October 13th, 2019

The final portion of the Torah, Vezot Habracha, is the only one in the whole Torah that is never read on a Shabbat. 

Rabbi Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin, a great Polish Hasidic thinker, explains the reason why. Shabbat, he says, has its holiness set without any effort on our part. Whether we acknowledge its holiness or not, Shabbat is always holy.

This is in contrast with the sanctity of yomtov, which requires a declaration by the rabbinic authorities regarding the date before its holiness can be established. 

Each week, the portion that we read on Shabbat is automatic, externally imposed on us, just like Shabbat. We aspire to absorb its holiness and to elevate ourselves via its inherent sacredness, but even if we don’t, there it is.

The holiness of Vezot Habracha is different. After going through a full year of Torah portions, and after experiencing a whole cycle of festivals, this portion contains holiness that is generated from within us.

After all is said and done, what the Torah is really after is not for us to simply obey rules that are imposed on us from without – rather the Torah wants us to discover the holiness that we possess within ourselves. God wants to see that everything we did that was imposed upon us has really changed who we are, and we have actually become different people. 

The Sefat Emet puts it beautifully. The difference between Shavuot – when we celebrate Kabbalat HaTorah – and Simchat Torah, is that on Shavuot we celebrate the Torah that was given to is, imposed upon us.  But on Simchat Torah we celebrate the Torah that has become a part of us – the Torah that comes from within.

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