Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Vzos HaBrachah 5769

Parshas vz’os HaBracha is Moshes last words to the nation before he dies.  As he is preparing to climb Har Nabo, view the land, and never return, he blesses the nation, a final parting.  In this blessing we see a call for unity, a call where he addresses of all Bnei Yisrael as one, an unified whole regardless of whether the person can trace their lineage back to Avraham Avinu, or is a convert.

How often do we see the lie being spread that Jews do not accept converts?  Or that converts are second class citizens in Judaism?  And how often are these lies used by the anti-Semites to fuel this hatred in an attempt to caste Judaism in a racist light?  So, how does this week’s parsha counter this lie?

Right at the start of the blessing Moshe starts off by recounting how God descended from Har Sinai, his light shining from Seir and Paran, surrounded by the myriads of the hosts of Shamayim, to give Moshe the Torah.  Then Moshe recounts how the nation took on the Torah, despite the difficulties and stated “Torah tsivah-lanu Moshe morashah kehilat Ya’akov”,  “The Torah was commanded to us by Moshe, an eternal heritage for the congregation of Yaakov’

So- what is this start of the blessing telling us?  Firstly, here the Torah is alluding to what we have in the midrash, that first G-d offered the Torah to all the nations of the world so they would not in the future be able to say they were denied the opportunity.  Where do we see this?  The light from Paran alludes to God offering the Torah to the descendants of Esav that lived there, the light from Seir alluding to the descendants of Ishmael- the other nations are not directly alluded to here, but the Midrash makes it clear that it was offered to them too.

However, none of this has anything to do with the singularity of the nation, of the Jewish people, regardless of their ancestry, being a single, equal whole, denying none who come into Judaism, right.  Actually, if looked at properly, it does.  The last sentence I quoted above shows this singularity, this unification and the rejection of the lies of the anti-Semities.  Where? In the phrase “Kehillat Ya’akov”- the “Congreagation of Yaakov”.  This phrase is specific, it addresses all Jews, not just those whose mother’s were Jewish and can trace their descendants back to Avraham.  How do we know this? By the term CONGREGATION.  If it was meant to exclude those who had converted, the more restrictive term of “Bnei Yisrael”, the “children of Israel” could have been used, or even “Bnei Ya’akov”, the “children of Yaakov” (this would fit the theme of the blessing very well as the blessings to each of the tribes parallel the blessings given by Yaakov to his sons before his death).

So, as Moshe is about to depart and not return, in his final blessing, he addresses all Jews: from those who were descended from Yaakov and his family that had descended to Egypt, to those that had converted and joined with them when they left Egypt.  He addresses them all, including those outside of the tribes, in the blessings of the land of the tribe with whom they would dwell for they, too, would benefit from thoseblessings.

So, the next time you hear someone trying to claim that converts are not allowed, or are lesser Jews than those born Jewish, just remember the phrase uttered by many a three year old at their upshiernes as their verse of Torah “Torah tsivah-lanu Moshe morashah kehilat Ya’akov”  think of how the children dance and sing this verse, their first lesson in Torah a lesson in Jewish unity and how we all come together in the Torah


October 12, 2008 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , , ,


  1. Why have you stopped writing? I like your blog a lot.

    Comment by Diana | November 29, 2008 | Reply

    • What can I say- life has been hectic, internet conenctivity doubtful and I lost my password! LOL (Combined with forgetting what email address I had used for this almost a fatal one in connection with this blog. Luckily I have now remembered!) So, a new post today- and since I’m going to be filling n for a local rabbi at a small shul every second week for the next couple of months- I have to prepeare two dvar Torah’s for those weeks- so hopefully I can keep it up this time.

      Comment by marcl1969 | January 20, 2009 | Reply

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