Table of Contents

Notes on Revelation

Zot Ha'bracha (this is the blessing)

20 Tishri, 5762
October 7, 2001

[all info within blockquotes are my additions]

October, 2001

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Parsha: Zot Ha'bracha (Deuteronomy 33-34)

Be Strong

By: Rabbi Ari Kahn

The Torah Portion for Saturday, October 6 is that of Sukkot.

Parshat Zot Ha'bracha will be read on Simchat Torah, which is on Wednessday, October 10 outside of Israel, and Tuesday, October 9 in Israel.

Chag Same'ach!

With the Parshat Zot Ha'bracha, the Torah reaches its conclusion.

While the vast majority of this week's Torah portion contains the blessing which Moses uttered prior to his death, it also records the death of Moses.

Surely the death of such an unparalleled leader created a vacuum which is hard for us to imagine. Moses wore many hats he was teacher, warrior, and perhaps king. Moses was a spiritual, and religious leader par excellence. He was also the visionary who helped facilitate the transfer an enormous population from servitude in Egypt to within the distance of a shadow of the Promised Land. Of all the facets of Moses' multifaceted personality the one which is recorded for posterity as his appellation, is Moshe Rabbenu, "Moses Our Teacher."

He is the man who ascended to Sinai and brought down the Torah. Any person who would take his place would do so with the knowledge that in any comparison they would fall short. Others could learn Torah - but who else could wrest it from the hands of angels and bring a piece of divinity to earth?

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

The task of following Moses fell upon Joshua ben Nun. The leaders of that generation indeed lamented their plight:

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AV-Joshua 218; 218
Joshua or Jehoshua="Jehovah is salvation"

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of Hebrew origin 03091 (w#y;
AV-Jesus 972, Jesus (Joshua) 2, Jesus (Justus) 1; 975
Jesus="Jehovah is salvation"

And you shalt put of your honor upon him, but not all your honor. The elders of that generation said: "The countenance of Moses was like that of the sun; the countenance of Joshua was like that of the moon." Alas, for such shame! Alas for such reproach! (Baba Batra 75a)
Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. 9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. 10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. 13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.



Yet Rashi stresses that Moses passed the Torah to Joshua -- specifically, exclusively Joshua. Others studied and perhaps excelled but the tradition was passed on to Joshua.



When Maimonides describes the process of the Torah being taught he states:

Elazar, Pinchas and Joshua all three received from Moses. To Joshua, who was Moses' student, he [i.e., Moses] transmitted the Oral Torah, and commanded him regarding it. (Introduction to Mishne Torah)

We see from Maimonides' formulation, that while Moses taught many people only Joshua was his student. And only Joshua was entrusted with the oral tradition. Evidently, this is Maimonides' understanding of the Mishna in Avot: "Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the elders."

In a subsequent paragraph Maimonides writes that Pinchas received the tradition from Joshua, which is remarkable considering that Pinchas too had studied directly from Moses. As we saw above Moses had one primary student, Joshua.

This formulation remains difficult in terms of the Talmudic statement which left out Joshua from the entire process. Where was Joshua when the Torah was being taught?

When the daughters of Zelophehad inherited from their father, Moses argued: "The time is opportune for me to demand my own needs. If daughters inherit, it is surely right that my sons should inherit my glory." The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: "Whoever keeps the fig-tree shall eat the fruit thereof; and he that waits on his master shall be honored (Proverbs 27:18). Your sons sat idly by and did not study the Torah. Joshua served you much and he showed you great honor. It was he who rose early in the morning and remained late at night at your House of Assembly. He used to arrange the benches, and he used to spread the mats. Seeing that he has served you with all his might, he is to serve Israel, for he shall not lose his reward." (Midrash Rabbah - Numbers 21:14)

The Midrash tells us that Joshua never left Moses's presence, this based on the passage found in the Book of Exodus:

And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the Tent, the pillar of cloud descended, and stood at the door of the Tent, and the Lord talked with Moses. And all the people saw the pillar of cloudy stand at the Tent door; and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he turned again into the camp; but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not from the Tent. (Exodus 33:10-11)6

Joshua never left his teacher's side therefore, even though arguably Moses may have had more talented followers, the task of replacing Moses was the lot of Joshua.7 Joshua was the one who set out the benches and tables in Moses's Beit Midrash. Before the other students arrived and after the other students left Joshua was still there at Moses's side.8 This type of dedication is institutionalized in the Talmud:

Our Rabbis taught: "Who is an ignoramus? Anyone who does not recite the Shema evening and morning." This is the view of Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Joshua says: "Anyone who does not put on tefillin." Ben Azzai says: "Anyone who has not a fringe on his garment." Rabbi Nathan says: "Anyone who has not a mezuzah on his door." Rabbi Nathan ben Joseph says: "Anyone who has sons and does not bring them up to the study of the Torah." Others say: "Even if one has learnt Scripture and Mishnah, if he has not ministered to a scholar, he is an ignoramus." Rabbi Huna said: "The halachah is as laid down by 'others.'" (Berachot 47b)

To be scholarly or "book smart" in the absence of serving a sage is insufficient at least, dangerous at worst. Knowledge is not simply a process of assimilating information, it requires far more subtle skills which can only be acquired by sitting at the feet of a sage. There was never a greater sage than Moses nor a greater more dedicated student than Joshua. Therefore, when the time came to replace Moses, God chose Joshua.

And Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, "Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation. Who may go out before them, and who may go in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd." And the Lord said to Moses, "Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is spirit, and lay your hand upon him." (Numbers 27:15-18)

John 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. 17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

Joshua received the ultimate ordination at the commandment of God by the hand of Moses -- just like the Torah itself.9

The task of Joshua would not be easy. The comparison with Moses as we saw made for a difficult situation. And the fall off in Torah study with the demise of Moses compounded the problem.

The way of dealing with problem was by biding Joshua to be strong:

And Moses called to Joshua, and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and of a good courage; for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall cause them to inherit it." (Deut. 31:7)

Moses therefore wrote this song/poem the same day, and taught it to the people of Israel. And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, "Be strong and of a good courage; for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land which I swore to them; and I will be with you." (Deut 31:22-23)

Not only did Moses instruct Joshua to be strong, so did God:

And it was after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross over the Jordan, you, and all this people, to the land which I give to them, to the people of Israel... Be strong and courageous; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the Torah, which Moses my servant commanded you; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written on it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous; be not afraid, nor be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:1-9)

We are told that Joshua never left Moses's tent, and now, with the very same language, Joshua is told that the Torah will never leave him.


Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

1:4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. 13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

2:5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. 6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? 7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: 8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

2:10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. 13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. 3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. 4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

3:7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

4:1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: 2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. 3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. 4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. 5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. 6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

5:10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. 11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

6:9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. 10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: 12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. 13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. 4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. 5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: 6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. 7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. 8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. 9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. 10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

7:11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. 20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) 22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. 23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; 2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. 3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. 4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: 5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

9:1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. 6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:

9:8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.

10:7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.

10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. 35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

11:32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

12:4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

12:18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

13:1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. 4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. 5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. 7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. 9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. 10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. 11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. 15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

13:18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. 19 But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 22 And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. 23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. 24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. 25 Grace be with you all. Amen.


From: ""
Date sent: Sun, 30 Sep 2001
Subject: Mayanot - Zot Ha'bracha

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Parsha: Zot Ha'bracha (Deuteronomy 33-34)

Weisz Parsha Zot HaBracha

By: Rabbi Noson Weisz

The last day of the Sukkot holiday is also known as Simchat Torah, or "The Celebration of the Torah." This is because we finish the cycle of Torah readings on this day. The last portion is Zot Habracha (which means "this is the blessing"). We immediately resume the cycle and read the first portion of the Book of Genesis, Bereishit ("in the beginning"). The occasion for joy is clear. What is not so clear is why this particular day was chosen as the occasion to hold this joy. There is no apparent connection between the calendar and the Five Books of Moses. Any day could have been selected as the turnover point between successive cycles of Torah reading. It is therefore appropriate to wonder why the last day of Sukkot in particular was selected.

In our prayers we describe the entire Sukkot holiday as zman simchotenu, "time/festival of joy."


Rabenu Yona in his work "Sharei Teshuva" explains that this joy is related to Yom Kippur. For the truly penitent person there is no greater joy than the feeling of being cleansed of his sins. This is not due to concern or fright about the dire consequences of sins in terms of possible punishment, although no doubt this is also a worry. But for the true ba'al teshuva the joy of atonement comes from his restored relationship with God.

The prophet Zechariah offers the following image of penance:

Then he showed me Joshua, the High Priest, standing before the angel of God, and the Satan was standing on his right to accuse him. The angel of God said to the Satan, "May God denounce you O Satan! May God who chooses Jerusalem denounce you! Indeed, this man is like a firebrand saved from a fire!" But Joshua was dressed in filthy garments as he stood before the angel. The angel spoke up and said to those standing before him, saying, "Remove the filthy garments from upon him!" Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have removed your iniquity from upon you, and dressed you with clean attire. Then I said, "Let them put a pure turban upon his head." So they put a pure turban upon his head and dressed him in clean garments... (Zechariah 3:1-6)

Every time we recite the Amidah prayer we are deemed to be standing in God's own presence. As long as we are wearing our sins, the tatters on our souls make us an eyesore in the king's palace and we also exude the putrefying stench of soiled clothing in a spiritual sense. Even if God loves us intensely, He cannot help but find our presence obnoxious.

The atonement of Yom Kippur is the equivalent of removing our tattered dirty spiritual garments and replacing them with freshly laundered pure smelling clothing. We can once again enter the Kings palace without feeling out of place. We can once again imagine that we are accepted with genuine welcome. No wander the true penitent is overcome by a feeling of intense joy.

Revelation 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

The Gaon of Vilna discusses the implication of Sukkot as a zman simcha from the other side. While Rabenu Yona explains the joy of Sukkot from the human side, the Gaon describes the joy from God's viewpoint.

The Sukkot holiday derives its name from the sukkah or "booth." The Talmud explains (Sukkah 11b) that the sukkah is reminiscent of the Clouds of Glory in which God enveloped us in the desert following the Exodus.

You shall dwell in sukkot [booths] for a seven day period; every citizen in Israel shall dwell in sukkot. So that your generations will know that I caused the children of Israel to dwell in sukkot when I took them from the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 23:42-43)

The picture that emerges from the Midrash is that God's Sukkot, the Clouds of Glory, were marvelous things. They provided a climate controlled environment, they were impenetrable to Israel's enemies, they were available to transport anyone who felt too tired to walk, they leveled the desert in the path of the camp, and they were a guide through it's uncharted wilderness. They are called the Clouds of Glory because they are a manifest demonstration of God's love and concern for the Jewish people. What greater glory could man possibly aspire to than such an obvious public demonstration of God's love? It is this demonstration of His love that God wants all succeeding generations to know about, and it is this that prompted Him to command us to observe this commandment.

Matthew 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
The succah of today is also God's house. The Zohar refers to it as the "tent of faith." We leave our homes to dwell in the succah for seven days at God's command to demonstrate our readiness to follow Him anywhere.

But if so, asks the Gaon, how is it that we don't eat matzah in the sukkah? If the sukkah commemorates the Clouds of Glory in which God wrapped us after the Exodus, we should really build our sukkot on Passover. What is the rationale of waiting six full months and only building these sukkot after Yom Kippur. Why are they the occasion for a separate holiday when they are really part of the events of the Exodus?


Explains the Gaon: The sukkah does not commemorate the original Clouds of Glory. The sukkah commemorates their return.

After the sin of the Golden Calf, the Clouds of Glory departed. As their purpose was to provide a palpable demonstration of God's love for Israel, in the presence of the enormous wall of misunderstanding erected between God and Israel by the immensity of the sin, they were out of place. They returned following Israel's repentance to demonstrate that God does not merely forgive us our sins on Yom Kippur, but reinstates us fully to His affections.

Indeed, He does even more.

In the prelude to the Shema, we say the following blessing every morning: "With an abundant love have You loved us, Lord our God, with exceedingly great pity have You pitied us." In the evening this same blessing begins: "With an eternal love have You loved the house of Israel, Your nation." What is implied by the words "abundant" versus "eternal"? The answer is in the following passage of the Talmud:

Rebi arranged a marriage for his son with the daughter of Rabbi Yosi ben Zimra. The agreement was that the groom would go to learn in yeshiva for twelve years before the wedding. [But] when the bride passed by in his field of vision, he stated that he would like to hold the wedding after six years. When the bride passed by once again, the groom declared that he wanted to hold the wedding before he goes away to study.

His father saw that he was embarrassed. He told his son not to feel bad as he was merely following the example of his Maker. God originally stated, You will bring them and implant them on the mount of Your heritage, the foundation of Your dwelling place that You, God, has made, the Temple My Lord that Your hands established. (Exodus 15:17)

[That is God will only build His Temple, the spiritual parallel to a human wedding, after the Jewish people are established in Israel.]

But then God said, They shall make a Sanctuary for me, so that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)

[That is, God was so overcome by the power of His love that He decided not to wait and instructed the Jewish people to construct the Tabernacle in the desert.] (Ketubot 62b)

This instruction was issued on the day after Yom Kippur, the 11th day of Tishrei. The Jewish people brought Moses their donations of materials on the 12th and 13th; on the 14th Moses distributed the materials to the artisans; on the 15th the construction began, and that is the first day of Sukkoth, because that is the day that the Clouds of Glory returned.

The change in God's plan was brought about by the increased intensity of His love for the Jewish people. God loved them more after Yom Kippur (after the reconciliation) than He loved them originally before the sin of the Golden Calf took place.

The place where the ba'al teshuva stands, the tzadik who never sinned and repented cannot stand. (Brachot 34b)


God loves the Jewish people with an eternal love regardless of the level of misunderstandings that separate them on the surface. But when they repent, He loves them so intensely that He is unable to restrain Himself from the outward expression of His love. This is the meaning of zman simchotenu from God's side.

Thus the sukkah represents God's desire to envelop the penitent Jewish people in the warm embrace of His Clouds of Glory. Embracing someone who is dressed in soiled clothes and smells bad is out of the question, even if that someone is beloved. The joy of Sukkot is a combination of the two factors mentioned by the Gaon and Rabenu Yona. It is the combination of these two ideas which place us comfortably in God's warm embrace and creates the feeling of spiritual joy that Sukkot stands for.

But all good things must come to an end. We were not created to spend our lives safely wrapped in God's embrace... We sit in God's sukkah for only seven days.

Then comes the eighth day.

..on the eighth day there shall be a holy convocation for you and you shall offer a fire-offering to God, it is an assembly, you shall not do any laborious work. (Leviticus 23:36)

The word assembly in Hebrew is azeret also meaning something held back.

2 Thessalonians 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Please see Rapture file.

Rashi: "I held you back with me; like a king who invited his children to a party lasting so many days; when it came time to leave, he said, 'My children, please stay with me for one more day, it is difficult for me to bear your departure.'"

The last day of Sukkot is there for no other reason than because it is difficult for God to part with us and for us to part from Him. We need a day to face the prospect and prepare. This is the day the Jewish people has chosen as being the most appropriate day on which to read Parshat Zot Habracha, the last portion of the Torah and to begin reading the Torah all over.


There are really two things that keep the Jewish people strongly connected to God even when they are out of His immediate presence. When life returns to normal and God seems far away in heaven, we still have God's Torah and Moses' bracha, "blessing."

The word bracha in Hebrew originates from the word breicha meaning "well" or "spring."

Unlike other people who draw their life force from the earth and are referred to as the umot haolam, "the nations of the earth," we, the Jewish people, have to draw our energy from our connection with God.

Abraham was not able to have any children until God took him out from under the power of the stars that govern the distribution of the forces of nature.

And he took him outside, and said, "Gaze now toward the heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them!" And He said to him, "So shall your offspring be!" (Genesis 15:5)

Rashi: "He took him out of the space of the world and raised him above the stars."

We declare twice a day in the Shema that earthly success for us depends on our connection to God and the closeness of our relationship:

And it will come to pass that if you continually hearken to My commandments that I command you today ... then I will provide for you...

We have no natural homeland on the earth as other peoples do. Our place is the land of Israel which needs to be given to us by God and which we can only hold on to as long as we do not turn to other forces. (This is also stated in the Shema prayer.)


Our connection to God is no luxury for us; it is essential to our very survival. This connection is through our roots, our ancestors. Thus the two people who offer their blessings to us in the Torah are Jacob, the last of our Patriarchs (in Parshat Vayechi), and Moses our teacher (in Parshat Zot Habracha.)

These blessings are essentially the same, each focusing on the twelve tribes of Israel. Together these blessings drive home the idea that our life force flows to us from the spiritual springs that connect to God through the links of the chain of generations.

The correspondence between our connection to the Torah and our continued survival is even more obvious. Even the Jews who have lost all vestige of this connection readily admit that the study of the Torah through the ages and the observance of its commandments is solely responsible for the survival of the Jewish people as a distinct cultural entity through all the tribulations of our 2000 year Diaspora.

But is it any different now? The world hasn't changed at all in this regard. No state, even if it be Israel, no national army, even if Jewish, will preserve the integrity or the identity of the Jewish people without the Torah. Those who abandon the practice of learning it and of following its commandments are consigning the Jewish people to oblivion.

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Date sent: Thu, 12 Oct 2000
From: Rabbi Pinchas Winston
Subject: Perceptions -Parashas Zos HaBrochah - Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah



Moshe was 120 years old when he died. There never again arose a prophet in Israel like Moshe, whom G-d spoke to face-to-face, [and who could perform] all the signs and wonders which G-d sent him to do in the land of Egypt, against Paroah, all his servants and all his land, or any of the mighty acts and awesome sights that Moshe dis-played before all the eyes of Israel. (Devarim 34:7-12)

That's not all the world lost with the death of Moshe Rabbeinu, as the Talmud explains:

Rabbah son of Rava, and some say, Rebi Hillel son of Rebi Wols, said: From the days of Moshe until Rebi (Yehudah HaNasi), we have not found Torah and greatness (wealth) is one place (a single individual). Is that so? There was Yehoshua? (No,) there was (also) Elazar (who was equal to him). There was Elazar? (No,) there was (also) Pinchas. There was Pinchas? (No,) there were the Elders (as well). There was Shaul? (No,) there was (also) Shmuel. Did not Shmuel die (during his lifetime)? We're talking about over an entire lifetime. What about Dovid? There was Ira the Ye'iri. But he died (during his lifetime)? We're talking about over an entire lifetime. There was Chizkiah? No, there was (also) Shevna. There was Ezra? (No,) there was (also) Nechemiah. Rav Acha son of Rava said: I can add that from the time of Rebi until the time of Rav Ashi, we have not found Torah and greatness in one place. (Gittin 59a)

And, the truth is, even this doesn't tell the whole story. What was really lost with the death of Moshe Rabbeinu was a single individual capable of bringing the redemption, single-handedly. According to tradition, Moshe's spiritual greatness was so superlative that he was able to tap into spiritual energy sources so powerful that he could have, had the Jewish people been ready and willing, ushered in the Final Redemption right then and there.

This was because The level of Moshe Rabbeinu was from the Ohr HaGanuz itself -- the Hidden Light of creation. Therefore, says the Talmud, the Torah was given through him, as well as all chidushei Torah (Torah novella) throughout time.

This is the way the more esoteric side of Torah phrases it:

... He was from the "Mystery of the Upper Emanation" of Adam HaRishon, which was withdrawn as a result of the sin. Had the Jewish people not sinned [with the golden calf, then] Moshe would have entered the land and would have been in a position to return the world to perfection from before the [Adam's] sin. (Dayah 2:277b).

Because, as the Arizal explains, it all comes down to soul "roots," that is, the level within the Sefiros from which one's soul originates, and Moshe's descended from the heights of the sefirah, Chochmah. This is why the Talmud made the comparison between the light Moshe emanated at birth and the Hidden Light of creation. It took such a high-level soul to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt, and, according to the Arizal, it will take such a high-level soul to redeem the world once again, in the Days of Moshiach.


Date sent: Wed, 18 Oct 2000
Subject: Mayanot - Zot HaBracha

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Parshat Zot HaBracha - Deut. 33 - 34

"Word Power"

By Rabbi Noson Weisz

And this is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, bestowed upon the children of Israel before his death. (Deut. 33:1)

A close examination of this blessing yields the conclusion that Moses substantially repeated and endorsed Jacob's blessings given at the end of the Book of Genesis, although he made some modifications and additions. While no doubt these variations are sufficiently momentous to justify the repetition of a second set of blessings, nevertheless, upon reading them, one cannot help but have an uneasy feeling.

These blessings are not simply enhancing previous blessings for health, happiness and prosperity. They are an allocation of the assets and privileges of the Jewish people.

Jacob, being the progenitor of all succeeding generations of Jews, and as such, the founder of the Jewish people who are called Israel after him, can be understood to possess the necessary authority to allocate the public positions of the future Jewish nation. But Moses was merely a rabbi, a teacher who taught us Torah. Granted that he was the most illustrious rabbi the Jewish people ever had, still it is legitimate to ask by what authority did he go about allocating positions to the various tribes of Israel. For the Torah goes out of its way to inform us that this was Moses' own blessing, not the words of God prophetically transmitted by Moses.

Indeed, this raises an even deeper problematic issue that involves the content of the entire Book of Deuteronomy. For the vast majority of this book consists of the thoughts of Moses himself spoken to the Jewish people in a series of lectures as stated in the introduction:

These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel. (Deut. 1:1)

Although the Talmud teaches us (Menochot 30a) that these words became a part of the Torah because God subsequently dictated them and told Moses to write them in the Torah, how can we relate to this? How can the teaching of a mere human be transformed into the message of God Himself to the Jewish people?

Because this is such a key question, it is necessary to expand on it a bit more.


Rashi in his commentary notes that the Torah is described as fiery (From His right hand He presented the fiery Torah to them. Deut. 33:2) because the Torah was written before the creation in letters of black fire against a background of white fire (Tanchuma, Genesis 1).

This fact renders the matter of the origins of the Book of Deuteronomy even more perplexing.

The Torah predated creation. Thus when Moses spoke his own thoughts in the course of his farewell speech (which is the Book of Deuteronomy) apparently he managed to hit on the precisely correct words to exactly match what was already written in letters of black fire in God's own Torah. When God dictated Moses' words back to him and told him to incorporate them into the Torah here on earth, God was dictating these very words from His own fiery Torah.

How was it possible that Moses without the aid of prophecy happened on these very words, which the Torah emphatically describes as being his own:

These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel? (Deut. 1:1)

The assertion positively takes one's breath away!

To navigate through this intricate maze of problems we must understand the relationship between the two branches of the Torah: the Written Law and the Oral Law.

Traditional Jewish thought maintains that both these branches of the Torah were given to Moses on Sinai and accords them both the same degree of authenticity and authority. It is this doctrine that poses the greatest problems for many people who consider adopting the lifestyle of Orthodox Judaism.

For how can anyone seriously maintain that the Oral Law was taught to Moses on Sinai? It is the product of the thoughts of rabbis who were fallible human beings the same as the rest of us, with approximately the same degree of intelligence we have, struggling with the same problems we contend with, plagued by the same character flaws. Besides, they also disagree with each other on almost every page of the Talmud, the basic source of the Oral Law and about almost every issue. They themselves were unable to reach a clear consensus on what the Oral law actually dictates! How is it possible to grant the same degree of authority to the words and teachings of these rabbis as we do to the words of God Himself contained in the Written Law?


The first striking observation to make is that God Himself equated the Oral Law with the Written law.

For anyone who accepts the authenticity and absoluteness of the Written Torah, the entire Book of Deuteronomy serves as God's personal testament to the equal authenticity of the Oral Law that emerges from the hearts and the minds of Jewish rabbis -- because the contents of the Book of Deuteronomy originated in the heart and mind of Moses. By accepting Moses' words and thoughts as fit to be placed into the Written Law and given equal weight to God's own words contained in the rest of the Torah, God sends a very powerful message to the followers of His Written Torah. He informs them that the words and thoughts of rabbis -- at least those of Moses' caliber -- are to be regarded as absolutely true and equally holy to His own words.

Thus the question is not whether the rabbis' words have the same weight as the Torah's own words, because that is a proposition that is clearly stated and adopted by the Torah itself. The question is to figure out how this can be so, and why did God choose to deliver a portion of his own teachings in such a controversial way?

For even if we solve the question of how the two can possibly be given equal weight satisfactorily, we would still be plagued by the question why.

God surely must have realized how difficult it would be for many people to accept the Oral Law. Indeed, all through the ages, it is the acceptance of the Oral Law that has proven to be the chief stumbling block of sincere Jewish believers -- from the Sadducees to the Karaites to the founders of modern day "progressive" streams of Judaism. These Jews were serious and sincere in their dedication to Judaism, but simply were unable to accept rabbinic authority, and therefore rejected the Oral Law in whole or in part.


First let us look at the question of how.

In order to appreciate the workings of the rabbinic minds responsible for the development of the Oral Law, let us contrast a rabbi with a U.S. Supreme Court justice whose job it is to interpret the U.S. Constitution. Both the rabbi and the Supreme Court justice are looking at a document they lack the power to amend. The rabbi is looking at the Torah, while the justice is looking at the Constitution. Both are faced with a problem that is not specifically discussed in the document they are consulting, and thus both are attempting to solve their problem through a process of creative interpretation.

Let us first look at the Supreme Court justice. He is facing a document that was drawn up by people who tolerated slavery, who abhorred abortion, who had no notion of racial discrimination or of prisoner/offender rights. Yet Supreme Court justices have found a basis in the Constitution to outlaw slavery, allow abortion, crush racial discrimination and to develop a whole plethora of offender rights. They did this by applying their own values, and by interpreting the words of the Constitution so that their notions would fit the words. This is an ongoing process that is carried on with universal approval. No one really believes that the Constitution intended any of this.

The reason for tolerating this seemingly callous approach is obvious. It is extremely difficult to amend the Constitution, and therefore it must be stretched to accommodate the changing values of society or thrown on the scrap heap. No one wants to abandon it, and therefore everyone is forced to accept the creative judicial approach as the best alternative.

This is the diametric opposite of what the rabbi does. The rabbi looks at the Torah and tries to figure out what the Torah would say about a problem or question at hand. He tries to negate his own values and preconceived notions. In his worldview, there are no values other than Torah values. The purpose of studying the Torah is to learn how to bend one's will and beliefs to conform to the shape of the Torah's dictates, not the other way around.

The rabbi does not look for the solution he would offer and then makes it fit the words of the Torah. He attempts to find the Torah solution and fit himself and his world into the Torah's framework. His most devout wish when facing a problem that requires Torah interpretation is to be emptied of all his beliefs and pre-conceived notions so that he can face the problem armed only with his training and skill in the methodology of the proper interpretation of Torah passages.


The amount of success in attaining this state of objectivity is directly proportional to the degree of humility possessed by the rabbi. It is the quality of humility that allows a person to accept the opinion of another as true even when such an opinion flies against the face of his most cherished notions.

It is not by coincidence that Moses, the greatest rabbi of all time, is also described by the Torah as being the most humble human being in all of human history:

Now the man Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

Jewish tradition teaches that since the Torah is eternal and this verse can be read as applying to the world of the present by any reader in any generation, in effect the Torah is stating that Moses is the humblest person in human history.

When people of intelligence apply themselves to a task with such dedication, it is hardly surprising that they succeed. If a person is honestly searching for what the Torah has to say about an issue and is willing to accept what he discovers without judgment or reservation, he is indeed very likely to reach the desired result and be able to learn just what the Torah's opinion is -- in actuality. This is how the Oral Law can be considered of equal weight with the Written Law. The assumption is made that the rabbis actually manage to discover successfully the true intent of the Torah in all the issues they discuss.


Now we ask the second question: Why should God have employed rabbis to transmit His message even if they prove to be a reliable conduit? Why not say everything He wanted to tell us Himself?

Once again let us look at actuality before consulting theory.

God issued many directives in His Torah in the plainest possible language. Yet practically all those people who accept the Divine origin of the Written Law but who do not accept the authority of the Oral Law totally reject a lot of God's directives as being no longer applicable.

But how do we explain this? Why is it that intelligent, well-meaning people who accept the Divine origin of God's Torah fail to take its plainly written dictates seriously?

The answer is again to be found by looking at the Constitution. Any written document is merely an object. It is not alive and it cannot develop and grow. The Constitution only lives in the minds of the people who read it and live it. As a document it is not alive and is unable to adapt whereas people are alive and are constantly changing; no document can survive for long without the necessary alterations that allow it to conform with the changes in people and the situations they find themselves in. This was precisely the reason why the creative approach to the Constitution was developed.

But the Torah is different.


God wanted to give us a living Torah. Solomon writes about the Torah:

It is a tree of life for those who grasp it (Proverbs 3:18)

No "document" is a tree of life. The Torah can only be alive if the words that emerge from the hearts and minds of living human beings are also words of Torah. The correct way to regard the Oral Law according to Jewish tradition is not to see it as being merely the authoritative interpretation of the Written Law. The Oral Law is Torah itself.

Whoever does not subscribe to this view will inevitably come to the conclusion that the words of God are out of date even if he accepts their Divine origin. For he argues, quite reasonably -- in the absence of the Oral Law -- that the Torah is a document that was given to us by God over 3,000 years ago. The world has changed an enormous amount over this length of time, but the words of the Written Law have not. Thus a document that could have been very reasonable and progressive in the world of 3,000 years ago is bound to be full of provisions that cannot be regarded as applicable to the world of today.

To have an eternal living Torah there must be a blend of two things:

1) There must be a written text so that we have with us the words of God, but this written text cannot be allowed to become a dead letter. It must be allowed to expand and grow and answer new questions that are thrust upon us by the demands of a changing world.

2) The words of the rabbis must also be Torah. However, we do not want rabbis pushing their own opinions into God's text. We want rabbis who have internalized God's words and live them to such an extent, that it is God's words that issue from their lips rather than their own notions and beliefs.


We are all familiar with the saying of the Zohar, the chief work of the Kabbalah, that God "consulted the Torah and created the world." As the Torah includes the Oral Law, this statement means that God consulted not only His own words when he shaped reality, but also made sure that created reality would conform to the opinions of the rabbis who shaped the unfolding Oral Law.

This is what the Midrash has to say about the introductory words to the Ten Commandments:

Even the questions that the serious student will ask his rabbi were relayed to Moses at that time. (Tanchuma, Ki Tisa, 17)

Jewish tradition teaches that this does not mean that God told Moses the actual questions that these students will ask, but rather that all serious questions raised by people learning Torah at any age were already included in God's message. For God gave us a living Torah. As such, every Jew is able to receive his own special portion of God's message that was meant from the first moment of the giving of the Torah at Sinai to be deciphered only by him.

Every blessing is an attempt to reshape reality in certain directions. Reality is always shaped around the words of the Torah. Jacob's blessings when they were uttered had the same influence as a prayer -- they required God's intercession to work. The blessings themselves had no power to reshape reality until they were included in the words of Torah and became Torah itself.

But the words of Moses' blessing, although they also issued from his own mind and his own heart were already words of Torah when they were uttered. For Moses was our greatest rabbi and when he issued a Torah statement his words had the authority of the Oral Law behind them.


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