Vayelech has the fewest verses of any weekly reading. It coincides – “beyn kesseh le’assor” – between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and so contains the theme of repentance.
In 30 verses flat, only nine more than the minimum to call up seven of the congregation, Joshua is briefed on his mission to conquer Canaan – the people are commanded to congregate each seventh festival of Tabernacles for a mass public reading to inspire all pilgrims to stay loyal to the Torah.
Moses is asked to prepare to die and issue an ethical will to his successor. He informs the Levites they must store a copy of the Torah right next to the Holy Ark inside the Sanctuary. His last act will be to assemble all the nations’ leaders and repeat his ethical exhortation to them. Once Moses sensed his leadership was at an end, he felt it wrong to spend any more time at the helm. The best thing he achieved at that late hour was to instruct them to keep a copy of the Torah next to the Holy Ark.
Nowadays we are blessed with the internet, a technology that strips away all boundaries that could prevent the message of Torah from reaching the remotest locations.
Therefore, ex-congregational rabbis have a great life’s task to look forward to after their retirement, namely, to take their teachings, the lessons they have taught and developed during their lifetime, and spread them to every corner of the earth.
The Haftorah is the section from the prophet Hoshea, which exhorts us to “take words” of reprimand and correct our ways. Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!
- Rabbi Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to Merseyside Army Cadet Force