Parashat Vayelech // “He Went”

- י ה ה -

Why is service of God the highest spiritual level?

The light that God gave the Israelites at Mount Sinai

“Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel” Deut. 31:19

  • However great the merit of studying with passion may be, it is surpassed by true teaching and “introducing songs into their mouths.” “Rabbi Akiva says: From where do we derive that a person is obligated to teach his student until he learns the material and understands it? As it is stated: ‘Now therefore write this song for you, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel’’ (Deuteronomy 31:19)” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate of Eruvin 54b). In other words, teaching is about successfully conveying messages to our studentsand not just having them memorize details aimlessly. 
  • When we engage in study and passionately help others, we influence and benefit our environment. That is the purpose of existence – to improve ourselves and others in full and harmonious cooperation.

Moses appoints Joshua as the next leader

“Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel. And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee…That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee” Deut. 31:25 – 26

  • Moses addresses Joshua and appoints him as his successor. Moreover, he stresses that his leadership position is not only political or military – but is rather chiefly educational in nature. As one who “saw” God directly (see Exodus 33:23), Moses understands the full meaning of human insignificance. That is why he so easily renounces his honor and power and transfers them to Joshua. Moses knows that his time is running out. He recognizes that he will not be permitted to enter the land of Israel and indulge in its abundance. However, despite this saddening situation, Moses never stops displaying his magnanimity. He makes sure that his blessing will live on and enlighten future generations.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “He Went”

  • Parashat Vayelech is traditionally read on the Saturday called Shabbat Shuva, during the ten days starting on Rosh Hashanah – otherwise known as the Day of Judgment – and ending on Yom Kippur – otherwise known as the Day of Atonement. This is a special period in which we can attain divine forgiveness for our misdeeds.
  • To fully repent, we must “return” to our origins – to our souls. We must then prioritize our spiritual journey over material and temporal pleasures.
  • During the Ten Days of Repentance, we are called upon to discard all of our negative energies and feelings of blame – and embrace light. Repentance is “the way back home.”
  • Our mission is to teach and spread knowledge wholeheartedly – and not just repeat it idly or from habit. The greatest privilege is teaching and sharing our blessings with others.
  • The song mentioned in the Parasha is the light given to Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. It is the purest level of divine ethics – kind deeds performed with passion.

The critical roles of precision and punctuality are clear in nature and apply equally to our own lives.