Torah Weekly - Parshat V'Zot Habracha

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Parshat V'Zot Habracha

For Simchat Torah: 23 Tishrei 5761 / 21 & 22 October 2000
(Inside Israel 22 Tishrei 5761 / 20 & 21 October 2000)

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    The Torah draws to its close with V'zot Habracha, which is the only Parsha in the Torah not read specifically on a Shabbat. Rather, V'zot Habracha is read on Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, when everyone in the synagogue gets called up to the Torah for an aliyah -- even young children. The Parsha is repeated until everyone has received an aliyah.

    Moshe continues the tradition of Yaakov by blessing the Tribes of Israel before his death. Similar to the blessings bestowed by Yaakov, these blessings are also a combination of the description of each Tribe's essence, together with a definition of its role within the nation of Israel. The only Tribe that does not receive a blessing is Shimon, because they were central to the mass immorality of worshipping the idol ba'al pe'or. Another explanation is that this Tribe's population was small and scattered throughout the south of the Land of Israel, and would therefore receive blessings together with the host Tribe, Yehuda, amongst whom they would live. Moshe's last words to his beloved people are of reassurance that Hashem will more than recompense His people for all of the suffering they will endure. Moshe ascends the mountain and Hashem shows him prophetically all that will happen to Eretz Yisrael in the future, both in tranquillity and in times of oppression. Hashem also shows him all that will happen to the Jewish People until the time of the Resurrection. Moshe dies there by means of the "Divine Kiss." To this day, no one knows the place of his burial, in order that his grave should not become a shrine for those who wish to make a prophet into a god. Of all the prophets, Moshe was unique in his being able to speak to Hashem whenever he wanted. His centrality and stature are not a product of the Jewish People's "blind faith," but are based on events that were witnessed by an entire nation -- at the Red Sea, at Mount Sinai and constantly during 40 years of journeying through the desert.




    "He became King over Yeshurun when the numbers of the nation gathered --
    the tribes of Israel in unity." (33:5)

    The mystics teach us that G-d's Unity is revealed in this world to the extent that there is unity amongst His ambassadors in this world, the Jewish People. When His ambassadors are united, G-d's presence is detected unmistakably.

    One of Judaism's great gifts to mankind is the verse in the Torah -- "And you will love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18) When we love each other and we are genuinely happy for our friends' successes, this causes a greater perception of G-d in the world. When we do the reverse -- when we see ourselves in a dog-eat-dog world -- we take a step down towards the canine world. We lose that G-dly radiance which shows that He made us in His image.

    This week we complete the annual reading of the Torah. As soon as we finish the last verse, we start again at the beginning. Without a break. We read the Torah in a continuous cycle because the circle is a symbol of eternity. It goes on forever. It is eternal, just as the One who gave us the Torah is Eternal.

    The circle symbolizes eternity. It starts nowhere and it finishes nowhere. The circle is also a symbol of equality. Every point in the circle is equidistant from its center.

    There is an ancient Jewish custom to dance for hours around the bima (lectern) on Simchat Torah -- the festival on which we celebrate the completion of the yearly Torah cycle. This circle of dancing symbolizes the eternity of the Torah and its Author.

    The mystics tell us that in the next world the righteous will make a circle around G-d. And they will dance around and around Him just like we do around the bima on Simchat Torah. There will be many different kinds of Jews represented there: Jews from Iran and Jews from Indianapolis. There will be Jews of all colors and from all walks of life. There will be those who, while keeping faith with unbroken tradition, strongly differ in the emphasis in their service of the Creator. There will be Chassidim and Litvaks, Ashkenazim and Sephardim. As they dance in that circle they will all realize that you can be 180º away from your neighbor and yet you can still be equidistant from the center, from G-d.

    • Rabbi Zev Leff and others

    Haftara Simchat Torah

    Yehoshua 1:1


    Immediately upon finishing the Torah, we start again "In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and the earth..." In this way we remind ourselves that immersing ourselves in the truths of the Torah is an eternal task, without beginning or end. The haftara states, "And Hashem spoke to Yehoshua bin Nun, Moshe's lieutenant, saying 'Moshe my servant is dead. You arise and cross over the Jordan...'" to remind us that the work of the Torah is not that of a human being, not even the highest, but it is Hashem's work that began with the revelation at Sinai, and its accomplishment is not dependent on the personality and life of any man, however great and sublime he may be.

    Adapted from Dr. Mendel Hirsch,
    based on the words of his father,
    Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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