Free for the Taking (Vezot Habrachah)
Only the curious will learn and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient. -Eugene S. Wilson
In Moses’ last words to the nation of Israel, he provides blessings to the nation. The blessings are to the individual tribes as well as to the nation as a whole. This final portion of the Torah starts as follows:
This is the blessing with which Moses, God’s agent, bade the Israelites farewell before he died. He said:
God came from Sinai,
And shone upon them from Seir;
[God] appeared from Mount Paran,
And approached from Ribeboth-kodesh,
Lightning flashing at them from [God’s] right.
Lover, indeed, of the people,
Their hallowed are all in Your hand.
They followed in Your steps,
Accepting Your pronouncements,
When Moses charged us with the Teaching
As the heritage of the congregation of Jacob.
The Chidushei HaRim explains that the “They” in the verse in Deuteronomy 33:3, “They followed in Your steps / Accepting Your pronouncements,” is hinting at a specific group of people.
He explains that it’s describing those who travel from town to town in order to learn Torah. It often happened that the town a person was living in didn’t have a Torah teacher at all, or one that was suitable, or one that a person could effectively learn from. Thus, the frustrated student would be obliged to travel to other towns to find that elusive Torah teacher who was available, disposed and who could successfully teach the prospective student.
Moses is blessing the students who go out of their way, who are willing to go to great lengths, even to relocate, in order to find that live transmitter of Torah. Moses is blessing them that they will be successful in their quest for learning and that it should occur as smoothly as possible.
The Chidushei HaRim adds that at the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai all of existence was silent. It was so quiet that not even a bird chirped. The purpose of the silence was to show that everyone can listen to the Torah. There is nothing stopping anyone from listening to the lessons of the Torah. It is free for the taking.
May we make the important effort to learn Torah however we’re able to.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,
To the Hakhel ceremony, which is celebrated once every seven years during the Sukkot holiday immediately after the Sabbatical (Shemita) year.