Parashat Vayeilech – Erev Shabbat 30 September 2022.
Week: September 25th– Oct.1st, 2022
Torah portion: Dt.31:1-30; Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10; Mic. 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-27
Theme: God will not fail you or forsake you.
In this parashah we realize the intense feeling Moses had for the people and his great concern for their covenantal faithfulness even to future generations. In these farewell words, he informed the Israelites that he would not cross the Jordan with them. Instead on God’s instruction, he announced that Joshua was his appointed successor. It had been a horrendous struggle for Moses not to accompany them but he did accept that his mission was now completed. God gave him a glimpse of the land from Mount Nebo and Moses died there on the summit. His death was God’s command and Moses died according to the Word of the Lord.
Moses had admonished all the people to remember that it is God who is their leader (31:3) and that on entering the land he warned that they would stray and accept other gods. Even in this, God waited and forgave them. He then blessed Joshua with the words, “Be strong and resolute, the Lord your God marches with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (31:6)
Moses, always the teacher had previously taught orally, but now he wrote the message down arranging for its regular public reading. His intention was so that all the people would be reminded of God’s covenant and so that future generations will learn. He dictated that every seventh year, at the feast of Booths they shall read this teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel (31:11). In actuality, Moses wrote the first commentary on the Torah!
The phrase in Dt.30:12, “Gather the women….so that they may learn.” has brought many a comment. Some authorities thought that there was no obligation to teach the Torah to women. “Such opinions, however, are products of the Greco–Roman view of women as intellectually weak, a notion that began to appear in Jewish sources in the 3rd century BCE during the Hellenistic period. In contrast, Ben Azzai held that a man is obliged to teach his daughter Torah.” (JT Hag.1:1) (Etz Hayim 1175)
A powerful concept is expressed in Dt. 29:14, “Not with you alone do I make this covenant and this oath, but with whoever is here with us today in the presence of the Lord, our God and with whoever is not here with us today.” The modern philosopher, Martin Buber once wrote, “Everyone of Israel is told to think of himself as standing at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. For man there are past and future events, but not so for God: day in and day out, He gives the Torah.” (God’s Echo, 9)
As Jews celebrate the Haggadah (telling of the story) at Pesach, they too count themselves as having been slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and that God took them out from there with a strong hand and an out-stretched arm. “The Jewish people need to constantly renew their awareness of their role as ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ It is not enough to do mitzvos by rote. One must hear and learn and under- stand the Torah, one must fill himself with awe for the Almighty, and one must raise this understanding and awe to the practical level by carefully observing the words of the Torah.” (Torah Insights, 318)
The Haftarah reinforces these essential themes that Moses gave in his farewell words – that of the struggle to learn and to live the Torah, to be faithful to the call ‘to choose life,’ to remember God’s mercy and to see the bond and continuity with both their ancestors and future generations.
Reflection: How seriously do I take the call to ‘Choose Life’ in all its aspects?
Bibliography: Etz Hayim, Torah & Commentary, (The Jewish Publication Society, Brooklyn, N.Y. 1985); Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, God’s Echo, (Artists Rights Society, New York, N.Y.2007); Rabbi Bertram Leff and Yisroel Epstein, Torah Insights, (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregation of America, New York, N.Y.2000).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2001