Ve'Zot HaBeracha + Sukkot | 19 Tishrei 5782 | September 25th, 2021 | Issue 912

This edition is dedicated
in loving memory of
Miriam Rivka bat Chaim z"
Mordechai Yosef ben Yitzchak David Friedland z"l
Menashe z"l ben Mordechai Yosef z"l and Miriam Friedland

Reuven Shalom ben Ephraim (HaLevi) Segal z"l
R' Yossef Tzvi ben R' Moshe Haim HaLevi and Tzvia Friedler

Mazal Tov to Itzhak Nimrodi (Washington, 2016-2017) and wife, Biluyah on the birth of their son
What is in this week's newsletter

The Joy of Torah and Mitzvot

Rav Ilan Goldman
Former Rav Shaliach of Bnei Akiva UK
Incoming Educational Director of Torah MiTzion

Click Here for the PDF version

There is a story in the Midrash[1] regarding a pasuk from our Parasha: Rabbi Yannai saw a man whom he thought to be a Talmid Chacham (rabbinic scholar). He therefore invited him home as his guest. Testing him, he found that his guest was not at all knowledgeable. When R. Yannai realised that he could not even bensch, he referred to his guest as a dog. The latter caught hold of R. Yannai claiming that he, R. Yannai, had his inheritance and that it should be returned at once. R. Yannai was surprised and asked what he meant. The guest answered that he had once walked by the Beit Midrash and heard the children reciting:תּוֹרָה צִוָּה לָנו מֹשֶׁה מוֹרָשָׁה קְהִלַּת יַעֲקֹב, ‘Moshe commanded us a law, an inheritance of the congregation of Yaacov’[2].

The Torah says it is the inheritance of the congregation of Yaacov and not just of the congregation of Yannai. R. Yannai then realised he was mistaken in his attitude and asked his guest what he had done which merited him to eat with him? The guest answered that he had never heard something bad and repeated it to others. That he had never seen two people fighting without interfering and bringing peace between them. To this R. Yannai replied saying that his guest has such great attributes and he is far from being a dog. It seems Rabbi Yannai’s original approach was that only learned people have a share in the Torah and only they are connected to its teachings. His guest taught him that every Jew is connected to the Torah. This is not just in theory or in some spiritual dimension but rather it is translated into daily life and behavior.

This message is fitting for our Parasha when we conclude the cycle of reading the entire Torah and when we rejoice with the Torah on Simchat Torah. On Shavuot we celebrate the Torah by opening books and studying them. On Simchat Torah we close the books and dance with them. On Shavuot we celebrate our practical connection to Torah; how much we study it and how much we know of it. On Simchat Torah we celebrate the very bond each and every Jew has with the Torah.

[1] Midrash Vayikra Rabba 9:3
[2] Devarim 33:4
For more Divrei Torah on the parsha click here

Moshe – Dead or Alive

Dr. Yocheved Engelberg Cohen
Former Shlicha, Syracuse (5760-1) and Princeton (5764-5)

Currently working as a Hebrew-to-English translator, her current project translating R. Eliezer Melamed's Peninei Halakha series

Click Here for the PDF version

Death is perhaps the ultimate slap in the face to humanity. We are almost powerless to combat it or defy it. Nevertheless, we long to overcome it. Despite this longing, we cannot even easily define death. At what point does one cross from life to death? The Torah reading of Simchat Torah relates to this enigma.
"It was there in the land of Moav that God’s servant Moshe died at God’s word. He buried him in the valley, in the land of Moav, opposite Beit Peor. No one knows his burial place to this day” (Devarim 34:5-6).
These verses report the death of the most revered leader of the Jewish people, Moshe, in a rather strange fashion. On the one hand, we have a very clear and unambiguous statement that Moshe died and was buried, seemingly in the normal human way. On the other hand, after providing us with a detailed description of where Moshe was buried, the verse adds that no one knows where he is buried. Additionally, who buried Moshe? The only subject available would seem to be G-d. Apparently G-d buried Moshe in an undisclosed location. This would be vastly different from the way most people leave this world. Did Moshe die a normal death and have a normal burial or not?
The Talmud (Sotah 13b-14a) addresses this issue:
“He buried him in the valley, in the land of Moav, opposite Beit Peor.” Rabbi Berachyah said: (The Torah provides) guidepost after guidepost (in describing this location), but nevertheless, “no one knows his burial place to this day.
The Talmud then tells the story of an unsuccessful attempt by the Romans to find Moshe’s mysterious burial place. They come up with a seemingly foolproof way to find the grave, yet they fail. For this grave and this burial are evidently outside the realm of the strictly natural. This concept presumably informs the opinion in Pirkei Avot (5:6) that Moshe’s grave was created at twilight on the eve of the Sabbath. Here, at the border of the natural and the supernatural, at a time when profane and sacred, the mundane creation and the holy Sabbath are indistinguishable, the grave of Moshe came into being. As Dr. Rella Kushelevsky states, this “gives an additional dimension to the illusive nature of the grave of Moshe: not only does it disappear in space, it disappears in time as well” (“A Study of the Midrashic Sources on the Death of Moses,”
If you think that’s radical, compare this incredible quote from the same page in the Talmud:
Some say: Moshe did not die. It is written here: “Moshe died.” And it is written elsewhere (Shmot 34:28), “He [Moshe] remained there with G-d [for forty days and forty nights].” Just as there he (was not dead but rather) was standing in the service of G-d, so too here (at the end of Moshe’s one hundred and twenty years, he did not die, but rather is standing) in the service of G-d.
Since the verse states clearly that Moshe did die (regardless of precisely who buried him precisely where), presumably this suggestion is not meant to be taken literally. It reveals a wish that even if regular people cannot evade death, at least Moshe, a spiritual giant, should be able to do so. It suggests as well that he succeeded, to a certain extent, in doing so. For Moshe’s legacy continues everywhere Torah is studied and lived. By transcending himself, Moshe indeed lives on.


For more Divrei Torah on the parsha click here

Learning about Lulav

with the students at Bornblum Jewish Community School in Memphis

Siyum Masechet Sukkah!

Chag Sameach from Washington
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