SALT - Wednesday, 3 Tishrei 5780 - October 2, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            In the final verses of Parashat Vayelekh, we read that Moshe called for the assembly of the nation’s leaders to present to them the poem of Ha’azinu, which warned of the consequences of Benei Yisrael’s breach of their covenant with God.  Moshe asked the Leviyim to assemble the leaders for this purpose, and the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 15:15) raises the question of why he did not instead sound the chatzotzerot – the special trumpets used for, among other purposes, assembling the nation’s leaders.  As we read in Sefer Bamidbar (10:1-10), God commanded Moshe to make silver trumpets which would be sounded as signals, including a signal to assemble the leadership.  Why, then, did Moshe instruct the Leviyim to bring him the leaders, instead of sounding the chatzotzerot?
            The Midrash answers that the chatzotzerot used by Moshe were not to be used again by anybody – not even by his successor, Yehoshua, and they were therefore buried.  Specifically, the Midrash adds, the trumpets were buried just before Moshe’s death, and so they were not available at the time Moshe presented the poem of Ha’azinu, just prior to his passing.  The Midrash cites in this context the verse in Kohelet (8:8), “Ein shilton be-yom ha-mavet” – There is no authority on the day of death.”  On Moshe’s final day of life, he no longer exercised “shilton” (“authority”), and this loss was expressed in the burial of his chatzotzerot.
            Symbolically, the sounding of the trumpets represents control and influence over other people.  Through the sounding of the trumpets, Moshe had the nation travel and had people assemble.  These instruments were a powerful symbol of the influence he wielded.  Once a person departs, although his memory and legacy might continue to guide and inspire, nevertheless, he can no longer directly exert any sort of control, and the extent of his influence is diminished.  Appropriately, then, as Moshe prepared to depart from this world, his chatzotzerot were buried.
            The barring of any subsequent use of Moshe’s instruments may perhaps be understood in a similar vein.  Every person has his or her own “trumpets,” a unique way to influence and impact people.  No two people’s “chatzotzerot” are exactly alike.  We all affect other people differently, and have very different ways of exerting influence.  The Midrash here reminds us that as our time on this world is limited, we must seize the opportunities given to us to sound our special “trumpets,” to make the unique impact that we and only we are capable of making.  Nobody else can use our “chatzotzerot,” can exert the precise same kind of influence that we can, and so we must all sound our personal “chatzotzerot” as effectively as possible during our brief sojourn in this world.