This week, our Parshat HaShevua for Vayeilech is being sponsored by Steven and Debra Glanz of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated in honor of their son Binyamin’s recent marriage to Nachama Levie.. To the Glanz family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua.
Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides a summary of Parshat Vayeilech in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim which is excerpted by this author (page 305):
…With the opening of Parshat Vayeilech… Moshe walks from tribe to tribe in order to inform the people that he has reached the end of his life and to bid them farewell. He encourages the nation with assurance that Hashem will successfully bring them into the Land under Yehoshua’s leadership and publically encourages Yehoshua to be strong and courageous in his new role.
Rabbi Goldin now notes that Hashem relates to Moshe horrendous news of the future (pages 328-329), provides a rendering to English of Perek 31, posukim 16-19 with questions and commentary:
Moshe is about to die; the fulfillment of… [his] dreams will now rest with the nation. Hashem summons him for one final message… [which] is nothing less than devastating. Hashem informs Moshe that the nation is destined to sin grievously and to be terribly punished:
“Behold, you will lie with your fathers, and this nation will rise and sin after the foreign gods of the land into whose midst they will come; and they will forsake Me and annul the covenant that I have established with them.”
“And My anger will be kindled against them on that day and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them and they will be as prey, and many evils and troubles will come upon them. And they will say on that day: ‘Is it not because my G’d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?'”
“And I will certainly hide My face on that day, on account of all of the evil that they will have done, in that they turned to other gods.”
“And it will be, when many evils and distresses come upon them, then this song [Hashem seeming to refer to Ha’azinu] shall testify before them as a witness, for it shall not be forgotten from the mouth of their offspring…”
Is this information [that the nation is destined to sin grievously and to be terribly punished] truly necessary? The Torah has spoken before, in great depth, specifically in the Tochachot, of the potentiality of grave sin on the part of the nation and of the inevitable consequences of that sin. Now, however, on the eve of Moshe’s passing, Hashem speaks not of potentialities but of certainties… Is it necessary to to inform Moshe of these facts, specifically now? The only consolation available to Moshe… [prior to] this sad moment might emerge from a belief in the nation’s success after he’s gone. Now, it would seem, even that comfort is denied him.
One might argue, as it appears from the text, that Hashem shares this information with Moshe so that… [he] can personally prepare the nation for the predicted challenges and calamities. Hashem thus commands Moshe to record, teach and “place in the peoples’ mouth” Shirat Ha’azinu, the song recorded in the next parsha.
…[One] could counter, however…., Hashem could have commanded Moshe to prepare the nation for the potential backsliding. The future could have been shared, as in earlier passages of text, as a possibility, rather than as a certainty.
What, then, is Hashem’s purpose in imparting this definitive, devastating vision of the future to Moshe, particularly at this sensitive moment?
Torah Gems, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg (page 314) may provide answers to the above questions in citing a Mikra MeForash which notes;
Torah refers to… “rising up” [Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 16], when it would seem more proper to use a verb such as “to descend.” Rather, what this teaches us is that the people will rise up. They, rather than their leaders, will be the rulers, and that will result in their falling to the lowest depths.
The “people”, rather than their [Torah] leaders, will be the rulers resulting in the nation’s fall to the depths?
Then Torah states (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 17);
“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles will befall them…”
How very much does this Torah Gems citing regarding the Israel’s future sins sound like modern-day self-affectionated, self-aggrandizing, corrupt Israeli Torah-devoid governance and factions, even amongst some “religious” sectors — i.e. where some prominent political “leaders” hold that same-gender is acceptable, rather than the abomination which Hashem’s Torah deems it? And how very much this citing sounds like the great rhetorical noise, i.e., which Israel’s so-called “leaders” make — about the advent of Iranian nukes, or after terror attacks, or after massive day-after-day rocket blitzes from Gaza, or from South Lebanon— rhetorical noise (boasts) which translate into far less than total victory in a War for Torah? These same so-called “leaders,” these big, brave Shotrim — the Israeli “police” who show mercy to the cruel — hamstrung to apprehend Arabs attacking Jews in cities throughout Israel, while brutalizing, arresting and persecuting Jews who fight for Eretz Yisrael and for the Torah way against the internal subversion of the current slap-dash ruling coalition?
How very much these so-called big, brave “leaders” and their Shabaknikim and Yassamnikim “Shotrim” fit the descriptions of the above citings, i.e. the “people”, rather than their [Torah] leaders, will be the rulers, as they smash Jewish heads and abuse women and babies in the dead of night and on Shabbos in countless venues? And how very much does this anti-Torah mercy to the cruel translate in the mindset of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the PLO, ISIL, Iran, etc. as weakness of the Jewish nation and her leaders, rendering Israel as weak and hypocritical before the nations?
Oh, that the Netanyahus, Bennetts, Lapids, Baraks, and a host of other wimp, Torah-lacking politicians, particularly the current governing coalition of broken promises and perfidy, with their fingers in the air to see which way the populous wind blows or if Mansour Abbas will approve, would come to realize and internalize Jewish values, as well as the rest of the above posuk (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 17):
They will say on that day, “Have not these evils come upon us because Hashem is not within me?”
And so, it seems very noteworthy that our Parshat Vayeilech is singled out, as it was last year, to fall out on Shabbos Shuva.
In last week’s Parshat Nitzavim, Torah records Moshe relating the words of Hashem to Am Yisrael:
“It will be that when these things come upon you — the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you — then you will take it to heart among all the nations where Hashem, your G’d, has dispersed you; and you will return unto Hashem, your G’d and listen to His voice, according to everything that I command you today…” (rendered to English in The Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer Devarim, Perek 30, posukim 1-2)
The sefer “Majesty of Man”, by Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz renders “you will take it to heart” as “you shall call to mind” and cites S’forno (“Majesty of Man”, pages 283-284):
…This “calling to mind” is not simply a reminiscence of past events but a deep introspection by every Jew into his own subconscious. This reflection is necessary to determine the motivations for every deed he does. Once he has clarified the motivating factors, he can establish if they are in accordance with Torah. This is the essence of teshuvah — sincere introspection followed by honest comparison of one’s thoughts and deeds with the Torah’s absolute standards of right and wrong.
Rabbi Leibowitz then indicates that this thought of S’forno is echoed by Rabbeinu Bechaya in his sefer “Chovos HaLevavos” — Obligations of the Heart” and comments (ibid, page 284):
Bearing in mind the complexity of each individual, how is it possible to search for and find our true motivations? Though each person has his own complicated psychological code to decipher, the Torah assures us that every person is capable of breaking the code. Hashem has created each of us with the unique power of self-analysis. This great potential heightens our responsibility to scrutinize all our actions and correct them as well as [correcting] the motivating factors behind them.
Rav Goldin continues his commentary (ibid, pages 331-332):
Our annual struggle on the Yamim Noraim [is] to control the uncertainty of our lives through prayer and repentance….
No matter how hard we pray…, some of our prayers will be answered to our liking and others will not. No matter how hard we work on ourselves over [the period of] Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we will succeed in some of our newfound resolutions and we will fail in others.
One of the most critical lessons of the entire Yamim Noraim experience is that failure refines. Our greatest growth occurs when we “pick ourselves up” after a fall, when, in the face of challenge, we not only persevere but triumph. For this reason, Talmud informs us that with complete teshuvah, repentance and return, an individual’s past transgressions are transformed into Mitzvot. An individual who strives, fails, and then builds from that failure stands on a higher spiritual plane than an individual who never fails at all.
Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, pages 333):
Moshe… reassures the nation before his passing: Hashem will strike the appropriate balance in His relationship with you. He will never abandon you, but neither will He weaken you. He will give you the space you need to develop on your own, to succeed or fail through your own efforts. He will let you become the people you need to become.
It seems to this author that the discussion of the “Covenant of Hashem” of our Parshat Nitzavim, and its subsequent reiterations, renewals and reminders, throughout Tanach, are crucial and bear remembrance by the Kehal — the Am, especially at this time in this period of the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic which has swept the world and affected Am Yisrael greatly, as well as today’s political governmental leaders who should have the interests of our people first and foremost — NOT their own political self-interest and power-lust, and for Rabbanim to internalize and ponder long and hard during Rosh Hashana and Asseret Yomei Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentence before Yom Kippur).
We yearn for the time of the building of the Third and Permanent Beit HaMikdash, Torah-true governance with the Moshiach , speedily in our days, and convening Hakhel, next year at the conclusion of Shmita.
Asserting and taking Mutual and unified responsibility, as The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash introduction to Parshat Nitzavim indicates — it may just be key to The Ge’ula!
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Good Shabbos Shuva! May You, All of My Brothers and Sisters, be Inscribed and Sealed for another Year of Life… Now and always!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.