THE TORAH READINGS FOR SHEMINI ATZERET-SIMCHAT TORAH 22 TISHRI 5782 SHMITAH September 27-28, 2021
From the mouth of God all of Israel is blessed.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/shmini-atzeret-simchat-torah
Sh’mini Atzeret – Simchat Torah שְׁמִינִי עֲצֶרֶת – שִׂמחַת תוֹרָה
8th Day of Assembly
Deuteronomy 33:1–34:12, Genesis 1:1–2:3
TORAH PORTION: Ve-zot ha-Berachah – Deut. 33:1-34:12
This is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, bade the Israelites farewell before he died. – Deuteronomy 33:1
Joshua 1:1-18 [Joshua 1:1-9 Sefardim]
TORAH PORTION: Berëshit – Gen. 1:1-2:3
When God was about to create heaven and earth, the earth was a chaos, unformed, and on the chaotic waters’ face there was darkness. – Genesis 1:1-:2
Isaiah 42:5-43:10 [Isaiah 42:5-21 Sefardim]
On Simchat Torah, the day on which we literally celebrate the Torah, we read the very end of Deuteronomy and the very beginning of Genesis. In the final verses of Torah, we read Moses’ blessing of the Israelites, offered before the prophet dies. Moses then ascends Mount Nebo, from which he sees the Promised Land and takes his final breath. God buries Moses and we are told there will never be another prophet like him. From this passage, we immediately begin our new cycle of Torah reading with the story of creation from the beginning of Genesis. And we create a new year of studying Torah. While each year we return to the same verses, it is we who are different. With each passing year, we grow and change, celebrate and mourn. And it is as if we are reading these sacred words for the very first time.
[The following two sections are taken from last year’s message:]
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
From Wikipedia.com https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%27Zot_HaBerachah
Ve-zot ha-Berachah – Deut. 33:1-34:12
(וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה — Hebrew for “and this is the blessing”)
The parashah sets out the farewell Blessing of Moses for the 12 Tribes of Israel and concludes with the death of Moses.
Professor James Kugel of Bar Ilan University reported that modern scholars see Moses’s blessing of the tribes in Deuteronomy 33 to be of a different, arguably quite ancient, provenance than the rest of Deuteronomy, and that an editor tacked Deuteronomy 33 on to round out the book.
Noting the absence of Simeon from Deuteronomy 33, Kugel explained that modern scholars see a midcourse correction in Israel’s list of tribes in Jacob’s adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh in Genesis 48:1–6. That there were 12 tribes seems to have become unchangeable at an early stage of Israel’s history, perhaps because of the number of lunar months in a year. But, at some point, Simeon disappeared. So to compensate for its absence, the Israelites counted the territory elsewhere attributed to Joseph as two territories, each with its own ancestor figure. And thus the tribal list in Deuteronomy 33 could omit the Simeonites and, by replacing Joseph with Ephraim and Manasseh, still include the names of 12 tribes.
Some scholars who follow the Documentary Hypothesis find evidence of three separate sources in the parashah. Thus some scholars consider the account of the death of Moses in Deuteronomy 34:5–7 to have been composed by the Jahwist (sometimes abbreviated J) who wrote possibly as early as the 10th century BCE. Some scholars attribute the account of mourning for Moses in Deuteronomy 34:8–9 to the Priestly source who wrote in the 6th or 5th century BCE. And then these scholars attribute the balance of the parashah, Deuteronomy 33:1–34:4 and Deuteronomy 34:10–12 to the first Deuteronomistic historian (sometimes abbreviated Dtr 1) who wrote shortly before the time of King Josiah. These scholars surmise that this first Deuteronomistic historian took the Blessing of Moses, Deuteronomy 33, from an old, separate source and inserted it here.
Professor Patrick D. Miller of Princeton Theological Seminary argued that an implicit reason for the death of Moses outside the land is that his work was truly done: The people from then on was to live by the Torah and thus no longer needed Moses.
We are now approaching the end of the annul High Holy Days period which began with the preparations during the month of Elul and extends through Sukkot, the third and last of the “regalim” (pilgrimage festivals). Many think of the High Holy Days as being only Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and by extension the ten days of repentance/awe in between. However, we begin greeting each other with Shana Tovah at the S’lichot Service several days before Rosh Hashanah. In addition, tradition teaches that we may still repent and receive forgiveness for our mistakes, failings and errors through Hoshana Rabah (the great supplication), which takes place the seventh day of Sukkot.
We then cap it all off with the holidays of Shemini Atzéret (eighth day of assembly) and Simchat Torah (rejoicing with/of the Torah) – in Israel and the Reform Movement, the two holidays are combined into one. The former is mandated in Torah and the latter, a Rabbinical holiday, probably originated during the middle ages.
Among other things, the Simchat Torah celebration involves singing to and “dancing” with all the Torah Scrolls seven times around the sanctuary and sometimes spilling out onto the street – the circuits are called hakafot. We also read the last portion of Devarim (Deuteronomy) and the first of Berëshit (Genesis), ending one and beginning another annual cycle of readings from the Torah with great fanfare and joy.
Whether we believe the Torah is God’s word written by Moses, or ancient literature that reflects the times and circumstances of its compilers and editors, it is the profound and rich story of the Jewish people. It contains valuable lessons to be learned from its triumphs and defeats, its lofty ideals and miserable failings, its strengths and foibles. It ultimately represents Jewish values and ethics, and how to be in the world and repair it.
The Jewish people and Torah are one – we live! So, as we celebrate, with the same fervor that we made our resolutions, may we fully implement what we resolved to improve in ourselves and repair the world. Seek peace and pursue it (Ps. 34:14).
PIRKË AVOT 1:2 – Shimon the Righteous
Al sh’loshah d’varim ha’olam omëd – The world is sustained by three things: Torah, worship and loving deeds.