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Parshat Vezot HaBeracha

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

The Parsha of Vezot Habracha, which we only get to read on Simchat Torah closes the Torah and Moshe in his final words continues his lyrical mantra and blesses the tribes of Bnei Yisrael. Moshe in his humility, does not try to boast about what he achieved, but looks for something positive to say about each tribe, hidden in words of poetry, which our sages try to interpret. During the forty years in the wilderness, Moshe must have had interactions with each of the tribes, but here he mostly looks to the future of the tribes settling in the Holy land, with perhaps two exceptions which will come to later.

Reuven’s blessing perhaps relates to the fact that they receive their portion on the east of the Jordan, but they promise to fight with the rest, so Moshe wishes they do not lose to many soldiers in battle. Shimon is skipped, probably as Moshe is still angry at their promiscuity in the incident of Pinchas. Judah was blessed to be brave warriors, which they were, as we told during the conquest. Benjamin were to inherit within the hills were the Temple would be built. Issachar and Zevulun would be partners, Zevulun trading from the sea shores while Issachar sit and study. Gad, who also inherited east of the Jordan, were blessed to be brave soldiers, Dan were also blessed to be warriors, fighting in the North, and later we have the mighty Samson from the tribe of Dan. Naftali would inherit good farming land in the North and similarly Asher would inherit land excellent for producing oil from olive trees. By the way it is interesting to see that our sages of the middle ages such as Rashi, knew their geography of Israel, which they learned from the bible, without googlemaps or waze. Many of them, as Moshe, never set foot in the land.

Noticeably, two of the blessings are significantly longer than the rest, Levi and Joseph, and Moshe clearly wanted them to have a special mention. Levi, not only because it was his tribe but additionally, they were the ones who had stood with him in the incident of the golden calf and he wanted to show his appreciation. The Levites did not receive a portion in the land, so the blessing had to take a different theme.

Finally, Joseph, who of course, had the honour of receiving two tribal inheritances. I saw an interesting article by Rav Amnon Bazak who suggests that Moshe saw Joseph as his inspiration in the similarly of their ability to meet the challenges of life. Both had the challenge of having to grow to adulthood away from their families and ended up in the palaces of the Pharaohs. Both married to wives of families of foreign priesthood. Both aspired to become leaders, Joseph of Egypt and eventually to his brother’s families at the beginning of the exile, and Moshe, of course, became the ultimate leader of our nation. Sadly, neither had the good fortune to enjoy the fruits of the Land of Israel. So, in a way, perhaps Moshe is lauding his personal hero Joseph, who learned how to overcome the challenges of life.

As many others we get to travel around the country during Chol Hamoed. In the afternoon on the way to the Circus show in Modi’in we got into a traffic jam and waze told us there was minor accident 800 meters on. As we got nearer, we could not see anything like an accident and then we came upon four cars unevenly parked at the side and several men davening mincha. Obviously waze was not able to interpret the event and perhaps we can suggest an update request for or indicating where is the nearest minyan.