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Parashat V’Zot Habracha (Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12)

“…I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross there.” (Deuteronomy 34:4)

The present moment is where past and future meet and always is a negotiation between the two. Parashat V’zot Habracha telegraphs that message loud and clear.

V’zot Habracha is the last parasha, or portion in Deuteronomy and in the Torah and is read only on Simchat Torah, never for Shabbat. It includes Moses’ final blessing to the Isralites and then describes Moses’ death. Moses’ blessing begins by referencing the past with God’s revelation at Mt. Sinai and the Israelites’ acceptance of the Torah as the “…heritage of the congregation of Jacob” (Deut. 33:4), a vital and treasured spiritual possession. Moses then looks to the future, blessing each tribe individually and then the entire people as it prepares to enter Canaan: “… a land of grain and wine/Under heavens dripping dew.” (Deut. 33:28)

Then Moses climbs Mt. Nebo to view the land before dying. Most commentators focus on the pathos of the great long-suffering leader denied his reward because of one impetuous moment. But others seize upon a geographic reality–Moses couldn’t possibly see the “whole land” as described in Deuteronomy 34:1-3—to infer Moses doesn’t see the land as it is; he sees the land as it will become. Moses may not enter the land, but he is permitted this vision of the future. Most leaders don’t get that privilege.

When we finish reading V’zot Habracha on Simchat Torah, we immediately return to Genesis, the very beginning of the past. But then we read the haftara, the prophetic selection from the book of Joshua, Moses’ successor. Joshua is the future, the next chapter in the Jewish people’s story.

No moment stands alone. It always connects past to future.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom
Gut Yontif/Chag Sameach


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