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Simchat Torah (5764)

Every Simchat Torah we dance with the Torah and read the 'Zot HaBracha' (the last Shabbat reading in the Torah) in the daytime Synagogue prayer.

This is unusual for two reasons.

Firstly, the Torah is a serious and complicated book. If this day is dedicated to rejoicing with the Torah we should put more emphasis to its deep wisdom and Divine intellect. THAT is the greatness of the Torah and the Jews "a wise, understanding nation" (Deut. 4:6)It seems a bit disgraceful to just dance with it the entire holiday! Why don't we sit down and learn it on such an auspicious occasion?

Secondly, The Torah is divided into chapters each of which is read on a different Shabbot. But 'Zot HaBracha' is the exception. Because it is read on Simchat Torah whether if falls on Shabbat or not, it becomes the ONLY Torah portion that is not read on a Sabbath.

The problem can easily be solved by reading a special holiday Torah portion as in all the other holidays and leaving Zot HaBRacha for Shabbat? What is the special connection between Zot HaBracha and Simchat Torah?

To understand this here is a short story told by the third Rebbe of Chabad; the Tzemach Tzedik (1789 - 1866)

The Rabbi of a certain city was a great Talmudic Scholar. Because, however, the funding of the local Yeshiva (Talmudic academy) was also his responsibility he had to travel several times a year to collect money from Jewish businessmen in neighboring towns.

But he never had any trouble. His reputation went before him and wherever he visited he was treated with great honor and given handsome donations.

But it so happened that on one of his journeys he lost his way and shortly before nightfall, when the Holy Shabbat would begin, he found himself in an isolated village where not one Jew was to be found.

What miserable luck! Now he would have no opportunity to pray with Jews, be with Jews and certainly he would not hear the Torah reading. He headed for the nearest inn, paid for a room and asked for two candles to light to fulfill the commandment of lighting Shabbat Candles. Before he lit them he went into a corner and prayed the afternoon 'Mincha' prayer with weeping and a broken heart.

His only consolation was that he had brought along a prayer book and a volume of the Talmud. "Actually", he thought to himself "maybe this is a blessing in disguise; here I'll be able to learn uninterruptedly for the entire Shabbat! Anywhere else there would be interruptions!"

Then, just as he was about to light the candles a fine carriage pulled up in front of the inn, a well-dressed man came out, entered the inn and sat down in one of the chairs to rest.

Meanwhile our Rabbi lit the candles and when he noticed that the visitor was staring at the flames he began a conversation.

The visitor turned out to be a Jew that, like so many of his brethren, had left the practices of his fore-fathers and was now on the way to some business meeting.

Our Rabbi suggested that he remain for the Shabbat and when he said he was in a hurry, just stopped to rest and wasn't interested anyway, the Rabbi began explaining the greatness of the Shabbat and the wonders of Judaism in general.

Suddenly the man changed; he looked interested and even asked a few questions. The Rabbi had never really met anyone quite so confused as this fellow and to his amazement every time there was a pause he didn't get up and leave. Perhaps he was going to stay!

The entire Shabbat the Rabbi forgot about his Talmud and occupied himself only with this stranger; telling him stories, teaching him Torah and answering his questions. The rich man seemed to really enjoy every moment, listened to every word of the Rabbi and finally opened up, telling him his problems and asking for advice.

And his work bore fruit. The stranger remained the entire Shabbat and afterward announced that he was willing to travel back to the Rabbi's home town to return to Judaism.

When the Rabbi saw that he had such an effect on another Jew it aroused him to the essence of his heart; it was the first time he had ever done such a thing. Previously he was sure that the only way to truth was self-improvement and purification. Suddenly he felt that improving others is even more pure. This stirred him to a new sort of devotion to HaShem and His Torah.

He revealed that helping another Jew can be higher than the Torah itself.

And that is what this holiday stresses; that the JEWS are HAPPY and dance with not just the wisdom of the Torah but we 'raise' the Torah itself. In fact we can give it 'legs' and even make it dance!

And that is why it is so important to read Zot HaBracha. Because its final sentence, the last sentence in the Torah, is G-d praising Moses for breaking the tablets (see the last Rashi)!

Now, usually Torah readings end on a positive note. It is unusual for any Torah portion to end with a negative sentence, how much more here: the ENTIRE Torah ends with a sentence about how Moses BROKE the ENTIRE TORAH!

But in reality it is not bad at all. The reason Moses broke the Holy Tablets was in order to save the Jewish people after they sinned with the Golden Calf.

So Moses was showing the same point as what the Rabbi in our story discovered; the Jews (even the worst sinners) are essentially 'above' the Torah to the degree that G-d even praised him for breaking the Tablets to save them

As the Zohar states and is explained beautifully in Chassidut Chabad: The Jews and G-d are ONE.

The real purpose of the Torah is only to enhance and stress this ONEness and bring it into revelation in the world, (as we say in the 'Alenu' prayer thrice daily) and that will occur only with the arrival of Moshiach and the Raising of the dead.

Which is also indicated in 'Zot HaBracha' as Rashi explains on sentence 34:2; "G-d showed Moses everything that would happen to ISRAEL until the Raising of the Dead."

May this Simchat Torah give us the power, joy and Bracha (blessing) to really reveal the true essence of Judaism within us. Then, whatever we do, even one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring

Moshiach NOW!!!

Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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