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Deuteronomy 33:1–34:12

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Parshat Vezot Hab'rachah
Friday, 23 Tishrei, 5778
13 October, 2017
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1st Portion: (Deuteronomy 33:1-7)

Deuteronomy Chapter 33

1And this is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel [just] before his death.   אוְזֹ֣את הַבְּרָכָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר בֵּרַ֥ךְ משֶׁ֛ה אִ֥ישׁ הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לִפְנֵ֖י מוֹתֽוֹ:
And this is the blessing… [just] before his death: Very close to the time of his death. — [see Sifrei 33: 1] “For, if not now, when?”   וזאת הברכה, לפני מותו: סמוך למיתתו שאם לא עכשיו אימתי:
2He said: "The Lord came from Sinai and shone forth from Seir to them; He appeared from Mount Paran and came with some of the holy myriads; from His right hand was a fiery Law for them.   בוַיֹּאמַ֗ר יְהֹוָ֞ה מִסִּינַ֥י בָּא֙ וְזָרַ֤ח מִשֵּׂעִיר֙ לָ֔מוֹ הוֹפִ֨יעַ֙ מֵהַ֣ר פָּארָ֔ן וְאָתָ֖ה מֵרִֽבְבֹ֣ת קֹ֑דֶשׁ מִֽימִינ֕וֹ אֵ֥שׁ דָּ֖ת לָֽמוֹ:
He said: The Lord came from Sinai: Moses initiated his blessing by praising the Omnipresent, and then he addressed the needs of Israel. — [Sifrei 33:2] The praise with which Moses commenced, mentions the merit of Israel. All this was a way of conciliation, as if to say, “These people are worthy that a blessing should rest upon them.”   ויאמר ה' מסיני בא: פתח תחלה בשבחו של מקום ואחר כך פתח בצרכיהם של ישראל. ובשבח שפתח בו יש בו הזכרת זכות לישראל וכל זה דרך ריצוי הוא, כלומר כדאי הם אלו שתחול עליהם ברכה:
came from Sinai: He came out toward them when they came to stand at the foot of the mountain, as a bridegroom goes forth to greet his bride, as it is said, “[And Moses brought the people forth] toward God” (Exod. 19:17). We learn from this, that God came out toward them (Mechilta 19:17).   מסיני בא: יצא לקראתם כשבאו להתיצב בתחתית ההר כחתן היוצא להקביל פני כלה, שנאמר (שמות יט, יז) לקראת האלהים, למדנו שיצא כנגדם:
and shone forth from Seir to them: [Why did He come from Seir?] Because God first offered the children of Esau [who dwelled in Seir] that they accept the Torah, but they did not want [to accept it].   וזרח משעיר למו: שפתח לבני עשו שיקבלו את התורה ולא רצו:
He appeared: to them [Israel]   הופיע: להם:
from Mount Paran: [Why did God then come from Paran?] Because He went there and offered the children of Ishmael [who dwelled in Paran] to accept the Torah, but they [also] did not want [to accept it]. — [A.Z. 2b]   מהר פארן: שהלך שם ופתח לבני ישמעאל שיקבלוה, ולא רצו:
and came: to Israel.   ואתה: לישראל
with some holy myriads: With God were only some of the myriads of His holy angels, but not all of them, nor [even] most of them. This is unlike the manner of a mortal, who displays all the splendor of his riches and his glory on his wedding day. — [Sifrei 33:2]   מרבבת קדש: ועמו מקצת רבבות מלאכי קדש, ולא כולם ולא רובם, ולא כדרך בשר ודם שמראה כל כבוד עשרו ותפארתו ביום חופתו:
a fiery law for them: It was originally written before God in [letters of] black fire upon [a background of] white fire. — [Tanchuma Bereishith 1] He gave it to them on tablets, inscribed, [as it were,] by His right hand [thus it is said here, “from His right hand”]. Another explanation of אֵשׁ דָּת : As the Targum renders it, that He gave it to them from amidst the fire.   אש דת: שהיתה כתובה מאז לפניו באש שחורה על גב אש לבנה, נתן להם בלוחות כתב יד ימינו. דבר אחר אש דת כתרגומו, שנתנה להם מתוך האש:
3Indeed, You showed love for peoples; all his holy ones are in Your hand, for they let themselves be centered at Your feet, bearing Your utterances.   גאַ֚ף חֹבֵ֣ב עַמִּ֔ים כָּל־קְדשָׁ֖יו בְּיָדֶ֑ךָ וְהֵם֙ תֻּכּ֣וּ לְרַגְלֶ֔ךָ יִשָּׂ֖א מִדַּבְּרֹתֶֽיךָ:
Indeed, You showed love for peoples: [God] also displayed great affection to the tribes, each one of whom were known as a people, for only Benjamin was destined to be born when the Holy One, blessed is He, said to Jacob, “A nation and a multitude of nations shall come into existence from you” (Genesis 35:11). [Thus we see that Benjamin alone was called “a nation.” “A multitude of nations” refers to Ephraim and Manasseh. See Rashi on Gen. 35:11, 48:4.]- [Gen. Rabbah 82:4]   אף חבב עמים: גם חבה יתירה חבב את השבטים. כל אחד ואחד קרוי עם, שהרי בנימין לבדו היה עתיד להוולד כשאמר הקב"ה ליעקב (בראשית לה, יא) גוי וקהל גוים יהיה ממך:
all his holy ones are in Your hand: [This refers to] the souls of the righteous, which are hidden away with God, as it is said, “But my lord’s soul shall be bound up in the bundle of life, with the Lord, your God” (I Sam. 25:29). - [Sifrei 33:3]   כל קדשיו בידך: נפשות הצדיקים הגנוזות אתו, כענין שנאמר (שמואל א' כה, כט) והיתה נפש אדוני צרורה בצרור החיים את ה' אלהיך:
for they […] be centered at Your feet: And Israel is indeed worthy of this [privilege to have their souls hidden away with God], because they placed themselves right in the middle (תּוֹךְ) of the bottom of the mountain at Your feet [figuratively speaking] at Sinai. The word תֻּכּוּ is in the passive conjugation, which has the meaning: הִתְוַכּוּ, “They [allowed themselves] to be placed right in the middle (תּוֹךְ)” [of the underside of the mountain], between Your feet.   והם תכו לרגלך: והם ראוים לכך, שהרי תכו עצמן לתוך תחתית ההר לרגלך בסיני. תכו לשון פועלו, הותווכו לתוך מרגלותיך:
bearing Your utterances: They bore upon themselves the yoke of Your Torah. — [Sifrei 33:3]   ישא מדברתיך: נשאו עליהם עול תורתך:
Your Torah: Heb. מִדַּבְּרֹתֶיךָ‏. The mem in it [i.e., in this word] is somewhat of a root letter [rather than a prefix], as in “And he heard the voice speaking (מִדַּבֵּר) to him” (Num. 7:89); and “And I heard what was being spoken (מִדַּבֵּר) to me” (Ezek. 2:2). This form is similar to מִתְדַּבֵּר אֵלַי, [speaking to Himself for me to hear, see Rashi on Num. 7:89]. This too, namely, the word מִדַּבְּרֹתֶיךָ‏, means: “what You were speaking to let me know what to tell the children of Israel.” Tes porparledurs in Old French. Onkelos, however, renders [the phrase יִשָּׂא מִדַּבְּרֹתֶיךָ‏ as: “they traveled (יִשָּׂא like יִסַּע) according to Your commands (דַּבְּרֹתֶיךָ).” Thus, the mem is a servile prefix, with the meaning of מִן, from. [Thus, according to Onkelos, the word מִדַּבְּרֹתֶי‏ךָ literally means, from Your utterances.] Another explanation [of this verse is as follows]: Indeed, You showed love for peoples — even when You displayed Your affection towards the nations of the world, showing them a smiling [friendly] face, and You delivered Israel into their hands,   מדברתיך: המ"ם בו קרוב ליסוד, כמו (במדבר ז, פט) וישמע את הקול מדבר אליו, (יחזקאל ב, ב) ואשמע את קול מדבר אלי, כמו מתדבר אלי, אף זה מדברותיך מה שהיית מדבר להשמיעני לאמר להם. טיי"ש פורפרלידורי"ש בלע"ז [דיבורך]. ואונקלוס תרגם שהיו נוסעים על פי דבריך, והמ"ם בו שמוש משמשת לשון מן. דבר אחר אף חבב עמים אף בשעת חבתם של אומות העולם שהראית להם פנים שוחקות ומסרת את ישראל בידם:
all his holy ones are in Your hand: All Israel’s righteous and good people clung to You; they did not turn away from You, and You guarded them. — [B.B. 8a)]   כל קדשיו בידך: כל צדיקיהם וטוביהם דבקו בך ולא משו מאחריך ואתה שומרם:
for they let themselves be centered at your feet: And they placed themselves right in the middle of, and entered beneath Your [protective] shadow;   והם תכו לרגלך: והם מתמצעים ומתכנסים לתחת צלך:
bearing your utterances: And they gladly accepted Your decrees and Your laws. — [see Tanchuma 5] And these were their words:   ישא מדברתיך: מקבלים גזרותיך ודתותיך בשמחה. ואלה דבריהם:
4The Torah that Moses commanded us is a legacy for the congregation of Jacob.   דתּוֹרָ֥ה צִוָּה־לָ֖נוּ משֶׁ֑ה מֽוֹרָשָׁ֖ה קְהִלַּ֥ת יַֽעֲקֹֽב:
The Torah that Moses commanded us is a legacy for the congregation of Jacob: We have taken hold of it, and we will not forsake it!   תורה: אשר צוה לנו משה מורשה היא לקהלת יעקב, אחזנוה ולא נעזבנה:
5And He was King in Jeshurun, whenever the sum total of the people were gathered, and the tribes of Israel were together,   הוַיְהִ֥י בִֽישֻׁר֖וּן מֶ֑לֶךְ בְּהִתְאַסֵּף֙ רָ֣אשֵׁי עָ֔ם יַ֖חַד שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:
And He was: i.e., the Holy One, blessed is He,   ויהי: הקב"ה:
was King in Jeshurun: i.e., the yoke of God’s sovereignty was always upon them.   בישרון מלך: תמיד עול מלכותו עליהם:
whenever the sum total of the people were gathered: At every gathering of רָאשֵׁי - meaning, whenever their number is gathered. רָאשֵׁי as in the verse,“When you take the count (רֹאשׁ) of the children of Israel” (Exod. 30:12). These people are worthy that I should bless them. Another explanation: When Israel is gathered together in a unified group, and there is peace among them, God is their King-but not when there is strife among them. — [Sifrei 33:5]   בהתאסף: בכל התאסף ראשי חשבון אסיפתם. ראשי, כמו (שמות ל, יב) כי תשא את ראש, ראויין אלו שאברכם. דבר אחר, בהתאסף, בהתאספם יחד באגודה אחת ושלום ביניהם הוא מלכם, ולא כשיש מחלוקת ביניהם:
6May Reuben live and not die, and may his people be counted in the number.   ויְחִ֥י רְאוּבֵ֖ן וְאַל־יָמֹ֑ת וִיהִ֥י מְתָ֖יו מִסְפָּֽר:
May Reuben live: in this world,   יחי ראובן: בעולם הזה:
and not die: in the world-to-come, that the incident involving Bilhah not be remembered against him. — [see Rashi Gen. 35:22; Sifrei 33:6]   ואל ימות: לעולם הבא, שלא יזכר לו מעשה בלהה:
and may his people be counted in the number: May Reuben be counted along with the enumeration of the rest of his brothers. This [matter, that the incident involving Bilhah should not exclude Reuben from being counted together with his brothers] is similar to what is said: “[And Reuben went] and lay with Bilhah… and Jacob’s sons were twelve” (Gen. 35:22), [indicating] that he was not excluded from the number [of Jacob’s sons, on account of this incident].   ויהי מתיו מספר: נמנין במנין שאר אחיו, דוגמא היא זו כענין שנאמר (בראשית לה, כב) וישכב את בלהה ויהיו בני יעקב שנים עשר, שלא יצא מן המנין:
7May this [also be] for Judah." And he [Moses] said, "O Lord, hearken to Judah's voice and bring him to his people; may his hands do battle for him, and may You be a help against his adversaries."   זוְזֹ֣את לִֽיהוּדָה֘ וַיֹּאמַר֒ שְׁמַ֤ע יְהֹוָה֙ ק֣וֹל יְהוּדָ֔ה וְאֶל־עַמּ֖וֹ תְּבִיאֶ֑נּוּ יָדָיו֙ רָ֣ב ל֔וֹ וְעֵ֥זֶר מִצָּרָ֖יו תִּֽהְיֶֽה:
May this [also be] for Judah: He juxtaposed Judah to Reuben, because they both confessed to the wrong they had done, as it is said, “that wise men have told… to them alone… and no stranger passed between them” (Job 15:18-19). [This verse alludes to the confession of Reuben and Judah (“that wise men have told”), and how they were consequently blessed here together (“them alone”); although Levi was next in line chronologically to Reuben, nevertheless here, in the context of this blessing, Levi did not come between them (“no stranger came between them”), but rather, he was blessed immediately afterwards (verses 8-11).]- [see Rashi, Job 15:19] Our Rabbis further explained that during the entire forty years that Israel was in the desert, Judah’s bones were rolling in his coffin, because of the excommunication which he had accepted upon himself [when he took responsibility for Benjamin], as it is said, “If I will not bring him to you… then I have sinned against you all of the days” (Gen. 43:9). [So], Moses said, “Who caused Reuben to [publicly] confess his sin? It was Judah…” (see Sotah 7b) [and thus, by placing Judah together with Reuben, Moses alluded to this merit of Judah, and, in effect, “May the Lord listen to Judah’s voice,” is a prayer that Judah’s bones would finally come to rest].   וזאת ליהודה: סמך יהודה לראובן, מפני ששניהם הודו על קלקול שבידם, שנאמר (איוב טו, יח - יט) אשר חכמים יגידו וגו' להם לבדם וגו' ולא עבר זר בתוכם. ועוד פירשו רבותינו, שכל ארבעים שנה שהיו ישראל במדבר היו עצמות יהודה מתגלגלים בארון מפני נדוי שקבל עליו, שנאמר (בראשית מד, לב) וחטאתי לאבי כל הימים, אמר משה מי גרם לראובן שיודה יהודה וכו':
O Lord, hearken to Judah’s voice: [I.e., Also, hear the prayer of Judah’s descendants:] The prayer of David and Solomon, and the prayer of Asa because of the Ethiopians, and that of Jehoshaphat on account of the Ammonites, and that of Hezekiah because of Sennacherib. — [see Sifrei 33:7]   שמע ה' קול יהודה: תפלת דוד ושלמה ואסא מפני הכושים, ויהושפט מפני העמונים, וחזקיה מפני סנחריב:
and bring him to his people: in peace, from war.   ואל עמו תביאנו: לשלום מפני המלחמה:
his hands will do battle for him: May his hands fight his battle (רִיבוֹ), and may they exact his vengeance.   ידיו רב לו: יריבו ריבו וינקמו נקמתו:
and may You be a help against his adversaries: [Moses here] was praying for [Judah’s descendant] Jehoshaphat, concerning the battle of Ramoth Gilead, [as Scripture states,] “Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him (עֲזָרוֹ)” (II Chron. 18:31). Another explanation:   ועזר מצריו תהיה: על יהושפט התפלל על מלחמת רמות גלעד, (דה"ב יח, לא) ויזעק יהושפט וה' עזרו. דבר אחר ...
O Lord, hearken to Judah’s voice: Here, included within Judah’s blessing, Moses alluded to [and incorporated] a blessing for Simeon [the allusion being in the word שְׁמַע, the very root of שִׁמְעוֹן]. Also [in accordance with this incorporation of Simeon within Judah], when they divided Eretz Israel [among the tribes], Simeon received [his portion] out of the lot of Judah, as Scripture states, “Out of the lot of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon” (Josh. 19:9). - [Sifrei 33:7] Now why did Moses not devote a separate blessing for him? Because he held against him what he had done in Shittim [referring to the sin of Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of the tribe of Simeon (see Num. 25:1-14)]. So it is written in the Aggadah of Psalms. — [Shocher Tov 90]   שמע ה' קול יהודה: כאן רמז ברכה לשמעון מתוך ברכותיו של יהודה, ואף כשחלקו ארץ ישראל נטל שמעון מתוך גורלו של יהודה שנאמר (יהושע יט, ט) מחבל בני יהודה נחלת בני שמעון. ומפני מה לא ייחד לו ברכה בפני עצמו, שהיה בלבו עליו על מה שעשה בשטים, כן כתוב באגדת תהלים:
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