By: Rabbi Pinchas Winston
And this (V’zos) is the blessing which Moshe, the Man of G-d, blessed the Children of Israel before his death. (Devarim 33:1)
The first word of this week’s parshah, “v’zos,” literally means “and this.” However, the word also has a deeper meaning, which could change the meaning of the verse to: Zos is the blessing, meaning that whatever “zos” represents is in fact the blessing that Moshe gave to the Jewish people just before he left This World.
At this point, it is important to introduce two concepts, both of which are found in the following section of Talmud:
Rav Chizkiah said in the name of Rebi Yirmiyah, who said it in the name of Rebi Shimon bar Yochai: I see that the great people are few in number . . . But is that so? The master has said that the first wave that comes to greet The Holy One, Blessed is He, extends eighteen thousand miles, as it says, “All around it should be eighteen thousand” (Yechezkel 48:35). This is not difficult to explain; these see with “Esp’kilarya Hameirah,” and these see with “Esp’kilarya sh’aino Meirah.” (Succah 45b)
ESP’KILARYA: A division that separates between them and the Divine Presence; MEIRAH: like a mirror that you look into; there are some righteous people for whom it does not give off much light and they can’t really see that much. (Rashi)
Although from Rashi it is still not that clear what an “Esp’kilarya Hameirah” is, it is clear that it represents a certain level of vision along the road to prophecy. There will always be somewhat of a division between us and G-d, but there are some divisions that allow one to see beyond them, and some that block vision as well, though one may still have a sense of something beyond them.
According to the Tikunei Zohar 110d, “zos” is not just a word, but it represents a middah–a trait, specifically the trait of “Malchus” (Kingship) that also corresponds to the level of “Esp’kilarya sh’aino Meirah, the lower less clear vision of G-d and His will. Though Moshe Rabbeinu himself was on the higher level of “Esp’kilarya Hameirah” (Yevamos 49b), he did not possess the ability or time to elevate the Jewish people to the same level, and therefore, he settled for the level of “zos,” which was far greater than no level at all.
As the Pri Tzaddik points out (Simchas Torah 48), there was precedence for this back in the days when Ya’akov Avinu blessed his own sons, the Twelve Tribes, just before he died:
And this (V’zos) is what their father said to them . . . (Bereishis 49:28)
For, by blessing his sons with “zos,” and later, Moshe blessing the Jewish people, he caused the trait of Malchus to enter their hearts, and through this, they became merit worthy of the blessings that followed. And, logically-speaking this should be true of all the generations that have followed since then–the blessings can only help us when the trait of Malchus is in our hearts.
If so, then we need to know what it means to have the trait of Malchus in our hearts.
And this (v’zos) to Yehudah . . . (Devarim 33:7)
What better place is there to understand the concept of Malchus itself than from the source of it within the Jewish people, Yehudah, whose blessing happens to begin with the word “zos.”
According to the Rokeach, the words “v’zos l’Yehudah” hint that all kings to descend from Yehudah must always learn Torah. This is because “zos” also always alludes to Torah. However, though this mitzvah may be more stringent by the kings of Yehudah, it is still one that applies to ALL Jews, and one which does not necessarily make Yehudah, the source of Malchus, unique.
To begin with, the Four-Letter Name of G-d is within Yehudah’s name, which spelled, YUD-HEH-VAV-Dalet-HEH, which the Pri Tzaddik explains also corresponds to the level of Esp’kilarya Hameirah. However, that is not the only source of Yehudah’s name, as the Torah reminds us:
She became pregnant again, and gave birth to a son. She said, “This time I will thank (odeh) G-d.” Therefore she called him “Yehudah” . . . (Bereishis 29:35)
In other words, Yehudah’s name was a testimony to Leah’s, Yehudah’s mother, gratefulness to G-d for her fourth son’s birth. His name comes from the Hebrew word “modeh” which can mean “I thank” or “I admit.” In fact, as Rashi points out in this week’s parshah, Yehudah’s blessing followed that of Reuvain because he had taught Reuvain to admit his mistake before his father.
In fact, admission is what Yehudah’s life was all about, or at least his right to the kingship:
Yehudah, you, your brothers will acknowledge . . . (Bereishis 49:8)
You acted correctly when you admitted your guilt in the case of Tamar, and therefore, Yehudah, you, your brothers will acknowledge, for I recognize it too after having wrongly suspected you of killing Yosef. You are therefore chosen to be the king (Bereishis Rabbah 99:9).
What was this trait that Yehudah possessed that is the power of admission, but more importantly, the right to Malchus? If you think about it, admission is based upon the ability to surrender oneself to the moment, and in more general terms, history as a whole. You may be able to fool some of the people some of the time (including yourself), but you can NEVER fool G-d, and even a liar has to know that on some level.
At the moment of a truth, a person stands between two decisions: to save face but damage history, or to damage himself but save history. To save face means to do what is most comfortable for you at the moment, regardless of the long-term effects on history. To save history means to do what must be done for the sake of the bigger picture at that time, even if it means getting hurt along the way.
Yehudah could have lied. He could have denied being the father of Tamar’s children, and they would have killed Tamar and her children, and no one would have been the wiser for it. However, Yehudah knew that one day the truth would catch up to him and that he would be held responsible for the distortion of truth, which would have to be rectified at his expense. That’s the concept of “measure-for-measure,” and given that an innocent woman and her children would die as a result, that was heavy price to pay.
Instead, Yehudah suffered complete embarrassment, and possible disownment by his father, which in the case of the Tribes meant more than just not inheriting one’s financial part of the will. It even meant losing one’s portion in the Jewish people altogether, and all the future rewards to come–also a VERY heavy price to pay.
But he paid it. Yehudah surrendered himself to the moment and to history, and for that, his father Ya’akov told him, he earned the Malchus. For that is the trait of Malchus–the ability to make history more important than our own individual lives, and to make the nation more important than the people who make it up.
It is THIS trait that removes the spiritual “blinders” from a person’s eyes which prevent him from seeing history as it is, and Divine Providence as it really acts. It is THE difference between being able to see with the “Esp’kilarya Hameirah” or the “Esp’kilarya sh’aino Meirah,” the lower less clear vision of G-d and His will. Ultimately, as we learn from the word “zos,” it is the difference whether or not to be able to reap the blessings imparted to us by Ya’akov Avinu at the beginning of our history, and later by Moshe Rabbeinu.