Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat Vayeilech 5759

[Numbers] are mitzvot in Sefer HaChinuch

Due to shortness of remaining space, let's make this a Running Summary

Moshe Rabeinu, very near the end of his life in this world, appears before the People to deliver his final messages and blessings. He tells the people that he is 120 years old and is no longer capable of leading them. But - not to worry - G-d has promised to vanquish the enemies the people will face on the other side of the Jordan, and Yehoshua will be the new leader.

"For G-d, your G-d, He will go before you..."

Why YOUR G-d? Why not Elokeinu - OUR G-d? One commentator suggests that this is a poignant reminder that Moshe Rabeinu will not be entering the Land of Israel, as will all the people to whom he is speaking. The Talmud states that he who dwells outside of Israel, is like one who has no G-d. Moshe, alas, will remain in Chutz LaAretz.

G-d will do to the nations in Israel what He has already done to Sichon and Og, the Emori kings. Be strong and courageous, Moshe tells us, don't be afraid, and G-d will not let us down.

Moshe then speaks to Yehoshua in front of the assembled people, and asks him to be strong, for he will be leading the people and he will be in charge of conquering and settling the Land. G-d will be guiding you "every step of the way". When Moshe finished writing the Torah, he gave it over to the Kohanim, "the carriers of the Ark".

Moshe next commands the People concerning the mitzva of "Hak'hel" [612]. On the Sukkot following the Shmita year, when the people gather in Jerusalem for the Chag, the king shall read (parts of) the Torah to the multitude. The people are to gather at the Beit HaMikdash - men, women, and children - in order to learn, to fear G-d, to hear and understand, and to commit to fulfill all the teachings of the Torah. And the youngsters who have not yet learned, will hear and learn to revere G-d "all the days they shall live in the Land your are about to enter".

G-d calls to Moshe to take Yehoshua and appear with him at the "Ohel Moed". G-d's Presence descended to the Tent in the form of a Cloud. G-d tells Moshe that after his death, the people will (not necessarily immediately, and not specifically that same generation) rebel against Him, stray from the proper path, and embrace other gods. G-d announces that He will show His anger by "hiding His Face" from them. This is a reference to the well-known "hester panim" which manifests itself as G-d "working behind the scenes" only, in hidden, subtle ways.

Next is the command to write "The Song" (namely the whole Torah), to teach it to the people, so that it should serve as a testament among the People of Israel. This is mitzva #613, to write a Sefer Torah.

The RO"Sh (Rabeinu Asher) takes this idea one significant step further - he says that since in our day, the Torah scroll has been relegated to the Aron Kodesh in shul and is used for public reading, but not as a learning text - the MAIN fulfillment of this mitzva" to write a Sefer Torah" is the building of a personal Torah library. Buy Torah texts from which to learn and teach. He adds that it is also praiseworthy if one is privileged to write a Sefer Torah as well. This is an unusual turn-about, which emphasizes the importance of buying sforim - AND USING THEM.

"...and teach it to the People of Israel - place it in their mouths." From here the Gemara teaches us that one must review and review his teachings with his students until they understand. It is not sufficient to just teach; one must work very hard until his students really understand, until it in their mouths.

Because, G-d explains, I am bringing the people to a Land flowing with milk & honey. The People will eat in contentment and turn from G-d. The Torah, however, will not be completely forgotten from the lips (and hearts) of future generations. (This will be "their ticket back".) Moshe wrote the Torah on that day (Rambam says that he wrote 13 Torahs - one for each tribe and one in the care of the Kohanim/Leviim) and taught it to the People.

G-d "commanded" Yehoshua to be strong and courageous in his new role as leader. Moshe completed the writing of the Torah. (Some say that Moshe even wrote the final 8 p'sukim of the Torah, which discuss his death.) Moshe commands the Leviim to take the Torah and place it at the side of the Aron. (Some say that the Torah was in the Aron; others say that it was on a shelf attached to the side of the Aron.) Moshe asks for the leaders of the People to assemble for his final words to them. Moshe tells of the prophecy- prediction of the rebelliousness of the People. Moshe speaks the words of the Song - here probably referring to Haazinu - to all the people, in its entirety.

Haftara - 25 p'sukim - Hoshea 14:2-10, Micha 7:18-20, Yoel 2:15-27

This special haftara for Shabbat Shuva begins with the command to "return (repent), Israel, to HaShem, because you have sinned." We have the power to set things strength with our hearts and mouths.

The words of Micha become our petition to G-d to accept our T'shuva and figuratively cast our sins into the depths of the sea. This expression is one of the origins of the custom of Tashlich. Certainly, its name. (BTW, Tashlich can be said until Hoshana Rabba. So if one missed it on Rosh HaShana, there is still plenty of time.)

The words of Yoel can be seen as a call to "use Yom Kippur to its fullest". We must take the golden opportunity of T'shuva, which is one of G-d's greatest gifts to us, and have confidence that G-d is in our midst and that He will never forsake us.