Shabbat Nitzavim-Vayelekh 5783

On this final Shabbat of 5783, we don’t quite finish the Torah, but we’re pretty close to the end. Think about where we are, and where Moshe and the Israelites are in the Torah. We both stand at a threshold, ready to cross from one state to another. For us, that transition is in the realm of time; for the Israelites, it was about a change of place. They’re soon to cross the Jordan and begin the sometimes messy process of possessing their Land.

Last week, Moshe instructed the Israelites to inscribe words–probably some part of Sefer Devarim, the Book of Deuteronomy–on one of the stones of Mount Eval as soon as they enter the land. This week, he emphasizes text again. As we read at the beginning of our second parshah this morning, Vayelekh:

“Every seventh year…when all Israel come to appear before the LORD your God…you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:10-11). What’s more, whatever spiritual hierarchies may exist in the normal course of life are to be flattened for this ceremony. Men, women, dependent children, even the ger, the foreigner or refugee in Israel’s midst, is to be gathered “that they may hear and so learn to revere Adonai your God and to observe faithfully every world of this Teaching” (31:12).

Why does Moshe, after giving a long oral presentation, focus so much on a book, a written text? I’ll give you a hint: it’s about memory, and the fear that we will lose it. As we approach Moshe’s last words, and our final words of Torah in the year that is almost over, I’ll elaborate on this fear on Shabbat morning.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David Wise

Candle lighting: 6:58 PM
Torah Reading: Deuteronomy 29:9-31:10
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10-63:9