Inscribing Ourselves by Rabbi Yosef Adler


Sefer Devarim was authored by Moshe as his farewell address to Bnai Yisrael.  It began thirty-seven days prior to his death and in Parshat Vayeilech we reach the very last day of his life.  Moshe states "בן מאה ועשרים שנה אנכי היום לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבוא," "I am one hundred-twenty years old today and I can not go on any further."  Moshe calls Yehoshua and offers him one final charge.  At this point one would have imagined that the presentation of all six hundred-thirteen Mitzvot would have been recorded.  Moshe's mission would thus have been completed.  But yet as we continue, we find the instruction that on the festival of Sukkot following the Shemittah year every Jew is to assemble in the Beit HaMikdash and hear the king read sections of Sefer Devarim.  The second Mitzvah is that of writing a Sefer Torah requiring that every Jewish adult male personally write their own Sefer Torah.  The question is an obvious one.  Why weren't these Mitzvot presented earlier in the Chumash in line with the previous six hundred-eleven Mitzvot which are scattered throughout the Torah?  Why wait to record these last Mitzvot until after Moshe reaches his one hundred-twentieth birthday and the day he dies?

I suggest the following idea.  The Yerushalmi in Massechet Shekalim states that "אין עושין נפשות לצדיקים, דבריהן הן הן זכרונן,"  "it is not necessary to place any tribute on the tombstone of a Tzaddik."  It is not necessary to engage in lengthy memorials to assure that the memory of a Tzaddik remain forever.  Their very words of Torah, their acts of Tzidkut and Chessed serve as the greatest memorial to their memory.  Moshe, the greatest teacher of our people, was buried in midst of the desert.  The Torah states "ולא ידע איש את קבורתו עד היום הזה," "that no one to this date has had the ability to identify his burial place.  What can Bnai Yisrael do to remember its leader, its defender, its savior, and redeemer?  The two Mitzvot of our Parsha provide the answer.  As each Jew writes his own Sefer Torah recording תורת משה in his own unique handwriting, he offers the greatest tribute to his Rebbe, Moshe.  As Am Yisrael gather in the Beit HaMikdash for the Mitzva of Hakheil and read selections of Sefer Devarim, Moshe's farewell address, they memorialize the memory of Moshe who regularly interceded on their behalf and was instrumental in delivering Am Yisrael from the cruel hands of the Egyptians.

The fact that this Parsha is usually read on Shabbat Shuvah is no coincidence.  Hashem often bases his decision concerning the forthcoming year upon our behavior.  If we are concerned with one another, He is concerned about us.  If we avoid engaging in Lashon HaRa about one another, heavenly angels will avoid Lashon HaRa directed against us.  We ask Hashem to do a lot of writing like "כתבנו בספר החיים," "וכתב לחיים טובים כל בני בריתך," and "נזכר ונכתב לפניך אנחנו וכל עמך בית ישראל לחיים טובים ולשלום."  Prior to recording his entry, Hashem will watch what we are writing.  If we write the words of the Torah then Hashem will be inclined to write that which we desire.  If, however, we engage in writing that which is not reprehensible of Torah ideals, He too will be inclined to write the unpleasantries that we hope to avoid.  Through our efforts to write Moshe's words on our hearts, כתבינו על לוח לבם, may we all be זוכה to a שנה טובה תכתב ותחתם. 

With A Willing Heart by Simcha Schaum

Circumcision and Assembly by Akiva Marcus