Ve-Zos Habrachah

By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading for Simchas Torah (September 26-27 2013): VE-ZOS HABRACHAH, Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

  • Additional reading: Genesis 1:1-2:3
  • Maftir: Numbers 29:35-30:1
  • Haftara: Joshua 1:1-18

AND THIS IS THE BLESSING

After the succession of stern rebukes to Israel in the preceding parshahs, we finally come to the conclusion of the Torah, which is all goodness and blessing. VE-ZOS HABRACHAH: “And this is the blessing with which Moses, man of G-d, blessed the Children of Israel before his death” (Deut. 33:1).

The last of the Torah’s fifty-three parshahs thus completes the circle to make the perfect garden: 53 is the gematria of the Hebrew word GAN = “garden”. The Torah began with the creation of Adam, recounting how he was placed in the Garden of Eden, only to fall and be driven out. Similarly Abraham, Isaac and Jacob planted themselves in the Land of Israel, which is intended to be a garden of a land. But their children fell into exile in Egypt, and the glorious redemption and the Giving of the Torah at Sinai were followed by the making of the golden calf and the other sins in the wilderness. The purpose of all Moses’ labors instilling G-d’s law into the hearts of the people of Israel was to bring about the complete rectification of Adam’s sin in order to enable his children to come back into the garden and enjoy goodness and blessing in their land forever.

The Kabbalah explains that G-d brought about the creation through the concealment of His infinite light and perfect unity, leaving a seemingly separate, finite realm of lack and imperfection. This provides man with an arena of challenge where he can earn higher levels of connection with G-d through his own efforts. The flaw in the creation is man’s rebellious streak. When he succumbs to it, he intensifies the darkness and evil in himself and the surrounding world. But he is also vested with the power to repent and to overcome the evil. In tracing how man became separated from G-d and teaching him the pathways he must follow in order to reconnect, the Torah provides the complete remedy for the whole of creation.

Having recounted man’s sins and the resulting tribulations — imperfection and disunity — and having set forth the code of law through which man repairs himself and the world, the Torah ends with rectification and unity. “And this is the blessing. And there was a King in Yeshurun when the heads of the people were GATHERED and the tribes of Israel TOGETHER” (Deut. 33 v. 1 & v. 5). All the different pieces finally come together again and everything returns to unity. The name Yeshurun refers to Israel in the aspect of Yosher, straightness and rectification. VE-ZOS HABRACHAH speaks of the greatness of Israel and their destiny — each tribe individually and all together collectively. “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you?. a nation saved through HaShem” (ibid. v. 29). Nothing in the world can stand between G-d and Israel. Not only was He revealed to them at Sinai. He is even revealed to them out of Se’ir and Paran — Edom, Ishmael and the other forces of concealment: “HaShem came from Sinai, from Seir He shone to them.” (v. 2). Through the power of the Torah, even that which seems furthest from G-d can be brought back and reconnected with Him.

Although the twelve tribes of Israel are all unique, each with their different qualities — multiplicity — they all share a common destiny: to lead the world back to G-d — unity. Thus it says of Zevulun and Issachar, “They will call nations to the Mountain [= the Temple Mount], they will slaughter offerings of righteousness.” (v. 19). Of Joseph it says, “He will gore the nations, TOGETHER even the ends of the earth” (v. 18). Finally, all the scattered sparks will be gathered back together again. In the end, after all their struggles and suffering — “And Israel will dwell securely, the fountain of Jacob alone, in a land of corn and wine. Indeed, his heavens will drop down dew” (v. 28).

Everything is in its proper place. Everything has been rectified. Moses’ mission has been fulfilled, and as a mortal man, he too must die. We cry when we read of the death of Moses — we cry over our own mortality. Yet we must know that eventually we have to die, for only through the death of the self can we be merged with the All-encompassing One. There are no exceptions to G-d’s immutable law, not even in the case of Moses, who was the greatest of all the prophets. For failing to sanctify G-d one time in the wilderness (Numbers 20:1-13), Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Yet selflessly, he brought the Children of Israel — his children — to the borders of the land, and all that was left for them to do was to enter and make their conquest.

Moses comes to the end, yet it is not the end, because life continues, and where the older generation leave off, the new generation pick up and carry on. After the death of the old comes the birth of the new. It is never the end, because as soon as we reach the end of the Torah, we immediately go back to the beginning and start all over again! This very continuity is the Joy of the Torah, SIMCHAS TORAH, the day on which we complete the annual cycle of the Torah and begin again. Just as G-d is Eyn Sof — NO END — so, the Torah has no end. When you reach the end of the cycle, the circle is complete and you start again from the beginning. For the end is seamlessly attached to the beginning, and the circle goes around and around.

Thus on SIMCHAS TORAH the Children of Israel take all the Torah scrolls out of the ark and dance around and around the reader’s desk in circle after circle, to indicate the endlessness of the Torah. You might have thought it would be impossible for finite man to have any connection with the Infinite G-d. Yet in His compassion, G-d has given us a way to connect with Him: through cycle after cycle of Torah study. Through each circle and each cycle, we expand the horizons of our knowledge of G-d, drawing down His all-encompassing light around and inside ourselves, becoming steadily more and more suffused with His unity, love and peace.

May we have the merit of studying the entire Torah time after time, cycle after cycle, until “the earth will be full of the knowledge of HaShem as the waters cover the seas” (Isaiah 11:9).

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