Beginnings and endings are significant. This is true in the Torah as well. On Simchat Torah we complete the Torah when we read parshat Vezot Habracha and then begin again with sections of Bereshit. Why celebrate the completion of the Torah reading cycle? And how does this correspond with Rashi’s commentary on the final verse of the Torah?
King Solomon set a precedent for celebrating a “siyum,” completion of a book or the entire Torah. The midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:9) teaches that King Solomon awoke from a dream having acquired great wisdom which he had requested, so he celebrated with great joy and thanksgiving. This early source for celebrating the completion of the Torah on Simchat Torah highlights the importance of acquiring Torah wisdom as well as personalizing, innovating and ultimately celebrating our relationship with Torah.
A similar message is found in Rashi’s interpretation of the final verse of Devarim: “And in all that strong hand and awesome power that Moses displayed before the eyes of all Israel.” Rashi, citing midrash Sifrei, associates “that strong hand” with Moshe receiving the tablets “in his hands.” And “before the eyes of Israel” with Moshe smashing the tablets “before their eyes.” Why end his commentary on this seemingly negative note, a reminder of a low point for Israel? In fact, the Talmud sees positivity in Moshe’s breaking the luchot: “asher shibarta” (which you broke) is interpreted as God saying “yashar koḥakha” (loosely: more power to you) that you broke them. Rashi’s final commentary emphasizes that Torah does not come to an end. A “Living Torah” provides the possibility to continuously receive the Torah alongside the need to sometimes break or innovate within Torah – which is affirmed by God.
May Simchat Torah be filled with personal appreciation and communal celebration of Torah. I want to thank you all for joining me on another power parsha journey this past year and I look forward to continuing to deepen our appreciation of Torah together this upcoming year! Chag Sameach – Karen Miller Jackson
This week we begin a new Torah reading and “Power Parsha” cycle. Please encourage friends and family to join! (if you already receive it, no need to sign up). To subscribe to “Power Parsha” a short dvar Torah on the topic of parsha, mindfulness and tefilla via whatsapp click here: https://chat.whatsapp.com/CKLpCygJaBf20sKbNmRV1u or via email here: https://karenmillerjackson.com/