Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-30) Renewing Our Days, Our Faith, Our Souls?

Western Wall, Photo by Chris Yunker (via Flickr.com under CC2.0 License)
Western Wall, Photo by Chris Yunker (via Flickr.com under CC2.0 License)

Vayelech in its own way is a strange portion. It is one chapter that is filled with interesting issues. Moses is, for the time being, accepting of his death. He charges Joshua to be strong and courageous. He speaks with the elders and predicts that after his death and their going to Canaan, they will continue to stray from the path that they accepted at Sinai.

 

There are, however, a fascinating few verses at the beginning of the portion. In 31:10-13, Moses outlines for the people the call to read this Law (Torah) as an act of renewing the Covenant. This is to be done every seventh year, at the year of remission or, what we know as the sh’mitahyear. This is the year when the land is to rest and various economic and social laws are followed. It is a year of renewal. By coincidence, 5782 is such a year!

 

So, this portion this year comes in the Shabbat between Rosh Hoshonnah and Yom Kippur, the so-called Shabbat T’shuvah or Sabbath of Repentance.  The special Haftorot (from the Books of Hosea, Micah and Joel) speak to High Holiday themes of returning to God, repentance and faith. No doubt, in your Torah study session you will discuss this special seventh year.

 

Yet, for we elders, the question raised in this section can be very profound and meaningful. How can we, do we, renew our relationship with God? This is, after all, a major question and theme of these Holidays. What does this mean to each of us? Should congregations create a special renewal ritual for us that we can embrace in a public way, a ritual that would signify our renewal of our faith, affiliation and affection for our Jewish life? Could this be a ritual that includes study and action, modeling a system that sees us, every seven years, as a new spiritual person?

 

As we, as we age, re-examine our own spiritual quotient, perhaps it is time for us to institutionalize this ritual of renewal. And, shall it be only for elders?

 

Shabbat shalom,V

2 Comments

  1. Rabbi Address

    Why won’t the orthodox community reference Devarim 31? Your question of how we are to return to G-d is profoundly important.

    I believe that Maimonides answered this proposition in his Mishneh Torah, Foundations of the Torah 9,

    “It is a clear and manifest principle concerning the Torah that as a Law it is permanently established forever and evermore; and that it is not subject to mutability, nor to the diminution, nor to amendment; for it is said: “All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (Ibid. 13.1); and it is further said: “But the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Ibid. 29.28). Here we learn that according to all the words of the Torah we are commanded to do forever.

    It is, moreover, said: “a statute forever throughout your generations” (Num. 15:15); and again, it is said: See Bava Mezi’a 59b:5. “It is not in heaven” (Deut. 30:12); here from we learn that no prophet is thereafter permitted to make any innovation. Therefore, should a man rise up, whether he be from among the Gentiles or whether from among Israel, and deliver a token and perform a miracle saying, that God hath sent him to add a commandment, or to diminish a commandment, or to interpret a certain commandment of among the commandments with such interpretation as we have not heard by tradition (statute) from Moses; or he said, that these commandments with which Israel was charged are not forever and throughout all generations, but that they were commandments in keeping with those times only, behold him, he is a false prophet, seeing that he came to deny the prophecy of Moses; and his punishment is death by strangulation, because he willfully spoke in the name of God concerning that which He did not charge him; for He, blessed is He! commanded Moses, saying, that this enactment was “unto us and unto our children forever” (Deut. 29:28); and, “God is not a man that He should lie” (Num. 23:19).

    I cannot understand Maimonides in his Mishneh 9 as he clearly states that there is no Oral Torah or Rabbinical Judaism religion.

    Jeremiah 23: 25-27 in the name of the L-rd G-d said,

    “I have heard what the prophets say, who prophesy falsely in My name: “I had a dream, I had a dream.” How long will there be in the minds of the prophets who prophesy falsehood—the prophets of their own deceitful minds— the plan to make My people forget My name, by means of the dreams which they tell each other, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal?

    If the people returned to G-d and the covenant, the Jewish people could return to a land of peace and a place flowing with milk and honey. No more antisemitism and no more fear of the world attacking the small state of Israel.

    Your perspective is appreciated.

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