Summary: VaYelekh is the 9th parasha in the Book of Debarim. It (and the next twoparashot) occur on Moshe’s birthday, the last day of his life. VaYelekh contains Moshe’s final words of wisdom and warning to B’nei Yisrael preparing them to enter the land of Cana’an. It includes the transfer of leadership to Joshua, the mitsvahHakhel (Gathering the People) and the command to the Levi’im to safeguard a copy of the Torah next to the Ark.
In the first and second aliyot Moshe confirmed his inability to travel further with Bnei Yisrael. They would cross the Jordan but he wouldn’t (O’veir), Joshua would take them across and the Almighty would wage war for them just as occurred against Kings Sihon and Og. They should remain steadfast and be fearless.
In the third and fourth aliyot Moshe spoke with Joshua directly, passing him responsibility for the Jewish people and charging him to be of great courage. Moshe then wrote and gave to the Levi’im a copy of the Torah, commanding them at the end of every Shemitah year to gather those who made pilgrimage for the foot festival and to read them these words. The purpose was for Bnei Yisrael to listen, study and hold in reverence the Almighty, and to convey the mitsvot to future generations.
In the fifth aliyah G-d commanded Moshe and Joshua to appear before the Tent of Meeting. There G-d forewarned Moshe that the Jewish people would go astray after his death and worship foreign gods. In reciprocity, G-d would ‘hide his face’ from the evils that would befall them.
In the sixth aliyah G-d taught Moshe the antidote for this impending crisis – a song Moshe would share with Joshua and the people. In the seventh aliyah Moshe commanded the Levi’im to preserve a copy of the Torah next to the Ark, ‘for he knows of your rebellion and stiff-neck’ (Debarim 31: 27). They were to call together the heads of tribes, elders and law enforcement officers to hear this testimonial song.
Comment: It is hard to imagine what must have been going through Moshe’s mind when, just before his death, after 40 years of leading a difficult nation, he was told that soon after he died Bnei Yisrael would be committing idolatry. And. as a result, terrible troubles would befall them.
This reference in VaYelekh draws our attention back to the sin of the Golden Calf when Moshe, still on top of Mt. Sinai, pleaded with the Almighty for their forgiveness. There, Moshe had opportunity to step aside and let G-d’s wrath consume the people. G-d promised to start afresh with Moshe, but instead Moshe interceded.
Here too, it seems G-d enlisted Moshe’s efforts one last time to intervene on a pre-emptive basis. The song Moshe wrote will be next week’s parasha Ha’Azinu. To a degree, it became Moshes’s legacy to all future generations. After conveying it to the people, Moshe would again be on his own with G-d.
Having been denied the right to cross (LaAvor) into Cana’an, instead Moshe ascended Har HaAvarim where he would die. There’s clearly a significant repetition of the verb ‘to cross’ in these last parashot. While Bnei Yisrael prepared to cross intoCana’an, Moshe still had one important task to fulfil. Good leaders are seldom fully appreciated until they’re gone. Moshe may be one of the best examples.