This post is dedicated in memory of Shlomo ben Aryeh Zalman. May it be an aliyah for his neshama.
By Shoshana Rosa
If one's father was on the verge of breathing his last breadth, what would encourage his sons to lean in close to catch his final words? Might it be the anticipation of his handing down a large inheritance such as the deeds to the house or the car keys to his beloved porsche (theoretically)? It's highly probable that the father is rasping out last minute instructions on how his kids should conduct themselves in the future. If they do not seize the moment, they may be missing out on a one time chance. I say, "Cock an ear; you have everything to lose and nothing to gain in ignoring a father's deathbed whispers."
I am certain much speculation has been made over why Parshat Vayelech is shorter than any other parashah in the Torah. I would garner that, perhaps, it is because this Shabbos (the Sabbath's) Torah portion is, in large part, Moshe's final speech to the Jewish nation. Moshe was a sort of father to the Jewish nation; he led them out of egypt; he introduced them to Hashem at the Sinai event. Now, he is about to pass away. The fact that he knows this is incredible. The speech he relates to the Jews is filled with direction and reassurance. First, he approaches the crowds of people, "Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel" (Deuter. 31:1). He starts off by mentioning his long and rich life, "I am one hundred and twenty years old today..." (Deuter. 31:2). As an aside, it is from Moshe's example that we wish each other "Ad me'ah v'esrim! (may you live till a hundred and twenty)."
Moshe begins by saying that he will not be entering the land with Bnei Yisrael (the Jews). Instead, his closest disciple, Joshua, will be filling in. He reassures them that under the next leader in line's watchful eye they are sure to conquer the land of Israel from the seven nations. Then, Moshe introduces Joshua to the multitudes. Some other last minute instructions include telling the Leviites to read out sections of the Torah to the entire nation, men, women and children, every seven years just after shmittah. This event is called hakhel, gathering. Interestingly enough, if the temple was still standing, this is what we'd be doing this coming Succot.
That's the good news.
Next, Moshe repeats the final disclaimer from Hashem, "...this people will rise up and stray after other gods which are foreign to this land [Israel]... My anger will flare against it on that day and I will forsake them..." (Deuter. 31:15-16). Moshe adds that they shouldn't stress out because there will be a light waiting at the end of the upward of three thousand year exile. And Moshe repeats a song Hashem [G-d] taught him for the purpose of reassuring the Jews that G-d will never completely abandon them, come what may. We "married" G-d on the day we accepted the Torah; we sealed a covenant for all of eternity that can never be broken. In next week's parashah, we will hear the song as well as an explanation.