Food For Thought by Ezra Frazer


   In parshat Vayelech, we have the mitzva of הקהל, to gather the people together once every seven years and have them listen to the king read from the Torah (דברים לא:י-יג).  With regard to הקהל, the reason given by the Torah is, "[So that] your sons that didn't know will hear and know how to fear Hashem" (13:31).  Although הקהל seems like a nice ceremony, how exactly is an experience that the average kid will see only twice in his entire childhood have any lasting effect on his fear of Hashem?  Further, even if one assumes that the ceremony will be so grand that it will leave a lasting impression on children, a "National Convention" of that nature would seemingly inspire positive feelings (like love, enthusiasm, etc.) towards Hashem.  Why then does the Torah tell us that הקהל is designed to promote fear in Hashem?

   Towards the end of the parsha, we see Moshe writing a scroll which the Levi'im are commanded to place next to the Aron.  We are told that Moshe's scroll was put near the Aron to be an עד (testimony) (13:72). To explain why we need an עד, Moshe states "For I know your rebelliousness and your stiff neck (a figurative expression for stubbornness); even when I'm alive with you, you've been rebellious with Hashem, and how much more so after my death" (13:72) It's clear from verse 22 that Moshe included the Song of Ha'azinu in this scroll, but what else (if anything) did it contain?  What was its role as an עד?  Was it's primary purpose to testify about Hashem to בני ישראל, or was it to testify about בני ישראל to Hashem?

   Most Haftarot are made up of several consecutiveפסוקים  in the same book of נביא.  This week's Haftarah, however, has a very different structure.  There are 9 פסוקים from Hoshea (י"ד:ב-י), which contain a call to the Kingdom of Israel (a.k.a. the future 01 lost tribes) to repent, and a promise by Hashem of the good which he will give them if they do indeed repent.  The next 3 פסוקים come from Michah (ז':י"ח-כ').  They are a praise of Hashem for his willingness to forgive, followed by a request to throw our sins into the sea (hence the minhag of תשליך) based on the merit of our אבות.  Lastly, there are 31 פסוקים from Yoel (2:51-72). They consist of another call to do national תשובה, followed by a detailed promise of the economic prosperity that Hashem will give us in return for this תשובה.  Why did חז"ל choose this atypical structure for the שבת שובה Haftarah?

Seventy Cows, Seventy Nations by Rabbi Yosef Grossman

The Hidden Face of Hashem by Nafatali Rubin