Torah Weekly

For the week ending 5 October 2019 / 6 Tishri 5780

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, G-d 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 Succot, 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 G-d, the covenant, and reward and punishment.

G-d tells Moshe that his end is near, and he should therefore summon Yehoshua to stand with him in the Mishkan, where G-d will teach Yehoshua. G-d then tells Moshe and Yehoshua that after entering the Land, the people will be unfaithful to Him, and begin to worship other gods. G-d 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. G-d 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.


Living in the Present

“And he (Moshe) went” (13:17) The Ramban writes: after sealing the new covenant with all of the Jewish People, they returned to their homes, and then Moshe ‘went’ and walked throughout all the camp to bid farewell to his beloved people and console them so that their sadness at his departure should not cloud their joy in the new covenant.

The worst thing about the Summer Holidays is that they come to an end. I was sitting with my son on the beach watching the Mediterranean Sea cresting against the coast of the Land of Israel on the last day of our holidays and he said, “It’s amazing how the waves are so powerful, they rise so high, and a moment later they’re just so much foam. It’s a bit like the holidays. You have a wonderful time and then it’s gone.” It reminded him of an idea from the “Pachad Yitzchak” — Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner zt”l.

The Talmud in Bava Batra 4a says that someone who never saw the Second Temple as rebuilt by Hordus (Herod) had no idea of what a beautiful building was. Herod built the outer walls of the Beit Hamikdash, the Temple, by using aquamarine and white Marmara marble. One layer projected and one layer was indented. Herod’s idea was to plaster over the marble and cover the entire wall with gold. Herod never heard Yiddish in his life, but he would have certainly appreciated the Yiddish words, ungerpatchked (overdone) and ungerbluzen (overblown). The Sages suggested that he should leave it the way it was, because the differing colored strata of marble resembled the waves of the sea. Chazal were not in the business of giving interior decorating advice, so there was obviously something much deeper in their words.

King David said in Tehillim, “You (Hashem) rule the grandeur of the sea; at the height of the waves You praise them (89:10).”

Although the crest of the wave is but for a brief moment, that is the moment when Hashem chooses to praise them.

Hashem had great joy in the building of the Beit Hamikdash. The Mishna says that when King Shlomo refers to “the day of the ‘joy’ of His (Hashem’s) Heart” (Shir HaShirim 3:11), he means the day that the Temple was built (Mishna Ta’anit 4:8) No one knew better than Hashem that both Batei Mikdash (Temples) would stand for but a few hundred years, and then, like a wave, come crashing to the ground. But, nevertheless,

That was the day of the ‘joy’ of ‘His Heart.’ The wave at its height, at its crest. Thus it was fitting that the walls of the Beit Hamikdash should resemble the waves of the sea; that it should be praised at its height even though its glory would pass.

There are many times in life when we know that things will not be as good as they are at the present moment, and nevertheless we always should focus on that wonderful moment that is the present and not become downcast by the thought that it may not, and will not, last forever. And that’s a very good lesson to take away from the end of the “summer holidays.”

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