The beginning of Parashat VaYeilech contains Moshe’s final words to Bnei Yisrael immediately before they cross the Yarden (Jordan river) and conquer Israel. Moshe poetically pleads with Bnei Yisrael not to be scared when entering Eretz Yisrael because G-d will protect them. Immediately thereafter, he discusses the pilgrimage to Jerusalem when Bnei Yisrael are required travel on Sukkot following the Shemittah year. Why is Moshe’s reassurance that G-d “will not abandon nor forsake us” written poetically? Also, why is it fitting for Moshe’s words to be juxtaposed to the pilgrimage?
In general, when the Torah says to not be afraid, it refers to a material fear, such as falling in battle. In this week’s Parashah, though, Moshe’s reassurance strengthens Bnei Yisrael against the spiritual fear that G-d might abandon them. Moshe’s guarantee demonstrates that even when our lives seen to have gone awry and it appears that G-d has forsaken us, He is in fact still taking care of us. This idea is strengthened by the close proximity Parashat VaYeilech always has to the Asseret Yemei Teshuvah, the ten days of repentance. The Parashah illustrates that even when one feels his life is troubled, he should not be angry, but should realize his good fortune at knowing that G-d is present. When life appears difficult or grim, one must remember that it is all part of G-d’s master plan. Similarly, one of the themes of Asseret Yimei Teshuvah is recognizing that G-d is the Supreme King. Our challenge, therefore, during the Asseret Yemei Teshuvah is to arrive at that recognition.
It can now be understood why Hakheil follows Moshe’s reassurances. Bnei Yisrael are about to begin their conquest of Eretz Yisrael. They are terrified of the looming battles with the seven nations inhabiting Eretz Yisrael. So, Moshe warns Bnei Yisrael of the mindset they need to have when entering the land: G-d is the supreme king, he has planned and pre-arranged all of the difficult times, and as long as Bnei Yisrael maintain their belief and faith in Him, they will be successful in conquering Eretz Yisrael.
HaKeil occurs after the Shemittah year cluded. During Shemittah, the entire nation allows their lands to lie fallow, trusting that Hashem will provide sustenance for them. After the Shemittah year concluded, the nation gathers in the Beit HaMikdash to reaffirm their commitment and devotion to G-d, having just experienced the miracles He performed by sustaining them for a year. As such, the two ideas, the reassurance that G-d will not abandon Bnei Yisrael and the Hakheil ceremony both mandate an individual’s unwavering and ultimate belief that G-d is the Master of the Universe and arranges all earthly events according to His overarching plan. It is important for us, during these Asseret Yemei Teshuvah, to keep this idea in mind and to strive to better our relationship with G-d.