Parshat VaYelekh – Kippur

A reminder that Rambam Sephardi selihot are at 5:45am at the Elstree Shteible; 7:00am on Sunday. Tuesday Erev Kippur will also be at 5:45am followed by Hatarat Nedarim. For our full list of Kippur 5777 service times, please click here.

Parshat VaYelekh is the 9th in the Book of Deuteronomy spanning chapter 31:1-30. It is the shortest parasha in verses in the entire Torah.

Summary: Moshe told the Jewish people that at age 120 he wouldn’t be able to join them in the Land of Canaan. Instead, the Almighty would defeat the occupying nations. The time had come for him to pass on the mantle of leadership to Joshua.

G-d would do what was done against the Emorite Kings Sihon & Og. They should pull themselves together and be strong, the Almighty would walk with them and they would inherit the Land. Moshe called Joshua, and before the congregation, charged him to be confident in victory and not to fear, promising G-d would accompany him.

Moshe then wrote a Torah and gave it to the Kohanim to guard. He instructed that at the end of the 7th year on Sukkot, Bnei Yisrael would gather to read the words of this Torah, to listen and fulfil G-d’s commands. In order for their children to learn to fear G-d all the days they would live in the Land.

G-d commanded Moshe to appear at the Tent of Meeting with Joshua; there Moshe was told that in future Bnei Yisrael would sin by following other gods, flaunting the covenant they’d made with the Almighty. Then G-d’s anger would flare and Bnei Yisrael would be abandoned; terrible things would occur to them until they cried out that G-d had left them.

Moshe was to write a Song of Testimony against a time when G-d would bring them into the land of milk and honey and they ate and were sated, and then they would go after other gods and harm would befall them. This Song would serve as a witness that they were forewarned while still in the desert.

So Moshe wrote the Song and taught it to Bnei Yisrael, directing Joshua to be firm while leading the people into the Land. Moshe then charged the Leviim to guard the copy of his Sefer Torah and keep it next to the Ark of the Covenant.

For Moshe knew that the people acted rebelliously while he was alive, expecting them to do the same after his death. Finally, he told the Leviim to gather the elders, the heads of tribes and officers to hear the content of his Song. And then he spoke the words of Ha’Azinu to the entire congregation.

Comment: For an insight-filled interpretation from Rabbi David Forhman on Moshe’s experiences at the end of his life, reflected through Psalm 90, please click here.

Separately, as Yom Kippur will occur this coming week before our next entry, here are a few thoughts to hopefully enhance your experience. Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement – a time according to the Rambam when many of our sins can be forgiven.

It is a remarkable chance to renew and begin afresh, to shake off bad habits and see the world in its splendor and magnificence. It requires a minimal amount of effort on the day. The first step is to show up to synagogue, and the second is to read or recite the prayers to your best ability.

The formula we repeat 26 times during Kippur is from Leviticus 16:30 ‘For on this day, you will be cleansed, purifying you of all your sins, before the Almighty you shall be purified!’ All else occurs almost on its own.

What many people forget is that Yom Kippur in the Torah was the one day in the year when Aharon the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to create an incense cloud that would merge together with the cloud of G-d’s Glory that was ever-present in the Mishkan.

It is a day to reconnect directly with the Almighty, a day resembling the experience of our ancestors who received the 10 Commandments and were subsumed by their love and awe of the Divine.

May your prayers be heard and may we all merit in the New Year 5777 to be blessed with good health, happiness, prosperity and much spiritual growth.