Yes, I know that Sukkos is already over. Sorry, I am simply not ready to get back to the weekly parshah just yet. The month of Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, Shabbos Shuvah, Yom Kippur, preparing for Sukkos, Sukkos, Simchas Beis Hashoeivah, Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeres, tefillas geshem, Simchas Torah… It is no small feat to return to “plain ordinary” life. On the other hand, that is exactly what Hashem wants of us. Moreover, the true test of what the Yamim Tovim did for us —did to us— is, of course, the manner we return to what most of our lives consist of —the routine, the standard, the customary. Are we different, did we gain anything more than pounds or inches to our waistlines? It is told that a Rebbe of mine, Hagaon Harav Mendel Kaplan zt”l, was asked the inevitable question, “Nu, Rebbe, how was Yom Tov?” His answer? “I don’t know, come back to me in about a year and I’ll be able to tell you.” Clearly, Reb Mendel had a definitive grasp of what a Yom Tov is and what is supposed to be accomplished through it.
Let us at least dwell on the last day of Yom Tov, Simchas Torah, on which we rejoiced with the Torah and our accomplishments in learning Torah. This is a universal celebration, encompassing the more learned, the less learned, men, women and children. We rejoice with our communion with the wisdom and ratzon of Hashem, and with our ability to understand it with our human, finite minds and intelligence. Let us delve into this a bit deeper, and try to understand it on a more profound level.
It is really quite interesting that we are so insistent on immediately starting Bereishis after finishing Vezos Haberachah and Sefer Devarim. However, we do so, barely giving the ba’al koreh a chance to catch his breath. We have a Chasan Bereishis, as we have a Chasan Torah. The poem we sing to the Chasan Bereishis when we call him to the Torah speaks darkly in one line of the Satan trying to trip us up in the Heavenly Court if we would dare not start again upon finishing. What is that all about?
Hashem is perfect. That premise is absolutely true by definition, not by happenstance. Which makes it quite peculiar to find as we go through the Torah that —ostensibly— everything He seemed to want to happen —did not! From Adam’s original sin which changed the course of all of history, to Cain’s inability to share a world with just four other people, to the Flood (which apparently has Hashem saying, “Ok, let’s try this again…”), to Bnei Yisrael’s sin at the very giving of the Torah, which resulted in the breaking of the original Tablets of the Ten Commandments resulting in their having to be “re-given.”, to the sin of the spies which irrevocably changed the history of Bnei Yisrael’s entry into their land, the land of Israel… Why is our history so peppered with doing it over again? Why is Hashem’s world always developing through second chances?
The answer lies in the very purpose of the world’s creation. Hashem said, “Na’aseh Adam,” “Let us make man.” This can be interpreted to mean that man actually shares in the creation. It is man’s input, humankind’s struggles, in which Hashem wants to be a partner in the development of history and humankind. We struggle, we attempt, we try, we fail, and we try again. Hashem is interested in the human struggle. Therefore, imperfection is perfect —for it is exactly and precisely what Hashem is looking for— for that indeed is human nature.
We do not have Torah in an ex-post facto situation. Hashem’s world is not a world of ex-post facto. Eretz Yisrael was not obtained in a second-class way. The failures of mankind are in effect their successes —if, of course, they repair that which they have wrought. For such a world manifests the handiwork of humankind, rather than one handed to humankind on a silver platter.
The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 13:8) makes clear that the reading of Vezos Haberachah on Simchas Torah is not simply because that is the end of the Torah and, after all, we are now concluding the Torah and celebrating Simchas Torah. Rather, there is some aspect of parshas Vezos Haberachah that is inyana deyoma —a timely topic, having to do with the celebration of Simchas Torah. What would that be though?
I would suggest that the answer lies in the famous passuk at the beginning of the parshah, “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe, morashah Kehillas Yaakov.” “Moshe Rabbeinu commanded us concerning the Torah; it is a heritage for the Congregation of Jacob.” Rashi provides some context for this verse, explaining that despite the many persecutions, pogroms, expulsions, killings, attempted forced baptisms and all of the other forms of oppression that the Jewish people have endured; we still maintain the Torah, understanding that it is our heritage.
Now, the word morashah is closely related to the word yerushah —an inheritance. And what is a morashah if not an inheritance of sorts? However, the difference between the two is that an inheritance that I have received is mine, and I am free to do with it as I please. A heritage, a morashah, on the other hand, implies that I have something very unique and special to a particular group. Thus, even when I get it, I have a responsibility to future generations to maintain it and treasure it and make sure that it survives me, and is handed over intact to the future. Truly, the Torah is our morashah.
It is truly our Torah; it is ours to treasure, ours to maintain. Na’aseh —we too have a share in the Torah’s existence in this world. We had to go through the ordeal of the Golden Calf to get the luchos sheniyos (the second tablets). We had to survive centuries of persecution… but the reading of Simchas Torah is the statement that the Torah is indeed our morashah —and we have it in our peculiarly human way. We finish it and we immediately start it again. We may never relinquish our diligence in studying it and maintaining it. We have it as our morashah.
This is a truly inspiring and practical message to take with us into the sometimes cruel, sometimes just cold and indifferent world. Something to teach to and a message with which to inspire our children.