Weekly Reading Insights

VeZot Habracha 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: VeZot Habracha, (Sukkot, Shimini Atzeret, Simchat Torah)
To be read on 22 Tishrei 5763 (Sept.28)

Torah: Deut. 33:1-34:12
Haftorah: Joshua 1

:VeZot Habracha contains 0 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings,
VaZot Habracha
ranks 52 out of 54 in number of verses, 54 in number of words, and 54 in number of letters;
it is written on n lines in a Torah parchment scroll, 54 in overall length.

Vezot Habracha consists mostly of the blessings which Moshe blessed the twelve tribes before he passed away. the final part of the entire Torah depicts the death of Moshe and recounts his greatness. "Chazak, Chazak v'Nitchazek"



VeZot Habracha

"Iron and copper are your door-bolts, and your energy shall increase each day."
[Deut. 33:25] Rashi: "Like your youth…so will be your old age."

When a person locks the gates to his youthful strength with bolts of iron and copper, and does not waste himself in improper desires and goals, then his might will be preserved all through his old age; this verse will be fulfilled in him.

Chidushei HaRim (translated from Sichat HaShavuah #303)


This world is a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, only a "vestibule" to the next world. A person must recognize that earthly matters in and of themselves are only temporary. However, when worldly matters are not granted importance and a person uses them only for the sake of Heaven, he makes his sukkah an abode for Divinity. The world and everything in it is converted to a "permanent dwelling" for G-d.

Likutei Sichot (quoted in Days of Awe, Days of Joy)

Shmini Atzeret, Simchat Torah

"You have been shown to know, that the L-rd is G-d, there is none else aside from Him." (from the verses recited on Simchat Torah)

The entire month of Elul, Rosh Hashana, the blowing of the shofar, the Ten Days of Repentance, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, the Four Kinds and Hoshana Rabba are only preparations for the "You have shown to make it known" of Simchat Torah.

(Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin)


Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

VeZot Habracha

"But you yourself will not cross there." (34:4)

Perhaps the reason this is repeated at this point is that G-d wanted to tell Moses that he did not need to enter the gate to heaven by first having set foot in the land of Israel. The Zohar 1:81 says that all the souls ascend to heaven by way of the Land of Israel. Seeing that Moses' soul was being gathered up by G-d personally, and that G-d immediately deposited it in the Celestial Regions, there was no need for his soul to travel via the Land of Israel in order to achieve its objective. The words "and Moses died there" mean that when Moses died his soul ascended to heaven immediately.


(adapted from Torat Moshe - 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

By taking the 4 species, (which according to the Zohar represent the four letters in the holy name of G-d) we express our joy in His joy, His celebration. In Vayikra Rabba 30, we find a similar interpretation of the meaning of the 4 species.

The meaning of this is, that since, according to tradition the 15th of Tishrey is the first day on which our sins are recorded again after the Day of Atonement, we arm ourselves with symbols of the holy name of G-d, to appeal to His mercy and kindness, to help us resist our evil urge.

Shimini Atzeret, Simchat Torah

Selected from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

"On the eight day shall be a solemn assembly for you." [29:35]

The word atzeret is a term describing the Knesset Yisrael, the spiritual concept known as 'Israel." Were it not for the concept represented by the Jewish people, the whole universe would lack meaning and purpose. It is also an expression denoting malchut, authority, dominion. For the above-mentioned reasons Shemini Atzeret is a festival all by itself. Among the four species, it corresponds to the etrog which represents the Jewish people and which is held separately, in a different hand than the other three. The Shemini Atzeret festival is related to the festival of the giving of the Torah, meaning the festival of Shavuot, which the Talmud always refers to as atzeret. We find the name atzeret also applied by the Torah to the Seventh day of Passover (Deut. 16:6), although that day is an integral part of the festival. Thus, the term appears in connection with all three pilgrimage holidays.
What does all this mean? Just as the word Shabbat is applied by the Torah to the various festivals on various occasions to show that the Knesset Yisrael is the "bride" of the Shabbat, so the word atzeret when used in connection with the festival conveys the idea that the Jewish people, spiritually speaking, are the purpose of all these festivals. In kabbalistic terms, they are the yesod [borrowed from the emanation by that name], the "foundation," without which the entire legislation of the festivals would lack meaning.

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter

(W:02-63/VeZot Habracha )

This coming Shabbos begins the holiday of Sukkot. On Sukkot, we have two specific, different commandments: 1) dwelling in a sukka (hut), and 2) taking of the four species (palm frond-lulav, citron-esrog, myrtle branch-hadas, and willow branch-arava). Nevertheless, the holiday is named Sukkot, and not the holiday of the four species or some other general name. The reason is the special characteristics of the sukka, which the mitzvah of the four species does not have. First, the mitzvah of sukka begins as soon as the holiday begins, whereas we perform the mitzvah of the four species only the following morning (and this year, as we are forbidden to perform it on Shabbos until Sunday morning). Secondly, the sukka itself must be built before the holiday begins, while the four species can be tied together on the holiday itself. Thirdly, each time we eat in the sukka we make the blessing, "…You have sanctified us with Your commandments, and commanded us to sit in the sukka." If we leave the sukka for anything other than a short time, and we want to eat there, we are obligated to make the blessing again. We fulfill the commandment of sitting in the sukka many times a day, yet having performed the mitzvah of the four species once, we cannot do so again until the next day. Last but not least, we fulfill the commandment of sukka with our entire body being located in the sukka, as opposed to the four species which we hold only with our hands.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that from the commandment of sukka, we learn that everything a Jewish person does (not just learning Torah or fulfilling the commandments), even our everyday, mundane affairs, must be connected to the Holy One Blessed Be He. Sukkot is soon after Yom Kippur. The word for the service of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur is Avodah. This is the same word used to describe the daily work that each of us does to make a living: avodah. We should regard our every day activities as potentially holy as the actions of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies. The mitzvah of sukka embodies this concept. Whether sitting, eating, sleeping, etc., in a sukka, a Jew is entirely enveloped by the mitzvah. Everything, even answering a cell call, in the sukka becomes part of the mitzvah! The mundane reaches its potential in becoming holy! Another aspect of being surrounded by the mitzvah of sukka is that it is compared to being hugged by G-d. When hugging someone, you accept even the person's back. People wear jewelry, a tie, etc. on the front side of their body, because the front is usually the focus of attention, not the back. The back is the part of themselves they do not usually share with others. But it is hugging, which also involves the back, that expresses a level of total and unconditional love. Through G-d accepting even all our seemingly insignificant and physical actions in the sukka, as most holy, He is a spiritually 'hugging' us.

Sukkot follows Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of T'shuva, and Yom Kippur. During these preceding days we are not just being judged for our actions of the past year, we are also checking to see if we have met our expectations for the new year. It is appropriate that immediately following the High Holidays should come the holiday of Sukkot, when we dedicate all of our actions, unconditionally and without exception, to the Holy One Blessed Be He for the entire coming year.

When we sit in a sukka, our entire body and all of its actions become sanctified. When we make every mundane action in our lives into an act of holiness, we are making the entire world into a sukka, a dwelling place for the Almighty, uniting every part of the creation in the service of G-d. It is easy to be happy while fulfilling a mitzvah when you know even your small individual action is accomplishing something very, very big.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameah, Shaul Leiter

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