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Parshas V'Zos HaBracha/Bereishis - The End is Actually the Beginning      26 Tishrei 5780

10/25/19 09:38:48


When I was a Bachur, an unmarried Yeshiva student, a friend and colleague of mine, Rabbi Daniel Wasserman, asked me to help lead davening on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in a Shul in Jersey City, N.J. At the time, I was not fully acquainted with the nusach (tunes or proper liturgy) of Yamim Noraim, the High Holiday tunes. It was recommended that I ask Cantor Jack Rosenbaum, Of Blessed Memory, to teach me the nusach. With trepidation I called him, and he invited me over to his home to discuss the matter. At the time I didn’t have any extra money to pay for the lessons and if I had to pay, I would essentially use the money I would earn from davening over the holidays and therefore not really come out ahead. He asked me how much I could pay, but before I was able to respond, he said I will make you a deal! If I would agree to do Shnayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum (read the Torah portion twice and the commentary Onkelos once), he would give me the lessons at no charge. I immediately agreed and not only learned how to daven for the High Holidays, which was a skill set I would use later in my career, I also learned through the Torah that year.

A day before Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah I received a text from a father of one of my congregants who was spending this Simchas Torah in Israel visiting a different child. Last year he was here with his wife visiting his son and his family here in San Diego. Here is the exact text he sent me: “Last Simchas Torah, you challenged the tzibur (congregation) to take on Shnayim Mikroh v’Echad Targum. Today, B”H, I finished my first cycle. Thank you for the challenge.” That text totally made my Yom Tov one of the best. I realized how, in so few words of challenge and inspiration, it’s possible to create so much Torah learning. I’m not aware of any others who may also have been moved take on this challenge, but, even if it was for only one person, it sent shockwaves through me and in heaven because I know it helped him to grow.

The Kabbalists were awestruck at the veracity and enormity that is accomplished through reviewing SHM”T (Shnayim Mikra V’Echad Targum). The sefer Yesod Shoresh Va’Avoda and the Chasam Sofer in his Chidushim to Chullin says that by reading SHM”T, a person removes the small shell fragments that stuck on the Torah when Moshe smashed the Luchos/Tablets. The shell fragments are an impediment to fully grasping the depth and understanding of the Torah due to the negative influence of the smashing of the luchos. Reviewing the Sedra in this fashion removes that barrier. It is amazing how the simple reading of the verses has such force, allowing us to open up the deeper meaning of the Torah. The Shlah HaKadosh in tractate Shabbos, the Megaleh Amukos in Parshas Kedoshim, the Kaf HaChaim in 285:32, relates in the name of the kabbalists through reading of SHM”T that a person merits and prepares himself for the Neshama Yesierah, the extra soul we are given for Shabbos. That second neshama/soul is called אדם‘Adam’ which is a praise and crowning of all the names of mankind. Some other names such as ‘Ish’ or ‘Enosh’ are the simpler names, but the name אדם is the most noted. A hint to this is found in the verse Bereishis 2:10 "ויקרא האדם שמות לכל הבהמה ולעוף השמים ולכל חית השדה ולאדם לא מצא עזר כנגדו" - and he called them (all the animals) by their names, as Adam was given the task and charge to name every creature by knowing its essence. Adam had this special wisdom that gave him the ability to name the animals based upon their inner nature and essence. I would suggest it was through the neshama yeseirah that Adam had extra wisdom through which he was able to name the animals. We often hear that the essence of a person comes from his Neshama - his soul. Therefore, Adam was able to use his neshama to identify the other ‘neshamos’ of the animals (not meaning that animals actually have a soul but rather meaning their essence). Every Shabbos we receive an additional soul in its raw state. We decide if, how and when we will use it for something positive or negative, whether we will use it to give us more strength, wisdom, courage to make proper decisions for that coming week, or choose to do nothing with it. Week in and week out we take on the role of Adam HaRishon and can identify the essence of beings, situations and life’s experiences.

The very last parsha of the Torah וזאת הברכה - and this is the blessing that Moshe gave to the children of Israel - is the ability to take something from its end and start again. The Chasam Sofer writes that the last three words of the Torah Devarim 34:12 states לעיני כל ישראל - in front of all the eyes of the Jewish people - בראשית ברא אלוקים “In the beginning God created the world”. The Gemara Sotah 14a quotes Rav Simlai “the Torah begins with Chessed/kindness and ends with Chessed. In Bereishis, after Adam and Chava ate from the forbidden tree, they had knowledge of their nakedness. So, God, with kindness, fashioned leather clothing and dressed them to spare them from embarrassment. The Torah in Devarim 34:6 ends with a Chessed that it was God who took care of Moshe after he died, and He buried him [Moshe]. Reb Yerucham Levovitz, the Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva, said from here we see that the essence of the entire Torah is Chessed/kindness and caring for others as illustrated by Hashem in the beginning and in the end.

As the Torah begins with the six days of creation, it wasn’t until the seventh day that Shabbos, the day of rest, was created. One might question and think it is odd, why on a day of rest would you would have another neshama? The simple answer is Shabbos is resting after the week and preparing for the new week. Shabbos is a day of rest from creativity, but not a day of rest to nourish and fill the extra neshama that we will use in its wisdom for the upcoming week. Shabbos is the actual last day of the week, but it is preparing us for the new coming week. So too, at the end of the year we immediately look forward to the new year and what we will accomplish. We just concluded a seven-week period of feeding and nourishing our souls. Baruch Hashem I see many in our kehilla who are taking the old or last part and using it to continue nourishing the new year and new winter season, taking the spirituality of the neshamot yeseiros and applying it to nurture and continue the growth from that which was imbedded in them these past two months. I truly hope and pray that we do not look at the concluding of Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Chol Hamoed, Hoshana Rabba, Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah as the end, but rather take all of this beauty which has nourished our souls to lead into the new beginning of a prosperous year, both physically and spiritually.


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780