Points to Ponder

VaYeilech 5777

I’m 120 years old today, I cannot go in or out anymore and Hashem told me that I will not cross the Jordan River (31:2) – Why did Moshe find it important to stress his age? And what does crossing the Yarden have to do with it? Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlita explained that it was the cacophony of factors that were at play here: Moshe had reached the age of 120, the end of allotted years; he was not allowed to cross the Yarden and his desire not to interfere with Jewish destiny.

Be strong internally and externally (31:6) – Moshe offers the same encouragement to the people fighting the Emori and later to Yehoshua. Why the same words? Rav Chasman  ztl. explains that when one has internal doubts coupled with a big foe, one’s Bitachon can easily be shut down. Moshe encouraged both Yehoshua and the people who were faced with formidable tasks to rise to the occasion and be ready to take on the tasks and be victorious.

Gather the people, the men, women and the children (31:12) – Rashi quotes that the children are told to be brought in order to give reward to those who bring them. Kli Yakar asks why Hashem would do something senseless just to give Sachar for something purposeless? The Tosefes Beracha explains that there is a purpose in creating an environment of Torah supremacy. Rav Yisroel Reisman Shlita asked how this fits with the words of Rashi – after all, the answer of the Tosefes Beracha is nice but it doesn’t explain the Sachar for those who bring the kids. What is the explanation?  Rav Reisman answered that the value is in the Chinuch of the parents. There is a purpose in having parents who have a desire that their children grow up with the Hashpaah of Torah. This is the purpose.

And Hashem appeared at Ohel Moed in an Amud HaAnan (31:15) – The Midrash quotes that Moshe tried to retire and had Yehoshua take over. He walked Yehoshua to Ohel Moed and Yehoshua got a Nevuah. Moshe asked him what the Nevuah was and Yehoshua told him that all the years he was leader, Moshe did not reveal the Nevuah to Yehoshua unless instructed to do so. Why should it be different now? The Meforshim ask why was Yehoshua so Chutzpahdik? Radal explains that this was the Nevuah – not to reveal Nevuos. The Midrash added that at moment Moshe preferred 100 deaths than to be jealous once. Rav Schachter Shlita added that it is hard for a student to take over and have his Rebbe still there but retired.

Now write this Shirah and teach it to Bnei Yisrael place it in their mouths (31:19) – Rav Shaul Yisraeli ztl. explains that it must be a united Torah (SheBaal Peh with She’B’Ksav). The endurance of Torah is predicated on its recognition as a united component with the Mesorah of Torah She’Baal Peh (a similar thought is advanced by Hagaon Rav Aharon Soloveitchik ztl. in the name of his father). If it is just biblical criticism, it is doomed to fail the test of time.

And it will when bad things befall you (31:21) – Does this not undo the words mentioned before where Hashem promises that the words shall not be forgotten? How can Hashem promise something that is dependent on Bechira? Rav Shteinman Shlita suggests that for the entirety of the Jewish people, it is an impossibility that Torah will be forgotten. However which individuals choose to be in the know, is a matter of Bechira.  

And this Shirah will be a testimony in that it will not be forgotten from the children’s mouths (31:21) – Rav Chaim Shlomo Leibovitz ztl. quoted his grandfather Rav Boruch Ber ztl. who noted that this Possuk contains 2 components – a promise and a miracle. The promise was that Torah would not be forgotten no matter what happened and sure enough it is wondrous miracle that indeed Torah thrives in all situations.

Haftorah – Take words with you (Hoshea 14:3) – What things are we to take with us? The Chessed L’Avraham explains that Moshe received the second Luchos on Yom Kippur and it became accepted as a day of atonement. Thus, the receipt of the Torah was a sign of the acceptability of the Teshuva – the words then must clearly refer to the words of Torah