Simchat Torah 5778: Bonding with Hashem, V’zos HaBrachot and Attaining Balance Between Tefillah and Learning

Shalom Friends;

Our Simchat Torah vort is being sponsored by Simon and Aliza Baum and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh who dedicate this vort Lilui Nishmas in honor of Simon’s Mother: Chaya Miriam Bas Boruch. To the Baum family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Simchat Torah 5778: Bonding with Hashem, V’zos HaBrachot and Attaining Balance Between Tefillah and Learning

by Moshe Burt

On Succot, the B’nei Yisrael, as an Am Segula (a nation apart and unique from the other nations), as Hashem’s special, chosen people; we visit, bond, and celebrate our special and unique relationship with HaKodosh Borchu.

In Chutz L’Aretz, we learn that Sh’mini Atzeres is expressed as if one’s entire family, from various venues, are all together and savoring the love, bonding and enjoyment of being together — between each of the parents and their off-spring, the siblings with each other and with their parent(s). And so when it comes time for each to leave to return to their various venues and responsibilities, the parent pleads that the offspring, that the family stay together for one more day. And so Hashem Kovei’yokhel (as He is) Calls to His loved ones — the B’nei Yisrael, whereever they reside, to stay with Him for one more day.

We learn that in Eretz Yisrael, there is one day of Succot Yom Tov, six Chol HaMo’ed days (intermediate days as with Pesach) and, Simchat Torah — the last day of Yom Tov which contains within it the attribute of Sh’mini Atzeres — is that special time of bonding and expressions of love — Am Yisrael for our Father, our Creator, our eternal and universal King, and Hashem’s special and loving connection to Am Yisrael alone.

Hashem sooo treasures the B’nei Yisrael that after Hashana Rabbah and sealing the fate of the nations in the coming year, He, so to speak, wants to bask in the love and joy of being with and bonding only with B’nei Yisrael. And so, on Simchat Torah, we joyously celebrate the spiritual harvest of our learning of Torah, both written and oral, as discussed in the vort on Succot as we follow the leyning of V’zos HaBracha and of the seven days of Breish’t in a spirit of bonding with Hashem that is the last day of Yom Tov. And when we make our home in Hashem’s special, designated Land — Eretz Yisrael, the joy of Simchat Torah increases countless-fold for we are with Him in His Very Palace.

It is in the context of Simchat Torah, with its attribute of Sh’mini Atzeres — the bonding of Am Yisrael with our Creator and Eternal King that Moshe, following the tradition which began with Yaakov just before his passing, gave individual Brachot to each of the Shevatim (tribes) of B’nei Yisrael as conveyed in Parshat V’zos HaBrachot.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash translates the opening posuk of V’zos HaBrachot and summarizes the theme of Moshe’s Brachot to the Shevatim (pages 1112-1113):

“And this is the blessing that Moshe, the man of G’d, bestowed upon the B’nei Yisrael before his death.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 33, posuk 1)

These final words of Moshe are a combination of blessng and prophesy, in which he blesses each tribe [individually] according to its national responsibilities and individual greatness.

“And this”…. “V’zos” implies that Moshe’s blessings were a continuation of Yaakov’s [as if to say that the Tribes were blessed at the beginning of their national existence and again as they were to begin life in Eretz Yisrael]. Moshe also used the word “V’zos” when he began his summation of the Torah (Sefer Devarim, Perek 4, posuk 44 in Parshat Va’etchanon) which symbolizes that Iarael’s way to achieve the blessings of its Patriarch and Teacher is by studying and observing the Torah.

Moshe praised Hashem and recalled the merit that makes Israel worthy of his blessing.

In these introductory remarks, Moshe incorporated three outstanding merits of Israel: a) Hashem dwells among them; b) They accepted His Torah; and c) They acknowledged His sovereignty. (Ramban)

R’ Shimson Rafael Hirsch z”l provides additional insight as to the opening posuk of V’zos HaBrachot in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Rabbi Daniel Haberman, Sefer Devarim, page 788):

“Ish HaKeilokim.” The man who stood in close relation to Hashem and did Hashem’s work as His servant and messenger.

In Torah, the designation occurs only here. In our view this blessing of Moshe [that follows] was not, like the rest of Torah, spoken to him as the Word of Hashem; rather, it originated from his [Moshe’s] innermost being, and this would explain the designation “Ish HaKeilokim.”…

Rabbi Mordechai Katz comments on V’zos HaBrachot in sefer “Lilmod U’lamed” and ends with two citings (page 192):

The Torah is nothing less than the Book of Life. With its teachings to guide them, the Jews can persevere and triumph. Without it, they are lost.

“If your head aches, study the Torah; if your throat aches, study the Torah; if your stomach aches, study the Torah; if your bones ache, study the Torah; the Torah is the cure for all ailments.” (Eruvin 53)

Ben Bog-Bog said: Turn it over (the Torah), and turn it over, for everything is there. And look into it, and become old and grey therein; do not budge from it…, for you have no better standard of conduct. (Avos 5:25)

But Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, in his translation of discourses on the weekly Parsha by Manchester Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, Sh lita, z”l entitled “Inspiration and Insight” explains the synthesis between Torah study and tefillah including a story summarized by this author (pages 312-314):

…The role of ameilus, diligent toil in the study of Torah, is not… to negate the role of tefillah in successful study. Tefillah must complement one’s toil in study…

…The following anecdote [as summarized by this author]… was related by R’ Sholom Schwadron, Shlita who heard it from R’ Aharon Kotler of blessed memory:

R’ Meshulam Igra, Rav of the city of Tismenitz,Galicia was a genius among Torah geniuses. The Chasam Sofer said of that his two hands were like two Torah scrolls. Among his disciples were the illustrious authors of Nesivos HaMishpat and Ketzos HaChoshen.

It happened once that two men who were visiting Tismenitz appeared before R’ Meshulam requesting that he resolve their monetary dispute. the complexity of the case forced R’ Meshulam to ask the litigants to return only the next day to hear his p’sak. The two litigants, anxious for a resolution, left that day without R’ Meshulam’s p’sak and agreed to bring the case before the Rav of their town for resolution.

Their Rav, while a Talmid Chacham, was not on a level of stature of R’ Meshulam. Yet the Rav seemed to have little trouble deciding the case. After hearing both sides, the Rav excused himself and left the room, returning minutes later with a scholarly p’sak which satisfied both parties.

Some time later, while the men were traveling, they returned Tismenitz and visited R’ Meshulam. They apologized for leaving abruptly without waiting to hear his p’sak. They explained that they brought the case to their local Rav. They then asked R’ Meshulam to relate his decision on their case. R’ Meshulam stated his p’sak and the men were pleased to hear that he had arrived at the same decision as their local Rav.

Upon hearing that the Rav had speedily given the identical p’sak as he, R’ Meshulam, as humble as he was wise said, “Only someone of incredible genius could have rendered this decision so quickly. It is obvious that your Rav, though he is unknown, is a scholar of towering stature. I must honor him with a visit!” R’ Meshulam was soon on his way.

When the Rav heard of the great R’ Meshulam Igra’s arrival, he became filled with fear as to the reason for his visit. When they were alone, R’ Meshulam related to the Rav the chain of events leading to his visit. R’ Meshulam expressed his awe and amazement that such a p’sak could have been rendered so quickly.

The local Rav then explained: “To tell you the truth, the complexity of the case was beyond me. I was at a loss as to where to even begin. Realizing that I was not capable of deciding that matter, I became fearful that, as a result, my reputation with the townspeople would be severely damaged. I therefore excused myself to the litigants and went off to another room to pray. Tearfully, I beseeched the Ribono Shel Olam to somehow grant me the ability to decide the matter. No sooner had I offered my tefillah then I suddenly had an idea to open a certain sefer. I opened it and immediately came upon this exact case and the author’s ruling. Hardly believing what had happened, I quickly returned to the litigants and informed them of my p’sak.”

The above story seems to point up to the importance of tefillah — recited clearly, distinctly, with deliberate enunciation, with intent, whether Tehillim or thrice daily tefillot, including Aleinu [as well as prayers such as recited by the Rav mentioned above] in tandem with Torah study, and not as secondary as it seems that some would indicate, i.e. to speed through via auto-pilot thrice daily in order to return to learning an extra minute or so faster, or for some other rationale.

But this synthesis between tefillah and Torah study must be diligently engrained during youth, for habits gained during youth seem difficult, if not impossible for adults to change.

As religious Jews, we understand that Hashem continuously, instantaneously creates and recreates. And so the eternality of Torah as well as the meaning, actualization and application of Jewish learning and the continuity and constancy of Hashem’s creation are inextricably linked and maximized with Am Yisrael’s connection and presence in our eternal homeland — Eretz Yisrael.

We must take the craving for real improvement, the craving expressed during the Yomim Noraim, to make things right, with a proper synthesis between Tefillah with kavanah (intent) and Torah study, as well as between our Jewish brethren and throughout Am Yehudi into the new year. And at this auspicious time, may all of us have our brother Jonathan Pollard — Yehonatan Ben Malka, and Sholom Rubashkin, both of whom continue to suffer the injustices of the US Justice System: via both an exceedingly restrictive probation and prohibition against coming home to Israel, and an extraordinarily long prison sentence, prominently in our hearts, thoughts, prayers and in mind in our actions — that Hashem see to their respective releases and return to their brethren in THIS year — sooner than later.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

L’Shana Tova, Chag Same’ach — may all who read this be inscribed and completely sealed for a healthy, happy, sweet and prosperous 5778 and every year thereafter to at least 120!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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