Vezot Haberakha - וזאת הברכה

Maqam AJAM

Earning Our Heritage

תורה צוה לנו משה מורשה קהילת יעקב - Before Moses blesses the tribes, it is proclaimed that the Torah is the heritage of our congregation. As the Children of Israel embark to enter the Promised Land, they are ready to receive their physical inheritance; their נחלה. Regarding the verse above from Deuteronomy 33, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, in his address to Congregation Beth Torah in April 2016, pointed out that there is a key difference between the words נחלה, inheritance, and מורשה, heritage. He said that while the two words have similarities, מורשה is something that you have to work hard for, whereas נחלה, like the word 'river', נחל, simply flows into you without any work involved. When it comes to the Torah, the heritage of Jacob, there is a difficult process that needs to take place in order for us to fully acquire it. It is not something that can be internalized without a significant amount of effort. Simhat Torah is the day that celebrates our efforts to earn our heritage (Beth Torah 10/22/16).  

Say Nothing

שמע ה׳ קול יהודה - In Deuteronomy 33, Moses blesses all the Israelite tribes except Shimon. Though some commentators say that the word "Shema" in Judah's blessing alludes to Shimon (Deuteronomy 33:7), this does not change the fact that the actual name of Shimon is omitted. In Numbers 25, we read about the transgression of Zimri Ben Salu. He is the leader from the tribe of Shimon who is slayed by Pinehas for his involvement with the Ba'al Peor affair. Besides for this episode, the Torah does not discuss this tribe at all. Perhaps Moses, our teacher, is to trying to teach that if one has nothing good to say, then it is better to remain silent. Apparently Moses, whose leadership was undermined by Zimri Ben Salu and the Shimonites, does not seem to have anything positive to say, so rather than speak negatively, he completely skips over this tribe when it came to time for their blessing. In this case, saying nothing conveys the message adequately. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, October 22, 2019.

Back to Start

 לעיני כל ישראל - Now that we are completing the entire Torah, the question is, where do we go from here? Based on Jewish tradition, there appears to be three routes forward. The first route, as indicated by the symbolic Haftara selection of Simhat Torah, is to continue with the remainder of the TaNaKh (תנ"ך); starting with the Book of Joshua, all the way through the Book of Nehemia. The second route is to continue the Torah through the lens of the ancient Jewish scholars with the study of Talmud. This link is hinted by the last letter of the Torah being a Lamed (ישראל), and the first letter of the Mishna (Berakhot 1:1) being the next letter, a Mem (מאמתי). Finally, the third and most important route after reading Deuteronomy 34 is to quickly turn back to Genesis 1 on page 1, without interruption, and restart the entire Torah all over again. May we merit to repeat this sacred cycle again next year. Beth Torah Bulletin, October 13, 2017.

Return of Judah

וְאֶל־עַמּ֖וֹ תְּבִיאֶ֑נּוּ - In regards to Judah, Moses prays "Hear, O Lord, to the voice of Judah and to his people return him" (Deuteronomy 33:7). The prayers continues that "hands are overwhelming him" and that God should "help him against his troubles/foes." Where was Judah in this context that he needs to be brought back to his people? Many commentators say that this is a prayer that he return in peace from war. The text, however, never mentions that Judah went to war. The only other time we read that Judah removes himself from his people is when he goes on a self-imposed exile after selling Joseph into slavery (see Genesis 38). As Judah's life is in free fall, with the heavy guilt of causing his father's mourning, we see that he separates himself from his family and involves himself in a dark life of illicit relations. Such an exile, a war against oneself, is worse and more dangerous than going out to a literal war against one's foes. At some point, the situation of Judah must have been so bleak that he calls out to God to rescue him from hitting rock-bottom. It is from the above exile that Judah is blessed that God should hear his voice, bring him back to his people, and help him with his troubles. Beth Torah Bulletin, October 10, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: AJAM

On Simhat Torah, VeZot HaBerakha (Deuteronomy 33- 34) is read, and Maqam AJAM is applied to the prayers. AJAM is a happy maqam typically reserved for a Yom Tob holiday. On this holiday, we conclude the traditional annual Torah cycle and begin the next cycle immediately with Sefer Bereshit. PIZMON for Hatan Me'Onah is El Rama Yeminekha (page 179). The pizmon, Mipi El (page 370), is most associated with this holiday. Haqafot, to honor the Torah, is conducted numerous times throughout the day.