V’zot HaBrachah: The blessing of God’s love

Our sages remark that this is the only verse in the Torah where Moses is identified as the man of God, with its implications particularly related to his blessing to Israel as a nation.

“(…) Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death” (Deuteronomy 33:1)

They also note that he gave not only one blessing but many, and question why the first words of this portion (V’zot habrachah, “And this is the blessing”) refer to one. One of the answers is that Moses wants to encompass one blessing for one Nation, as if both are part of the same united Israel.

Being the man of God, Moses is the messenger of the Creator to deliver His blessings to Israel. Thus Moses’ blessing and God’s blessing are the same in these final chapters of the Torah. After all, for the last forty years of his life Moses certainly was the messenger and deliverer of God’s legacy to Israel, the Torah, including His blessings.

In this sense, these blessings encourage us to emulate God’s ways and attributes through His Torah and commandments, as Moses did for us with his actions; teaching us to be also men of God, the people of God.

Moses’ blessings to the tribes are not meant to be individual blessings but one single blessing for the whole nation. We have to emphasize this because there are no divisions in Israel’s identity but unity in our multifaceted diversity.

We are merchants and Torah scholars as well as warriors and priests; leaders and shepherds as well as masons and silversmiths; judges and undertakers, artists and scientists; rich and poor as well as dreamers and storytellers.

We are all facets of the same identity directed to honor God’s love, by being and manifesting love’s ways and attributes in this world. This is how we defeat the negative thoughts, emotions, feelings and passions represented by the “nations” that we conquer in order to dwell in the promised land, the land of Israel.

The foremost manifestation of God’s love in the world is His Torah (teaching, instruction), the ways and means to make His love tangible in the material reality.

“(…) from His right hand He presented His fiery Torah to them [Israel]” (33:2)

This verse is translated in a clarified fashion from the original Hebrew version interpreted as “from His right hand, fire [turned into] teaching for them”, where “fire” and “teaching” are tied up in one.

The reference to fire is important because this is the most essential element that represents divine action, fire as the symbol and means of the transforming dynamics of God’s love.

Fire appears in many passages not only in the Torah but in the entire Hebrew bible in transcendental moments like the first encounter of Moses with the Divine Presence, the column of fire that protected and guided the Israelites during their journeys into the desert, and the fire that consumed the offerings in the Tabernacle and Temple of Jerusalem.

We said in other commentaries in this blog that fire is more than a material element or a catalyst to transform matter from one state to the other. It also bears and sustains life, and protects life with the proper intensity.

These qualities are analogical to divine love as godly fire, as the dynamic and transforming force that not only moves the whole universe but also sustains all things, including changing their existence toward levels and dimensions beyond our grasp.

That power is the Law, the Torah, the teaching that harmonizes our lives in consonance with the will of the Creator, which is God’s love revealed in the material world as love’s ways and attributes.

We must understand fire as the symbol of love in its transforming and elevating qualities towards our closeness with the Creator, as well as the purifying element that refines our thoughts, emotions, passions and instincts for the divine service, through the ways and attributes of love.

This is the divine legacy and inheritance of Israel from the right hand of God, from God’s love to us. This is the greatest blessing that precedes the blessings that God gives Israel through Moses in the final verses of the Torah.

Our sages say that God’s will is fulfilled by all animal creatures through their instinct, and plants through their function. Only humans fulfill His will out of free will, and Israel as a nation made the choice to do so as the chosen people who received the Torah.

This is our greatest blessing as being able to live in order to proclaim God’s love as the only truth amid the fantasies and illusions of the material world.

“Fortunate are you, O Israel! Who is like you, O people whose redemption is through the Lord, the shield who helps you, your majestic sword! Your enemies will lie to you, but you will tread upon their heights.” (33:29)


About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Zefat.
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