This week's Torah portion is from Deuteronomy 31:1–31:30. Join David as he discusses the importance of the dissemination of Truth, the Torah.
Follow along in the AUDIO PODCAST, by clicking on the play button below, and reading along with the notes, as you listen to today's Parashah:
In this week’s parashah, we see Moses bring to a conclusion his final speech to the Children of Israel before he was to die and the Children of Israel were to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. This day marked his 120th birthday, and upon concluding his speech, Moses was given final instructions by Hashem and given a song that he was to teach to the Children of Israel (which we will uncover in next week’s parashah).
And so we open up this week’s parashah to these words in Deuteronomy 31:1-2:
וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיְדַבֵּ֛ר אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה אֶל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
“Moses went and spoke these words to all of Israel. He said to them, ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I can no longer go out and come in.’”
The word “vayeilech” means “he went”, as in “Moses went”. Interestingly, this particular verb, in conjunction with the name Moses (“וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ מֹשֶׁ֑ה”), is only used four times in the Torah – once more in this week’s parashah (Deuteronomy 31:14), and twice more in Exodus 4:18 and 4:29.
Why does this matter? Because it marks the start and finish of Moses’ mission in this world, and as I pointed out earlier, this parashah marks the end of Moses’ final speech to the Children of Israel.
Back in the Book of Exodus, Moses’ mission began after encountering Hashem in the Burning Bush on Mount Sinai, when he sought permission from his father-in-law Jethro to leave and depart for Egypt, as we read in Exodus 4:18: “Moses went [“וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ מֹשֶׁ֑ה”] to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, ‘Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.’ And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace.’” And here in Deuteronomy 31:1-2, Moses was now stating that his mission was at an end – and ever so momentously on his 120th birthday. Moreover, both verses only involve Moses alone (“Moses went”).
The two other “vayeilech” verses are notable as well. In Exodus 4:29, it says: “Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel.” And in Deuteronomy 31:14, it says: “So Moses and Joshua went and stood in the Tent of Meeting.” First, these two verses involve Moses and another person – whether Aaron or Joshua (whereas the prior two verses involved only Moses). Second, the verb “vayeilech” is in the third masculine singular form when it should be in the third masculine plural form (“vayeilechu”). Oddly enough, the additional verbs (“gathered” in Exodus 4:29 and “stood” in Deuteronomy 31:14) in the two verses are both plural. As such, either they should maintain the singular form of “vayeilech” or as mentioned previously, “vayeilech” should be in the plural form “vayeilechu”.
What is this telling us? Both at the start and the end of Moses’ mission involved Moses “moving”, physically performing the action of “moving” as revealed by the word “vayeilech”. Not only that, but it also involved an additional person – both at the beginning and the end – with Aaron helping him to jumpstart the mission, and at the end, Moses passing the reins off to Joshua. Why the singular form verb instead of the plural form? Because both Aaron and Joshua joined Moses at the start and the end of his mission, respectively, in a unified manner to accomplish the mission of Moses. However, the following plural form verbs – “gathered” and “stood”, respectively – imply that beyond the initial unifying act of joining Moses in his mission, the individual wills of Aaron and Joshua took over thereafter, and as such, they are described in the plural form. In other words, Aaron and Joshua were not Moses, and while the initial intent to enter into oneness with Moses for the sake of the mission was genuine and noble, it was near impossible for them to operate in perfect sync with Moses – especially if Moses wasn’t around to provide guidance. For Aaron, think back to the sinning of the Golden Calf – while Moses was up on Mount Sinai, it was Aaron that helped the people produce the calf. And looking ahead, Joshua did not thoroughly follow the plans instructed by Moses to completely annihilate all of the Canaanites from the Land.
What we are being taught here is about Hashem’s preferred mode of dissemination – through human agents. The Torah was given to Moses by Hashem directly on Mount Sinai. Yet, from thereon out, the Torah was to be passed on – from man to man, from generation to generation.
In Deuteronomy 31:9, it says: “Moses wrote this Torah and gave it to the Kohanim, the sons of Levi, the bearers of the Ark of the Covenant of Hashem, and to all the elders of Israel.”
On the topic of leadership, Hashem chose Joshua as Moses’ successor, and he was most certainly the right choice, but he also was most certainly not Moses. These were some big shoes to fill. Twice in the parashah, Moses encourages Joshua to “be strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31:7, 23) for that very reason, and also due to the difficult task ahead of Joshua and the nation in entering the Promised Land. Surely Hashem was going before them into the Land (Deuteronomy 31:8 – “Hashem – it is He Who goes before you; He will be with you”), yet Joshua and the nation still had to take the initiative to conquer the Land (continuing in Deuteronomy 31:8 – “He will not release you nor will He forsake you; do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.”). As “Moses went”, they similarly had to move. They had to take the initiative.
Hence, the right leadership was critical for leading the nation into the Land, just like the right leadership was critical in bringing the nation out of Egypt. Hashem chose the appropriate agents to accomplish His work… very imperfect, human agents.
The reality is that we are all agents of Hashem, and we are here to serve His purpose. We are here to disseminate His truth to those around us, and ultimately the world. In bringing the Children of Israel out of Egypt, Hashem used Moses to lead them out of Egypt, and He also directly disseminated the Torah to Moses. Moving forward, it was up to Moses to pass on the reins of leadership to Joshua – his star disciple, and to disseminate the Torah to the next generation – to Joshua, the elders and the Kohanim. And from there, it was their task to disseminate it to the next generation, and the next generation, and so forth. Given the very human element involved, it is only to be expected that the Torah that was directly disseminated to Moses by Hashem, and thereafter passed from human agent to human agent, was bound to experience some form of depreciation. In fact, Hashem warned Moses that this would happen in Deuteronomy 31:16: “Hashem said to Moses, ‘Behold, you will lie with your forefathers, but this people will rise up and stray after the gods of that which is foreign to the land.” We see the reality of this from the Book of Joshua through to the Books of the Kings, where the people would slide away from Hashem due in large part to poor leadership, save for key agents throughout that would rise up and reignite the nation with a return to the Truth… agents like Deborah and Balak, Samuel and King David, Elijah and Hezekiah.
At the time when Yeshua walked the earth, it was a very dark time for the nation, and the leadership of the nation – both in the political and spiritual spheres of influence – had failed for numerous centuries in their duties to disseminate the Torah to the people. What better disseminator of the Torah than Yeshua – the Messiah – and what better time than at such a dark time for the nation, a time that shared similar undertones to that of their ancestors’ bondage in Egypt. As such, the people of the day anticipated the Messiah, but were expecting one like Moses to save them from their physical form of bondage. Yet, they remained in heavy spiritual bondage – a result of centuries of decay to the foundation of the Torah established by Moses.
Sure, salvation from their physical bondage was needed, but if they had not yet awakened from their spiritual slumber by now, what good would liberation from physical bondage do? The leadership was most certainly to blame for this, and these for the most part were the agents that hindered Yeshua’s mission to reignite the Torah in the hearts and minds of the people. As a result, just like Moses could not enter the Land with the people, on a grander scale, Yeshua could not reign in the Messianic era as the Messiah King – a momentous event that had to be postponed. Like Moses, Yeshua’s entire Messianic mission was hampered by the spiritual slumber of the nation to the Torah. Yet, this is not before Yeshua empowered a generation of his disciples to spread the Good News – a move that has ultimately impacted the entire world to this very day by spreading the Name of Hashem to all corners of the earth.
As Hashem warned Moses in Deuteronomy 31:16 about the people rising up and straying after gods foreign to the land, the reality of this problem is ever so widely apparent today. When it comes to the Torah, it is all about transmission, about dissemination to future generations, and unfortunately with human agents, the failure thereof of accurately and effectively disseminating the Torah as it was taught by Moses, and reignited by Yeshua. If Hashem wanted to reveal the truths of the Torah to us all as He did to Moses, He would have done so, but the reality is that He didn’t. As such, we are to rely on human dissemination.
Breakdowns in dissemination are such a common occurrence in humanity. We are creatures of habit, egotistical and arrogant, jealous and proud – all character traits that hinder us from elevating closer to our Heavenly Father. History just repeats itself – over and over and over. As King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9: “There is nothing new beneath the sun.”
We need to wake up and recognize that the role of our leadership is to inspire us, to motivate us, to empower us to be the very best version of ourselves, and that very best version of ourselves is in accordance with the Torah disseminated from Hashem to Moses at Mount Sinai – the same Torah that was reignited by Yeshua 1,500 years later.
Today, our leadership – whether political, institutional or spiritual – has failed us on so many levels. Morality, righteousness and justice have become relics of the past, and corruption, wickedness and injustice have taken their places. We have become accustomed to putting so much trust in our leadership, so much so that we have become like sheep. The present state of affairs with respect to Covid and the associated vaccines, the efforts by those in power to expand their control over us – the sheep – is a perfect example of this, with so many people being led astray out of fear or ignorance. How does the saying go? “Ignorance is bliss”. Might I add, “ignorance is bliss” for those who do not adhere to the ways of Hashem… who do not follow His Torah.
If this is the case regarding physical matters of the world, what about spiritual matters? The dissemination of the Torah seems to have been lost, splintered into different religions and denominations within religions, all because various leaderships believed their interpretation was correct. Look at us today, bickering between groups as to who is right and who is wrong… what is Truth. Don’t get me wrong, I am speaking of leadership on the aggregate level – there are still good leaders and teachers out there who know how to disseminate the Torah correctly, but unfortunately, they are in the minority – overpowered by louder voices promoting religion and law, or prosperity and promotion, or wealth and success in this world.
How far removed have we become from the Torah of Moses? The same one that was promoted and lived out by Yeshua? How much have we lost sight of those who have gone before us as true disseminators of the Truth? For those of us who believe Yeshua is our saviour, our conduit to Hashem, how many of us can truly say we are faithful disciples of him? Sure, he is no longer with us physically, but the gospel that was left behind and drew us to the knowledge of Hashem, that same gospel is still here. It is that same gospel that is grounded in the Torah, and teaches us how to return back to Hashem through the merit of Yeshua… how to remain connected to our Heavenly Father. That same Torah has lasted the test of time and remains a bedrock of Truth for the Jewish nation and ultimately the entire world.
If we are asleep spiritually, how in the world do we expect to be saved physically? Don’t get me wrong, the Messiah can come at any time, but we cannot sit around idly waiting for him to show up with our preconceived ideas. What if our interpretations of how he will return are completely misplaced – just like in the days of Yeshua when the nation was searching for a conquering Messiah King?
We need to get off of our laurels, stand up and proactively get back to the Truth, we need to get back to the Torah. We need to awaken from our slumber and ask ourselves, what are we doing to bring the Messiah? Yeshua taught us how to awaken ourselves spiritually – all we have to do is ground ourselves in him by replicating him, for he as a living Torah, and came to show us how to likewise become living Torahs and connect to our Father in Heaven.
Remember, we create the circumstances for our redemption – it begins with us awakening ourselves spiritually. May we wake up! May we rise up and become like those great ones that went before us – Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, King David, Elijah, and our Messiah Yeshua – connecting with the unified message that they embodied, and effectively disseminating the Truth in our surroundings, to become living Torahs in kind to the world!