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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach V'zot Habracha

Zot Habracha

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The completion of the reading of the Torah on Simchat Torah is always a time of great happiness and rejoicing. The beautiful poetry and rhythm of Moshe’s blessings to his beloved people resound in our ears throughout the ages. His blessings overshadow the sadness in the parsha that records the death of the greatest spiritual leader the world has ever known. And thus even the loss of Moshe is somehow sublimated in the celebration of the day and in the completeness and perfection of the Torah that is called on his name that Simchat Torah symbolizes. Human frailty and mortality is a given factor in all of our lives. How to achieve blessing and eternity in spite of that frailty and mortality is the challenge that Jewish life and observance thrusts before us. At one and the same time that we realize our mortality we strive to achieve immortality. This seeming paradox lies at the heart of all Jewish life and strivings. The solemnity and even foreboding that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur engender within us is replaced by the joy of Succot and Simchat Torah. The solemnity has not disappeared; it simply has been transformed by the observances of the commandments of the Succot holiday into meaningful optimism and confidence that mortal beings can truly achieve immortality and be influential and remembered long after their physical departure from this world. Perhaps that is the main lesson of the parsha of Zot Habracha itself - Moshe the mortal human being is no longer but Moshe the immortal leader and inspiration of Israel lives on eternally in the hearts and minds of his people.

The food and drink of Simchat Torah are meant to be only aids to enhance our spirit of accomplishment and inner delight. Like Purim, Simchat Torah allows our bodies to partake freely of food and drink. But also like Purim, Simchat Torah is predicated upon an inner feeling of joy, of uplifted spirit and renewed dedication that create within us the sense of commitment and tenacity that characterizes Jewish life, individually and nationally. Alcoholic intoxication is unnecessary and even counter productive to creating this sense of inner joy and dedication. The rabbis characterized the service of God as being able to be realized through "simcha shel mitzvah" - the inner joy that our soul experiences when doing a good deed and fulfilling one of God’s commandments. It is this attitude towards the service of God that makes Simchat Torah the joyous holiday that it is. We are aware of all of the positive things in life that we have accomplished and all of the myriad opportunities to continue to do so in the future. We sense that in these acts of goodness and Torah observances we are punching our ticket to immortality, to being remembered and appreciated. There can be no greater joy in a person’s life than to experience this feeling of holy importance and positive achievement. And it is this very idea that Simchat Torah and Zot Habracha represent to the fullest.
Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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