The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Vayeilech and is found in Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30. Vayeilech – the shortest Torah portion of the year – begins with Moses, ever the visionary leader, preparing his people for national continuity after his death. The Israelites need not fear. Joshua will assume national leadership and God will champion their cause. The people of Israel are encouraged not to go astray after Moses’ death. Moses writes down God’s teaching which he delivers to the Levitical priests who are instructed to read the teaching to the assembled people Israel every seven years during Sukkot. This will serve to indoctrinate future generations, who, unlike the generation of the Exodus, did not experience God’s redemption and miracles personally. This will allow them to learn devotion to God and to embrace the covenant anew. Moses then recites a poem he wrote to remind them of God’s justice and patience with them, regardless of the decisions they will make in the future. Israel is admonished to observe the covenant and to follow God’s laws as a primary obligation and the route to prosperity and well-being in the Promised Land. It is to pass on both this message and the poem itself, in which heaven and earth are called upon as witnesses, as a legacy to future generations.
From this passage we learn the following: First, God is with us and will champion our cause. He will be just and patient with us even though we may not always make the right choices. In keeping with the High Holy Day theme, God is slow to anger and quick to forgive. Second, good choices are based on the foundation of Torah, which provides a spiritual and ethical foundation for us to live. This foundation keeps us connected to God and helps us focus on what is important in life. Third, throughout our lives, we should live to make a difference in others’ lives and to leave a legacy for future generations.