Vayelech is the shortest reading of the year, almost a bare minimum to fit in seven call-ups to the Torah. Joshua is briefed on his mission to conquer Canaan. The people are commanded to congregate each seventh festival of Tabernacles for a mass public reading – Hakhel – to inspire pilgrims to stay loyal to the Torah, and non-Jews are encouraged to hear the Torah’s message too.
Moses is asked to prepare to die and make way for Joshua, his successor. He instructs his brother Levites to store a copy of the Torah, right next to the Holy Ark inside the Sanctuary.
His last act will be to assemble all the nations’ leaders and repeat his ethical exhortation to them. Moses ensures to prepare well the entire nation to take over once he is gone.
His uppermost concern is the spiritual welfare of Israel and that they do not degenerate after his passing. Although Moses instructed that a copy of the Torah be stored by the Ark of the Covenant, this might have restricted circulation, especially if it is only read out once every seven years. Now, social media can get out the message of Torah, fast, far and wide. Like Moses, congregational rabbis and lay people have a great life’s task to spread Torah teachings to every corner of the earth.
Another end-of-Deuteronomy mitzvah this week is the writing of a Torah scroll, which is incumbent on every Jew. This underlines the importance of each of us to make the message of Torah our own to read and understand, interpret and apply.
Wishing Jewish News readers well over the fast.
- Rabbi Abel serves Liverpool Princes Road Synagogue
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