"So Moses, the servant of G‑d, died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of G‑d." (Deut. 34:5)

Could Moses have already died when he wrote, "And Moses died"? Rather, Moses wrote up until this point, and from there onward, Joshua wrote. Rabbi Meir said, "Is it possible that the Torah scroll [that Moses wrote] was lacking something? He said, "Take this [complete] Torah scroll" (ibid. 31:26). Rather, the Holy One dictated it, and Moses wrote it in tears. (Rashi, based upon Baba Batra 15a)

These holy words do not seem to have any meaning. Rashi asks simply, "Could Moses have already died?" for it is impossible to say that he was alive when he wrote "And Moses died". One must say that he was dead, which makes Rashi's question a good one. But how did Rashi answer it, by saying that Moses wrote in tears? Does the fact that he wrote it in tears help? The original question still applies: How did he write "And Moses died" while he was still alive?

Death only entered the world with the sin of Adam….

This is indeed how it was. For it is an amazing thing to everyone how the Torah preceded the creation of the world by two thousand years. (Bereishit Rabbah 8:2) For how were all the holy stories of the Torah written then - about the creation of the world, Adam and Eve, Noah, the holy Forefathers, and all the other things from "In the beginning" until "in the eyes of all Israel" (the last words of the Torah, Deut. 34:12)? Those events had not yet occurred. Even more problematic is the fact that death only entered the world with the sin of Adam. Had he not sinned, there would be no death, for he had free will. How was the topic of death written in the Torah so far in advance: for instance, "And so-and-so died", or "When a man dies in a tent"(Num. 19:14). Adam had not yet sinned, and even though everything is foreseen [by G‑d], permission is granted.1

The truth is that the holy Torah was originally created only as a mass of letters. All the letters from "In the beginning" until "in the eyes of all Israel" were not arranged into the words that we see today, such as "In the beginning G‑d cxreated" or "Go from your land", etc: rather, all these words were mixed together. Then, whenever something happened in the world, these letters arranged themselves into patterns of words, and a story was created from the event. For instance, with the creation of the world and the story of Adam and Eve, those letters drew close to one another and formed those words that relate this event. Likewise, when someone died, the words were formed, "and so-and-so died". So too, when other events occurred, words of Torah were immediately formed from those letters according to the act. Had a different event occurred, the letter combinations would have been different, for the holy Torah is the wisdom of G‑d and has no end.2

Moses…really did write the entire thing from beginning to end….

It turns out that when the time came for Moses to die, the entire Torah up until "So Moses died" had already been arranged into words. For all these events had already transpired. Only the letters of the words "So Moses died" until "in the eyes of all Israel" had not yet been arranged into words, because Moses was still alive. However, it was necessary for Moses to write all the words [of the Torah], as it says: "Take this Torah scroll", which means that it needed to be complete, and furthermore, it is called by his name, as in: "Remember the Torah of Moses, My servant"(Malachi 3:22).3

What then did G‑d do? He told Moses the letters that remained as they were still intermingled, without being combined into words. This is how Moses wrote them. Later, when he died, these letters immediately formed the words from the verse "And Moses…died" until "in the eyes of all Israel." Thus, Moses did write the entire Torah, and it is correct to say: "Take this Torah scroll," and to be called by his name, for he really did write the entire thing from beginning to end.

This is what Rashi wrote, that G‑d dictated it to Moses, and Moses wrote it. However, so as to avoid the problem as to how Moses wrote "And he died" while still being alive, Rashi explains that Moses wrote it in tears. The word "tears" - in Hebrew "dima" - also has the meaning of "admixture", as in "hamidameh"(Gittin 52b) or "teruma midamat",4 So too, Moses wrote it a letter at a time, mixed together. After he died, the words were formed from "So Moses died" until "in the eyes of all Israel".

Understand this!

[Pitgamei Kedushin, Ge'ulat Yisrael;
reprinted with permission from www.baalshemtov.org]