Commentary on Parashat Vayeilech, Deuteronomy 31:1 - 31:30
The Israelites are still gathered on the bank of the River Jordan listening to Moses. “I am 120 years old today,” Moses says. “God has told me that I shall not pass over into the Promised Land. Still, God will pass before you. God will destroy the nations so that you can take possession of the land. You shall deal with these nations as you have been instructed. Be steadfast and strong and do not fear these nations or be frightened of them, for God is going with you. God will not let go of you, nor will God forsake you.”
Then Moses called Joshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel, “Be steadfast and strong, for you are to go with this people to the land that God swore to their fathers to give to them. You shall have them take possession of it, to inherit it. God will be with you. God will not let go of you, nor will God forsake you. Fear nothing and do not be frightened.”
Moses wrote down this Teaching and handed it over to all the elders and to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the Ark of the Covenant of God. Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of seven years, on the Festival of Huts, when all Israel comes to see itself directly before the Presence of God, you shall read this Teaching in the presence of all Israel.”
God then said to Moses, “Your day of death is approaching. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Appointed Meeting so that I may give him his duty.” Moses went with Joshua and they presented themselves in the Tent of Appointed Meeting. And God appeared in the Tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the entrance of the Tent.
Then God said to Moses, “You are now going to lie down beside your fathers, and then this people will rise and stray and will follow foreign deities and will become unfaithful and forsake Me and break My Covenant. At that time My anger will be stirred up against the people. I will forsake them. I will hide My face from them so that it will fall prey to destruction and many evils and troubles will come upon it. At that time, they will say, ‘Truly, because my God is not in my midst have these evils come upon me.’
“Now, write down this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouth so that this song may become a witness for Me against them. For I know the people’s frame of mind when I have brought them to this promised land.”
Moses wrote down this song on that day and taught it to the Israelites.
And God gave Joshua his duty and said, “Be steadfast and strong! For you are to bring the children of Israel to the land that I have sworn to them, and I will be with you.”
Moses spoke in the ears of the entire assembly of Israel the words of this song until the end.
Parashat Vayeilech Discussion Questions:
1) Early in this portion, Moses says that “God will not let go of you, nor will God forsake you.” Have you ever felt forsaken or abandoned by God? Looking back now at that same incident, can you see ways in which God really was present at that moment in your life? How?
2) Moses tells Joshua, the new leader of the Jewish people, to fear nothing and to not be afraid. Are you afraid of anything? What? Why? In what way can God help you with your fears?
3) At the end of this portion, Moses predicts that the children of Israel would become corrupt and worship other gods after he died? Did they? How? God says that when the children of Israel become corrupt and worship other gods that God will become angry and forsake the children of Israel. Do you think God really did become angry and forsake the Jewish people? How? If so, does this contradict God’s earlier statement that God will not forsake God’s people?
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!