On Shabbat, we celebrate Shemini Atzeret, an extra holiday at the end of Sukkot. The parasha is several passages from Re’eh, Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17, which is also read on the last day of Pesach and the second day of Shavuot. It deals with several topics, including the second tithe, special laws of the seventh year (Shmittah) and the three pilgrim festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Succot.
On Saturday night and Sunday, we celebrate Simchat Torah, when we complete reading the year’s reading of the Torah. The parasha is Vezot Haberachah, from its first words “And this is the blessing …”. The first sentence continues “… that Moses, the man of God, bestowed upon the children of Israel before his death.”
We have witnessed this scene before. As the Patriarchs prepare for death, they bless their children. In fact, many rabbis draw a comparison between Jacob’s blessings on his 12 sons, and Moses’ blessings on each of the 12 tribes that grew from those 12 sons.
The collection of commentaries on the Torah called Midrash Rabbah explains that each of the Patriarchs, in giving his children his blessings, began at the place where the prior generation’s blessings ended. Rabbi Chaim Efraim Zaitchik points out that some leaders want to leave their personal mark on history, but the best leaders seek to carry on the important work of those that came before them, just as each of the Patriarchs chose to continue his father’s and grandfather’s work of teaching humankind about God. So, too, Moses continued the tradition of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, by guiding their descendants to follow God’s mitzvot.
Are you carrying on the legacy of your parents and grandparents? What family traditions do you celebrate that bring you closer to each other, or make Shabbat or the festivals special? Is there some mitzvah your family performs in a customary way, perhaps every week by making challah, setting aside tzedakah money before Shabbat, lighting candles or saying kiddish, or maybe sometimes preparing meals for people who need them? Is there a new custom you would like to start?
Shabbat shalom and chag sameach!