Torah Weekly - Parshat Vayelech

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Parshat Vayelech

For the week ending 5 Tishrei 5762 / September 21 & 22, 2001

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  • Overview

    On the last day of his life, Moshe goes from tent to tent bidding farewell to his people, encouraging them to "keep the faith." Moshe tells them that whether he is among them or not, Hashem is with them. He summons Yehoshua, and in front of all the people, exhorts him to be strong and courageous as leader of the Jewish People. Thus, he strengthens Yehoshua's status. Moshe teaches the mitzvah of hakhel: Every seven years on the first of the intermediate days of Succot, the entire nation, including small children, is to gather at the Temple to hear the King read from the Book of Devarim. The sections read deal with faithfulness to Hashem, the covenant, and reward and punishment. Hashem tells Moshe that his end is near, and he should summon Yehoshua to stand with him in the Mishkan, where Hashem will teach Yehoshua. Hashem tells Moshe and Yehoshua that after entering the Land, the people will be unfaithful and 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, hunted by all. Hashem instructs Moshe and Yehoshua to write down a song - Ha'azinu - which will serve as "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 Holy Ark, so that no one will ever write a new Torah Scroll different from the original, for there will always be a reference copy.



    Cosmic hide-and-Seek

    "I will surely hide My face." (31:18)

    Once, there was a great rabbi who came upon a young child crying his heart out. "What's the matter, little one?" asked the Rabbi. "We were playing…" the child sobbed. "We were playing hide and seek; I was hiding." The boy looked up into the Rabbi's face. "Yes, I'm listening," said the Rabbi. "I was hiding, but..." "Tell me, please," said the Rabbi softly. Finally the boy managed to finish his sentence "...but nobody came to look for me!"

    After a few moments, the Rabbi smiled his warm smile and said, "You know, you shouldn't feel so bad. You're in good company." The child heaved a little, his tears abating. The Rabbi continued: "You're in good company indeed. G-d feels a lot like you - He's hiding, and not many people are coming to look for Him."

    This world is a cosmic game of hide and-seek: Who brought us here? Who sustains us here? What are we doing here?

    To make the game more challenging, and our success more meaningful and rewarding, there are various distractions, false leads, to take us out of the game. But our "Host" has not left us without a "crib sheet" to help us navigate this ultimate virtual adventure. He has provided a clear manual which is guaranteed to allow us to unmask Him and the purpose of our existence. This manual is called the Torah.

    But if we don't keep the Torah, He will hide himself more deeply; finding Him will be very difficult.

    "I will surely hide My face."

    There are two types of concealment. One type is where you know someone is there but you just can't see him. The other type is where you don't know if the person is there at all. In this second type, the hiddeness is itself hidden. This is the ultimate hiding.

    When people are aware that G-d is hiding, then, ultimately, He is not concealed, for they will eventually find Him. However, when the hiding is itself hidden, when people don't realize Hashem is there hiding, they'll never bother to look.

    Yom Kippur is a once-a-year opportunity to throw ourselves on the mercy of the King. If we search with all our hearts, we will find Him.

    Cosmic Hide-and-Seek - The Sfat Emet in the name of the Chidushei HaRim in Mayana shel Torah; a story heard from Rabbi Zev Leff



    Haftara Shabbat Shuva:
    Hoshea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20 or Joel 2:15-27


    Shabbat Shuva is the first Shabbat of the year. It is the prototype, the blueprint for the whole year. Because of this, we must be especially careful to guard its sanctity - as it is the first. The Talmud tells us that if the Jewish People had kept the first Shabbat properly, no nation or culture could have ruled over them.

    Man was created on Friday afternoon in order to immediately enter into the blissful restful state of Shabbat. But before Shabbat came, Man had already sinned.

    But Shabbat and teshuva, repentance, go together. Our Sages teach (Berachot 37) that teshuva, repentance, preceded the world" (Pesachim 54). Therefore, the level of a person who returns to Judaism is before the world, and thus above the world. Shabbat too has a radiance which is higher than the six days of the week - a reflection of the world to come.

    The Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva, which means both "return" and "repentance." The first word of this week's haftara is "Shuvah"- "Return O Israel to Hashem, your G-d, for you have stumbled in your iniquity." Just as a person who has been found guilty by the courts and his only hope is to throw himself on the mercy of the king, so too the prophet exhorts the Jewish People to throw themselves on the mercy of the Supreme King of Kings, and beg for clemency, for He alone, in His great kindness, has the power to overrule the verdict and forgive their sins and transgressions.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Binyamin Rosenstock
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