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.
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On Succot, the B’nai 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’nai Yisrael to stay with Him for one more day.
We learn that in Eretz Yisrael, there is one day of Succot Yom Tov, five Chol HaMo’ed days (intermediate days as with Pesach) and, Simchat Torah — the last day Yom Tov which contains within it the attribute of Sh’mini Atzeres — 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’nai 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’nai Yisrael. And so, on Simchat Torah, we joyously celebrate 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’s Brachot to Am Yisrael are conveyed in Parshat V’zos HaBrachot.
Sefer Shem Mishmuel, written by Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, the Rebbe of Sochaczev, and rendered into English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski provides insight into the opening posuk of Parshat V’zos HaBracha (pages 458-459);
“This is the blessing with which Moshe, the man of G’d, blessed the children of Israel before his death.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 33, posuk 1)
“This is the blessing… before his death.” — close to his death, for if not now, then when? (Rashi on the posuk)
This is a rather odd implication. Had not Moshe been about to die, then he would have waited longer to bless them.[?] He had not formally blessed the people during his forty-year leadership, but waited until the last moments of his life; it seems that only the pressure of his impending demise prompted him to bless them at all!
We may suggest that the quality of blessings are dependent upon the quality of the receiver. When one receives a blessing, the value and quality of it will be in consonance with one’s own development — the more open and available to the influence of the “blesser” one is, the more effect the blessing will have. Klal Yisrael clearly progressed spiritually throughout their desert experience under Moshe’s leadership.
As such, the later the blessings were to be bestowed, the more effective the bracha would be.
This indicates that Klal Yisrael only achieved their maximum appreciation of Hashem’s role in their history thus far on the last day of Moshe’s life. Moshe clearly had to bless them then, for he would shortly die, but had it been possible, he would have waited longer for them to develop still further.
This vort of Shem Mishmuel seems, therefore to fit nicely with thoughts given over several years ago by R’ Aba Wagensberg on Parshat Devarim. R’ Wagensberg spoke that after all of the rebellions, contentions of Am Yisrael in Bamidbar, they finally came to realize that Moshe Rabbeinu was Hashem’s Annointed and undisputed Leader of B’nai Yisrael, that his words are the words of Hashem and to accept his leadership.
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. (Sefer Shem Mishmuel, V’zos HaBracha, page 459)
As a note, R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch z”l, in the New Hirsch Chumash (Sefer Devarim, page 788) writes on V’zos HaBracha:
This blessing… was not Hashem’s word, but Moshe’s words, and the designation given here to Moshe teaches us that these words are to be accorded incomparatively higher than would be accorded to the words of ordinary man. Indeed it was “Moshe the man of G’d” who pronounced this blessing; it was uttered by the man who Hashem deemed worthy to be in close relationship to Him. Although it is possible that this bracha was not given in the way of prophesy, it was in any case inspired by a holy spirit.
When we receive the Brachot for the year to come, as given over before his death by “Moshe, the man of G’d” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 33, posuk 1) in V’zos HaBracha on Simchat Torah, we should/must recognize, that these final verses don’t mark a finish, a completion but rather just a beginning (like the end of one baseball season with the crowning of World Champions followed almost immediately by non- stop preparations for the inception of the new season).
Sefer L’lmod Ul’lamed, by Rabbi Mordecai Katz (Parshat V’zos HaBracha, pages 190-192) offers a beautiful interpretation by The Rogotchover Gaon followed by his own comments: V’zos HaBracha:
The Torah is an eternal inheritance of the Jewish people. It is ours to treasure, protect, love and obey. It will remain ours no matter what circumstances we live in… The Torah will remain the same and the Jews must remain true to it.
V’zos HaBracha… is not the end of the Torah…. There is no end to Torah. Like the water to which is compared, it flows forever…
On the very same day that we finish V’zos HaBracha, we commence the reading of Parshat Breish’t…. Torah remains an ever-fresh spring from which every new generation of Jews can draw.
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 on that already learned.
In Hashem’s expression of creation in Sefer Breish’t, Perek 1, posuk 1; “Breish’t, Bora, Kelokim eit HaShemayim v’eit Ha’Aretz” (”In the beginning, Hashem created the heavens and the earth”), Torah surely wasn’t referring to that parody of Major League Baseball; you know the one, ‘In the big inning.’
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.
So we must take the craving for real improvement, the craving expressed during the Yomim Noraim, to make things right 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 and extraordinarily long prison sentences, 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’nai 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 at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and 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 last summer’s Gaza war. 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 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 V’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 5776 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.