Parashat Vezot Haberakhah
| Published: October 02, 2023
This week’s Torah reading, V’Zot HaBerachah, which is read on the holiday of Simchat Torah, recounts the blessings Moses bestowed upon each of the tribes, the story of Moses’ death, and describes the greatness of his personality, prophecy and deeds.
First Aliyah: Shortly before he passed away. Moses blessed the Tribes of Israel individually. Moses prefaced his blessings with praise for G‑d — how He descended from Heaven amidst myriads of angels to give His people the Torah on Mount Sinai — and praise for the Israelites — how they lovingly and unconditionally accepted G‑d‘s gift. Reuben and Judah were the first two tribes to be blessed: Reuben with life in this world and the next one; Judah with success and victory in the course of his battles.
Second Aliyah: The holy tribe of Levi was next in line to be blessed. Moses extols their virtues, the only tribe to remain faithful to G‑d throughout the various trials and tests the Israelites encountered during their desert sojourn. Therefore, Moses declares, “They will teach Your laws to Jacob and Your Torah to Israel; they will place incense before You, and burnt-offerings upon Your altar.” Benjamin, then, is acknowledged as “G‑d’s beloved,” the tribe which will be graced by the Holy Temple which will be situated in its portion of Israel.
Third Aliyah: This section is devoted to the blessing given to the Tribe of Joseph. Moses blessed Joseph with a bountiful portion that will be blessed with ample rain, dew, produce, and delicacies. Joseph is also blessed with unusual ox-like strength which he would use to vanquish his enemies.
Fourth Aliyah: Zebulun was blessed with success in his business endeavors and Issachar in his Torah studies. Gad was blessed with the strength of a lion — who tears off the arm and head of his enemy with one blow — and an expanding portion in the Holy Land. Gad is then praised for choosing a portion on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, opting to settle in the proximity of Moses’ final resting place, and for leading the troops in battle in the conquest of Canaan.
Fifth Aliyah: Dan, too, is blessed with the strength of a lion cub. Naftali‘s portion in Israel is lauded as one that “brings satisfaction to all its inhabitants, and is filled with G‑d’s blessing.” Asher is blessed with sons and with an abundance of olive oil, to the extent that he will “immerse his feet in oil”! Moses concluded the individual blessings, and addressed the nation as a whole: “Your locks on your border towns are as strong as iron and copper, and the days of your old age will be like the days of your youth…”
Sixth Aliyah: Moses continues blessing/praising the Israelites. He notes that the G‑d who dwells in the heavens is always ready to come to their assistance. “Fortunate are you, O Israel! Who is like you, O people saved by G‑d!”
Seventh Aliyah: As per G‑d’s instructions, Moses ascended Mount Nebo. Once on top of the mountain, G‑d showed him all of the Land of Israel. Moses then died, at the age of one hundred and twenty. Until his last moment, his eye never dimmed and his skin never dried. The Israelites mourned Moses for thirty days, and Joshua immediately assumed the mantle of leadership. The Torah concludes with a eulogy for Moses. He was the greatest prophet to ever live, and he performed incredible and awesome miracles before the eyes of all of Israel.
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