the journey....

So to answer your question in brief, the Torah ends in the way it does to demonstrate to us an important lesson - we all have goals in life, some of which we will not accomplish. However, we all aspire to have a greater future, and if we are not zoche to meet these aspirations, the next generation will be there to carry on where we left off, and through this we live on.

  • What your answer addresses is "what lesson can be learned from ...". Retrospectively, we have to live with this end, so we make up excuses - it's OK. But for the divine authorship, this sounds illogical - like he doesn't know the resolution of the mission.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 18, 2020 at 11:26
  • @AlBerko But that is exactly the point! Torah is not a story book, תורה מלשון הוראה
    – larry909
    Jan 5, 2021 at 7:22
  • @larry909 I wish it wasn't, and I asked about it - why should be any history in it. But since it is a storybook (it does consist of stories) why does it stop in the middle of the happening?
    – Al Berko
    Jan 5, 2021 at 19:47
  • @AlBerko they are stories with lessons
    – larry909
    Jan 5, 2021 at 19:48
  • @larry909 Great, so why stop? Na"ch continues with many more stories with lessons.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 5, 2021 at 19:54

See https://www.sefaria.org/Bava_Batra.75a?lang=bi

כיוצא בדבר אתה אומר (במדבר כז, כ) ונתתה מהודך עליו ולא כל הודך זקנים שבאותו הדור אמרו פני משה כפני חמה פני יהושע כפני לבנה אוי לה לאותה בושה אוי לה לאותה כלימה

In a similar manner, you can say that God said to Moses about Joshua: “And you shall put of your honor upon him” (Numbers 27:20), which indicates that you should put some of your honor, but not all of your honor. The elders of that generation said: The face of Moses was as bright as the face of the sun; the face of Joshua was like the face of the moon. Woe for this embarrassment, woe for this disgrace, that we did not merit another leader of the stature of Moses.

Also see


ר' יהונתן אייבשיץ, יערות דבש, חלק ראשון, דרוש ט"ז ויש להבין מה לאותה בושה...אבל באמת יהושע לא היה מקבל מפאת עצמו כלל, רק ממה שהאציל משה עליו, והיה הבדל כהבדל עילה לעלולים וכאור לקוי אור היוצאים ממנו שהם פחות למאור בטבע וזה ידוע כי הלבנה לית ליה מגרמיה כלום, רק ממה שקבלה מהחמה

Where Rb Yonasan Eybeschütz says that Yehoshua did not receive any hashpaah directly from Hashem, he only received via the light of Moshe, as the moon receives from the sun.

So to the extent that we understand that the Torah represents pure reality, it would seem that this matter is similar to Plato's Allegory of the Cave (e.g. https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/cave.htm), in which we identify two levels of living, one level of pure reality, the other level of responding to the "shadows" cast by pure reality. Therefore the world of Moshe is the world of pure reality, the world of Yehoshua is the world of the shadows cast by the world of Moshe.

So that it transpires that the Torah discusses the real world (i.e. not "our" world, but rather the world where the real action is taking place), and anything after the Torah discusses the "shadows" (i.e. the projections) that are cast from the "real" world.

From a practical perspective, this means as follows:

One of the amazing things about Jewish chinuch is that Avraham is as alive to the children as the man next door.

The children will bring home a tent with doors to all four directions and show how Avraham welcomes visitors from all directions.

The story of Yosef and his brothers is alive...

The story of Moshe and Pharaoh is alive... be'chol dor ve'dor chayav adam liros es atzmo ke'ilu hu yatza mi'mitrayim - in every generation a person is obliged to see it as if they personally escaped from Egypt.

And so on...

I think you will find that this immediacy relates specifically to that which is related in the Torah. For example, we have no problem with the idea that the story of Yehoshua happened "a long time ago".

This is because the Torah, specifically, is the life source of the Jewish people, as above.

  • 1. You bring no sources. 2. I fail to see what your allegories - shadow/real 3. You might want to elaborate a bit and link the answer somehow to the question.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 16, 2020 at 22:34
  • I thought you may say that, will try to flesh it out a bit.
    – The GRAPKE
    Dec 16, 2020 at 22:57
  • @AlBerko Touched it up a bit.
    – The GRAPKE
    Dec 16, 2020 at 23:52
  • I'm sorry, forgive me, but I still don't see how this answers the question?
    – Dov
    Dec 17, 2020 at 11:08
  • @Dov Anything that happens after the end of the real story is an adjunct to the real story.
    – The GRAPKE
    Dec 17, 2020 at 21:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .