Monday, October 5, 2009

V'Zot HaBrachah

This parasha, as you no doubt know, is the last segment of the 5 Books of Moses. We have read the entire Torah at this point, and it is really interesting to see how it all ends. Personally this parasha was a welcome relief to me, and not because it's finally over! Let's examine why:

Big Ideas:
  • People remember beginnings and endings, often better than what is in the middle
  • An author often uses an ending to express a summary of ideas contained within the entire body of writing
  • Some people choose to write a document called an "ethical will" for those who survive them
  • Endings are often beginnings of something entirely new.

Essential Questions:
  1. What appears to be the emotional setting for this parasha?
  2. How do the emotions expressed in this parasha compare to those in the rest of D'varim? in the other books of the Torah?
  3. Whose voice(s) do you hear in this parasha?
  4. This parasha is never read at a regular Shabbat morning service. What is the context for reading this parasha?
Learning Activities: Choose
  • Compare and contrast Moshe's blessing with that of Yaacov at the end of B'Reisheet
  • Compare and contrast this parasha with the rest of D'Varim.
  • Read about Jewish ethical wills here and/or here.
  • Read an example of a Jewish ethical will written by a not-yet-mother here
  • Read Rabbi Oren Hayon's commentary on this parasha . Explain how you understand this passage in his essay:
"When, at last, Moses dies, his soul departs al pi Adonai, literally, “by God’s mouth” (34:5). Mouth to mouth, the breath of Moses is drawn in and subsumed into the breath of God. God tenderly inhales Moses’s final breath and then pauses. As we begin our cyclical reading of Torah once more, God exhales, filling Adam’s nostrils and giving life to all creation."
from Moses's Death,God's Breath, Oren J. Hayon.

Assessment Activities: Choose
  • How did this parasha affect your understanding of Moshe? of B'nai Yisrael? of the Torah?
  • Illustrate your understanding of this parasha, either in words or pictures.
  • Explain what it means to you to begin immediately re-reading the Torah after you have just finished it.
  • You read an ethical will written by a women whose child was not yet born. She explains that she will update it as time goes on. Even though you will probably live a very long time, try to write a first draft of your own ethical will. Who are you writing it to? What will you say? Explain when you think you will want to update it and why.

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