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Vayelech 2012

Vayelech is often read in tandem with last week’s sedra Nitzavim. This year they are read separately. The Haftara is the rare Vayelech, from Hosea, Joel and Micah.  Hosea reminds us that if we sincerely return to God, he will always forgive and accept us, which is the underlying  theme of today - Shabbat Shuva.
Looking closely at Vayelech is rewarding for a number of reasons, not least because the Hebrew is fairly simple and contains well known phrases such as “Erez Zavat Chalav Udevash - a land flowing with milk and honey” and “Chazak Ve’ematz- be steadfast and strong” spoken by Moshe to Joshua.
It also contains mitzvah number 613 - the last mitzvah - which is that every Jew should write a Torah scroll (or at least part of one, or at least buy books about Torah!) so that every Jew would record and know the words of the Law we have just been given, and educate succeeding generations. More than anything else, this emphasis on learning has been our key to survival.   And  in tough times,  we know our strength has resulted in our stubborn refusal to abandon our way of life, and continue to teach our children (and perform Brit Mila) against all the odds. Chazak Ve’ematz indeed.
But what of the Erez Zavat Chalav – the beautiful land that awaits us on the other side of the Jordan. The sedra warns us it is full of dangers.  For the most deadly of these I use the term “Affluenza” – to which Jews are unusually prone.  The sedra discusses our fatal weakness for the good life and the sensuality of other faiths, and warns us of what we see has happened to us so many times in our history.
Next week’s sedra contains an essential tool of communication - not merely “devarim” words, but “haazinu”  a song. Moshe knew that the spirit in which we transmit our mission to future generations is extremely important. The word “ear, hear, listen” occur many times in Vayelech. And the king himself publicly read aloud the whole book of Devarim every seven years – an event of the utmost joy and importance to the nation, to which everyone was invited. Words of Torah directly uttered, from lips to ear, beautified in song. Surely “Hear O Israel” is the watchword of this week’s sedra.     Merrill Dresner

More documents on this Parshah: