Exclusion for the Sake of Inclusion

 “And this is the blessing that Moshe, the man of G-d, bestowed upon the Children of Israel before his death” (Devarim 33:1)

All the tribes merited receiving Moshe’s blessing before his death, except for Shevet Shimon. Rashi states that Shimon’s blessing was included in Yehudah’s, in the words (ibid., vs. 7), “Hearken, O Hashem, to Yehudah’s voice.”

Why wasn’t  Shevet Shimon found  worthy  of receiving  his  own blessing from Moshe? And why was his blessing included in that of Shevet Yehudah as opposed to any other shevet? Rashi elucidates. Moshe had misgivings  about  blessing Shevet Shimon, due to  the incident in Shittim with Zimri, their Nasi. Why should the entire tribe be punished for the sin of an individual? The fact that the rest of the tribe  remained alive proved  that  they themselves had not sinned. Why, then, were they deprived of Moshe’s direct blessing? Why did Moshe  show  them  disfavor  before  his  death,  by  reducing  their honor  in this  way? Wasn’t he worried  that  Shevet Shimon would eventually  turn  their  backs to the Torah, called by his name? For they might view his lack of blessing as though he were writing them off from Hashem’s Torah.

Moshe wrote  Sifrei Torah  for  each shevet. Shevet Shimon, too, received a Torah Scroll written  in Moshe’s hand. Originally, Moshe had written  only one Sefer Torah, which  was presented to Shevet Levi. But the other tribes came to him with  grievances. They, too, wished  to  have a part  in  Hashem’s Torah.  He mollified  them  by writing  a separate Sefer Torah for each tribe. This would help them feel a bond with  the holy words of the Torah. Moshe bequeathed the message to all of Bnei Yisrael that  the Torah does not belong exclusively  to Shevet Levi, but  to the entire  nation.  The Torah is accessible to all who wish to partake of it.

Although  Moshe did not bless Shevet Shimon directly,  the Sefer Torah  he presented  to  them  was in  lieu  of a blessing. He could not bring  himself to openly bless them, as the memory of Shittim was still  fresh in his mind. Twenty-four  thousand  fellow Jews had fallen in the plague, attributed to  Shevet Shimon. A hairsbreadth separated  them  from  total   annihilation.   Pinchas  stood  up  and saved the  day  by  avenging  Hashem’s honor,  in  an  act  of  zeal and self-sacrifice.

In an indirect  way, Shevet Shimon was responsible  for Moshe’s death at this time. Hashem ordered Moshe to avenge the Midianite nation, and afterward, he would meet his death. As long as Moshe delayed fighting the Midianites, who had incited Bnei Yisrael to sin with immorality and the idolatry of Ba’al Peor, he would remain alive (see Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar 785). Moshe had no choice but  to fight the Midianites, who had caused the death of thousands of his nation. Bnei Yisrael did not want Moshe to go to war, knowing that he was sealing his fate. But Moshe did not take personal interests into consideration.  His only concern was the honor of Hashem. By fighting the Midianites, he avenged Hashem’s honor, as well as that of Bnei Yisrael.

Moshe’s neshamah was intertwined with that of Bnei Yisrael (see Mechilta, Yitro 1). Certainly a disaster of such proportion, with  so many  dying  in  a plague caused great  pain  to  Moshe  Rabbeinu. Moshe was afraid to mention  Shevet Shimon by name, for fear of arousing Heavenly prosecution  against them. Moshe merely put  on a show of anger in order  to appease the Middat Hadin and keep it at bay. But in his heart, Moshe had no grievances toward Shevet Shimon whatsoever. Moshe’s withholding blessing from them did not come from a place of resentment. On the contrary,  it was out  of love toward  them and a desire to protect them from the Middat Hadin.

With  the words  “Hearken, O Hashem, to Yehudah’s voice,”  our Sages comment  that  Moshe  blessed  Shevet Shimon  with  the following: Their prayers should always be accepted in Heaven, and the Middat Hadin should not take vengeance upon them for nearly causing Am Yisrael destruction.  Moshe continued (Devarim 33:7), “And   return   him   to   his   people.”   Shevet  Shimon  should   be considered one of the shevatim of Hashem.

Moshe opened his blessing to Klal Yisrael with  the words (ibid., vs. 5) “He became King over Yeshurun when the heads of the nation gathered.” Shevet Yehudah represents kingship, broadly encompassing Shevet Shimon. Part of Yehudah’s  mission  was to protect   Shevet  Shimon  from   the   wrath   of  the   other   tribes, preventing them from taking revenge for their fallen brothers.

Shevet Shimon felt Moshe’s love toward  them, which  only made them feel closer to him. Proof of this  is that  when Moshe passed away, the entire nation mourned him, including Shevet Shimon.

Of course, the Torah never ends (see Bereishit Rabbah 10:1). As soon  as we  complete  parashat  Vezot  Haberachah, finishing  the reading of the entire Torah, we begin the cycle anew. What is the connection between Moshe Rabbeinu’s death, in Vezot Haberachah, and the creation of mankind, in Bereishit?

The death of tzaddikim provides atonement and prevents the destruction of the world,  when the Middat Hadin demands justice (see Moed Katan 28a). The death of tzaddikim  allows the world  a rebirth,  as indicated in the Creation of Bereishit. Homiletically,  the Ba’al Haturim states that the last letters of the phrase בראשית ברא אלוקים spell the word אמת. In the merit of the atonement brought by the death of the righteous, who were involved  in the Torah of truth,  the world is renewed and is considered recreated.

It is the atonement afforded by the death of the tzaddikim which spares the world  from returning  to its former state of nothingness, shrouded  completely  in darkness. The tzaddikim,  who are replete with   Torah  knowledge,  are  capable  of  igniting  a  spark  in  the darkness which  envelops the world  with  their  passing. Thus, the world is recreated. In parashat Bereishit, we read (1:2), “The Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters.” This Divine Presence is the holy  neshamah of the righteous,  which  spent  its years in this world surfing the sea of the Torah. As we know, water is an allusion to Torah (Bava Kama 17a), as the Navi states (Yeshayahu 55:1), “Ho, everyone who is thirsty,  go to the water.” This water protects the world from calamity and catastrophe, protecting  its inhabitants  from the strict  hand of justice.

Before even the Creation of the world,  Hashem contemplated  a Jewish nation (Bereishit Rabbah 1:4). He always envisioned a people comprised of twelve tribes, the שבטי י'ה. In their  merit, the world, also created with  the Name,י'ה, would  endure. The Arizal (Sha’ar Hakavanot, Drush Aleinu L’shabe’ach 1) tells us that there are twelve gates  in   Heaven,  corresponding    to   the   Twelve   Tribes.   The connection  between parshiyot  Vezot Haberachah and Bereishit is very clear. The creation and survival of the world, is in the merit of the  Twelve  Tribes,  who  correspond   to  the  twelve  gateways  of prayer in Heaven.

When Moshe assembled the nation in order to bless them, Shevet Shimon stood there together with  Shevet Yehudah, who protected them  from  the Middat Hadin, which  stood  against them  for  their dastardly   deed  with   the  daughters  of  Moav.  Although   Shevet Shimon was not  mentioned  separately, Moshe made it a point  to bless them, just like the rest of the tribes. The world  rests on the shoulders of all twelve tribes.  Yeshayahu Hanavi proclaims  (26:4), “ה' צור עולמים – For in G-d, Hashem, is the strength  of the worlds.”  The world  is sustained in the merit of the Twelve Tribes, the שבטי י'ה. By blessing all of them equally, Moshe was indicating that  his  death  was not  due solely  to  the  sin  of  Shevet Shimon. Rather, it was atonement for the entire nation. The last word in the Torah is ישראל and the first  word  is בראשית. The initials  of these two words spell י"ב, the Twelve Tribes upon which the world stands.

The  initials   of  the  words וזאת הברכה,  though,  is  numerically equivalent to eleven. This seems to denote the exclusion of Shevet Shimon from  the  calculation  of  the  Twelve  Tribes.  Moshe, who wrote the Torah by the word of Hashem, decided to omit Shimon’s name from the recording of the berachot, in order not to arouse the Middat Hadin, as mentioned above. In order to convey the message that  he  was  not  angry  with  them,  though,  he  hinted  to  their inclusion  in the Twelve Tribes  in the initials  of the last and first words of the Torah. Moshe blessed all of the Shevatim equally, for they uphold the entire world.


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