This week’s Parsha is known for the many blessings that it contains. These blessings are offered for our compliance with G-d’s will. The very last blessing — which presumably indicates that it is the ultimate one — the Torah promises is: “G-d shall appoint you as a head and not as a tail; you shall always be above and you shall not be below.”
At first glance the Torah means that our fortunes shall rise. But, if this is all that it means, why then does the Torah repeat itself by saying first “G-d shall appoint you as a head..” and then repeat the same idea, “you shall always be above?”
We also must understand why this dual blessing was placed at the end of all the blessings, somehow suggesting that this blessing is the pinnacle?
Based on Panim Yafot, one of the early Chassidic masters, the following explanation may be offered:
The term “head” applies to the soul because it is a part of G-d Who is our head. Relative to the soul, the body, which resides in our lowly physical world, is called a “tail.” The blessing that we should be appointed as a head means that we should always be led by the dictates of the soul and not by the dictates of the body. When the “tail” follows the head i.e., when a person’s body follows the desires and needs of the soul, it is a blessing and it leads to all other blessings.
On a deeper level, the blessing that we should follow the head and not the tail implies not only that the soul should not be subordinated and subjugated to the desires of the body, but moreover, even when the soul’s desire reigns supreme, it is still important that we don’t allow the body’s interests to compromise the integrity of the soul.
For example, one who performs a Mitzvah, which involves the soul (the “head”), but does it for the for the purpose of showing off before others, the head has thus become subordinated to the body (“tail”). And while we should never desist from performing a Mitzvah even if we do it for ulterior motives, nevertheless, the greatest blessing is when we grow to the point that our head is independent and unaffected by the weaknesses of the body. This is seen as one of the ultimate blessings, because there is no greater blessing than freedom. And there is no greater form of freedom than when our soul (“head”) is free and unencumbered by any other inferior influences, external or internal.
However, even that is not the pinnacle of blessing. The Torah continues that the truly ultimate blessing is when we are always “above” and not “below.” This could mean that even when our head is independent and free, it can revel and become complacent in its own level of spiritual attainment. To always be “above” implies that the person, no matter how they much they have achieved in the spiritual realm, must always look to reach above; to always climb to greater heights of spirituality.
Now, many people can argue that everything is relative. And relative to others one might be on a higher level and that could suffice. To dispel this notion the Torah underscores that not only is it important to always strive to be above, but is is also important to never look below us and conclude that we have already achieved enough since relative to others who are below, we are above.
While we are still in exile, it is difficult if not impossible to break out of the “relativistic” notion that we can be content if we have achieved more than others. By placing this blessing at the end of the entire series of blessings, the Torah is essentially conveying to us that at the end, when Moshiach will usher in the period of redemption, we will see the full realization of the blessing that we shall always be a “head” and that we shall always be above in the pure non-relativistic sense
What will be true in the full sense of the word in the Messianic Era can be “sampled” even now, especially as we approach the end of the year and embark on a journey into a new year and a new and heightened level of spirituality.
May we therefore all realize these greatest blessings on the threshold of the new year, and may we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year.