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A Fountain of Blessing

Vezot Haberachah

 
 Moses Did Not Die Vezot Haberachah


A Fountain of Blessing

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, p. 237ff; Parshas V'Zos HaBerachah, 5748; Sichos Leil Shishi shel Chag HaSukkos, 5742

A Message for the Holiday

The Rambam writes: [1] "Moshe ordained that on every festival, the Jews should read [a portion of the Torah which reflects] its content."

He continues, listing all the passages read on the different festivals, and concludes [2] that on Simchas Torah, [3] we read Zos HaBerachah. This implies that the reading of Zos HaBerachah on Simchas Torah shares a connection to the content of the holiday itself; the rationale for reading it at that time is not merely that it is customary to conclude the yearly cycle of Torah readings on that festival.

One and One

What is the inner content of Simchas Torah?

When contrasting the sacrificial offerings brought during the holiday of Sukkos to those brought on Simchas Torah, our Sages explain [4] that the seventy bulls offered on Sukkos refer to the seventy nations of the world.

The one bull offered on Simchas Torah refers to the Jewish people, the "one nation."

Simchas Torah is a day when "Israel and the King are all alone." [5] The essential bond between G-d and the Jewish people surfaces and is expressed in joyous celebration.

This concept is reflected in the name of the Torah reading, V'Zos HaBerachah, lit. "This is the blessing," and its content, which focuses entirely on the blessings given the Jewish people, and the praise of their uniqueness.

Why Moshe Broke the Tablets

In this context, however, a difficulty arises:

Rashi explains that the final phrase of the Torah, [6] l'einei kol Yisrael, "before the eyes of the entire Jewish people," refers to the breaking of the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

Our Sages attach great importance to conclusions, [7] explaining that they summarize the content of all the preceding concepts.

Why then does the conclusion of the entire Torah, and in particular, the conclusion of the reading V'Zos HaBerachah, mention a subject which seemingly reflects the disgrace of the Jewish people - that the tablets containing the Ten Commandments were broken because of their sin of worshipping the Golden Calf?

This question leads to the inference that this phrase alludes to the praise of the Jewish people, indeed to an aspect of praise with which it is appropriate to conclude the entire Torah.

To explain: When describing the reason for the breaking of the tablets, Rashi states: [8]

To express with an analogy:

"A king journeyed to a distant country, leaving his betrothed with maids. Because of the depravity of the maids, the reputation of the intended also became tarnished. The bridesman took the initiative and ripped up the wedding contract, saying: "If the king will order to kill her, I will protest, saying that she was not yet his wife."

"The king is the Holy One, blessed be He; the maids, the mixed multitude [of converts who joined the Jews after the exodus]. The bridesman is Moshe, and the betrothed..., the Jewish people. Rashi's intent is that Moshe broke the Tablets to protect the Jewish people from G-d's wrath." [9]

Here we see the unique importance of the Jewish people.

The Torah is G-d's "delight, frolicking before Him at all times." [10] And within the Torah, the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were engraved were "the work of G-d... and the writing, the writing of G-d," [11] given to Moshe by G-d Himself. [12]

And yet when the future of the Jewish people was at stake, without hesitation, Moshe was willing to break the tablets to save the Jewish people. [13]

Why did Moshe take such a step? Because there is nothing, not even the Torah, which G-d cherishes more than a Jew.

Who Comes First?

Our Sages state [14] that there are two entities which predate the creation, the Torah and the Jewish people.

They continue: "I do not know which came first.... I say, however, the Jewish people came first." The intent is not preeminence in a chronological sense, but rather in importance.

The soul of every Jew is "an actual part of G-d from above." [15]

And therefore, the expression, [16] "My son, My firstborn, Israel," can be applied to every member of our people.

What then is the purpose of the Torah?

To reveal this essential quality; to make every member of our people conscious of it, and to provide a medium which will allow this dimension of our being to become manifest in our lives. It is this concept which the conclusion of the Torah underscores. [17]

Open and Apparent Blessings

The name V'Zos HaBerachah means "This is the blessing."

On the verse, [18] "This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him," Rashi comments that the word "this" implies a direct revelation, a manifestation of G-dliness so powerful that one can point with one's finger, and say: "This is it."

Similarly, the phrase "This is the blessing" implies that the blessings which Moshe gave - and gives - the Jewish people stand in overt expression, bringing us a year of open and apparent good.

"The Jewish people, the Torah, and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one." [19]

Bringing out the inner spark of G-d which we possess though our Torah conduct will cause the Torah to serve as a medium of blessing, conveying G-d's bounty from the spiritual realms, and bringing it into actual expression in our material world.

Footnotes:

  1. (Back to text) Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Tefillah 13:8ff, based on Megillah 31a.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid.:13

  3. (Back to text) In the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam does not, however, mention the name Simchas Torah, nor does he refer to the unique celebrations associated with that day.

  4. (Back to text) Sukkah 55b.

  5. (Back to text) Zohar, Vol. I, p. 64a ff, 208b; III, p. 32a. See Sefer HaSichos 5751, Vol. I, p. 62, 65.

  6. (Back to text) Deuteronomy 34:12.

  7. (Back to text) See Berachos 12a. See also Berachos 31a which places an emphasis on concluding "with words of praise and comfort."

  8. (Back to text) In his gloss to Exodus 34:1, based on Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Sissa 30; see also Shmos Rabbah 43:1.

  9. (Back to text) In another commentary (Exodus 32:19), Rashi states that the Moshe broke the tablets for the following reason:

    With regard to the Paschal sacrifice which is [only] one of the mitzvos, it is written (Exodus 12:43): "No alien may partake of it"; [this is interpreted as excluding also any Jew whose conduct is alien to G-d's will]. If so, since the Jews are now apostates, can I give them the entire Torah?

    This passage indicates that the tablets were destroyed as an act of respect to the Torah, that it should not be given to people who had committed so severe a sin.

    The two concepts are complementary. For there are two dimensions to Moshe's conduct: an act of deference to the Torah, and a more encompassing reason (for it is possible to understand why, out of deference to the Torah, Moshe did not give the tablets to the Jews, but not why he destroyed them), his love for the Jewish people and desire to protect them.

  10. (Back to text) Proverbs 7:30.

  11. (Back to text) Exodus 32:16.

  12. (Back to text) See the gloss of Rashi, Deuteronomy, loc. cit., to the phrase lichol hayad hachazakah.

  13. (Back to text) Moreover, it was not the entire Jewish people who sinned, only a small portion of them. Nevertheless, even to save these base people, Moshe was willing to destroy the tablets given to him by G-d.

  14. (Back to text) Tanna D'Bei Eliyahu Rabbah, ch. 14. See also Bereishis Rabbah 1:4.

  15. (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 2.

  16. (Back to text) Exodus 4:22.

  17. (Back to text) A connection to this concept can also be drawn to the name of the holiday, Simchas Torah, which literally means "the happiness of the Torah." Chassidic thought (maamar Lehavin Inyan Simchas Torah, 5679) explains that because the Jewish people are above the Torah, they are able to bring joy to the Torah, as it were.

  18. (Back to text) Exodus 15:2.

  19. (Back to text) Zohar, Vol. III, p. 73a.
 Moses Did Not Die Vezot Haberachah



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