Vezot Habracha: Maintaining the Intensity

It is via the Torah that God established an intimate and pronounced relationship with His people.

Rabbi Avraham Gordimer,

Judaism Rabbi Avraham Gordimer
Rabbi Avraham Gordimer
Rabbi Avraham Gordimer

The introductory section of Parshat Vezot Ha-Berachah would appear at first glance to glaringly omit some critical information. In presenting God’s historical relationship with the Children of Israel and their endearment to Him, the parshah commences with Mattan Torah (the Giving of the Torah at Sinai) and the affinity and allegiance of the Jewish People to God as exhibited at that event.

Why does the parshah not instead commence with the true origins of the relationship between God and the Children of Israel, starting with Avraham Avinu (Abraham) and the other Avot and Imahot (Patriarchs and Matriarchs)? Why is that critical, primary stage in the historical relationship between God and the Jewish People omitted?

In order to answer this question, let’s consider the section of the parshah immediately following the berachot bestowed by Moshe Rabbeinu upon each individual Shevet (Tribe), wherein the parshah highlights God’s infinite distance and superiority above even the most powerful beings in the physical universe (per Rashi on 33:27), while at the same time portraying His extreme closeness with the Children of Israel. Why are the two concepts of God’s transcendence regarding the universe at large and his immanence regarding the Children of Israel contrasted at this juncture? Or, stated otherwise, what is the factor responsible for God’s extreme closeness with the Children of Israel?

The answer is the Torah, for it is due to and via the Torah that God established an intimate and pronounced relationship with His people. The event of Mattan Torah was not only unprecedented in terms of its conspicuous drama, divine public communication and open miracles; rather, the bold revelation and stark intimacy initiated by God at Mattan Torah with the Children of Israel was the start of a unique relationship that would eternally be marked by a special closeness and a supernatural bond between God and His people. Unlike the Patriarchal Period, in which the relationship between God and Jewish People was private and largely concealed, the relationship manifest at Mattan Torah was eminently public and revealed.

At Sinai and during its aftermath, the Children of Israel experienced the Shechinah (Divine Presence) in an unrivaled fashion. One could experience the Shechinah as well on a perpetual basis at the Beit Ha-Mikdash (Temple), and we are told by the Talmud that “Ever since the Beit Ha-Mikdash was destroyed, God only has in His world the four amot (cubits) of Halacha”. (R. Chiya bar Ami in the name of ‘Ula - Berachot 8a) It is through Torah that one draws close to God and experiences His Presence, and it is through Torah that God established and eternally maintains His intimate relationship with the Children of Israel.

This is the answer as to why the parshah’s depiction of the historical relationship of God and His people commences with Mattan Torah, for the open contrast between God’s transcendence regarding the universe and His immanence regarding the Children of Israel is due to the Torah. It is Torah that serves as the context and conduit for the Shechinah to be manifest amidst the Jewish People; Torah is the core and centerpiece of the intimate relationship between God and His nation. The Avot and Imahot established our beliefs and values, and through them was a private foundational connection with God initiated; however, the open and intense relationship with God, in which the Shechinah resides publicly among the nation, is a function of Torah and commenced at Sinai.

The Torah's powerful association with the manifestation of the Shechinah and the sensation of being intimately close with God is the factor that connects Parshat VeZot Ha-Berachah with Simchat Torah - for after the Jew has spent the weeks of Elul, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur intimately close with God, and he has spent a week in the sukkah, which represents the Beit Ha-Mikdash/locus of encountering the Shechinah, through Torah does he take hold of that which can intensely connect him with God’s Presence the entire year going forward. Parshat VeZot Ha-Berachah encapsulates the theme of God’s animated closeness to the Children of Israel via the Torah; we seize upon this crucial motif as we leave the period of special closeness with God and declare that we can maintain the closeness throughout the new year by immersing ourselves in the Torah and holding fast to it.

May we merit to rejoice this Simchat Torah and every Simchat Torah with an awareness of God’s Presence and a realization of His Presence being continually accessible and apprehended close-up through Torah. 





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