54. V’ZOT HABRACHA & SHEMINI ATZERET / SIMCHAT TORAH 5781

[Please scroll down for Shabbat Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah Readings.]

FROM THE TORAH

Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

This final Sedra of the Torah, V’zot Habracha, is read in its entirety on the morning of Simchat Torah, celebrating the completion of the annual cycle of reading Torah in the synagogue.  Immediately thereafter, the cycle is renewed in part with the reading from Genesis of the opening account of six days of creation and the sanctification of the seventh day of the week.

MOSES BLESSES THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL
33:1-29

And this is the blessing (V’zot Habracha) that Moses, the man of God, bestowed upon the Children of Israel before his death:

Source of Blessing

From Sinai comes the Eternal—
He sheds light upon them from Seir,
He appears from Mount Paran—
founded in vast sanctity
is the fire of law for them
in His right hand!

May the Lover of peoples
fulfill His promises
to all of Your holy ones
and those whom You have chastened.

With the Torah that Moses commanded us,
as the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob,
there is in Jeshurun a King
over the assemblage of leaders
of the tribes of Israel.

Reuben

May Reuben live and not die,
but may his men be few.

Judah

This he says regarding Judah:
Hear, O Eternal, the voice of Judah,
and bring him to his people.
While he struggles against his enemies,
add Your help to his own hands.

Levi

And regarding Levi he says:
Your Tummim and Your Urim
rightly belong to Your devoted one,
whom You tried at Massah,
with whom You struggled
over the waters of Merivah,
who showed no favor
to his father or mother or brothers,
or even to his sons;
rather, they kept Your teaching
and guarded Your covenant.
Let them teach Your Torah to Israel
and delight You with incense,
with whole offerings on Your altar.
Bless his strength, O Eternal:
favor the product of his efforts,
and impair those who go against him.

Benjamin

Regarding Benjamin he says:
Beloved of the Eternal,
may he dwell securely beside Him.
The Eternal shall embrace him
and protect him always.

Joseph

And regarding Joseph he says:
His land is blessed by the Eternal,
bounteous in its dew from heaven,
in its water stored below,
in its seasons’ products of sun and moon,
taken from its ancient hills,
all that fills the country—
may it be the will
of the One who dwelled in the bush
to crown David with the majesty
of his firstborn ox.
May the wild ox’s horns be his:
to gore peoples to the ends of the earth,
one horn for the myriads of Ephraim,
the other for the multitudes of Manasseh!

Zebulun and Issachar

And regarding Zebulun he says:
Rejoice, O Zebulun, in your voyages,
and Issachar, in your tents!
May they assemble peoples at the mountain
and offer there sacrifices from the righteous,
as they draw out the sea’s abundance
and the hidden treasures of the sand.

Gad

And regarding Gad he says:
Blessed is the One who enlarges Gad,
crouching like a lion
ready to tear its prey!
It chooses first,
the region where the lawgiver was covered.
It comes at the head of the people,
carrying out with Israel
the judgments of the Eternal.

Dan

And regarding Dan he says:
Dan is a lion’s whelp,
leaping forth from the Bashan.

Naphtali

And regarding Naphtali he says:
Naphtali inherits the most it could want,
the fullest blessing of the Eternal,
the west and the south.

Asher

And regarding Asher he says:
Most blessed of sons is Asher,
may he be pleasing of his brothers
and dip his foot in oil!
May you be secure and at peace
for as long as you live.

Israel

There is none for you, O Jeshurun, like God,
riding majestically through heaven in your aid,
the ancient God your protection;
His everlasting arms support you,
and any who would threaten you
He orders destroyed!
Israel shall dwell secure and alone
in its land of grain and wine,
where the heavens drip dew.

Happy are you, O Israel,
who is like you,
O people whose salvation is in the Eternal,
your Shield and your Sword,
crushing your enemies for your sake
as you ride over their presumptuous shrines!

MOSES DIES IN MOAB
34:1-12

Then Moses goes up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, facing Jericho, and the Eternal shows him all of the Land, from the territory of Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all of the land of Judah as far as the westernmost Sea, the Negev, and the Plain—the valley of Jericho, city of palm trees—as far as Tsoar.  The Eternal says to him:  This is the Land which I promised to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, saying, “To your offspring shall I give it!”  I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over to it.

Moses, servant of the Eternal, dies there, in the land of Moab, by the Eternal’s word.  He buries him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Pe’or, but to this very day no one knows the place of his burial.

Moses was 120 years old when he died.  His vision had not dimmed; his vigor had not abated.  The Children of Israel weep for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days.  Then the days of weeping in mourning for Moses end.

Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom, as Moses had placed his hands upon him.  The Children of Israel heed him and do as the Eternal commanded Moses.

But there has not since arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Eternal knew face-to-face, with respect to all of the signs and the wonders which the Eternal sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, for Pharaoh and for all of his servants and his land, and also the strong hand and the great awe which Moses displayed in the sight of all Israel.

Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazek!

Shabbat and Yom Tov Readings

SHABBAT SHEMINI ATZERET

THE MEGILLAH OF ECCLESIASTES

THE ENIGMA OF FUTILITY
1:1-18

Words of Koheleth (Koheleth),
son of David,
King in Jerusalem:

Futility!
There is no lasting result
in all of man’s labors under the sun.
One generation replaces another
while the earth is never altered,
as the sun rises, sets, and rises again,
as the wind comes and goes,
southward and northward,
and comes again.
The same may be said of the rivers,
which empty into the sea,
which itself is not filled
and to which the rivers return.

All things are wearying beyond words:
the eye is never satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear with hearing;
what was shall be,
what was done shall be done again;
it is an illusion to think otherwise:
there is nothing new under the sun!

Remembrance of what has preceded—there is not,
nor will those in the future
look back with memory
to that which has not yet occurred.
Here I am, King over Israel in Jerusalem,
seeking to investigate with wisdom
all that occurs under heaven:
it is an enigma
that God has placed before us
to understand!

When I consider all of the acts
that are done under heaven,
to try to make sense of them
would be like herding the wind.
The crooked cannot be made straight
nor can the wanting be found.
And even with my superior achievement in wisdom and knowledge,
surpassing all who ruled before me over Jerusalem,
informed as I am not only of wisdom and knowledge
but of madness and folly as well,
I recognize that this achievement also is futile.

For with an abundance of wisdom
comes a profusion of indignation;
one who adds to knowledge
adds to anxiety.

WHICH IS BETTER: POSSESSIONS OR WISDOM?
2:1-26

But I thought to conduct a test on myself
of partying and pleasure,
those futile, mad pursuits:
I would ply my flesh with wine,
seizing folly
even as my heart would follow after wisdom,
in order for me to see
which is better for the children of man
to practice under heaven
for all the days of their lives.

So I increased my possessions and made for myself
houses and vineyards, gardens and parks,
and planted within them
all kinds of trees bearing fruit,
replete with reservoirs to keep them well-watered.
I acquired servants, who over time produced more servants,
possessions of herds and flocks,
exceeding in number any who were before me in Jerusalem.
I amassed chests full of silver and gold, kingly and stately treasures,
more than any who were before me in Jerusalem—
all the while my wisdom stayed with me.

But as I enjoyed the possessions
that I labored to acquire for myself,
I found all of it to be futile, as insubstantial as wind,
of no lasting value under the sun.
There was good reason for me
to turn to wisdom and madness and folly,
for who else could have done it better than I, the King?
What I found for others to learn, then,
is that wisdom excels folly
in the same measure that light exceeds darkness.
The wise man foresees the outcome of his actions
while the fool walks in darkness.
But given that the same end awaits them both,
why should I value wisdom more?
Herein lies the futility:
neither the wise nor the fool
will be remembered after they die.

So I despise that fact of life—
that whatever is done under the sun
is futile and unstable as wind—
and I resent that my labor
will benefit another after me
who may be wise or may be a fool
but either way will rule over
whatever I have achieved
in my wisdom, knowledge and skill.
That is not only futility;
it is a great evil!

So what does a man have
to show for all of his toil under the sun,
for both his pain during the day
and his grief at night?
There is nothing better for a man
than to eat and drink,
to enjoy the benefit of his labor,
to see it, as I have,
from the hand of God.
He gives it to us to enjoy!

For to the man that is good,
He gives wisdom and knowledge
and the ability to enjoy.
While to the sinner
He gives the drive to amass
only to pass it on
to one who is pleasing to God—
an end that is futile
and the equivalent of wind.

ALL IS DETERMINED
3:1-22

All of the important events of life
occur at the right time of God’s choosing:
Birth
Death
Sowing
Harvesting
Violence
Healing
Destruction
Construction
Weeping
Laughing
Mourning
Dancing
Intercourse
Abstinence
Embracing
Releasing
Seeking
Losing
Keeping
Abandoning
Rending
Mending
Hushing
Voicing
Loving
Hating
War
Peace

Men cannot alter them
anymore than he can find the way
to change the order of the world
that God established
from beginning to end.
I know that it is best for man
to rejoice in his life,
to enjoy the reward of his labor
as a gift of God.
Whatever God does
stands forever,
and nothing can be added to it
or taken from it;
thus should men
stand in awe of Him.

Whatever is
and whatever shall be
already were;
whatever is chosen by man
was sought by God.

Even in courts of justice
evil can be found,
and ultimately God will judge
the righteous and the wicked alike,
as their actions occur
at the time of God’s choosing,
and God created man as a type of beast,
sharing a common fate,
originating in dust and returning thereto.
Who knows that the spirit of man ascends upward
while the spirit of a beast descends down into the earth?

Therefore I realize that there is nothing better for man
than to enjoy what he has acquired,
for that is his allotment,
and who is there
to bring him to see
what will be thereafter?

PREDATION

Strong on the Weak
4:1-3

But then there is the fact of oppression under the sun,
that is to say, the tears of the oppressed,
uncared for,
victims of the power of oppressors.
It makes me envy the dead over the living,
or even more those who have not yet been,
who have never seen the evil
that is done under the sun.

Peers on Each Other
4:4-6

Even the act of labor and competition—
it is a form of envy between peers
and partakes of that futility in the pursuit of wind.
On the other hand,
to sit on your hands and consume your own flesh
is foolish.
Better is the middle ground
of a mellow handful
over two fists full of toil.

Single On Oneself
4:7-12

Here is another example of futility under the sun:
The single without son or brother,
working only for himself without surcease,
never satisfied with enough wealth,
depriving himself for the sake of no one else—
an evil practice.

Two are better than one:
They enjoy more for their labor;
and if one should fall,
the other is there to lift him—
but in that event,
woe to the single!—
not to mention the warmth enjoyed
by two who lie together
in contrast to the single.
Two are better in defense than one,
and three are even more secure!

Kings on Kings
4:13-16

Better fares the poor child but wise
than the old king too foolish to accept advice.
Then,
one born poor may walk
even out of prison a king.
Besides these,
I have observed the acclaim
given by people
to yet another successor.
But then,
those who come still later
show no pleasure with him.
Here we have
many changes of throne
which only reflect futility
and the pursuit of wind!

Fools on God
4:17

When you go the House of God,
watch your step:
Drawing near to learn
is greater than
sacrifice by fools,
who ignore the doing of wrong.

KEEP YOUR WORDS FEW AND TRUE
5:1-6

Keep few your words to God,
for He is in heaven
and you are on the earth;
a multitude of words
reflects a multitude of confusion.

Better not to promise God
a voluntary offering
than to promise and not pay;
so if you do so vow,
fulfill your vow on time
without excuse;
simply fear God!

CORRUPTION IS SYSTEMIC
5:7-8

Be not surprised
to find corruption
in the government:
it is on every level;
and atop the column
of oppression
sits the king,
the source of whose profit
is the land’s cultivation.

THE DUBIOUS BENEFIT OF PROSPERITY
5:9-19

Those who love silver
will never be satisfied with silver;
abundant in wealth,
they cease to appreciate
new earning—
what futility is this!

The greater the prosperity
the more its creditors;
its only use of its gain to its owners
is to behold it.
As for consumption,
it will not help
the prosperous to sleep,
whereas the laborer
will sleep,
however much he consumes.

I have seen
this malignant evil
under the sun:
the accumulation of riches
with evil intent.
Moreover, he may easily lose
what he has accumulated,
left with as little as when he began
and lacking anything
to bequeath his children.
As he came out naked
from the womb of his mother,
thus shall be return
for any labor that he expended
or trouble that he suffered
for his gain.

Nonetheless,
whatever God has given a man
has been intended by God
for his enjoyment,
so let him take his portion
to eat and drink,
and rejoice in his labor,
remembering that
the days of his life are not many.

THE EVIL OF FRUSTRATION
6:1-12

If God has given a man
all of the property and honor
that he could possibly want,
yet, for whatever reason,
no opportunity to enjoy it himself,
what utter futility!
It matters not
how many years
or how many children
have been given him;
I say a stillborn child
is more fortunate than he,
for the stillborn has no experience,
is noted by no name,
he comes and goes in darkness,
never having seen the sun.
Where he ends up
is the same place where
the frustrated man
 who lives for thousands of years
ends up.

Yes, a man strives
to satisfy his appetites,
yet his appetite is not fulfilled.
He is better off to enjoy
merely having his appetites!

Whatever has preceded
is known and named,
including the man.
All of the many words that there are
increase vanity without helping the man.
For who knows what is good for a man,
for the duration of his days of vanity,
which he spends like a shadow?
Who can tell a man
what will come after him
under the sun?

LEARN FROM THE WISE
7:1-22

An earned reputation
is more to be valued
than prominent anointment,
as is the day of death
than the day of one’s birth,
for there is more to be gained
about life
from the house of mourning
than from a mere celebration.

There is more to be learned
from anger than from laughter,
from the wise in sorrow
than from the fool in mirth,
from thoughtful rebuke
than from thoughtless praise—
although extortion and bribery
may yet corrupt the wise.

All told,
the end of a thing
is better than its beginning,
patience than anger or arrogance,
bad new times than the good old days.

Wisdom is more affordable
with an inheritance than without,
but the knowledge provided by wisdom
in any case
is a boon to life.

Accept and respect the work of God,
for who can settle what He has convolved:
embrace your good day,
and recognize the evil that comes your way
also as the doing of God,
keeping in mind
that there is no alternative.
Adhere not exclusively
to either righteousness or wickedness,
for there are righteous
who perish in their righteousness
as there are wicked
who thus die before their time.
Rather, fear God
as you hold on to both.

Wisdom prevails for the wise
over a multitude of rulers,
and the limits of your popularity
should be merged
with your criticism of others.

MY OWN “SUCCESS”
7:23-29

All of the aforementioned
have I tried
with respect to wisdom:
it is far from me,
so deep, who can find it?
Only one man among a thousand
have I found.
Yet I search for its understanding of things
and to know wickedness
as the foolishness that it is.

I find more bitter than death
the woman who is a trap
to be avoided with God’s help.
Nonetheless, I have found,
God created Man upright;
it is they who have figured ways around it.

BE PRUDENT BEFORE POWER
8:1-9

The wise man,
knowing the interpretation of a thing,
shows it in his
glowing and resolute visage.

Follow the king’s command,
remembering that he has taken an oath to God.
Take care not to hurry out of his presence,
also not to be involved in some evil plot,
for the king does whatever he wishes
while the subject cannot rule over the wind.

THE LIMIT OF WISDOM
8:10-17

I have seen wicked men buried
and succeeded by their sons,
while other men are distanced from a holy place
and their achievements forgotten in their city—
what futility there is in this!
When people observe
the impunity of wrongdoers,
their hearts are filled
with temptation to sin.
Yet I know that those who fear God
will fare well,
unlike the wicked,
devoid of fear,
whose days
pass away like a shadow.

So when it appears in the world
that righteous and wicked fare alike,
the trouble of righteousness
seeming futile thereby,
I counsel man
to eat, drink and be happy,
as the fitting accompaniment of his labor
for all the days of his life
that God grants him under the sun!

This is my practical response
to the acknowledged dilemma
apparent in the work of God,
which a man,
though he labor day and night,
shall not find the wisdom to explain.

LIFE AS AN ANTIDOTE TO FUTILITY
9:1-10

All that happens to
the righteous and wise
and to those who serve them
is in the hand of God,
whether for good or for bad,
and no one knows what it shall be.

All things come alike to all,
whether to the righteous or to the wicked,
to the pure or impure,
to the one who worships
as to the one who does not worship.
This is the worst thing that happens under the sun,
as men are left thereby to plan evil while alive—
and then they all go to the dead!

Yet there is the security
of being counted among the living:
a living dog is better than a dead lion.
The living know that they will die,
while the dead know nothing
and cannot expect the gratification
that can come to the living,
nor do they exist in remembrance.
Their love, their hatred, their envy,
all have perished;
they have no more portion
of anything that is done under the sun.

So go and eat happily your bread,
drink your wine goodheartedly—
this is what God wants!
Wear white garments,
pour oil upon your head abundantly!
Enjoy life with the woman you love
all the days of your futile life,
for that is your portion in life
and in your labor under the sun.
Whatever you can achieve in life,
achieve!
For there is no achievement or measure
or knowledge or wisdom in She’ol,
where you are going.

THE STRENGTH OF WISDOM
9:11-18

Upon continued reflection
have I observed:

Victory of the race is not to the swift,
war is not won by heroes,
bread is not secured by the wise,
riches are not awarded to the intelligent,
nor acclaim to the knowledgeable.

Time and chance befall all men.
A man knows not his time
like fish who are caught in a net
or birds who are trapped in a snare;
his time befalls him without warning.

Once there was a little city,
the home of a few men,
it was besieged by a mighty king.
One of its inhabitants,
impoverished yet wise,
found a way, through his wisdom,
to rescue the city.
Yet no one paid him heed.

Wisdom proved greater than strength,
but the wisdom of that impoverished one was despised,
his words were disregarded.

The quiet words of the wise
are better heard
than the cry of a ruler among fools.
Wisdom is better than the weapons of war,
yet it takes only one sinner to ruin much good.

DISTINGUISH WISDOM FROM FOLLY
10:1-20

Just as a lethargic fly
can ruin a batch of perfume,
so may a pinch of folly
undermine wisdom and honor.
The heart of a wise man
is at his right hand,
while the heart of a fool
is at his left;
on the road,
unsure of his heart altogether,
the fool is seen
for what he is.

If the ruler’s ire pursues you,
stand your ground,
because presence of mind
calms the greatest of aggressors.
An evil that I have seen under the sun
is the ruler’s committing an error:
a fool is installed in a high place
while the worthy sits below.
I have beheld servants riding upon horses
and princes walking along like servants.
Remember, he who digs a pit
may be inclined to fall into it!
(Cf. Proverbs 26:27; Psalms 7:16; 57:7)
Let the wise man only remember
to prepare the defense that is at hand:
if it be iron, be sure to sharpen it
so that the blade is ready to apply
with the slightest effort!
If the serpent should bite
before it is charmed,
then there is no profit in being a charmer.

Recognize the fool
for his multitude of meaningless words,
for his lack of common sense,
in contrast to the gracious speech
of the wise.

Prefer the kingly qualifications of
maturity, independence, and temperance,
over impressionable youth and indulgence.
Laziness will undermine the house
for failure to maintain it.
Rather, apply the prescriptions of
feasting, drinking and merriment,
as the rewards of diligence.
And whatever you do,
curse not the king within your mind
or the privileged within your bed,
lest the wings of birds carry your words.

FERTILITY AND FUTILITY
11:1-10

Cast your bread upon the waters:
risk your wealth in maritime trade,
for the prospect of its future gain.

Consume a small portion of your gain now,
save as much as possible for the future,
since you do not know what the future holds.

Let the rain and the trees fall where they may;
in other words, expect some rainy days
and unrecoverable losses.
Don’t waste your opportunities by inaction,
worrying about the wind and the rain.
You can no more predict the storm
than you can understand the growth
of a child’s bones in the mother’s womb.
These are the work of God;
they need not stop you
from doing your part:
sow your seed in the morning,
and again in the evening,
knowing not in advance
the success of either or both!

Enjoy the sweet light of the sun
for as many years as you live,
keeping in mind the dark days
of futility that will follow.

Yes, rejoice, young man,
with cheerful heart,
in your youth,
and as you follow
your feelings and your senses,
know that for all this
God will bring you to judgment.
In the meantime,
employ your heart and your flesh
for good,
even as childhood and adulthood
are, in the end, futile.

PREPARE FOR THE END
12:1-14

So remember your Creator
when you are still young,
before your years
rob you of enjoyment,
before your sun is darkened
and the rain is punctuated
only by clouds,
when the supporters of your house
lose their strength,
and your means
of taste and sight,
of breath and sound,
are dulled,
except for your start
at the unexpected
shrill cry,
when the arts and the fruits
which once gave you pleasure
have become impenetrable
and inaccessible,
and that which was your high place
you now fear to ascend.

For the man now proceeds
to his eternal home,
surrounded by mourners
on the way,
knowing that the silver cord
will be severed,
as will its connected vital organs,
and the dust will return to the earth as it was,
the spirit, to God who gave it.

What futility seems all of this,
says the Koheleth.

But besides being wise in and of himself,
Koheleth taught the people
through speaking,
based on research,
and enabled by the metaphors he created.
He chose words which would be embraced,
created writings of integrity,
vehicles of truth.

Words of wisdom are instruments of edification;
so many are they
that they have been collected in books.
But those that are true
emanate from a single Shepherd!
Waste not your time with the others,
but fear God,
observe His commandments—
that alone will occupy all of a man—
and in the end God will be the Judge
of every act,
apparent or not,
both the good and the bad,
in the end
God is the Judge.

 FROM THE TORAH

SHEMINI ATZERET

Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17

TENTH OF PRODUCE AND FIRSTBORN OF LIVESTOCK
14:22-29

Separate a tenth of all of the produce of your grain, wine and oil, from year to year, to consume in the place which the Eternal shall choose as the habitation of His Name, along with the firstborn of your herd and your flock, in order to learn to fear the Eternal your God always.  If that place be too far from you for transport, as a result of the blessing of the Eternal your God, then convert them into money which you shall carry physically to the place and there spend it on whatever you wish—of the herd, of the flock, of wine, of shaychar—for you and your household to enjoy before the Eternal your God.

However, you must not overlook the Levite within your gates, who does not have an inherited portion like you.  So, at the end of every three years, leave the entire tenth of your produce in your gates for the consumption and satisfaction of the Levite, as well as for the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are within your gates.  For this the Eternal your God will bless you in all that you achieve.

SHEMITTAH AND YOUR NEEDY BRETHREN
15:1-11

At the end of seven years you shall effect a remission (shemittah) of the claim of a creditor upon his fellow or his brother, a remission authorized by the Eternal.  You may still demand payment of a foreigner.  However, there should be no needy among you, for the Eternal will bless you in the Land which He is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you would obey the Eternal your God to keep to observe all of this Mitzvah that I am commanding you this day.  You shall cause many nations to give pledges, but you shall not need to give a pledge; you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.

Now if there should be, among your brethren in any of the gates of your Land, which the Eternal your God is giving to you, one in need, do not harden your heart or close your hand from him, but open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need.  It would be wrong of you, in addition, to deny him because of the proximity of the seventh year, the year of remission.  If you do, he could well cry out against you to the Eternal, and you would be guilty of sin.  Rather, even so, should you provide him without hesitation, and the Eternal your God will bless you for this in all that you do.  To the extent that the needy will not cease to be in the midst of the Land, I command you to open your hand to your poor and needy brother in your Land.

SEVENTH YEAR OF A HEBREW SLAVE
15:12-18

Your Hebrew slave, male or female, who was sold to you and works for you for six years, you shall set free in the seventh year.  Do not send him away emptyhanded, but provide him from your flock, from your threshing-floor, and from your wine-vat.  Provide him of the blessings you have received from the Eternal your God.  Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Eternal your God redeemed you.  Therefore I command you this rule today.

If your Hebrew slave prefers to remain with you, considering his attachment to you and your household and his good treatment, then drive an awl through his ear to the door, and the slave, male or female, becomes your servant for ever.  But, otherwise, do not hesitate to free your Hebrew slave, who has provided you with twice the value of what you would have paid a hired servant for six years, and the Eternal your God will bless you in all that you do!

FIRSTBORN LIVESTOCK
15:19-23

Every male firstborn of your herd and of your flock shall you sanctify to the Eternal your God.  Do not work your firstborn ox, and do not shear your firstborn sheep.  You and your household shall eat it, from year to year, before the Eternal your God, in the place that He shall choose.  But do not sacrifice it to the Eternal your God it if it has a serious defect such as lameness or blindness; instead eat it in your gates, the unclean and the clean of you alike, as you would eat the gazelle or the deer.  But do not eat its blood: pour it out on the ground like water.

PESACH AND MATZOT
16:1-8

Keep the month of Aviv to observe Pesach to the Eternal your God, who brought you out of Egypt in that month at night.  For the Pesach you shall sacrifice to the Eternal your God from flock and  herd in the place where He shall choose to establish His Name.  Do not eat with it anything leavened.  For seven days you shall eat with it Matzot (Unleavened Bread), bread of affliction, as in haste you departed from the land of Egypt, so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt all the days of your life.  Let no leaven be seen by you in all of your territory for seven days, and let none of the meat that you sacrifice in the evening remain overnight to the morning of the first day.

You may not sacrifice the Pesach in any of the gates which the Eternal your God gives to you, but only in the place where He shall choose to establish His Name.  There shall you sacrifice it, in the evening, at sunset, precisely the time of your departure from Egypt; there shall you cook it and eat it.  Then, in the morning, turn around and return to your tents.  After you have eaten Matzot for six days, on the seventh day you shall hold a sacred convocation to the Eternal your God and do no work.

SHAVUOT
16:9-12

Count for yourself seven weeks, from when the sickle is first applied to standing grain, and observe a festival of Shavuot (Weeks) to the Eternal your God, your freewill offering in accordance with how the Eternal your God has blessed you.  Rejoice before the Eternal your God—you, your son and your daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite who is within your gates, and the stranger, orphan and widow, who are in your midst—at the place where the Eternal your God shall choose to establish His Name.  Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, so shall you maintain and observe these laws.

SUKKOT
16:13-15

Observe for yourself the festival of Sukkot (Booths), for seven days, when you gather in the produce of your threshing-floor and wine-vat.  Rejoice in your festival—you, your son and your daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, and the stranger, the orphan and the widow, who are within your gates—and observe the festival for seven days before the Eternal your God in the place where He shall choose, as the Eternal your God shall bless you in all of your produce and in all of the work of your hands, and you shall be only happy!

SUMMARY OF THREE APPEARANCES
16:16-17

Three times in the year shall every male appear before the Eternal your God in the place that He shall choose: on the festival of Matzot, on the festival of Shavuot, and on the festival of Sukkot.  Let him not appear before the Eternal emptyhanded, but each man in accordance with his gift, in accordance with the blessing that the Eternal your God has bestowed upon you.

SIMCHAT TORAH EVENING

Deuteronomy 33:1-26

And this is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, bestowed upon the Children of Israel before his death:

Source of Blessing

From Sinai comes the Eternal—
He sheds light upon them from Seir,
He appears from Mount Paran—
founded in vast sanctity
is the fire of law for them
in His right hand!

May the Lover of peoples
fulfill His promises
to all of Your holy ones
and those whom You have chastened.

With the Torah that Moses commanded us,
as the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob,
there is in Jeshurun a King
over the assemblage of leaders
of the tribes of Israel.

Reuben

May Reuben live and not die,
but may his men be few.

Judah

This he says regarding Judah:
Hear, O Eternal, the voice of Judah,
and bring him to his people.
While he struggles against his enemies,
add Your help to his own hands.

Levi

And regarding Levi he says:
Your Tummim and Your Urim
rightly belong to Your devoted one,
whom You tried at Massah,
with whom You struggled
over the waters of Merivah,
who showed no favor
to his father or mother or brothers,
or even to his sons;
rather, they kept Your teaching
and guarded Your covenant.
Let them teach Your Torah to Israel
and delight You with incense,
with whole offerings on Your altar.
Bless his strength, O Eternal:
favor the product of his efforts,
and impair those who go against him.

Benjamin

Regarding Benjamin he says:
Beloved of the Eternal,
may he dwell securely beside Him.
The Eternal shall embrace him
and protect him always.

Joseph

And regarding Joseph he says:
His land is blessed by the Eternal,
bounteous in its dew from heaven,
in its water stored below,
in its seasons’ products of sun and moon,
taken from its ancient hills,
all that fills the country—
may it be the will
of the One who dwelled in the bush
to crown David with the majesty
of his firstborn ox.
May the wild ox’s horns be his:
to gore peoples to the ends of the earth,
one horn for the myriads of Ephraim,
the other for the multitudes of Manasseh!

Zebulun and Issachar

And regarding Zebulun he says:
Rejoice, O Zebulun, in your voyages,
and Issachar, in your tents!
May they assemble peoples at the mountain
and offer there sacrifices from the righteous,
as they draw out the sea’s abundance
and the hidden treasures of the sand.

Gad

And regarding Gad he says:
Blessed is the One who enlarges Gad,
crouching like a lion
ready to tear its prey!
It chooses first,
the region where the lawgiver was covered.
It comes at the head of the people,
carrying out with Israel
the judgments of the Eternal.

Dan

And regarding Dan he says:
Dan is a lion’s whelp,
leaping forth from the Bashan.

Naphtali

And regarding Naphtali he says:
Naphtali inherits the most it could want,
the fullest blessing of the Eternal,
the west and the south.

Asher

And regarding Asher he says:
Most blessed of sons is Asher,
may he be pleasing of his brothers
and dip his foot in oil!
May you be secure and at peace
for as long as you live.

Israel

There is none for you, O Jeshurun, like God,
riding majestically through heaven in your aid!

SIMCHAT TORAH MORNING

Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12
Genesis 1:1-2:3

MOSES BLESSES THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL
Deuteronomy 33:1-29

And this is the blessing (V’zot Habracha) that Moses, the man of God, bestowed upon the Children of Israel before his death:

Source of Blessing

From Sinai comes the Eternal—
He sheds light upon them from Seir,
He appears from Mount Paran—
founded in vast sanctity
is the fire of law for them
in His right hand!

May the Lover of peoples
fulfill His promises
to all of Your holy ones
and those whom You have chastened.

With the Torah that Moses commanded us,
as the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob,
there is in Jeshurun a King
over the assemblage of leaders
of the tribes of Israel.

Reuben

May Reuben live and not die,
but may his men be few.

Judah

This he says regarding Judah:
Hear, O Eternal, the voice of Judah,
and bring him to his people.
While he struggles against his enemies,
add Your help to his own hands.

Levi

And regarding Levi he says:
Your Tummim and Your Urim
rightly belong to Your devoted one,
whom You tried at Massah,
with whom You struggled
over the waters of Merivah,
who showed no favor
to his father or mother or brothers,
or even to his sons;
rather, they kept Your teaching
and guarded Your covenant.
Let them teach Your Torah to Israel
and delight You with incense,
with whole offerings on Your altar.
Bless his strength, O Eternal:
favor the product of his efforts,
and impair those who go against him.

Benjamin

Regarding Benjamin he says:
Beloved of the Eternal,
may he dwell securely beside Him.
The Eternal shall embrace him
and protect him always.

Joseph

And regarding Joseph he says:
His land is blessed by the Eternal,
bounteous in its dew from heaven,
in its water stored below,
in its seasons’ products of sun and moon,
taken from its ancient hills,
all that fills the country—
may it be the will
of the One who dwelled in the bush
to crown David with the majesty
of his firstborn ox.
May the wild ox’s horns be his:
to gore peoples to the ends of the earth,
one horn for the myriads of Ephraim,
the other for the multitudes of Manasseh!

Zebulun and Issachar

And regarding Zebulun he says:
Rejoice, O Zebulun, in your voyages,
and Issachar, in your tents!
May they assemble peoples at the mountain
and offer there sacrifices from the righteous,
as they draw out the sea’s abundance
and the hidden treasures of the sand.

Gad

And regarding Gad he says:
Blessed is the One who enlarges Gad,
crouching like a lion
ready to tear its prey!
It chooses first,
the region where the lawgiver was covered.
It comes at the head of the people,
carrying out with Israel
the judgments of the Eternal.

Dan

And regarding Dan he says:
Dan is a lion’s whelp,
leaping forth from the Bashan.

Naphtali

And regarding Naphtali he says:
Naphtali inherits the most it could want,
the fullest blessing of the Eternal,
the west and the south.

Asher

And regarding Asher he says:
Most blessed of sons is Asher,
may he be pleasing of his brothers
and dip his foot in oil!
May you be secure and at peace
for as long as you live.

Israel

There is none for you, O Jeshurun, like God,
riding majestically through heaven in your aid,
the ancient God your protection;
His everlasting arms support you,
and any who would threaten you
He orders destroyed!
Israel shall dwell secure and alone
in its land of grain and wine,
where the heavens drip dew.

Happy are you, O Israel,
who is like you,
O people whose salvation is in the Eternal,
your Shield and your Sword,
crushing your enemies for your sake
as you ride over their presumptuous shrines!

MOSES DIES IN MOAB
Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Then Moses goes up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, facing Jericho, and the Eternal shows him all of the Land, from the territory of Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all of the land of Judah as far as the westernmost Sea, the Negev, and the Plain—the valley of Jericho, city of palm trees—as far as Tsoar.  The Eternal says to him:  This is the Land which I promised to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, saying, “To your offspring shall I give it!”  I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over to it.

Moses, servant of the Eternal, dies there, in the land of Moab, by the Eternal’s word.  He buries him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Pe’or, but to this very day no one knows the place of his burial.

Moses was 120 years old when he died.  His vision had not dimmed; his vigor had not abated.  The Children of Israel weep for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days.  Then the days of weeping in mourning for Moses end.

Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom, as Moses had placed his hands upon him.  The Children of Israel heed him and do as the Eternal commanded Moses.

But there has not since arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Eternal knew face-to-face, with respect to all of the signs and the wonders which the Eternal sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, for Pharaoh and for all of his servants and his land, and also the strong hand and the great awe which Moses displayed in the sight of all Israel.

Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazek!

CREATION
Genesis 1:1-2:3

God began to create heaven and earth from inchoate land, water and darkness, transcended by God’s spirit.  God called forth light and considered it good.  God separated light from darkness, calling light day and darkness night.  There was evening then morning, One Day.

God called forth an expanse within the water, separating water below the expanse from water above the expanse.  God called the expanse heaven.  There was evening then morning, a Second Day.

God called for the gathering of water from under heaven so that dry land would appear.  God called the dry land earth and the water seas, and considered it good.  God called for the sprouting of vegetation, herbs producing seed and trees bearing fruit containing their own seed, and considered it good.  There was evening then morning, a Third Day.

God called forth lights in the expanse of heaven to separate day from night, to serve as signs for seasons, days and years, and to shine upon the earth: two great lights, the greater to rule by day and the lesser to rule by night, and the stars.  God considered it good.  There was evening then morning, a Fourth Day.

God called for the water to abound with living creatures and for the birds to fly over the earth across the expanse of heaven.  God created the giants of the sea, all kinds of moving living creatures from the water, and birds of wing, and considered it good.  God blessed them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and for the birds to multiply on earth.  There was evening then morning, a Fifth Day.

God called for the earth to produce every kind of living creature—cattle, moving things and wild beasts—and God considered it good.  God further considered: “Let Us make Man in Our image, after Our likeness.” (1:26)  God created Man in His image, male and female.  God blessed them and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and master it, and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living creatures that move upon the earth.  I give you and all living animals of land and sky the vegetation producing seed upon earth and trees bearing fruit producing seed for you to eat.” (1:27-29)  God considered all that He had made very good.  There was evening then morning, the Sixth Day.

Heaven and earth and all their array were complete.  God was finished on the seventh day with all of the work that He had done.  God rested on the Seventh Day and blessed it as the holy day.

MAFTIR FOR SHEMINI ATZERET & SIMCHAT TORAH
Numbers 29:35-30:1

On the Eighth Day, there shall be Atzeret (Assembly of Conclusion) for you; do not perform work of service.  You shall offer a burnt offering by fire of a pleasing aroma to the Eternal of one bull, one ram, and seven year-old lambs, without blemish; and their meal offering and their libations, for the bull, for the ram, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

These, then, shall you make for the Eternal at your appointed times, besides your votive and freewill offerings, be they burnt offerings or meal offerings or libations or peace offerings.  Moses teaches the Children of Israel in accordance with what the Eternal commanded Moses.

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Shemini Atzeret
I Kings 8:54-66

When Solomon concludes his prayer and supplication, for which he was kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven, he stands up and blesses all of the congregation of Israel in a loud voice:

Blessed is the Eternal, who has given rest to His people Israel and has not failed in any good thing that He promised through Moses His servant.  May the Eternal be with us as He was with our fathers and not forsake us, but turn our hearts to Him to walk in His ways and keep His commandments, statutes and ordinances, which He commanded them.  May these My words remain close to the Eternal our God, day and night, that He may uphold the just cause of His servant and His people every day, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Eternal is God and there is none else.  Therefore let your heart be whole with the Eternal our God to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as it is this day.

The king and all the Children of Israel dedicate the House of the Eternal.  Solomon sacrifices to the Eternal peace offerings: 22,000 of the herd and 120,000 of the flock.  The king sanctified the middle of the Court that was before the House of the Eternal in order to sacrifice the burnt offerings, the meal offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the Copper Altar before the Eternal was too small to contain them.

Solomon observes the Festival at that time with a large congregation of Israel from the Entrance of Chamath to the River of Egypt, before the Eternal our God, for seven days, and for another seven days, making fourteen days.  On the Eighth Day he releases the people, and they bless the king and go to their tents with heartfelt happiness for all of the good which the Eternal has done for David His servant and for Israel His people.

Haftarah for Simchat Torah
Joshua 1:1-18

After the death of the Eternal’s servant Moses, the Eternal bids Moses’s minister, Joshua son of Nun, to cross over the Jordan with the people “to the Land which I am giving to the Children of Israel” (1:2).  Wherever your foot treads, He says, I shall give it to you, as I promised Moses: from the Wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river Euphrates, all of the Hittite territory, as far as the Great Sea, where the sun sets.  No one will deter you for as long as you live: as I was with Moses, so shall I be with you.  I will not fail or forsake you.

He continues:  Be strong and courageous as you enable this people to inherit the Land which I promised their fathers to give to them.  Be strong and very courageous to act in accordance with all of the Torah that Moses My servant has commanded you.  Do not deviate from it, either to the right or to the left, so that you may succeed in all that you do.  Let this book of Torah not depart from your mouth, but meditate on it day and night, in order to act in accordance with all that is written in it.  Fear not, for the Eternal your God is with you wherever you go.

Then Joshua tells the people’s officers to go through the camp and instruct the people to provision themselves in order to cross the Jordan three days hence and take the Land “which the Eternal your God is giving to you to possess.” (1:11)  He reminds the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, of Moses’s stipulation that their wives, children and livestock could remain in the territory east of the Jordan, which the Eternal is giving to those three tribes, while they assist their valiant brothers of the other tribes by marching, armed, ahead of them, to possess the Land which the Eternal is giving to those tribes (cf. Numbers 32).  They affirm to Joshua the stipulation of Moses and pledge to Joshua that they will obey his charge to them, just as they obeyed Moses’s charge to them, and they pray, “May the Eternal your God be with you as He was with Moses!” (1:17)  In addition, they demand death for anyone who might disobey Joshua’s command, concluding with the words to him, “Be strong and courageous!” (1:18)

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13
Genesis Rabbah 14:6

“The crooked cannot be made straight
nor can the wanting be found.”
(1:15)

“Accept and respect the work of God,
for who can settle what He has convolved…”
(7:13)

When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first man, He took him around and showed him the trees of the Garden of Eden.  He said to him:  “See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are, and all that I have created, I have created for you.  Therefore take care not to destroy My world!  For if you ruin it, there will be no one after you who can repair what you have destroyed.  ‘Accept and respect the work of God’ (7:13a), for if you ruin it, ‘the crooked cannot be made straight’ (1:15a)!” 

“The Eternal God formed the man,
dust from the earth…”
(Genesis 2:7)

Said Rabbi Levi: “The man” is “The man who was great among the giants…” (Joshua 14:15), Abraham.  He was called “great” because, although he was worthy of being created before Adam, the first man, the Holy One, blessed be He, thought that the first man might make a mistake and  then there would be no one to repair what he ruined.

Rabbi Abba bar Kahana taught: Abraham was like the center beam of a great hall which strengthens the beams encountered before it and after it.  So did the Holy One, blessed be He, create Abraham in the midst of the generations in order to bear the generations before him and after him.  Similarly, Rabbi Levi taught, when one seeks a new relationship, one searches for someone more refined, with fewer faults, than the previous partner.

Numbers Rabbah 21:23

“On the Eighth Day, there shall be Atzeret (Assembly of Conclusion) for you;
do not perform work of service.
You shall offer a burnt offering of one bull and one ram…”
(Numbers 29:35-36)

This is what the prophet meant:

“You added to the nation, Eternal One;
You added to the nation by which You were honored;
You pushed away all the boundaries of the Land!”
(Isaiah 26:15)

This was a plea from the Congregation of Israel to the Holy One, blessed be He:  Master of the universe, “You added to the (foreign) nation, O Eternal One” (Isaiah 26:15a)! You saw fit to add peace and contentment to the generation of the Flood, but did they offer You even one bull or one ram?  And as if that were not enough, not only did they not honor You, but they went on to conspire, “Come, let us build a city…to make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4)!

Similarly with the Sodomites and with Pharaoh, and with the invading Assyrians and the Babylonians, did any one of them offer you even one bull or one ram?  As if it were not enough that they did not honor You with offerings, they also committed acts which angered You!  So, then, to which nation should You add peace and contentment?  To Israel, as the prophet said, “You (should have) added (peace and contentment) to the nation (of) the Eternal One” (ibid.)!  Indeed, “Who is like Your people Israel, a nation unique in the world” (I Chronicles 17:21)!

So it has been incumbent upon You to provide us with holy days to provide You thereupon with offerings—Rosh Chodesh, Pesach, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Hakippurim, and the Festival (cf. Numbers 28:11-29:34)—not one of which have we neglected.  So it is further incumbent upon You to add for us another holy day upon which we shall honor You: “You (shall then have) added to the nation by which You were honored (as) You pushed away (the invaders to) all the boundaries of the Land” (Isaiah 26:15bc)!

To this, the Holy One, blessed be He, responded: By your life shall I not withhold holy days from you, but I shall add a holy day in which you may rejoice, as was said, “On the Eighth Day, there shall be Atzeret (Assembly of Conclusion) for you” (Numbers 29:35)!

Numbers Rabbah 21:24

“On the Eighth Day, there shall be Atzeret (Assembly of Conclusion) for you;
do not perform work of service.
You shall offer a burnt offering of one bull and one ram…”
(Numbers 29:35-36)

This is what is meant by the psalm:

“In place of my love,
they accuse me,
and I am prayer.”
(Psalms 109:4)

Consider that on the Festival, for seven days, Israel offers You seventy bulls (cf. Numbers 29:12-34) for the seventy nations of the world.  But Israel is disappointed: Master of worlds, here we are offering seventy bulls for seventy nations for seven days for their benefit, good reason for them to love us, yet they hate us, as was said, “In place of my love, they accuse me” (Psalms 109:4a)!

Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: Now you can say, “I am prayer” (ibid. 4b), no longer the foreign nations!  So bring offerings just for yourselves. “On the Eighth Day, there shall be Atzeret (Assembly of Conclusion) for you; do not perform work of service” (Numbers 29:35). Scale back the number of offerings from the seventy you brought for the seventy nations; instead, “You shall offer a burnt offering of (just) one bull and one ram…” (ibid. 36).

This may be compared to a king who held a feast for seven days, to which he invited anybody and everybody in his realm.  When the seven days of feasting were over, the king said to his closest friend: Now that we have fulfilled our obligation to all of the inhabitants of my kingdom, let us sit down together, just you and me, and relax with whatever little we can find, a little meat or some vegetable.  In the same way, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel, “On the Eighth Day, there shall be Atzeret (Assembly of Conclusion) for you; do not perform work of service” (ibid. 35), but relax with whatever you find, “one bull and one ram” (ibid. 36)!

Rashi on Leviticus 23:36: Atzeret may be compared to a king who invited his son to feast with him for a certain number of days.  When the time came for them to part, the king said: My son, I beg you to remain with me for just one more day, as it is hard for me to see you go.

Mishnah Shevi’it 10:1, 3-4
Sifre Deuteronomy 113

“At the end of seven years
you shall effect a remission (shemittah) of the claim of a creditor
upon his fellow or his brother (fellow Israelite),
a remission authorized by the Eternal.”
(15:1-2)

“If there should be…one in need,
do not harden your heart or close your hand from him,
but open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need.
It would be wrong of you to deny him
because of the proximity of the seventh year, the year of remission.
If you do, he could well cry out against you to the Eternal,
and you would be guilty of sin.”
(15:7-9)

The seventh year remits the claim of a creditor, but a prozbul does not remit the claim of a creditor.

When Hillel saw that the people refrained from lending, thereby transgressing what is written in the Torah, “It would be wrong of you to deny him (one in need) because of the proximity of the seventh year, the year of remission…, and if you do…you would be guilty of sin,” he ordained the prozbul for the sake of tikkun olam (providing a “practical remedy” for the aforementioned prevailing transgression).

What is the prozbul?  It is a document executed by the creditor to a specific court which states, “Any debt that is due me I hereby transfer to you and may collect it at any time that I want,” and which is signed by the judges or by witnesses.

“You may still demand payment of a foreigner,
but that which is yours of your brother (fellow Israelite)
your hand shall remit.”
(15:3)

“That which is yours” (as creditor) shall “your hand” remit is repeated after the preceding verse (15:2) in order to exclude that which is no longer yours, i.e., that which you have transferred to the court, in which case a “hand” other than yours (the court’s) will collect.  This Oral Torah supports the enactment (takkanah) of Hillel.  (P’ney Moshe on Talmud Yerushalmi Shevi’it 10:2 and Malbim, HaTorah v’haMitzvah, Sifre 131 on Deuteronomy 15:3)

Menachem Elon in Hamishpat Ha’ivri offers several additional background principles which support this takkanah
(initial references provided by Yosef Schechter in Lexicon Otzar Hatalmud):

The court has the power to cancel or transfer personal ownership of property. (Talmud Yevamot 89b)

“It is time to act for the Eternal; they have voided Your Torah!” (Psalms 119:126 in Talmud Berachot 54a)

Arise and perform an act that is prohibited by the Torah in order to forfend a violation of the Torah.  (Talmud Eruvin 100a)

A temporary measure permitting specific conduct forbidden by the Torah in order to preserve all of the commandments of the Torah, such as violating one sabbath in order to be able to observe many other sabbaths in the future (Talmud Yoma 85b) and Elijah’s sacrifice on Mount Carmel (apart from the Temple in Jerusalem) in order to forestall the idolatrous worship of Baal (I Kings 18:19ff.).

Talmud Kiddushin 17b

“If your fellow Hebrew, male or female,
is sold to you and works for you for six years,
then in the seventh year you shall set him free…
but do not send him away emptyhanded.
Surely provide him from your flock,
and from your threshing-floor,
and from your wine-vat;
as the Eternal your God has blessed you,
you shall give to him.”
(15:12-14)

Our Rabbis taught:  From “as the Eternal your God has blessed you,” it could be inferred: If your house was blessed because of him, provide him; but if your house was not blessed because of him, do not provide him.  But the emphatic form, “Surely provide,” implies talmudically: provide him in any case!  If so, what is the talmudic implication of “as He has blessed you?”  Adjust the amount (Rashi: above the minimum) in accordance with the blessing.

But Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah teaches:  The verse should be understood as written, i.e., if your house was blessed because of him, provide him; but if your house was not blessed because of him, do not provide him.  What then do you do with the talmudic implication of “Surely provide?”  “Surely provide” is common language of the Bible and therefore does not bear a talmudic implication.

Talmud Berachot 12b-13a

“Do not eat with it (the Pesach)
anything that is leavened;
for seven days you shall eat with it Matzot,
Unleavened Bread, bread of affliction,
as in haste you went out from the land of Egypt,
in order that you may remember
the day of your departure from Egypt,
all the days of your life.”
(16:3)

MISHNAH:  We mention the Exodus from Egypt at night (as part of the Shema, Numbers 15:37-41, containing also the commandment to wear tzitzit; Rashi: Even though tzitzit are not worn at night…, still we recite this passage at night because it includes the Exodus from Egypt at the end, verse 41).  Said Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah: Even though I appeared to be as old (and wise) as a man of seventy years, I was not able to derive from the Torah’s words why the Exodus from Egypt should be recited at night, until Ben Zoma derived it from, “In order that you may remember the day of your departure from Egypt, all the days of your life” (Deuteronomy 16:3).  “The days of your life” alone would mean just the days, but “all the days of your life” is meant to include the nights!  But the Sages interpret the verse differently: “The days of your life” alone would mean just this world, but “all the days of your life” is meant to include the days of the Messiah!

GEMARA:  It is taught in a baraitha—Ben Zoma went on to challenge the Sages: Should we actually mention the Exodus from Egypt in the days of the Messiah?  For has it not already been said, “Behold the days are coming, says the Eternal, when they will no longer say, ‘As lives the Eternal, who brought up the Children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As lives the Eternal, who raised and brought the offspring of the House of Israel from the north land and from all of the lands to which I scattered them…’” (Jeremiah 23:7-8).  They answered him: It does not mean that the Exodus from Egypt shall be removed from its place, but that the oppression by foreign powers shall be the general remembrance, while the Exodus from Egypt shall be a part of it!  Similarly, when He says, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel shall be your name” (Genesis 35:10), it does not mean that the name Jacob shall be removed from its place, but that Israel shall be the overarching name, while the name Jacob shall be a part of it.

Note: This Mishnah passage (without the Gemara) is included in our Haggadah of Pesach, recited on the anniversary night of our Exodus from Egypt.

Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:8

When the time arrived for Moses to depart from this world, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “Your time is near…” (Deuteronomy 31:14).  Moses responded:  Master of the universe, after all of my rigorous service, You tell me that the time of my departure has arrived?!  “Let me not die but live, and I shall declare the works of the Eternal!” (Psalms 118:17)  He said to him: But you cannot, for “Upon consideration of everything, fear God and keep His commands, as that applies to every man!” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:10

Moses decreed a fast upon himself and drew a circle around himself from which he would not be removed until the edict of his death was revoked.  What else did Moses do at that moment?  He covered himself with sackcloth and rolled in the dust, then he engaged in prayer and supplication before the Holy One, blessed be He, until heaven and earth and the orders of creation were shaken, and they worried lest the Holy One, blessed be He, had decided to change the order of His world.  Then a divine echo was heard to say:  The Holy One, blessed be He, has not chosen to change the order of His world; rather, “In His hand is the soul of every living thing and the spirit of every mortal man” (Job 12:10), and who is a “man” but Moses, as was said, “And the man is Moses, most humble…” (Numbers 12:3).

Then Moses took this stand before the Holy One, blessed be He: Master of the universe, You well know my effort and my pain over Israel that they might believe in Your Name and observe your mitzvoth.  I comforted myself to think that just as I have seen their suffering so may I see their blessing.  Now that their blessing has arrived, to inherit the Land, You say to me: “You may not cross over this Jordan!” (Deuteronomy 3:27)  You would thus falsify Your Torah, as is written therein: “You shall pay him his wage (grant him his reward) before the end of the day, for he is poor and his life depends on his receiving his reward; otherwise he would be justified in complaining against you to the Eternal, and you would be deserving of condemnation!” (Deuteronomy 24:15)  In this case I appeal for due compensation for the forty years’ of work in which I labored until they became a holy and faithful people, as was said: “Judah still rules with God and is faithful with the holy ones.” (Hosea 12:1)

As a last resort, with only an hour left for him to live, Moses supplicated the Holy One, blessed be He:  If You do not allow me to enter the Land of Israel, let me at least remain in this world, “Let me live and not die!” (Psalms 118:17)  Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses: If I do not let you die in this world, how can I then revive your life in the world to come?  Not only that, He continued, but you would be falsifying My Torah, as is written therein by your very hand, “I cause death and I grant life; if I have wounded, I may still heal; and none can be rescued from My hand!” (Psalms 32:39)

Yet Moses offered another type of supplication: Master of the universe, if You do not grant me entrance to the Land of Israel, allow me to live like one of the beasts of the field, who eat grass and drink water, being sustained to live and perceive the world!  “Enough already!” He answered.  Still Moses pleaded: Master of the universe, if not, then allow me to remain in this world like one of the birds, who fly to all four corners of the earth, gathering their food every day and night then returning to their nests!  “Enough already!” He answered.  “Enough already?”  “Enough of your speaking!”  When Moses realized that no creature could save him from the inevitability of death, at that moment he declared: “The Rock, His work is perfect, all of His ways are just, faithful God, without unrighteousness, true and upright is He.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:7

“He buried him…”
(Deuteronomy 34:6)

What was the merit of Moses such that the Holy One, blessed be He, undertook personally his final arrangements?  When Moses went down to Egypt as the time of Israel’s redemption had arrived, all of Israel were engaged in pursuit of silver and gold.  But Moses went about the city, for three days and three nights, strenuously searching for Joseph’s coffin, as was said, “Joseph made the Children of Israel promise: When God will take notice of you, you shall bring my bones up with you!” (Genesis 3:25)

With the help of Segula (another name for Serach, daughter of Asher; cf. Genesis 46:17 and Numbers 26:46), Moses learned that Joseph’s body was to be found in the river, encased in his coffin with 500 talents of silver and gold.  For Pharaoh’s magicians and astrologers had advised Pharaoh that since Israel would not depart Egypt without the bones of Joseph, the best way to prevent them from escaping would be to hide Joseph’s bones at the bottom of the river.

Immediately Moses stood at the river’s bank and called out, “Joseph! Joseph!  You know how you made a promise to Israel, ‘God will take notice of you!’  Show respect to the God of Israel, and delay not Israel’s redemption.  With many good deeds to your credit, seek mercy from your Creator and rise from the depths!”  Whereupon the coffin of Joseph began to break apart, and up from the depths it comes like a lone reed, which Moses places upon his shoulders and carries from Egypt, while all of Israel carry the silver and the gold.

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses:  You have said that your deed was a small thing, but, by your life, it was a great act of lovingkindness, and especially so in that you did not spend your time in pursuit of silver and gold.  So also shall I show you lovingkindness when the time comes for Me to arrange for you.

Petirat Moshe 3

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Is it your wish to live and not die?  Moses answered: Yes!  He said to him: Then hand over to Me the keys of wisdom.  Whereupon he did, and his memory was erased.  When Israel came to him for judgment, he did not know how to answer, so Joshua sat in judgment.  Moses thought:  Now Joshua, my junior, will sit in judgment, and I will be left ignorant.  My death would be preferable to my life!  So Moses requested death, and the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself gathered the soul of Moses to heaven and Himself “buried him in the valley…” (Deuteronomy 34:6).  He departed upwards to the Garden of Eden, and his spirit was sweet as the aroma of apples: “Like the apple among trees of the forest, thus is My beloved…!” (Song of Songs 2:3)    

SHABBAT SHALOM!

CHAG SAMEACH!

SHANAH TOVAH!

Copyright © 2020 Eric H. Hoffman

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s