Torah Weekly

For the week ending 8 October 2005 / 5 Tishri 5766

Parshat Vayelech

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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On this, the last day of his life, Moshe goes from tent to tent throughout the camp, bidding farewell to his beloved people, encouraging them to keep the faith. Moshe tells them that whether he is among them or not, Hashem is with them, and will vanquish their enemies. Then he summons Yehoshua, and in front of all the people, exhorts him to be strong and courageous as the leader of the Jewish People. In this manner, he strengthens Yehoshua's status as the new leader. Moshe teaches them the mitzvah of Hakhel: That every seven years on the first day of the intermediate days of Succos, the entire nation, including small children, is to gather together at the Temple to hear the King read from the Book of Devarim. The sections that he reads deal with faithfulness to Hashem, the covenant, and reward and punishment. Hashem tells Moshe that his end is near, and he should therefore summon Yehoshua to stand with him in the Mishkan, where Hashem will teach Yehoshua. Hashem then tells Moshe and Yehoshua that after entering the Land, the people will be unfaithful to Him, and begin to worship other gods. Hashem will then completely hide his face, so that it will seem that the Jewish People are at the mercy of fate, and that they will be hunted by all. Hashem instructs Moshe and Yehoshua to write down a song - Ha'azinu - which will serve as a witness against the Jewish People when they sin. Moshe records the song in writing and teaches it to Bnei Yisrael. Moshe completes his transcription of the Torah, and instructs the Levi'im to place it to the side of the Aron (Holy Ark), so that no one will ever write a new Torah Scroll that is different from the original - for there will always be a reference copy.


The Last Day

"Moses went and spoke these words to all of Yisrael." (31:1)

A thought for Shabbat Shuva (the Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur).

What would you do if you knew that you had just one more day to live?

How would you spend that last day?

Would you drive to the ocean with the top down for a last glimpse of the sun rising over the waves? Would you book lunch at the best restaurant in town? Or maybe you would indulge in the thrill of a dangerous sport like skydiving or bungee jumping, safe in the knowledge that there is no such thing as a dangerous sport on the last day of your life.

Or maybe, if you were a more contemplative sort, youd spend those last few hours writing down your thoughts and feelings as you were about to depart this world.

How many of us would spend those precious last moments calling on our friends to say goodbye, to give them comfort and consolation?

Thats what Moshe did when G-d told him that he had awoken to his last day on Earth. Moshe, the humblest person to walk this planet understood that his duty on his last day was to take leave of the Jewish people and comfort them over his impending death.

And how did Moshe comfort the people? He said, "I am an old man of a hundred and twenty years. I am no longer permitted to teach you Torah; G-d has closed the wellsprings of Torah from me. G-d will not let me cross the Yarden, but do not be discouraged! The Divine Presence will precede you and Yehoshua will be your leader."

What did Moshe mean when he said "G-d has closed the wellsprings of Torah from me."? Moshe was telling the people that he had lost the power to communicate Torah to them. Moshe was Moshe Rabbeinu, Moshe "our teacher." An essential quality of a teacher is that he can adapt his knowledge to the level and understanding of his pupils. When Moshe passed from this world, however, his understanding of Torah was so elevated that he could no longer present the Torah on the level of the Jewish People hence the metaphor of the wellspring. A wellspring flows outward. Moshes ability to flow his wisdom to the people was sealed up.

In fact, Moshe never found it easy to teach the People. When G-d told Moshe to return to Egypt and take out the Jewish People from their slavery, Moshe replied, "I am not a man of words for I am heavy of mouth and heavy of speech." (Shemot 4:10) In other words, Moshes connection to spirituality was so elevated that it was extremely difficult for him to clothe his perception within the sinews of speech.

Moshe comforted the people with the knowledge that although he would not be there to teach them Torah, the Torah would still be with them. They would still have The Guide To Life and teachers who could bring its supernal wisdom into each and every life throughout the generations.

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