Torah Portion: V’Zot HaBracha (And This Blessing) D’Varim (Deuteronomy) 33-34
Tonight we study the last Torah Portion of the year. It is the final speech of Moshe to the people before he goes up on the mountain to die. When we read his words it is touching to see that even in this last hour before his death his main concern is for the people and their new leader, not of himself.
In this section we read where he blesses each of the tribes, much like Ya’acov did on his death bed. In fact, I want us to look at a few verses from his blessing that should give us insight into how the Father sees us and our place in the body.
Before I get to that I want to share some thoughts with you from an article I read this week by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks concerning the murder of two Jewish people in Israel this week. In case you have not heard, on Thursday, a family of six was ambushed on a road in Samaria. The mother and father were murdered before the eyes of their children ages 4 months to 9 years. The nine year old son had to say Kadesh over the graves of his parents on Friday. This horrendous event occurred on the same day of the massacre of the people in Oregon. Both of these leave us with questions. How could this happen? How, why did G-d allow it? We may never know the full answer to that question. In the end all we can do is mourn the loss and pray for the ones affected.
Here in our reading Moshe faces his own death. Just in last week’s reading he urged the people to choose life, choose the blessing not the curse. Why did he even have to say such a thing? The answer can be found in the book of Ecclesiastes. When we read this book there is a reoccurring word found. In English it is usually read as vanity. In fact in the second verse we see this word 5 times. The problem is, this is not the main meaning of the word. In Hebrew the word is “hevel” which means a shallow breath, a fleeting breath. It hints to the fragileness of life. All that separates the living from the dead is a breath.
This same word was the name of Adam and Chavah’s first child. In English it is Abel, but in Hebrew the name is Hevel, exactly the same as the word used in Ecclesiastes. He is our example of how frail life is. That is really all we are; hevel, mere breath, but it is G-d’s breath that He breathed into us when we were born.
If you remember (Able) Hevel’s brother Cain killed him. Cain’s name in Hebrew means to possess or to own. These two boys give us a hint at the message of Ecclesiastes. The rush, the drive to acquire, to amass material possessions, to own leads to conflict. I want what you have! G-d’s word has a solution to this problem. According to scripture, we own nothing. Everything belongs to the Father. We are merely the guardians of what He has entrusted to us.
Cain means, “I am what I own, what I have gives me power.” His life was a picture of his name. Hevel’s name tells us we are mere breath and even that breath is G-d’s breath that He gives us each day. In Ecclesiastes we see Solomon pursuing everything, more wives, more money, land. At the end he finds peace in the simple things, those things G-d entrusted to him. Our world will continue its drive to be powerful, to own, to oppress until and if we can see the point is not what we have but who we are. May G-d grant us the wisdom to see our lives through His eyes and what He holds to be the most important – His breath.
Now a word about our Torah section: I asked you to look at Deut. 33:18. This is a verse about the blessing of G-d for the tribes of Zubulun and Issachar. It is the only time Moses lumps two tribes together in the same verse. In it we read where Moses says to Zubulun to rejoice in their going out. This language is used to say they would be involved in commerce, trade and material things. Issachar however, would be in tents. When we see this idea in Torah it usually means someone who stays close to home and spends their time studying and teaching. So the question comes, “Why did Moses put them together in the same verse?” Maybe he put them together to show us that both have their role and that they support each other. Zubulun would contribute to Issachar’s needs so Issachar could study and teach. The point being, we all have our role, our place in the body. Our challenge is to find that place and do it the best we can. What our role is is between us and the Father, none is better or worse than the other. We all work together for the good of the body. That was the point here and the point Paul makes in the New Testament. This thought goes back to Ecclesiastes. We are to be content with our role and the breath G-d has given us.