Simchat Torah 5784: The Contrast Between Yaakov’s and Moshe’s Brachot to Shevet Yehuda — Lessons for Today’s Leadership

Shalom Friends;

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Moshe Burt
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Simchat Torah 5784: The Contrast Between Yaakov’s and Moshe’s Brachot to Shevet Yehuda — Lessons for Today’s Leadership

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.

We learn that Sh’mini Atzeres is expressed with a perspective 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 and their spouses, the siblings with each other and with their parent(s), grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as families with their friends and with their kehillot.

So when it comes time for the branches of the families, as well as maybe out-of-town friends, to leave to return to their various venues and responsibilities, the elder parent pleads that the offspring, that the family, the guests and all assembled stay together for one more day. And so Hashem Kovei’yokhel (as He is) Calls to His loved ones — the B’nei Yisrael, where-ever they reside, to stay with Him for one more day.

And so, on Simchat Torah, we follow the leyning of V’zos HaBracha and the leyning 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 as we dance seven Hakafot with Sifrei Torah, 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.

This author excerpts from one of Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s vorts, in his Sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim (page 365) :

At the close of the Patriarchal era, the Midrash explains, Yaakov turns to his sons and declares: “In the future, a man like me is destined to bless you; and from the place I end, he will begin…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sifrei on Sefer Devarim, Perek 33, posuk 1)

The time has come for the final parting. Moshe faces his people one last time and, after issuing a collective blessing, proceeds to bless the nation, shevet by shevet.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash provides commentary regarding Moshe’s Bracha to Yehuda (Sefer Devarim, pages 1114-1115) :

Shevet Yehuda — from which the Davidic royal line would descend — was to play a vital role in the life of the nation, and… would lead the nation in the wars for Eretz Yisrael. (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Judges 1:2) Consequently, Moshe’s Bracha — like that of Yaakov — was that Yehuda’s armies would be victorious, and that he rely only on Hashem, Who would respond to his [Yehuda’s] prayers. (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Ramban)

In this vort for 5784, This author continues to excerpt from the same vort of Rabbi Goldin, featuring the contrast between Yaakov’s and Moshe’s Brachot to Shevet Yehuda (ibid, pages 368-369) :

Yaakov: “Yehuda, you, your brothers will acknowledge; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. Yehuda is the lion’s cub; from the prey my son, you have gone up. He stooped down, he crouched as a lion, and like a mighty lion, who dares him? The scepter shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh will arrive and to him the nations will turn.” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 49, posukim 8-11)

Moshe: “And this to Yehuda, and he said: ‘Hear, Oh Lord, the voice of Yehuda and bring him to his people; may his hands fight on his behalf and may You be a helper against his enemies.'” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Devarim, Perek 33, posuk 7)

Moshe’s one-line Bracha to Shevet Yehuda stands in stark contrast to the more intricate Bracha bestowed by Yaakov upon his son… centuries earlier…. The patriarchal Bracha thus foreshadowed the enduring royal rule destined to descend from Yehuda through his progeny, the members of the Davidic dynasty.

Centuries later, …in his short Bracha to Shevet Yehuda, Moshe makes no clear reference to Yehuda’s all-important leadership role.

Most commentators maintain that, far from contradicting Yaakov’s Bracha to Yehuda, Moshe simply picks up where the patriarch left off. Implicitly acknowledging Shevet Yehuda’s leadership position, Moshe beseeches Hashem to grant them success in fulfilling this inherited role. While Yaakov bestowed the privileges of leadership upon his son, Moshe focuses on the challenges of leadership that will now confront that son’s descendants.

Moshe’s specific concern rises out of a fundamental aspect of Am Yisrael’s leadership that he… earlier emphasized in his request of Hashem for an appropriate successor: “May the Lord… appoint a man over the assembly who will go out before them and come in before them, who will take them out and bring them in…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 27, posukim 16-17) Rashi, quoting Midrash, explains that Moshe prays for a leader who, unlike the leaders of other nations, will personally lead his people in battle. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 27, posuk 17) To be a true leader of the nation, one must be the first to take risks.

Standing before his people on the eve of their entry into the Land, Moshe thus recognizes the grave military dangers that will, by necessity, accompany Yehuda’s leadership role. Moshe therefore prays, “and bring him to his people” : allow the members of this Shevet to return safely from the forefront of the battlefield. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi, Rav Saadia Gaon, Ramban and others re: Sefer Devarim, Perek 33, posuk 7)

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 377) :

Moshe’s message remains as current for us today as it was for the fledgling nation on the eve of their entry into their Land.

Nowadays, national heads of state don’t lead forces on the battlefield. Military generals lead their troops in battle. The national governmental leader/leadership employs diplomacy, implements policy and mandates military action. But the point of both Yaakov’s and Moshe’s Brachot to Yehuda seems to be that a Leader focuses on the challenges of leadership and acts, rather than cowering [verb: to crouch, as in fear or shame] in fear of opposing political blowback or backlash. Yaakov’s and Moshe’s Brachot seem a lesson to be learned and acted upon by today’s Israeli governmental leadership.

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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine 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 see, in 5784, the REAL Jews from the Ukraine and Russia make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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 subscribers: enjoy a healthy, happy, sweet and prosperous 5784 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.