Weekly Reading Insights

VeZot HaBracha 5764

Overview of the Weekly Reading: VeZot HaBracha, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah

VeZot HaBracha to be read on 22 Tishrei 5764 (Oct. 18) in Israel, outside of Israel on the 23rd of Tishrei ,Oct. 19:

Torah: Deut. 33:1-34:12;
Yehoshua 1: 1-18

Stats: VeZot HaBracha , 11th Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy, and 54th and last overall!

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"


[For more articles on Sukkot and Simchat Torah, go to our Kabbala section.]



In the same way that the sukka is our temporary dwelling during Sukkot, so too should a person view his sojourn in this world as only temporary. For in truth, the soul's descent into a physical body is only for a specified, limited time. "In sukkot you shall dwell for seven days" alludes to the seven midot (emotions or character traits) that must be refined and purified in the course of our "70-year" life-span.

(Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntresim)

Altering the vowels slightly, the letters of the word lulav, lamed-vav-lamed-veit, can also be read "lu lev" - "would that the heart." A Jew must be of "one heart," directed solely toward G-d and things that are holy. Indeed, G-d is described as "the rock of my heart," meaning that the central, inner core of one's existence should consist only of G-d.

(Likutei Torah)

Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah

"The Eighth Day shall be a gathering (Atzeret) for you." [Shemini Atzeret Torah Reading]
All the elicitations of holiness and the revelations that take place during Sukkot are "encompassing." On Shemini Atzeret they are absorbed and internalized.

Likutei Torah (translated from Sichat HaShavuah #303)

"Rejoice and be happy in the Joy of the Torah" [Simchat Torah Prayers]
A joy that is felt by one side while the other side is morose and bitter is not a true joy. Therefore, on Simchat Torah the relatives from both sides have to be happy: the Jews with the Torah and also the Torah has to take pleasure in the Jews.

Peninim (translated from Sichat HaShavuah #248)

(M: Sukkot)



"On the fifteenth of this [seventh] month shall be the festival of Sukkot to G-d for seven days. On the first day is a holy convocation....The eighth day is a sacred holiday to you...." (Lev. 23:34-36)

Just as the Sukka symbolizes a temporary abode, so life on earth represents only a transient part of man's existence….

Just as the Sukka symbolizes a temporary abode, so life on earth represents only a transient part of man's existence. It is divided into seven decades. The first decade is sin free, hence, "the first day is a holy convocation". During the seven days we offer sacrifices also on behalf of the rest of mankind (i.e. the 70 nations), since G-d will rejoice when all of mankind proves that it was worthy of having been created.

The eighth day, representing the eighth decade of our lives, i.e. life after the evil urge has lost its power over us. [Thus] the holy convocation will be "for you", i.e. for us rather than "for G d", since it will be Israel who will be entitled to celebrate its own achievements then.

Selected with permission andadapted from Torat Moshe - 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the three-volume English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:54-64 VeZot)

Yom Kippur is the final day of judgment. The last prayer of Yom Kippur, prayed just as the sun is setting, is called Ne'ilah, meaning 'the locking' (of the gates).

The kabbalists explain that there are five levels to the soul: Nefesh is connected to our actions, Ruach to our emotions, and Neshama to our intellect. These three levels are contained within the body. The fourth level, Chaya, connects us to heaven. Yechida, our heavenly soul root, is hewn from G-d's throne of Glory and so is always in ecstasy as it dwells in G-d presence. It is only at the time of Ne'ilah, once a year that we are able to connect to this fifth and highest aspect of our soul.

The conventional understanding of the title, Ne'ilah, is that soon no more of the prayers of the Jewish people will be allowed to enter heaven because the gates of prayer are closing. The implication is that we must hurry and get in our last words before it is too late.

The Chassidic masters explain it differently. They say that specifically at this most powerful and spiritually potent time, the Jewish people are being locked in with G-d. This leads to a completely different inference: Ne'ilah is a state of grace and a spiritual dimension that lasts for the entire coming year. We have been given the gift of connecting to G-d with the Yechida of our soul.

It follows then, that Sukkot and Simchat Torah, beginning this Friday night, are eight/nine days of celebration that are all the more joyful because they follow our positive Rosh Hashana - Yom Kippur judgment. Therefore, being happy is an important and overriding aspect of these days, displaying confidence that the Almighty has heard and accepted our prayers.

The lulav, etrog, hadassim and aravot are not only symbols of our victory, they also hint towards the unity of the Jewish people. The sukka, the mitzvah that we fulfill by immersing ourselves in it, is G-d hugging us. Literally! On Simchat Torah we dance with the Torah while it is closed. We are so focused and satiated on our connection to G-d and His Wisdom that we do not even need to know what it says!

In addition to the special Torah portions that we read each day of Sukkot, the portion that we must 'live with' and draw our inspiration from now is the final portion of the Torah, Zot Habracha. It ends with the words, "All the signs and wonders that Moshe did in sight of the Jewish people." Rashi brings the midrashic explanation that these words refer to Moshe breaking the first set of the Tablets of the Law at the time of the sin of the Golden Calf.

In the Chassidic text, Bais Avraham, he explains why these are the last words of the Torah. Knowing there is a problem is the most important part of the solution. It is a tragedy if a person has fallen from the spiritual level he had attained previously and doesn't know it. For this there is no cure. Alternatively, if a person feels his loss and shouts in despair about it he has hope to resolve his problem in a positive way. If Moshe had not broken the tablets, our people would not have felt the great blemish and loss. The verse hints to the awakening of the nation to the seriousness of their sin and opens their hearts to heaven.

It will take a lifetime to fix all of our bad traits. The least we need to accomplish at this point is to know we have a ways to go. This is why the Torah ends with these words on Simchas Torah, only to begin again immediately with "Bereishis bara…" -- "In the beginning G-d created' -- the opening verses of the Torah, signifying our ability to strengthen ourselves and make a truly fresh start.

May this be a year of spiritual and physical advancement for the Jewish people and may we see the final redemption now!

Shabbat Shalom and L'Shana Tova. Rabbi Shaul Leiter

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