To go forward - Vayelech

Through the Lens of Torah:
Torah Portion of VaYelech : Deuteronomy 31:1–30

Moshe Kempinski

Judaism Torah scroll (illustration)
Torah scroll (illustration)
צילום: PR
In the Torah portion of " VaYelech “,usually read before Yom Kippur we read the following;

"And Moshe went (VaYelech) and he spoke the words to the Children of Israel." ( Deuteronomy 31:1)

Rashi, the classic Jewish commentator highlights the first words of the verse "And Moshe went (VaYelech) " and simply offers as an explanation, the cryptic word "VeGomer-(etcetera)". In general Rashi's commentaries offer an answer without first describing the question. The important part of studying Rashi's commentaries ,in fact, is attempting to understand the question that moved Rashi in the first place.

Perhaps the question that Rashi was attempting to answer was simply “where did Moshe go to?"

 In the previous torah portion, Nitzavim, we read that Moshe was addressing the whole nation in these last days of his life. Why then did Moshe have to go anywhere to speak to the people? They were already arrayed before him.

Rashi's answer to that question was simply, the words "VeGomer-"etc". What can be learned from that? In fact  what we can learn from that simple word answer may point to  a great spiritual truth.

Moshe was delivering his last message to the Jewish people. These were the last 24 hours of his life. Moshe had shepherded these people for forty years. He had carried them through difficult and tumultuous times. He was approaching the end of his mission but that did not stop this man.

Rash's use of the word veGomer or "etc" was to explain that  "And Moshe went (VaYelech “ indicated that Moshe never stopped moving. He simply continued to do  what he had done all of his life, that is he was always moving forward. He never stopped growing even during the final 24 hours of his life. That had been his spiritual strength throughout his life and it was the spiritual strength he wished to impart to his descendants.

We are approaching the Day of Atonement-Yom Kippur. It is that lesson that will be of great help to us all as we approach this awesome day

Regarding this day we read in the Torah portion of “Acharei Mot” (Leviticus 16:1-18-30) the following :

For this day it shall atone (Yechaper) for you to cleanse (LeTaher) you. Before HaShem, you shall be cleansed from all your sins. It is a shabbat of solemn rest unto you, and you shall afflict your souls; it is a statute for ever. (Vayikra/Leviticus 16:30-31)

What is the redemptive power of this day?

In truth Hashem is available every moment of our existence. “For I, Hashem, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," says Hashem  of Hosts. (Malachi 3:6-7)

Yet the rushing river of life throws us forward treacherously at times. We sometimes lose our anchor and miss our opportunities .As a result Hashem creates an oasis in time and a city of refuge in our lives. A day in which repentance would spring forth easily.

In metaphorical terms our sages describe the power of the day in the following manner:

Rama bar Chama taught that the numerical value [gematria] of the word Hasatan (“The Adversary”) is 364. This is to teach us that out of the  365 days of the solar  year there is one day, on which Hasatan is not given permission to be the spiritual adversary. (Yoma 20a).

Yom Kippur calls forth the potential spark of repentance. It impacts the soul in such a way so as to empower it to seek repentance. Yet one needs to understand how that is accomplished.

We have seen that the Torah tells us :For this day shall atone (Yechaper- cover) for  you to cleanse (Letaher) yourself. Before Hashem, you shall be cleansed from all your sins .(Leviticus 16:30).

The Day itself seems to have  the power to atone and cover.

To understand this one must ask another question .Who are we covering the sin from? The instinctive answer is that we are attempting to hide or cover our sins from G-d. Yet that cannot be true as nothing is covered from G-d. King David declares in the Book of Psalms "For He knows the  secrets of the heart.(Psalms 44:22) and in the book of Job we read" I know that You  can do everything, and that no purpose can be withheld from You.”(Job 42:2).

The day itself and symbolically the sacrifice for sins of omission. (Shegaga) during temple times  covers the sin from us.

As a result of our sins, we have begun to feel so unworthy and we have turned further from away G-d. Yet in truth t  sin does not keep G-d away from man, sin keep man away from G-d. We begin to feel so unworthy that we cannot even "look upon His face”. 

Ezekiel declares:

 "Therefore, O you son of man, say unto the house of Israel: Thusly you speak, saying: Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we pine away in them; how then can we live?"(Ezekiel 33:10)

Yet Hashem assures us "Return to Me, and I will return to you," (Malachi 3:7).


Then again we hear the words of the prophet Zechariah.

"Therefore say you unto them, Thus said Hashem of hosts: Return unto Me, said Hashem of hosts, and I will return unto you, said HaShem of hosts." (Zechariah 1:3)


He waits for us to take a step into holiness. In order to do that Hashem creates a day wherein our failures are covered from us. A day wherein we are empowered by His loving kindness.

Yet all the empowerment and all the lovingkindness is muted until we learn to step forward and seize that opportunity. To continue walking forward as Moshe did on the last  day of his life.

That in essence is the key to the throne room that we will be entering on Yom, Kippur

G’mar Chatimah Tovah.

“May we all  be sealed for a good year in the Book of Life.”

Lerefuat Kol HaPtzuim ve Hacholim
Lerefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Chaya Esther