• Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    After Moshe takes the concluded Torah scrolls and gives them to the Levi’im (Levites) for safekeeping, he “spoke into the ears of the entire assembly of Israel the words of the following song, until their completion” (31:30). What does the phrase “until their completion” add? Would we think Moshe stopped in the middle of his message/song?

    Rav Moshe Feinstein suggests that “until their completion” refers to Moshe conveying the most profound meaning behind the Torah’s laws. Moshe does this not only so that we feel the connection between G-d and us but so that we learn how to convey that relationship to others. Actions can convey love and passion, but only if done with purpose and intent.

  • Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    Moshe introduces the mitzvah (commandment) of Hakhel (assembly), where every seven years, all men, women, and children assemble, and the king reads the Torah (31:12). While it makes sense for men and women to be there, why would children be required to attend? If anything, their presence may distract from the experience as parents struggle to control their young children.

    Surprisingly, Lekach Tov suggests that the children’s attendance is not only not distracting, but in fact, essential for creating a positive experience for the entire family unit, especially the younger members. As the passuk continues, “so that they hear, and learn, and fear G-d” (31:12). The first step of an experience is just being there, even before we learn anything. Once we are old enough to comprehend, learning and revering follows. Creating positive experiences for our children to enjoy will lead to increased engagement and enhanced commitment.

  • Dvar for Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech recounts the last days of Moshe’s life. After G-d tells Moshe to designate Yehoshua (Joshua) as his successor, He tells Moshe to write a “song” and teach it to the Jewish people so that the song will be a witness for them (31:19). Moshe writes the song with Yehoshua’s help (according to Rav S. R. Hirsch). Why is Moshe instructed to teach in song form, and why do we need to know that Moshe taught the song to the people (31:22)?
    Rav S. R. Hirsch clarifies that both the song and the teaching aspects of these instructions were given specifically for the benefit of Yehoshua, the future leader of the Jewish people. The manner through which information is conveyed affects the way it is absorbed, and songs and poems make it easier to see the beauty within the words. Once the proper medium of education is established, Yehoshua had to learn the way to teach. For knowledge to last, it is not enough to absorb information but to extract the spirit behind the letter of the Torah law and observe its beauty and brilliance.
    By studying and examining the Torah, not only can we learn its laws, but we can also extract the beauty behind them, such that they sound like music, to us and to those we convey them to.
  • Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech includes the commandment to gather everyone every seven years to hear the Torah being read. Men, women, converts and children are invited (31:12). The Gemara explains that while adults came to listen, learn and keep the Torah, the children were brought to reward their parents for bringing them (Chagiga 3). If the children weren’t there to learn, why would Moshe ask that they be brought, and why would there be reward merely for bringing them?

    The Ramban explains that bringing the children to the “Hakhel” Torah reading is not for what they will learn, but for the experience of being there with their family. When children see the effort we put into learning the Torah, trying to become better people, or anything else, the value they attribute to that effort is increased. Not only does effort count, sometimes effort is everything.

  • Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech includes the commandment for every Jew to write a song for themselves (31:19), which Rashi says is referring the following Parsha, Haazinu. The sages derive from this rule the final of the 613 commandments that each Jew has to take part in the writing of a Torah scroll. Why would we be required to write our own song, and then be given the song to sing? Also, how is the requirement to write our own song the same as the requirement to take part in scribing our own Torah?

    If we apply the concept of this weekly Dvar Torah, we can easily understand the Torah’s final commandment: If we take any commandment in the Torah and personalize it, although its source is the Torah, its ownership is very personal. Songs, too, sound different when sung by different people. In fact, music becomes even more personal because it’s a more emotional medium. That’s exactly why the Torah chose music as the metaphor to teach us about personalizing the Torah to make it special for ourselves. The Torah wants us to internalize it so much that we sing about it. If we accomplish this, we’ve fulfilled the final commandment of writing our own Torah – with all the harmonies that accompany it.

  • Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech includes the commandment for every Jew to write a song for themselves (31:19), which Rashi says is referring the following Parsha, Haazinu. The sages derive from this rule the final of the 613 commandments that each Jew has to take part in the writing of a Torah scroll. Why would we be required to write our own song, and then be given the song to sing? Also, how is the requirement to write our own song the same as the requirement to take part in scribing our own Torah?

    If we apply the concept of this weekly Dvar Torah, we can easily understand the Torah’s final commandment: If we take any commandment in the Torah and personalize it, although its source is the Torah, its ownership is very personal. Songs, too, sound different when sung by different people. In fact, music becomes even more personal because it’s a more emotional medium. That’s exactly why the Torah chose music as the metaphor to teach us about personalizing the Torah to make it special for ourselves. The Torah wants us to internalize it so much that we sing about it. If we accomplish this, we’ve fulfilled the final commandment of writing our own Torah – with all the harmonies that accompany it.

  • Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech includes the commandment for every Jew to write a song for themselves (31:19), which Rashi says is referring the following Parsha, Haazinu. The sages derive from this rule the final of the 613 commandments that each Jew has to take part in the writing of a Torah scroll. Why would we be required to write our own song, and then be given the “song” to sing? Also, how is the requirement to write our own song the same as the requirement to take part in writing our own Torah?

    If we apply the concept of this weekly Dvar Torah, we can easily understand the Torah’s final commandment: If we take any commandment in the Torah and personalize it, although its source is the Torah, its ownership is very personal. Songs, too, sound different when sung by different people. In fact, music becomes even more personal because it’s a more emotional medium. That’s exactly why the Torah chose music as the metaphor to teach us about personalizing the Torah to make it special for each of us. The Torah wants us to internalize it so much that we sing about it. If we accomplish this, we’ve fulfilled the final commandment of writing our own Torah – with all the harmonies that accompany it.

  • Daily Aliya for Nitzavim-Vayelech, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Because, G-d explains, I am bringing the people to a Land flowing with milk & honey, the People will eat in contentment and turn from G-d. The Torah, however, will not be completely forgotten from the lips (and hearts) of future generations. Moshe wrote the Torah on that day (Rambam says that he wrote 13 Torahs – one for each tribe and one in the care of the Kohanim/Leviim) and taught it to the People. G-d “commanded” Yehoshua to be strong and courageous in his new role as leader. Moshe completed the writing of the Torah. (Some say that Moshe even wrote the final 8 p’sukim of the Torah, which discuss his death.) Moshe commands the Leviim to take the Torah and place it at the side of the Aron.

  • Daily Aliya for Nitzavim-Vayelech, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d commanded Moshe to enter the Tabernacle together with Joshua. G‑d appeared to them both and informed them that a time will come when the Israelites will abandon G‑d and stray after alien gods. At that time, G‑d will hide His countenance from the nation, and they will be subjected to much evils and troubles. Therefore, G‑d says, “Write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for Me as a witness…” This ‘song’ is narrated in next week’s Torah reading.

    We are commanded to write “The Song” (namely the whole Torah), to teach it to the people, so that it should serve as a testament among the People of Israel. This is mitzva #613, to write a Sefer Torah. Our Sages include in this mitzva the significance of acquiring books from which to learn Torah. Since the Torah itself specifies that the “purpose” of writing a Torah scroll is to learn and teach from it, then writing, buying, acquiring all learning texts would be in the spirit of this mitzva.

  • Dvar for Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30)

    Parshat Nitzavim starts by proclaiming that “you are all standing here today” (29:9), and then proceeds to use the words “this day” two more times in the next three verses, none of which were actually needed for their corresponding sentences to be complete. What significance is the Torah placing on “this day”?

    As Rabbi Abraham Twerski points out, there are two natural roadblocks placed before us as we endeavor to become better people and better Jews, and both of these roadblocks can be overcome by focusing on “this day”: The first natural roadblock is our inclination to look ahead at temptations and hurdles we WILL encounter, and our feelings of frustration and helplessness in overcoming those collective obstacles. The Torah therapeutically empowers us to focus on one day at a time, and leave tomorrow’s worries for another day. The second natural roadblock we face is the guilt of our past, which can sometimes make us feel depressed and unworthy.  We have today to repent for those things we shouldn’t have done.

    With the past behind us, and a whole new year ahead of us, it’s nice to know that we don’t have to wait to become better people… the time is right now, and “this day” is just right.

Back to top