VeZot ha’Berachah -- Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

193337Rabbi A.J. Heschel (1907-1972) once remarked:

Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn...

Time is what matters in our lives; it is through the Jewish calendar that we embody Jewish life and identity. It is precisely through the appointed time or moadim on the Jewish calendar that we are enabled to define our Jewish lives. Abiding in the sukkah, taking hold of the four species, and the thrice annual pilgrimage festivals to the Jerusalem Temple during Passover, Feast of Weeks, and Booths make a deep impression.

When we “rejoice in the Torah” during Simchat Torah, we simultaneously conclude and begin anew the annual Torah-reading cycle. Firstly, we read the Torah section of Vezot Haberachah, recounting the Mosaic blessing bestowed upon each of the twelve tribes of Israel before Moses' death. Echoing Jacob's blessings to his twelve sons five generations earlier, Moses empowers each tribe with its individual role within the Israelite community. Vezot Haberachah then relates how Moses ascended Mount Nebo to its summit, taking a peek at the Promised Land without ever entering into it. Moses’ burial place to this day remains unknown and the Torah concludes by attesting that:

Never again did there arise a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom G-d knew face to face... and in all the mighty hand and the great, awesome things which Moses did before the eyes of all Israel.

When we truly value the sacral power of time, every moment is a sacred encounter in the making.

- Rabbi Glazer

Image credit: "Moses viewing the Promised Land from Mount Nebo," by Robert Dowling, 1879