Torah – Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12 Haftarah – “Joshua 1:1-18 Brit Chadashah – Revelation 22:1-5
V’zot Haberakhah (and this blessing) is the final parasha (portion) in our year long focus on the words of Torah. It is a fairly brief portion that really speaks volumes more than meets the eye.
Moshe (Moses) is about to die. The L-RD allows Moshe to speak blessings upon the people, then he is taken upon the mountain and is shown the Promised Land, then is taken home. After his death, the L-RD takes and buries him in a location that to this day is not known to man.
My focus on this week’s portion really is just to show how it is not the end of our study, but it is another link in the circular chain that is Torah. As if to show that the end of Torah is actually the beginning, there is a special link to the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Bereshit (Genesis). There are other links of which we will look at one more, but to see this first one you have to look at the Hebrew words “Israel” and Bereshit”.’
The last letter in Yisra’el is the lamed. The first letter in Bereshit is the Beit. Lamed beit form the word leb, which is Hebrew for heart! The sages point out that this is no coincidence but rather HaShem (YHVH) showing us that his heart is Torah. Or another way to say it is to say that he is showing us his heart through Torah.
We also know that death is an illusion as shown in earlier parashot. This is why the Priests were not allowed to have contact with the dead. Our apparent death on this side of reality is really just our stepping over, or our birth into the world to come. This is depicted in the death of Moshe leading directly to Bereshit (In the beginning). This is not a flashback, so to speak, but rather a continuation. This is why at the end of Sukkot and the completion of the reading of Deuteronomy, we immediately begin reading Bereshit so that we experience this immediate new creation or birth as part of Simkah Torah (joy of Torah.)
Let’s go now and take a look at the Haftarah portion in Joshua. Before we do, I want to remind you of the words of Rabbi Cliff. You will recall that he has taught that every word in Torah is extremely important. So, if we see something repeated two or more times, it is critical that we slow down and pay attention to what is being said as there are no wasted words in Torah!
Joshua 1:6-9, “Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the L-RD your G-d [is] with you wherever you go.” (NKJV)
Be strong and of good courage, or in other words, be courageous! We see this basic instruction repeated three times in three verses, back-to-back.
Joshua, in a moment has gone from being the servant of Moshe to the servant of the L-RD! That is quite the promotion. We see the first time he is being instructed how to think and behave with regards to leading the people. In this instruction, we know the reason is because the L-RD is indeed with him and therefore he has nothing to fear.
“ONLY be strong…” We see in verse 7 that the word only is added to the command. It is as if we are being cautioned to focus! We cannot be strong and courageous if we give ourselves to entertaining fearful or any other contrary thought pattern to what we have been commanded to do. Another thing to point out in verse 7 is that this time we are not seeing Joshua, and therefore we as well are being instructed to be fearless, strong leaders of people but we are being instructed to exhibit strength and courage in following the Torah, the law or instructions that Moshe gave us on behalf of the L-RD! The success of the mission is dependent upon strict adherence to the Mitzvah or commands. It is in this lifestyle, if you will, that we then experience success.
Verse 8 is reminiscent of Psalm chapter one. We are told that these words shall not depart out of our mouth. The results of such living is retold to be success and prosperity.
Then immediately in verse 9 we are reminded to be strong and of good courage! I think this speaks to our human tendencies to have wandering minds and wandering eyes. I can almost picture Joshua, or even us today, hearing these words from the L-RD, and being built up for a moment. Then upon hearing how we are to keep ALL the commands perhaps our thoughts wander and we begin to doubt our ability to fulfill such a monumental task. Or maybe we are fearful that we won’t be able to live up to the expectations G-d has laid out before us. Then, a loving Father who is watching the countenance of his beloved child fall even as he was finishing his instructions stops and reminds him of the initial charge to be strong and courageous. For it was for this very reason these words were spoken in the first place!
As we finish Torah and immediately begin again may we all remember the charge to be strong and of good courage. The Father has not given us a task so great that we cannot accomplish it. Alone that may be true. But, we are not alone, we have the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) here to help us in our weakness, to illuminate the Word and encourage us to stay upon the right path.
May we all strive to have a prosperous new year in our Torah studies and may it manifest in every area of our lives!
Chazak Chazak ve’nit Chazek Be strong! Be strong! And may we be Encouraged ! Shalom!