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Parashat Vezot Hab'racha

So I’m not saying V’zot Haberacha is the most important parashah in the Torah. That would be crazy. Who am I to judge? I am merely a lowlife university student.

But it is the last parashah, so that’s pretty cool.. It’s the shortest parashah (probably so everyone can get litty for Simchat quicker…). Also, for any of you (ex-)shnattie readers out there, Pharan gets a cheeky mention. But then yeah, Moses becomes a little-bit-mostly-dead. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, lots of exciting stuff, which gets kinda ruined by Moishe’s timely demise at the ripened age of 120. It’s a bit of a bummer note to end the Torah on, tbh. Maybe Simchat Torah is sad drinking, not happy drinking…

Lemme level with you for a second. There’s not a whole lot for me to work with for this parashah. Most of it – in classic Deuteronomy fashion; Deuteronomy literally means repetition of the law – is just spent repeating something said earlier in the Torah, in slightly different words. The rest is Moses’ expiry, burial, consequent mourning etc. So I’m gonna put the actual content of the parashah to the side, and instead focus more on a tenuous thematic connection that better suits my agenda.

The very first sentence of Wikipedia’s page on this parashah goes something like this “[V'Zot HaBerachah] is the 54th and final weekly Torah portion. in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.” Pretty solid introduction, as far as introductions go. But what I really liked was this idea of the ‘annual Jewish cycle.’ Judaism has more than one cycle in it. The Torah-reading cycle, the life cycle, the cycle of the festivals and… well I dunno, maybe a bicycle. No real finality, no real inception. Just ongoing ‘kind-of’ endings leading to ‘not-really’ beginnings. Can you see where I’m going with this?

I’m a bit torn by this methodology. On the one hand, Einstein is famously attributed with saying (although it probably wasn’t really him) “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Conversely, there is something deeply beautiful about the tenacity with which Jews persistently read through those scrolls, week after week after week. Hineni, as it so happens, is a cycle.

You come in as a chanich/a. You grow up a bit and become a mad. Then you grow up a bit more and die or leave Hineni, or something like that (I haven’t quite gotten there yet, so I don’t really know what happens). But those kids you were leading will take your place, and the cycle continues. Hineni as an institution has existed long before our involvement with it, and (believe it or not) will exist long after. It is ongoing, and it is persistent. And sometimes the repetitive slog of weekly programs feels like continually hitting your head against a brick wall, and sometimes it feels like Einstein’s notion of insanity. But it’s pretty cool to be a fairly essential cog in this machine that has given so much to us, and to the wider community.

We’re fast approaching the end of the Hineni year. And for many, that means the end of your Hineni experience. ☹. But your end is just another beginning.

Shabbat Shalom


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