- Rabbi Avraham Gordimer
Parshas V'Zos Ha-Berachah/Simchas Torah - Maintaining the Intensity
The introductory section of Parshas V'Zos Ha-Berachah would appear at first glance to glaringly omit some critical information. In presenting Hashem's historical relationship with B'nei Yisroel and their endearment to Him, the parshah commences with Mattan Torah (the Giving of the Torah at Sinai) and the affinity and allegiance of the Jewish People to Hashem as exhibited at that event. Why does the parshah not instead commence with the true origins of the relationship between Hashem and B'nei Yisroel, starting with Avrohom Avinu and the other Avos and Imahos (Patriarchs and Matriarchs)? Why is that critical, primary stage in the historical relationship between Hashem and the Jewish People omitted?
In order to answer this question, let’s consider the section of the parshah immediately following the berachos bestowed by Moshe Rabbeinu upon each individual Shevet (Tribe), wherein the parshah highlights Hashem’s infinite distance and superiority above even the most powerful beings in the physical universe (per Rashi on 33:27), while at the same time portraying His extreme closeness with B’nei Yisroel. Why are the two concepts of Hashem’s transcendence regarding the universe at large and his immanence regarding B’nei Yisroel contrasted at this juncture? Or, stated otherwise, what is the factor responsible for Hashem’s extreme closeness with B’nei Yisroel?
The answer is the Torah, for it is due to and via the Torah that Hashem established an intimate and pronounced relationship with His people. The event of Mattan Torah was not only unprecedented in terms of its conspicuous drama, divine public communication and open miracles; rather, the bold revelation and stark intimacy initiated by Hashem at Mattan Torah with B’nei Yisroel was the start of a unique relationship that would eternally be marked by a special closeness and a supernatural bond between Hashem and His people. Unlike the Patriarchal Period, in which the relationship between Hashem and Jewish People was private and largely concealed, the relationship manifest at Mattan Torah was eminently public and revealed.
At Sinai and during its aftermath, B’nei Yisroel experienced the Shechinah (Divine Presence) in an unrivaled fashion. One could experience the Shechinah as well on a perpetual basis at the Beis Ha-Mikdash (Temple), and we are told by the Gemara that “Ever since the Beis Ha-Mikdash was destroyed, Hashem only has in His world the four amos (cubits) of Halacha”. (R. Chiya bar Ami in the name of ‘Ula - Berachos 8a) It is through Torah that one draws close to Hashem and experiences His Presence, and it is through Torah that Hashem established and eternally maintains His intimate relationship with B’nei Yisroel.
This is the answer as to why the parshah’s depiction of the historical relationship of Hashem and His people commences with Mattan Torah, for the open contrast between Hashem’s transcendence regarding the universe and His immanence regarding B’nei Yisroel is due to the Torah. It is Torah that serves as the context and conduit for the Shechinah to be manifest amidst the Jewish People; Torah is the core and centerpiece of the intimate relationship between Hashem and His nation. The Avos and Imahos established our beliefs and values, and through them was a private foundational connection with Hashem initiated; however, the open and intense relationship with Hashem, in which the Shechinah resides publicly among the nation, is a function of Torah and commenced at Sinai.
The Torah's powerful association with the manifestation of the Shechinah and the sensation of being intimately close with Hashem is the factor that connects Parshas V'Zos Ha-Berachah with Simchas Torah - for after the Jew has spent the weeks of Elul, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur intimately close with Hashem, and he has spent a week in the sukkah, which represents the Beis Ha-Mikdash/locus of encountering the Shechinah, through Torah does he take hold of that which can intensely connect him with Hashem’s Presence the entire year going forward. Parshas V'Zos Ha-Berachah encapsulates the theme of Hashem’s animated closeness to B’nei Yisroel via the Torah; we seize upon this crucial motif as we leave the period of special closeness with Hashem and declare that we can maintain the closeness throughout the new year by immersing ourselves in the Torah and holding fast to it.
May we merit to rejoice this Simchas Torah and every Simchas Torah with an awareness of Hashem’s Presence and a realization of His Presence being continually accessible and apprehended close-up through Torah.