MOADIM L’SIMCHA – The Season of our Rejoicing
From Reform Judaism 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
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
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.
From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/shmini-atzeret-simchat-torah
By: Rabbi Andy Gordon
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH and REFLECTION
For Torah Study, instead of the Simchat Torah portions from the Book of Deuteronomy and the Book of Genesis that are read on this Shabbat, we will read Joshua 1:1-18. You can read this week’s Torah Portions at https://www.sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.33.1-34.12 and https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.1.1-2.3, and the Haftarah at https://www.sefaria.org/Joshua.1.1-18
From “The Torah / A Women’s Commentary” edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D.
וזאת הברכה Ve-zot ha-Berachah – Deuteronomy 33:1–34:12
Post-biblical Interpretations – by Anna Urowitz-Freudenstein, pp. 1284-5
May Reuben live and not die (33:6). In his farewell blessing to the tribes of Israel, Moses first mentions the tribe of Reuben, descended from Jacob’s eldest son. His benediction for Reuben is expressed in biblical poetic parallelism. To the modern reader this may seem redundant, since it expresses the same idea twice, albeit in different words. For the Rabbis, however, this apparent repetition was an opportunity for interpretation. They noticed that while the first half of the verse expresses the hope that Reuben would live, the second half states that he should not die. Both of these outcomes are positive for Reuben, but the former is phrased in upbeat language, whereas the latter uses negative terminology. Midrash Sifrei D’varim 347 finds different meanings in these linguistic nuances. Thus, the first phrase is said to refer to Reuben’s reward for convincing his brothers not to treat Joseph as harshly as they would have liked (Genesis 37:22). The second half of the verse points to a death penalty decreed for Reuben that has been reversed (“not die”), referring to the punishment that Reuben deserved for having sexual relations with Bilhah, his father’s concubine and the mother of some of his brothers (Genesis 35:22). However, a prominent rabbinic tradition teaches that Reuben atoned for this sin and the decree of death was lifted. This midrash from Sifrei D’varim appears to link these two biblical incidents and implies that Reuben’s good actions in one situation helped to atone for his bad actions in the other.
So Moses the servant יהוה died there (34:5). A medieval piyut (liturgical poem) begins with the words Azlat Yocheved (“Jochebed went out”), referring to Moses’ mother (Exodus 6:20). This piyut is part of the Italian prayer tradition for the holiday of Simchat Torah, when the final Torah portion, including the account of the death of Moses, is read. (While there are no known midrashic parallels for the symbolic ideas in this piyut, it shares common motifs with rabbinic traditions, including a narrative about Moses’ death found in Avot D’Rabbi Natan A 12, in which the angel of death, Samael, is the protagonist, rather than Jochebed.) In the piyut, Jochebed heart-rendingly searches for her son. She has heard of his death but refuses to accept that Moses has actually died. Understandably, a mother would not want to learn that her son had preceded her in death. However, Jochebed’s refusal to believe in Moses’ demise is complicated by the fact that only God knows the circumstances of his death and his burial place. This piyut describes Jochebed traversing the world, including Egypt and various other pivotal places in Moses’ life, searching for him. In her travels, she asks inanimate objects to tell her the whereabouts of her son. Her quest, of course, is unsuccessful, because he is, in fact already dead and buried.
The theme of the poem “Azlat Yocheved” is based on the rabbinic premise that Jochebed outlived her son Moses, who was 120 years old at his death (34:7). Jochebed’s long life is discussed in a rabbinic midrash in Seder Olam 9, where she is described as surviving all of her children and entering the land of Israel at the age of 250.
[God] buried him in the valley in the land of Moab (34:6). A midrashic tradition physically connects the burial place of Moses, who was interred alone, to the graves of Abraham and Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah (Genesis 25:10). According to Sifrei D’varim 357, the two sites were linked by an underground tunnel.
Moses’ grave is unknown to human beings but it is known to God. In fact, according to 34:6, Moses was buried by God. BT Sotah 14a explains that the Torah is framed by two divine demonstrations of loving-kindness. The charitable act in the beginning was “clothing the naked.” This was fulfilled when God “made outfits out of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). The loving-kindness at the end of the Torah was “burying the dead,” God’s final act of caring for Moses. According to rabbinic sources (BT Shabbat 127a), preparing the dead for burial is one of the ten ethical obligations for which there is no measure and whose reward is without measure.
בראשית Bereishit – Genesis 1:1–2:3
The First Creation Story/CREATION OF WORLD, TIME AND LIFE – by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, p. 5
Genesis 1 unfolds in a rhythmic, poetic fashion, depicting an orderly creation of the world and life in six days. Genesis does not offer a scientific account of creation but an interpretation and a system of values that encodes from the start three essential ideas: the power of language, especially God’s word; the goodness of God’s world; and the orderly nature of the world. Creating the world begins with a series of separations–from chaos to differentiated bodies–that, with one exception (day 2), are pronounced as “good.” In the first three days God creates a context for life. In the last three God creates heavenly and earthly bodies to inhabit the space. The movement of each day, from evening to morning, replicates a journey from darkness to light.
SHEMINI ATZERET AND SIMCHAT TORAH
We are now approaching the end of the annual 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 on 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).
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds especially directed at individuals and specific communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, 22 Tishri through 28 Tishri, we lovingly remember:
Helen L. Simons
TKH Memorial Board
First Cousin of Mary Caron
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, October 6, 2023.
Zoom regularly updates its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening with wine/grape juice for Kiddush and Challah for Motzi.
Topic: Torah Study – Sh’mini Atzéret-Simchat Torah: Joshua 1:1-18
Time: Oct 6, 2023 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Oct 6, 2023 07:30 PM Arizona
To join Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]:
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach – Buen Shabbat i Simchat Torah – Gut Shabbos v’Yom Tov!
PS – About the Book of Joshua and Shemini Atzéret-Simchat Torah:
From Jewish Encyclopedia
From My Jewish Learning
Timelines from Wikipedia