Back in Philadelphia, in the “Old Country”, Rabbi Moshe Ungar would equate Simchat Torah, the final day of the Chag Succot (8 days in Chutz L’Aretz with the final Day referred to as Shemini Atzeret) as the day when, after all of the Tefillot and Teshuva, after all of the Simchat Beit HaShoevot, after we daven for sufficient rain to raise our crops and to provide sufficient drinking water and after we daven for the 7O nations, Hashem asks his people, his most-favored nation to remain one more day, just we and HaKadosh Borchu — a private visitation.
Shem Mishmuel relates to this private visitation as the intimacy which Hashem shares with B’nai Yisrael as opposed to the nations by equating the nations and their collection of their b’racha with a purchaser and a vendor who connect momentarily to conduct a business transaction and then part.
I’ll connect the b’rachot of the nations with the contestants on a game show — the losers of each game have their moment where the game show host and the viewers get to know both or multiple contestants a little bit during the interaction of the game.
But at the conclusion of the game, the host speaks to the losing contestant for a brief moment before he or they are dispatched on their way and are soon forgotten, while the champion remains before the camera to further bond with the host and the viewers before the next game with a new challenger or challengers.
Shem Mishmuel concludes a vort on V’zos HaBracha this way;
Let us propose that these brachot are eternal, that they were not just pronounced by Moshe to Klal Yisrael on his last day on earth, but like the rest of Torah, their influence is everlasting. Indeed, the beautiful blessings which Moshe bestowed upon us are still with us, as if he were standing and blessing every one of us today. Of course, as with their inception, the quality of the brachot will depend upon the ability of each of us to successfully receive them.
Perhaps this is why, throughout history, the Jewish people have ended the cycle of Torah-reading on Simchat Torah, rather than at any other time or on any other festival. Tishrei marks the most intense opportunity for spiritual development of the Jewish year. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succot, and Shemini Atzeret are all within a few days of each other. It is only after all of these observances and experiences that we are at our most receptive to the Divine blessing. At that zenith of spiritual success, we read the final verses of the Torah, including Moshe’s blessings to his nation, hoping and praying that we will merit to receive them for the year ahead.
And we, in receiving these brachot recognize or, must recognize, that these final verses don’t mark a finish, a completion but rather just a beginning, for the eternal Torah renews itself eternally in applicability and pertinence with the end of the current cycle and beginning of each new cycle. The joy of completion must extend to the joy of continuance, the joy of new learning and new perspectives which build level upon level of that already learned.
And so we must take into the new year, the craving for improvement, the craving to make things right throughout Am Yehudi.
May it be that in the year ahead, our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif — many still seeking their places, receive their just compensation and be restituted for all that was stolen from them 2 years ago at legalized gunpoint. May we soon behold the liberation of our dear brother, Jonathan Pollard, of the 3 captive Chayalim and the other MIAs who are central in our thoughts, prayers, chassadim and actions.
May we be zocha in this coming year to take giant steps toward fulfilling 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 the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
L’Shana Tova — a sweet year to Kol Yehudim, Mo’edim B’Simcha and Good Shabbos!
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.