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

 “Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands upon him…” (Deuteronomy 34:6)

V’zot Habracha is unique because it is never read on Shabbat. Instead, it is read on Simchat Torah because it is the last parasha (portion) in Deuteronomy and the last parasha in the Torah. It includes Moses’ final blessing to each of the Israelite tribes and the description of Moses’ death.

V’zot Habracha also is the most frequently read parasha. Historically, every eligible person is called up to bless the Torah (women are now included in many synagogues) and one blessing is even set aside for kol hanearim, all the children, as a group. Since it is short, the parasha is read over and over (and over again) to accommodate the community.

This repetition contributes something important to Simchat Torah’s meaning.   Reading V’zot Habracha is a dizzying experience; two rituals help us regain our equilibrium.   The moment we finish V’zot Habracha and complete the annual cycle of Torah reading, we turn back to Genesis, the beginning of the Torah, and start the cycle anew. This is a return to the past, to the beginning of the Jewish (and the world’s) story.   Recalling the past stabilizes us while we catch our breath.

The very next thing we do, though, is read the haftara, the prophetic selection, from the book of Joshua, Moses’ successor. Joshua is the future, the next adventure of the Jewish people as they enter the land. So on Simchat Torah, when we are light-headed from circling around V’zot Habracha, and from dancing in circles with the Torah, we clear our heads by looking first to the past, and then to the future. Simchat Torah teaches no moment is isolated in time. We are always connected simultaneously to our past and to our future.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom/Gut Yontif/Chag Sameach

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