V'zot Habracha is the final portion of the Torah and it contains Moses' last words to the people and his blessings on each of the tribes. Moses goes up Mount Nebo from where God shows him the Promised Land. Moses dies at 120 years old. The Torah ends with a statement declaring that never again could a prophet arise like Moses, who knew God face to face.
Tony Bayfield is Head of the Movement for Reform Judaism and Lecturer in Personal Theology, Leo Baeck College, London.
And so the Torah reaches its end. Inevitably, with the death of Moses. But in quite muted a fashion. Moses blesses the children of Israel, dies and is buried.
There is obvious sadness. Due respect is paid. But there is no suggestion that this is the death of an iconic figure, of an all-powerful 'Leader'.
Moses' leadership is not hereditary.
His grave is unknown and therefore cannot become a place of pilgrimage.
Just a simple epitaph: Israel will never see a prophet like him.
On June 6th 1938, Sigmund Freud arrived in England and moved into a house in Elsworthy Road, Swiss Cottage. Later that week, a neighbour and Bible scholar, Abraham Shalom Yahuda, called on him and begged him not to publish his book on Moses. Two chapters had already appeared and it was clear that what Freud had in mind would not be of much comfort to post-Anschluss Jewry.
But Freud was not one to be deterred and must have realised that he himself had little time left. On one level, Freud's Moses turned out to be every bit as uncomfortable and disturbing as Yahuda feared. It argued that Amenhotep IV had spread the cult of monotheism and Moses was an Egyptian.
However, a recent book - The Death of Sigmund Freud by Mark Edmundson - points to Freud's underlying sympathy with Moses.
Freud contrasts Moses and his style of leadership with the fascist model that he had opposed and feared all his career. He saw in Moses and in monotheism a major step away from the seductive, visible characteristics of idolatry and false Gods; a turning away from the pageantry, colour, light and noise of the oppressive and authoritarian. He saw in Moses someone who recognised the invisible world, who was able to explore his inner world and deal with the urges and conflicts that threaten to sweep each of us away.
In Freud's view, Judaism gave the world - through Moses - the gift of inwardness. Only self-awareness and self-understanding can protect us from the temptation to surrender to our inner drives and prevent us from being seduced by patriarchal leadership, religious or secular.
One has one's suspicions that Freud identified with Moses and read into Moses his estimation of himself.
But Freud's insights are nevertheless important and have some basis in the text. Moses is in no sense trying to immortalise himself through a dynasty - his blessing is for his people, the children of Israel, not his own children.
There is no grave, no place of pilgrimage, no site where miracles can be manufactured and a human being raised to the status of demi-god.
There is that simple epitaph declaring Moses to be an incomparable prophet, someone with a profound inner life, someone who is a vehicle for insights and fragments of truth which emerge despite rather than because of the person. Freud would have said that we must become vehicles for our uncertain selves and our fragmentary insights into the invisible world of the human psyche. The Torah presents Moses as the vehicle for That which transcends ourselves, our conflicts and our desires.
Personally, I believe that the former can lead us to the latter. But, in any event, we have a model of leadership - modest, inward, reflective, devoid of the trappings of power and untainted by the cynicism of cultic exploitation - which society so desperately needs.
And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968)
Speech in Memphis, April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated