click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Join 400,000 Aish subscribers
Get Email Updates




Vayelech(Deuteronomy 31)

Vayelech 5760

GOOD MORNING!  Rosh Hashana begins Friday evening, September 29th! Many Jews all over the world are rushing to make sure that they have places reserved in their synagogues. I am reminded of the story of the person who had to deliver a very important message to a man in synagogue on Rosh Hashana. The usher wouldn't let him in because he didn't have a ticket. "Please, I just need a moment to tell him the message!" "No way!" says the usher, "No ticket, no entrance!" "Please," begs the man, "I promise ... I won't pray!"


Q & A:  WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF ROSH HASHANA AND HOW DO WE OBSERVE IT?

Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year. Unlike the secular New Year which is celebrated in many parts of the "civilized" world by partying, drinking to excess and watching a little ball descend a tower in Time Square, the Jewish New Year is celebrated by reflecting upon the past, correcting one's mistakes, planning for the future, praying for a healthy and sweet year and celebrating with holiday meals.

Rabbi Nachum Braverman writes, "On Rosh Hashanah we make an accounting of our year and we pray repeatedly for life. How do we justify another year of life? What did we do with the last year? Has it been a time of growth, of insight and of caring for others? Did we make use of our time, or did we squander it? Has it truly been a year of life, or merely one of mindless activity? This is the time for evaluation and rededication. The Jewish process is called "teshuva," coming home -- recognizing our mistakes between ourselves and God as well as between ourselves and our fellow man and then correcting them."

On Rosh Hashana we pray that we are inscribed in the Book of Life for life, for health, for sustenance. It is the Day of Judgment. Yet, we celebrate with festive meals with family and friends. How can we celebrate when our very lives hang in balance? Ultimately, we trust in the kindness and mercy of the Almighty ... that He knows our heart and our intentions and with love and knowledge of what is best for us, will accordingly grant our decree.

At the festive meal both nights of Rosh Hashana it is customary to dip the challah, specially braided bread, as well as an apple, into honey symbolizing our hopes for a sweet year. There is a custom to eat various Symbolic Foods -- primarily fruits and vegetables -- each one preceded by a request. For instance, before eating a pomegranate, "May it be Your will ... that our merits increase like (the seeds of) a pomegranate." Many of the requests are based on plays on words between the name of the food and the request. Since these plays on words are lost on many who don't know Hebrew, there are those who have added their own requests. My favorite: before eating a raisin on a celery stick, "May it be Your will ... that I receive a raise in salary."

Another custom is Tashlich, a symbolic casting off of transgressions. It is done this year on Sunday after the Mincha, or afternoon prayers. Remember -- these symbolic acts are to help you relate to what you need to do in life, to awaken your emotions and passions; they are not an end in themselves. It is worthwhile to get a copy of the Rosh Hashana Yom Kippur Survival Kit to get a better understanding of the holiday, the prayers, the prayer services and the opportunity that is afforded to you to grow in spirituality, to come closer to the Almighty, to perfect yourself and to perfect the world! It is available from your local Jewish bookstore or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.


FEED THE POOR OF JERUSALEM! Hundreds of families in Israel are unable to afford groceries for Yom Tov (the holiday). This group gives them coupons redeemable only for food. They arrange with the supermarket to get an extra 10% on every dollar you give them. I know they are legitimate and I give them! Send your tax-deductible contribution to: Keren Y&Y, 805 Roosevelt Ct. #1-S, Far Rockaway, NY 11691


Torah Portion of the Week
Nitzavim-Vayelech

On the day of Moshe's death he assembles the whole Jewish people and creates a Covenant confirming the Jewish people as the Almighty's Chosen People for all future generations. Moshe makes clear the consequences of rejecting God and His Torah as well as the possibility of repentance. He reiterates that Torah is readily available to everyone.

Netzavim concludes with perhaps the clearest and most powerful statement in the Torah about the purpose of life and the existence of freewill: "I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil ... the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life that you may live, you and your descendants." (Now that's a real Quote of the Week!)

VaYelech begins with Moshe passing the torch of leadership to Yehoshua (Joshua). Moshe then gives Yehoshua a command/blessing which applies to every Jewish leader: "Be strong and brave. Do not be afraid or feel insecure before them. God your Lord is the One who is going with you, and He will not fail you nor forsake you."

Moshe writes the entire Torah and gives it to the Cohanim and Elders. He then commands that in the future at the end of the Shmita (Sabbatical Year) the king should gather all the people during Succot festival and read to them the Torah so "... that they will hear and learn and fear the Lord your God and be careful to perform all the words of the Torah."

The Almighty describes in a short paragraph the course of Jewish history (that's starting from Deuteronomy 31:16 for the curious). Lastly, before Moshe goes to "sleep with his forefathers," he assembles the people to teach them the song of Ha'azinu, the next weekly Torah portion, to remind them of the consequences of turning against the Almighty.

 

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah tells us that when the Jewish people come into the Land of Israel and have their own nation, the king should read the entire Torah in the presence of the entire nation every seven years. The Torah states, "Gather together the nation, the men and the women and the children and the stranger who is in your gates, in order that they should hear and in order that they should learn and they will fear the Almighty, your God, and they will observe and fulfill this entire Torah" (Deuteronomy 31:12). Children have a tendency to make noise and can easily disturb older people who are trying to listen. Why were they brought?

Rashi, the great commentator, cites the Talmud (Chagiga 3a) that the young children were brought along in order to bring reward to their parents. How were the parents rewarded? In addition to the spiritual merit for bringing the children, the children themselves were impacted by the tremendous event of the gathering of the whole Jewish people and by the king reading the entire Torah. For the rest of their lives it will be imprinted on their souls the importance of the Torah to the entire people.

This teaches us to do all that we can to teach children the importance of Torah at an early age. Every experience makes an impression; make certain to give your children many positive Torah experiences! (However, if they are disturbing the service they should be taken out of the sanctuary.)



CANDLE LIGHTING - September 22:

Jerusalem 6:02   Miami 7:00  New York 6:36
L.A. 6:32  Hong Kong 6:03  Singapore 6:43
Guatemala  5:40  Honolulu   6:09  J'Burg 5:45
Melbourne 6:58  Moscow 6:11  London 6:41
Atlanta 7:17  Toronto 6:58  Montreal 6:35



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

The two hardest things to handle in life
are failure and success.



Dedicated by...

In Loving Memory of
our parents
Julian Joseph & Matilda Kohn Joseph
Stanley Joseph & Etta Joseph Korenman

Published: September 16, 2000

Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub
Sign up today!