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Parashat V’zot Hab’racha (Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12)

“And this is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, blessed the Israelites before he died.” (Deuteronomy 33:1)

V’zot Habracha is the last parasha, or portion in the Torah and is read only on Simchat Torah, never for Shabbat. It includes Moses’ final blessing to each of the Israelite tribes and ends with the description of Moses’ death. It’s a long way from the beginning of the Torah and creation. Yet, the two events are intimately connected.

God’s response to Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience is to expel them from the Garden of Eden, but also to provide them with clothing (Gen. 3:21). God’s response to Moses’ death (before entering Canaan) is to bury him on Mt. Nevo (Deut. 34:6). In each instance, God performs an act of chesed, or kindness, in the midst of an act of judgment. That’s why the rabbis declare the Torah begins with an act of chesed and ends with an act of chesed (Babylonian Talmud Sotah 14a).

The Torah itself make this connection, albeit in a subtle way. The Torah ends with the words, “And for all the great might and awesome power Moses displayed before all Israel.” (Deut. 34:12). After that is read on Simchat Torah, we roll the Torah back to the beginning and read from B’reishit, the first parasha in the Torah, “B’reishit bara Elohim…, In the beginning of God’s creation…” (Gen. 1:1). Combining the last letter of the Torah (lamed) with the first letter of the Torah (bet) yields the Hebrew word lev, or heart, which represents sincerity and wisdom. The Torah lives within this wise and sincere heart (Midrash of the Alphabet of Rabbi Akiva). And how is wisdom and sincerity expressed? By doing chesed for others.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom
Gut Yontif/Chag Sameach

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