The grand finale Torah portion (Parashat V’zot Habracha ) begins with these words:
“And this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death… the LORD came from Sinai… From His right hand… Came a fiery law for them…Yes… Everyone receives Your words.” (Deuteronomy 33)
The holiday of Sukkot marks the completion of the traditional yearly cycle of reading the entire Torah (first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible). This portion seals the book of Deuteronomy. Immediately afterwards, a new cycle of reading the Torah starts as we begin again in Genesis 1.
The final Torah portion from Deuteronomy 33 begins with the words of Moses’ parting from his people. It is a Goodbye, from a place of blessing, out of a sense of well-being and provision, just like a grandfather taking leave of his children and grandchildren at a ripe old age. Here we have a last will and testament of a spiritual father to his people. Here we see Moses complete his earthly journey in a dramatic moment, just as the people complete their 40-year journey through the wilderness.
At first, Moses’ words are directed to Israel as a whole, and then he addresses each and every tribe. It is very reminiscent of how Jacob blessed these same tribes in Genesis 49. Jacob addressed each and every son separately. And now these sons have become tribes. And these tribes have together become a people, a nation. The nation is about to cross over into its land, about to come home. This Torah portion ends with the death of Israel’s greatest leader, the man who spoke with God face-to-face (Deuteronomy 34:10) and guided this people toward the way of life.
What now? Is this the end? Do we stay with Moses outside of the Promised Land and mourn his death? Where is the happy ending?
In the Torah, unlike a classic Hollywood movie, there is no perfectly happy ending. In fact there is no end at all. We finish the last verses of Deuteronomy, and immediately return to the beginning of Genesis, to re-engage. Forever and ever. That which has been is what will be (Eccl. 1:9).
So symbolic. So eternal. So infinite. Moses finishes. Moses starts.
Each time we read, suspense builds, even though we know exactly what will happen. There will be chaos and darkness, and there will be light and creation will begin. And everything will be “re-embodied” again before our eyes. Every year anew, everything is new… new every morning.
Each time we have to say goodbye, we experience parting again. Love is always new. Every birth and every death. And all of us, no matter where we are, just like the children of Israel, are commanded to start anew every day.
Be strong and courageous! Awaken with hope to hear the voice of God speaking into the darkness, and to start afresh.
And every time we read Genesis is different from its predecessor. Our perspectives slowly grow and change. Even as we read the same words, they seem to change along with us. Every day the sun is new, a “different kind of same.” Finished but not yet the end of the story.
I, for my part, wish to send each of you a congratulatory blessing today, for renewed action and good deeds. May you feel renewal pulsating in your life, filling your day, leading you in your calling, in your destiny. May you live fully, in the present, with passion, focusing on each moment. May you look and say, like God did, “It is very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Wishing us all a very happy next 12 months in the Bible. May the words of God make our hearts beat, and may every reading open our eyes and our souls to see exactly what we need to see right now.
“And this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death…
the LORD came from Sinai
And dawned on them from Seir;
He shone forth from Mt. Paran,
And He came with ten thousands of saints;
From His right hand,
Came a fiery law for them.
Yes, He loves the people [the nations].
All His saints are in Your hand;
They sit down at Your feet;
Everyone receives Your words.” (Deuteronomy 33:1-3)