Famous Last Words: Parsha Vezos Haberakah

My son Ben and I had a conversation about famous last words. He'd stumbled upon an Internet list of famous people and their last words before dying. (Here are links to a couple: BrainCandy and Mental Floss)

Ben's astute observation is that everyone has last words, but most of us don't get to choose them. "Don't forget the chicken!" could be the last thing you ever say to someone.

Or, worse, something you said in anger.

I'm always suspicious of these "famous last words". You can't trust the account of the person who said it, because they're dead, and if I were the last person to witness a great man's moment (George Washington, perhaps) I'd be very careful about what I reported.
Washington's last words were (supposedly): "I die hard but am not afraid to go."~~ George Washington, US President, d. December 14, 1799
Wow. What an ending. Well done, Mr. President.

One can't help but wonder, if his last words had been, "The horse farts at midnight!" would we know? If Martha Washington and the doctor and a few servants were in the room when he died, could they have conspired to replace, "The horse farts at midnight" with "I die hard but am not afraid to go"? The second is so much more dignified, but much less likely. (Washington died after his 'doctors' drained half his blood and performed an emergency tracheotomy. It's gruesome, and I doubt he was coherent.)

Moses and God Speak Last Words

At Simchat Torah, which is coming up October 4/5, we read the final chapter of the Torah, Parsha Vezos Haberakah, in which Moses gives his final blessing to the Israelites and, rather unceremoniously, goes off and dies. 

God accompanies Moses up to the top Mount Nebo and says:
Ouch. I would't be surprised if Moses's actual final words were, "Really, God? Really?"

Moses could have gone down that same road with the Israelites, reminding them of their worst behavior in the desert as a final twist of the knife on the way out, but he didn't. He blessed them and promised them victory in the upcoming war to conquer The Promised Land. A screenwriter couldn't do better. Moses took the high road. 

(Oh, the irony of using Mel Gibson here, right?)

So few of us will have the chance to plan our last words. All we can hope for is that all of our words are suitable to be the ones we're remembered by.

Now, let's finish up this Torah, roll it back to the start and create it all over again.
Don't forget the chicken!

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