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Shabbat Commentary

15/16 Sept: Shabbat Nitzavim-Vayelech comes in 7:01 pm, goes out 8:00 pm

Vayelech is a short Parashah that is seldom read on its own.  In most years, it partners with Parashat Nitzavim, which tends to get more attention because of its famous statement about the Torah: “It is not in the heavens” (Deut. 30:12).  Often taken as a statement that it is for humans to interpret what the Torah means, and not to wait for heavenly voices or engage in other sorts of divination to get rulings upon it. In reality, this statement is part of a longer narrative that runs throughout the Book of Deuteronomy, and whose practicalities are summed up in Parashat Vayelech.

G-d could have chosen to hold human hands forever.  In every generation, G-d would need to find a human willing and able to engage in the intense, exhausting process of engagement with G-d.  But G-d did not choose to keep the Israelites on a leash.  G-d’s purpose was to teach the people to lead ethical, G-d-centred lives, and to G-d this meant that they were required to engage in proper relationships with each other.

Text by Rabbi Paul Arberman

September 14, 2017