Parshas Vayeilech brings us even closer to Bnei Yisrael entering Eretz Yisrael, and with that, Moshe’s death. After hitting the rock, told in Parshas Chukas, Hashem told Moshe and Aharon that they would not be able to lead the nation into Eretz Yisrael. Now that Bnei Yisrael were about to enter the Land, Moshe knew he was not going with them.
The parsha begins, “וַיֵּלֶךְ משֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר אֶת הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֶל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל” “And Moshe went, and he spoke all these things to all of Yisrael” (Devarim 31:1). All the commentaries ask where exactly did Moshe go? The Targum Yonason says that Moshe knew he was going to die soon, so he went to the Beis Medrash to give the nation one last mussar schmooze. The Ramban explains that he went to say goodbye to the people before he died. However, the pasuk is not clear if either of these answers (which are just two of many) is correct. Furthermore, in pasuk 2, Moshe says that his time in this world is up. Asks the Ohr HaChaim, how did Moshe know he was about to die? The gemarah (Shabbos 30a) explains that no one ever or will ever know when they are supposed to die, so how did Moshe know?
The Ohr HaChaim explains with the help of a Zohar that says forty days before a person dies, his neshama leaves his body. (What this means exactly, is beyond the scope or understanding of this Dvar Torah, but it is not necessary to understand the overall theme.) As a result of their close spiritual connection with their inner selves, tzaddikim can tell when this happens. Furthermore, the name you have in this world is the name for your neshama. Meaning, your name, your personal point of reference, is not simply a title you are known by, it is actually the name of your neshama, and therefore, it is what you will be known by in Gan Eden when your neshama returns to Hashem (after you die).
Therefore, when the pasuk says that Moshe “went”, it isn’t referring to Moshe physically going anywhere. Rather, it is referring to his neshama leaving his body and “going” back to Hashem. Moshe wanted to communicate this fact right away to Bnei Yisrael in order to prepare them as much as possible for life in Eretz Yisrael (without him), so he immediately told them and began teaching them what they needed to know (as evidenced by the end of pasuk 1, pasuk 2, and the remainder of the parsha). So even though generally people cannot know exactly when they will die, someone as spiritually connected as Moshe would know right away when his neshama had left him and would know he only had a few weeks to live.
What did Moshe do with his last few weeks of life? He could have decided to take it easy; after all, he had successfully led the Bnei Yisrael through the desert, brought them the Torah, and dealt with every crisis that came his way. He could have easily justified spending the last few weeks relaxing. But he didn’t. The pasuk tells us that he went, he was proactive and spent all his remaining time teaching and guiding Bnei Yisrael as much as he could.
We must learn from Moshe this lesson of always being proactive. It’s currently the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah; we must wake up and do teshuvah while we still have the chance! Like Moshe before his death, we cannot coast through this; we must do our best to improve before this uniquely opportunistic time ends.
This week’s Haftorah is the last of a set of seven since Tisha B’av which offers consolation for Yerushalayim and the Jews. This week’s speaks about the beautiful scene that will be Yerushalayim when the Bais Hamikdash will be rebuilt and all the Jews will be back in Eretz Yisrael. Reading these words, we can see the beautiful picture contained in these words. This is the scene that will be if we can internalize the lessons of this week’s parshah.
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