Parshas Vezos Haberachah
Deuteronomy 33:1 -34:12

(Parsha for Shabbos Shemini Atzeret / Simchas Torah)
Festival Of Conclusion & Rejoicing In The Torah

How Is The Torah Passed To the Next Generation?

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Ms. Fredriqua Ann Brown, may she rest in peace.

A Call To The Torah By Mr. Rubinstein, Of Blessed Memory
It was at the time of Rosh Hashanah 1998. I was participating in a small shul which was on the decline for many years. This little shul had difficulty making a minyan on Mondays and Thursdays as well as Shabbos. We did not meet on the other weekdays unless someone needed to say Kaddish. In 1998 the shul president spent the high holidays in Chicago with family. The few remaining members were in deep despair! Who would gather the minyan? What would they do for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos? We discussed the matter amongst ourselves. They selected me to organize the minyan for the first day of Rosh Hashanah. If I was successful, that is if ten men showed in time for morning prayers, then we would plan the minyan for the second day.

As it turns out only nine men showed. I was extremely disappointed!! Six men who promised to be there didn't show. The old-timers of the shul were unhappy as well as myself! They began questioning me, Did you invite Mr. Gold, Mr. Silver, Mr. Fine and so forth? I answered, Yes! Yes! Yes!!

Despite our failure for the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we were determined to make another attempt at a minyan on the second day. The second day we were successful. There were more than enough men to make our minyan. We had eleven men. However on the second day our cantor / baal korei didn't show so we were in another predicament. Thank G-d we were able to overcome these difficulties. We were fortunate enough to have Mr. Rubinstein of blessed memory as gabbiai {the person who assists in running the congregation services... } and several other qualified men who could fill in as baal korei, {the one who reads from the Torah}.

Shortly after our Torah's service began I heard these words which I will repeat in English, "May He help,shield, and save all who take refuge in Him - Now let us respond amen: All of you ascribe greatness to our G-d and give Honor to the Torah Kohein, there is no Kohein present, stand Akiva Gamliel son of Michael an Israelite in the place of the Kohein."

This is called an Aliyah, {a call to ascend to the bimah to read from the Torah}. There is no way in English to express the honor and the beauty of being called to the Torah. It is an absolutely wonderful experience! The experience of this day will live with me forever! I received the call to the Torah from Mr. Rubinstein who was 93 years old. He was the most senior member of Denver's West Side Jewish Community. Our community was only a little over 100 years old.

This reminds me of the story we read in the final parsha in the Torah, Vezos Habracha. I quote: "Yehoshua son of Nun was filled with a spirit of wisdom because Moshe had rested his hands on him; B'nei Yisroel listen to him and acted as Hashem had commanded Moshe." Deuteronomy 34:9 Simply put, I felt greatly honored to be the one Mr. Rubinstein gave the first Aliyah to. Now Mr. Rubinstein was not Moshe Rebbeinu. However on that day he may have been ... At that moment it felt like a reenactment of Moshe and Joshua. To me it was like he was passing this great responsibility of being an observant Jew on to the next generation. I believe I was the youngest man there and I am far from being a young man. In all the years that I attended Zera Yisroel this was the only time that Mr. Rubinstein filled in as gabbiai. He was gabbiai decades before I was born. He commented something to this effect to me later.

Each of us needs to experience reenactments like this! They can be so incredibly meaningful and beneficial to our spiritual experiences.

We look back to Moshe and Joshua. We see the incredible teacher and leader in Moshe who would soon be departing this life. He is the teacher that we look up to!! He is the man that Hashem used to deliver Kal Yisroel from Mitzriam. He is the man that Hashem charged with the responsibility of writing the Torah! He is the man that led B'nei Yisroel for 40 years. He was a great leader! And he was the man who placed his hands on the humble Joshua and imparted his spirit of wisdom to lead B'nei Yisroel.

Holy reader, in every generation there must be someone to pass the Torah to. In our generation one of you is the one to receive the Torah. Now some of you may be thinking, 'Not me! Who am I to receive the Torah? How can I receive the Torah? I can't even read Hebrew! You must be mistaken!! I haven't attended a Yeshiva / Bais Yaakov. Who am I to receive the Torah?'

Dear reader, in every generation there is a person Hashem chooses to receive the Torah for their family, for their genealogy. Hashem has chosen you to share in receiving the Torah for your family and for your generation. In a similar way that I received this reenactment of Moshe and Joshua on the second day of Rosh Hashanah you also can connect with your responsibility in receiving the Torah. While it is important how you feel, in this particular instance it is more important that you accept the call to shuvah, accept the call to self improvement, accept the call to the betterment of mankind... and reestablish the Torah foundations for your genealogy ...

Now there are many Jews that this description does not apply to because for generations they have carefully and observantly passed the Torah, thank G-d! Yet, they have a very great responsibility to help their brother / sister who has this giant black hole in their life. They have no grandfather or grandmother or father or mother to receive the Torah from. They must receive their Aliyah from you ... such as I did. You are the ones that can help us make our Torah connection, to assist us in the re-establishment of Torah to our genealogy.

There is a well educated man in our community. He takes the responsibility of passing the Torah to his children very seriously. He is to be commended for his conscientiousness in this area. However when other Jews who have this huge black empty hole in their history of Torah observance come to him for help, he turns them away. Now we do have organizations specially equipped to help those of us with this huge emptiness in our lives. I'm sure this man and his family support these organizations yet that does not give him a get-out-of-responsibility card! Not only is it his responsibility to help pass the Torah from his generation to his children's generation but it is his responsibility to help his lost brother also.

At JewishPath we see this left and right pendulum swing often ... There are those who seem too lost to learn or too lost to return yet they do return, thank G-d! Then there are those who have this wonderful, broad, vast tradition of Judaism and Torah observance received from past generations. They could share. They are required to share. Instead, they keep it to themselves! This is extremely unfortunate!! They are contributing to the delay of Moshiach!

This Shabbos and this coming Simchas Torah {Rejoicing of the Torah} it is so important for all of us to come together in Unity... those who are returning possibly for the first time, those who have returned in recent months or years and those with generations of Torah continuity... TO CELEBRATE AND LIFT HIGH THE TORAH... TO REJOICE IN THE TORAH and to share in the restoration of generations of Torah and Judaism ... thank G-d!!

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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