Friday, September 14, 2018

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Vayeilech

       Parshas Vayeilech contains the last few moments of Moshe’s time as the leader of Bnei Yisrael. While he still has to give last words of guidance and bless to the nation, this week’s parsha is where we begin to see his authority removed. But this did not stop him one bit, as the parsha begins, “וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ משֶׁ֑ה“And Moshe went” (Devarim 31:1). Where did he go? He went to accomplish, he went to teach and guide, he went to help his people as much as he could.
       The end of the parsha contains a pasuk that, while famous, is perhaps overlooked in its true significance. It illustrates that even when he was no longer the complete leader of Bnei Yisrael, Moshe was still an important figure; this includes nowadays as well. “וַיְהִ֣י | כְּכַלּ֣וֹת משֶׁ֗ה לִכְתֹּ֛ב אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י הַתּוֹרָֽה־הַזֹּ֖את עַל־סֵ֑פֶר עַ֖ד תֻּמָּֽם“And it was, when Moshe finished writing the words of this Torah in a scroll, until their very completion.” (ibid: 24). The pesukim following this one write that Moshe told the Leviim to take the completed Torah scroll and place it by the Aron, to remain there eternally as a testimony to its truth.
       Interestingly, if you look earlier in the parsha, in Pasuk 9, there’s a similar idea taking place. “וַיִּכְתֹּ֣ב משֶׁה֘ אֶת־הַתּוֹרָ֣ה הַזֹּאת֒ וַיִּתְּנָ֗הּ אֶל־הַכֹּֽהֲנִים֙ בְּנֵ֣י לֵוִ֔י“Then Moshe wrote this Torah, and gave it to the Kohanim, the sons of Levi.” What is the difference between this earlier Torah that was given to the Kohanim and the Torah in Pasuk 24? The Ramban points out a distinction in the pesukim that shows the major difference between them. Pasuk 24 ends with the phrase “עַ֖ד תֻּמָּֽם”, “until their completion”; pasuk 9 makes no mention of any completion. The Ramban explains the significance behind this difference. The mitzvos had been (almost) entirely given over by pasuk 9, therefore, Moshe wrote over a copy of the Torah to be used, probably as a master teaching guide. However, he didn’t tell the Kohanim to place it anywhere specific, like he did with the Torah from pasuk 24, since it was not intended to be a testimony. Why not? Because it wasn’t finished yet.
       There was still another section of the Torah that had to be written. “וַיִּכְתֹּ֥ב משֶׁ֛ה אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא“And Moshe wrote this song on that day” (ibid: 22). These last few parshiyos make up this song, and even though they may not contain mitzvos (actually, pasuk 19 in Parshas Vayeilech is considered the final mitzvah in the Torah, the commandment to write a Sefer Torah), they are still part of the Torah. Pasuk 24 is Moshe writing a fully completed Sefer Torah. At this point, the Torah portion of the Written Torah was closed, sealed, nothing more could be added to it. Finally, it was ready to be used as testimony; hence, it was deposited by the Aron.
       While it’s cool to see exactly when the Torah became the Torah, there is another point to be made here concerning Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe is the greatest leader in our history. After leading the Bnei Yisrael for all those years, this parsha shows us he was still committed to bringing out the best in every person, even after he was no longer the official leader. Perhaps that is why his title historically is not as our leader, but our rebbi; our master, teacher, and guide. One of the final acts Moshe did in his lifetime was putting the final stamp on the written Torah. A book written entirely under the auspices of Hashem Himself, something which can never be edited, changed, or discarded. The most important historical, law, and spiritual document we have today. Finished and sealed with the approval of Hashem, by Moshe Rabbeinu.

Shabbat Shalom!

Click here for a previous year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Vayeilech

Click here to listen this this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts)

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