Adapted from Metaparshiyot by R David Wolfe-Blank and Living Torah R Aryeh Kaplan
CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP
This Torah portion is one of the shortest Shabbat readings. Vayelekh is primarily concerned with the transition between the old leadership Moshe and the new leader Yehoshua. Moshe is clear that he is giving up his long assignment as leader of Yisrael. He empowers Yehoshua in the presence of the entire community there to witness. “Be strong and of good courage, ” he says, assuring the new leader and people that they do not need to be afraid since Havayah is with them.
VISION OF THE FUTURE
Vayelekh contains a few prophetic words about the covenant and the expectation that Yisrael will err and then suffer. Moshe is to teach the people a song to commemorate the prophecy. This is a most challenging section.
HAK-HEL RITUAL EVERY SEVEN YEARS
Every seven years, at the completion of a Sh’mitah year, the mitzvah of Hak-hel is to be enacted on Sukkot. All the people are to come to the holy place, and the Torah is to be read before the entire congregation.
Moshe completes the writing of the Torah and hands it over to the priests and elders. He instructs them to read it to the people at regular intervals – not keep it to themselves.
It is a renewal theme to adapt to the changing realities of our times with continuity, integrity, and fresh approaches. Every year is a mini renewal, and this portion is a red speck in the middle of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, suggesting the old year with its ways are gone. It is incumbent upon us to provide backward compatible methods to meet new realities to live our lives as aware and cognizant community.
This tour portion in the S’firah cycle, vayelekh is Hod of Sh’khinah
Hod is refined. Beauty comes through a result. This Torah portion is read on Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – the week of T’shuvah and the refinement that goes with it. Hod of Sh’khinah mirrors the personal and communal refinement of this period.
ON YOM KIPPUR, TIME BECOMES GOD
My teacher, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi zt”l, used to say this. It is a comforting and meaningful way to meet this elevated most holy day.
There are hints of this approach to the holiday in Mishnah Yomah’s quotation of Jeremiah 17:13 . Yoma is about Yom Kippur. We know this because the sages include the phrase below:
Mikveh Yisrael HAVAYAH
which translates as
gOD, WHO IS WAS AND WILL BE, IS yISRAEL’S MIKVEH (IMMERSION SPACE)
I love approaching Yom Kippur as a day of immersion into the Divine Presence. It, then, becomes a day of the highest pleasure – a day with The Beloved on High. No thing more is needed.
I wish all of you who will fast, an easy fast.
May you be sealed in ongoing SPiRals of Life.