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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach V'zot Habracha

VZOT HABRACHA

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Very shortly we will conclude the reading of the Torah cycle for this year. The Torah ends with the description of the passing of Moshe. The Torah pointedly tells us that there never will be another Moshe. We are also taught that there will never be another generation such as the generation of Jews that were redeemed from Egypt and who accepted the Torah on Mount Sinai. And, we are also taught the fundamental Jewish belief that there never will be another Torah nor will this one ever be modified or recast.

As such, there is a true sense of finality to this last chapter of the Torah. It not only details the end of an era and the mortality of a life but it serves to teach us another important lesson. And that lesson is that the past cannot be repeated and that every generation, just as every individual, is charged with the challenge of creating a new Moshe, so to speak, and a new sense of redemption, freedom and a new reacceptance of the Torah of Sinai.

The fact that Moshe is irreplaceable and that a new generation will not personally witness the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Sinai in no way alters the demand, that this coming generation preserve and protect the eternal Torah and its values.

This very finality – the sealing of the books, so to speak - is itself one of the great lessons of this Torah reading. Reconstructing the past may be the preoccupation of historians and professors but in terms of life and achievement, it is only the present and future that can guarantee our survival and success.

There is a great danger in forgetting our past, whether as an individual and certainly as a nation. Without recalling the past we invite ourselves to be blindsided by unexpected events and the unpredictability of human nature and behavior. Yet there is a great difference between recalling and remembering the past and attempting to live in the past. Living in the past freezes us and makes us a relic instead of a vibrantly creative society.

Nostalgia is part of the human condition but oftentimes serves as a negative brake upon positive future progress. Throughout human history all attempts to recreate the past through sentimental or even imaginary means of fantasy have inevitably met with ultimate failure, if not even defeat and tragedy.

Inherent in the blessing that Moshe bestows upon his beloved people Israel, is his look forward. He sees the Land of Israel, where he will not now ever enter, and views the Jewish people settled therein. He sees all of the challenges that Jewish life in the future will bring to his beloved people while they are living in the Land of Israel and for the millennia thereafter, scattered throughout the world.

But he also sees the last days of the new redemption and the restoration of Israel to its Torah and homeland. And his warning, repeated throughout his lifetime, that the Jews should never return to Egypt, takes on new meaning. The Jews should never live exclusively in the past but always to begin again and anew, as we do with the Torah reading itself, and build a bright, secure and holy future.
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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