Vayelech and Shabbat Shuva – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

Shabbat Shuva takes its name not from the Sedra we read, Vayelech, but from the Haftorah written by Hosea which opens with the words

שׁוּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֖ד יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ
Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God

11th of September, Tishrei 5, is recorded as the day when Rabbi Akiva was taken into custody by the Romans. This year it is also the 20th anniversary of that terrible event we call 9/11. How can we “return” from such events? Things cannot be undone because time has only one direction. This is something that we all face so how does Moses, at the end of his life, seek to guide us when he is gone?

There is a disparity in how Moses is described here, (“I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go or come”) and what we will read in Parshat V’zot Haberachah

His eye had not dimmed, nor had he lost his freshness.

Perhaps, rather as a phrase used in setting up a Will, it is to confirm his status of “Being of sound mind”


What is the guidance that Moses offers? His commandments are

Write this Torah
Read it to the whole people every seventh year
Place it alongside the Ark of the Covenant
And now, write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel

He goes on to spell out what will happen

And it will be when they will encounter many evils and troubles, this song will bear witness against them, for it will not be forgotten from the mouth of their offspring.

I came across something whilst writing this “thought”. It was written in 1916 by Lion Feuchtwanger an author now largely unpublished and almost forgotten. He was Jewish and considered the equal of Dumas and Scott a historical novelist. The book entitled “Power” or “Jew Suss” was set in 18th century Germany. (A play which was based on the book was distorted into an anti-Semitic film in 1940. It is still studied as an example of Nazi propaganda)

Feuchtwanger wrote

The Book; yes, their Book. They had no state, holding them together, no country, no soil, no king, and no form of life in common. If, in spite of this, they were one, more one than all the other peoples of the world, it was the Book that sweated them into unity. Brown, white, black, yellow Jews, large and small, splendid and in rags, godless and pious, they might crouch and dream all their lives in a quiet room, or fare splendidly in a radiant, golden whirlwind over the earth, but sunk deep in all of them was the lesson of the Book. Manifold is the world, but it is vain and fleeting as wind; but one and only is the God of Israel, everlasting, infinite

How successful was Moses some 3500 years ago? We are still here.

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