D'var Torah for Simchat Torah
2000This Saturday at sundown, we celebrate Simchat Torah, the "Joy of Torah." It is one of the happiest moments of the Jewish year, when we read the last words of Deuteronomy, then begin immediately again to read the first words of Genesis. Yet, the last chapters of Torah are bittersweet, as Moses prepares to die, and the Jewish people to move on without him. Several weeks ago, as Torah is coming to a close, we read:
A Time for Rejoicing? Yes
14. And YHWH said to Moses, behold, your days approach that you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Meeting, that I may instruct him. Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the Tent of Meeting.
15. YHWH appeared in the Tent, in a pillar of cloud, the pillar of cloud having come to rest at the entrance of the tent.
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What does it mean when God tells Moses, "your days approach that you must die?" Why do you think that God says it that way? How would it feel to watch another person take over what you had worked so hard to create?
Deuteronomy Rabbah 9:2
"And YHWH said to Moses, behold, your days approach that you must die."
This bears out what Scripture says:
I have further observed under the sun that
The race is not won by the swift,
Nor the battle by the valiant;
Nor is bread won by the wise,
Nor wealth by the intelligent,
Nor favor by the learned.
For the time of mischance (death) comes to all.
The verse refers to Moses... yesterday he knew how to appease his Creator... but God finally said to him: Behold "your days approach."
These days we may see our students feeling the way the author of these verses of Ecclesiastes felt. Disappointment. Hopelessness. We watch with horror and confusion the violence in Israel between Israelis and Palestinians. Some of our students may feel that a once promising peace process is now in peril. That Israel, once a proud leader, is now being replaced by Israel, the attacked, Israel the attacker. Will our homeland be replaced by something that we never imagined it to be?
And simultaneously, at Simchat Torah, we read the last lines of Torah with sadness for what never was -- for Moses, who never reached the Promised Land he had worked hard to attain. And then, without hesitation, we renew ourselves. We read once again the words of Bereshit, Genesis. We renew our faith in new beginnings. Once again, we agree to participate in the awesome nature of the world. Always moving toward peace, toward creation, toward "tikkun olam," repairing the world. May the words of Torah inspire us once again away from violence and hopelessness. May the words of Torah renew for us again the desire for creation, faith and acts of peace in this new year, 5761.
Prepared by Rabbi Andrea Lerner, Midwest Director of Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, University of Wisconsin, Madison