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Shmini Atzeret
Leadership will only succeed when there is unity Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 October 2023

Parshat VeZot HaBracha (Dvarim 33:1) begins with the words:

This is the blessing that Moshe, the man of God, blessed B’nai Yisrael before his death.

The Netziv, in his commentary HaEmek Dvar comments that B’nai Yisrael were already blessed by Yaakov Avinu and Bilam, but this was the greatest blessing of all.

In this blessing (Dvarim 33:5) Moshe gives the tribes the secret for the kingdom of Israel’s success:

There was a king in Yeshurun, when the heads of the people gathered, the tribes of Yisrael together.

What is “Yeshurun”?

The Netziv explains that the power of B’nai Yisrael getting together is called “Yeshurun” as they merit a king when they join together.

Sifri adds: When Israel are of one council below, God’s great name is exalted above.

According to Or HaChaim:

In order for a king to be legally crowned in Israel, he must be approved by a popular assembly, including the heads of the people. This rule is spelled out in Tosephta Sanhedrin 83, that only the Supreme Court of 71 judges is authorized to appoint a king. Moshe referred to this rule when he mentioned the “heads of the people”. When Moshe added “the tribes of Yisrael together,” he referred to a national assembly of the people approving of such a choice.

Or HaChaim continues:

The kingdom of Israel will only endure if the heads of the people assemble together (keep the peace amongst themselves) not if the leaders of the people are split. If the leaders are split, the tribes themselves will not be able to maintain their unity. A look at Jewish history shows that as long as the people were united under David and Shlomo, the king and the nation were extremely successful. However, as soon as a split developed, the fortunes of the Jewish people took a turn for the worse.

Rav David Avraham Spector points out that in the year 1948, when there was an internal fight in Israel and the nation was divided, Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook wrote:

We should choose what unites us which is more important than what divides us…In that way we can try to understand each other and speak together and this will bring peace between us and will bring us success and glory.

This message is not new but it needs to be heard especially now. Leadership in Israel will only succeed when we have unity.

The Sequel Print E-mail
Monday, 05 October 2020

On Simchat Torah, we complete the yearly cycle of reading the entire Five Books of the Torah and then we immediately begin the new course by starting again with Breisheet.

At the end of VeZot HaBracha, while hearing about Moshe’s accomplishments, his death outside of the Land of Israel and the entire nation mourning for him for thirty days, we learn about the continuation of the leadership which was passed down to Yehoshua.

As we read in Dvarim 34:9:

And Yehoshua Bin Nun was filled with a spirit of wisdom because Moshe had rested his hands on him; B’nai Yisrael listened to him and acted as God had commanded Moshe.

B’nai Yisrael were already familiar with Yehoshua, Moshe’s loyal servant. He was instrumental in the war on Amalek and brought back a good report of the Land of Israel in the incident of the scouts.

Although the Five Books of the Torah have been completed, we are not left hanging. The Haftarah for Simchat Torah (Yehoshua, Chapter 1) takes us right into the beginning of the Book of Yehoshua which speaks about B’nai Yisrael entering, conquering, inheriting and settling the Land of Israel and picks up where we left off at the end of VeZot HaBracha:

It happened after the death of Moshe, servant of God, that God said to Yehoshua Bin Nun, Moshe’s attendant saying: “Moshe, My servant has died. Now, arise, cross this Jordan, you and this entire people, to the Land that I will give to them, to B’nai Yisrael. Every place upon which the sole of your foot will tread I have given to you, as I spoke to Moshe...Be strong and courageous for it is you who will cause this people to inherit the Land that I have sworn to their fathers to give to them…This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; rather you should contemplate it day and night in order that you observe to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful, and then you will act wisely…”

According to Rav Yisachar Yakovson, the Torah and Haftarah readings teach an important lesson to the generation that is entering the Land of Israel and to all future generations: The leaders of the nation, even the greatest of them are all mortal and move on while the Torah remains and helps the nation carry on even after the leader is gone. Moshe passed away, but the Torah of Moshe is a living Torah which endures forever.

Three Expressions of Happiness Print E-mail
Sunday, 07 October 2007

The midrash in Yalkut Shimoni, Emor, points out that in reference to the holiday of Sukkot, we find three forms of happiness listed in the Torah:

“v’samachta b’chagecha”, “you shall rejoice on your festival” (Devarim 17:14)

“v’hayita ach sameach”, “you shall be completely joyous” (Devarim 17:15)

“v’samachtem lifnei HaShem Elokeichem shivat yamim”, “you shall rejoice before HaShem your God for a seven-day period” (Vayikra 23:40)

In reference to Pesach we don’t even find one reference to “simcha”, happiness. In the case of Shavuot, happiness is mentioned only one time:

“v’asita chag Shavuot l’HaShem elokecha… v’samachta…”, “you shall observe the festival of Shavuot for HaShem your God…and you shall rejoice…”

Rabbi Moshe Hurvitz comments that on Pesach, the festival of freedom, the word “simcha” is not mentioned since freedom on its own has no value. Freedom only has value when it is coupled with the Torah, a system of morals, ethics and spirituality. The Torah was given on Shavuot, therefore the reference to Shavuot includes the word “simcha”. The word “simcha” was only used once the happiness was complete. As the expression goes, “im ein kemach ein Torah”, “if there is no flour then there is no Torah”.

On the holiday of Sukkot we gather in our harvest, we have the “kemach”, the material side as well. There will only be true happiness when we combine the “kemach” with the Torah.

Many people choose to live in Israel because of the Land’s holiness and spirituality. However, studying Torah is not enough. In order to survive, people must have the opportunity to work in order to be able to put food on their tables. If jobs could be found for all those who are seeking work, then the issue of poverty in Israel would greatly be reduced and Israel would be an even happier place, not just on the holidays, but all year long!