Vayelech 2021 Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס"ד
Discovering the Holy Presence in The Holy Land
And Now You Shall Write this Song
Every year we read parshat Vayelech in conjunction with the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur. In this parsha are the two last commandments in the Torah: 1. Hakhel – gathering all the people once in seven years to hear the reading of the Torah by the king 2. To write a Torah scroll. Regarding writing a Torah scroll, we see a similar commandment that precedes this commandment, the obligation upon a king to write a Torah scroll. In regard to a king, it says that the king should read in his personal in order to “learn to have awe of Hashem.” It seems then that the commandment for every person to write a Torah scroll comes to signify that every Jew is like a “mini-king,” i.e., a prince before our Father in Heaven, the King of the Universe, so that we all have awe before our King in Heaven. Also, the commandment of Hakhel, the Torah teaches us, is directed to the people so that they have awe of Hashem, and this ceremony is also lead by the king. Therefore, it becomes obvious that there is a clear connection between the Days of Awe, the days we place emphasis on Hashem as King, and parshat Vayelech which emphasizes the same themes.
The realization that only HaShem our God is the King, the real Power responsible for all that transpires upon us, instills us both with great awe and a feeling of great freedom from all ‘powers’ that seem to ‘enslave’ us throughout our lives. This realization needs to be taken continuously throughout life for it to take a substantial hold of our lives, bringing us to the exultation of faith and freedom of spirit, as we say on Rosh HaShana, ‘exulted is the man who does not forget You and son of Man who ‘holds’ on to You.’ The word used in this prayer for making an effort to ‘hold’ unto HaShem, ‘yitametz,’ is echoed in this week’s parsha, in the command to Joshua’ to be strong and mighty, ‘hazak ve’ematz,’ in bringing the People of Israel to conquer the Land of Israel in our title quote. Our Sages explain (Brachot 32b) that Joshua was commanded by this double terminology to strengthen himself through both Torah study, ‘hazak,’ and good deeds, ’ematz.’ We can thereby infer that ‘strengthening one’s ‘hold’ unto God’ throughout life implies taking the awesome realization we just mentioned into both the cognitive realm of Torah study and the practical realm of good deeds. We may say that, although strengthening one’s thoughts on God is important at all times, it takes special significance in regard to Torah study and good deeds. This means that before studying Torah or doing a good deed it is good to contemplate that one is doing so for HaShem’s sake (as was enacted by our Sages by blessings on Torah and mitzvoth, leshem yichud, etc.). Also, even if one is doing an action that can have external motives, such as earning a living, it is good to have the intent to do that action for HaShem’s sake (see Rambam Deot ch. 3). This spiritual work takes on an even greater level in the Land of Israel, where all good actions, even those that seem very mundane, enhance Israel’s settlement of the Holy Land, thereby greatening the power of the Holy Presence. This new year, a Shmita year, is a time to internalize how Hashem is “King over all earth,” as can be seen in the sanctity of the fruit grown in the Holy Earth, the Land of Israel. In this way, the command to Joshua ‘to be strong for you will bring the People to the Land’ can be interpreted not only as a responsibility put upon Joshua but also as a gift given to Joshua, saying that ‘because you are entering this Land you will be given the Divine gift of indeed being strong’ and successful in all your tasks, in Torah study and good deeds, etc
Hebron is the Cradle of Israel’s Kingship and sovereignty upon the Land of Israel, for it is here that King David was directed by Hashem to take rule upon all Israel, thus uniting all Israel, Hebron=unity (hibur) under a central power. This is Hebron, the City of the Kingdom United.
After praying and pleading before the G-d of Avraham, Yizhak, and Yaacov, Rabbi Avraham Azulai immersed himself in the mikve and dressed in white garments, the traditional dress of the dead. He set forth to the Cave of Machpelah. With a rope tied around his waist, Rabbi Azulai was lowered into the cave. When his feet hit the ground, Rabbi Azuli looked around him and found, standing by his side, three bearded men. “We are your forefathers,” they told him, “Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov.” Rabbi Azuli was dumbfounded. Finally, he said to them, “Why should I leave here and go back above. I am elderly, and here I have found my Forefathers. I desire only to stay here with you.” The Patriarchs insisted, “You must return the sword to the Sultan. If not, the entire Jewish community of Hebron is liable to be wiped out. But have no fear. In another seven days, you will return here to be with us.” So the saintly Rabbi returned to the Yitzhak Hall, above the cave of the Patriarchs, and with him, the Sultan’s sword. The Sultan was pleased. Upon seeing their beloved Rabbi return alive, the Jews of Hebron declared the day a holiday. Rabbi Avraham Azuli spent the next week with his students, teaching them all he knew, all the esoteric teachings of the Torah. Day and night, he learned with them, instructing them, imparting to them all that he knew. Seven days after being lowered into the Cave of Machpelah, Rabbi Avraham Azuli returned his soul to his Maker, dying peacefully in his home. He was brought to rest in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron, overlooking the final resting place of his beloved Forefathers, Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov.
[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from www.hebron.co.il