Parashat VaYelech - September 15th


וילך Vayelech

Deuteronomy 31.1-30

Deuteronomy 31.6, 8: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you . . . It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

These verses give us a strong declaration of the faithfulness of God. In the immediate context he is promising the nation that he will go with them into Canaan. It is also a summary of the entire Torah: God has been faithful to keep his promises to the fathers and to their descendants, to bring them out of slavery, to accompany them through their difficulties, and to bring them to the land he had promised.

However, this promise that God will not forsake his people is also a strong encouragement to every individual who believes in him. It is valid in every aspect of the life of the believer. This is stated in a marvelous way in the New Testament. Hebrews 13.5 quotes our verses when it says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” The Greek of this verse does a remarkable thing. Instead of doubling the negative when it says “nor forsake you” (as would be normal in Greek), it adds a third word to strengthen what is already a strong statement. This then declares God’s faithfulness in the strongest possible terms: “I will never, never leave you; I will never, no never, not ever abandon you.”

This reminds us, of course, of the promise made by the Messiah in a statement that must surely reflect his divine nature: “I am with you always, even to the very end of the world.” (Matthew 28.20).




Deuteronomy 31.7: “Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.’”

Just as Moses is a symbol for the greater redeemer who will come after him, the Messiah, so too in a way is Joshua a symbol, even carrying the name of the Messiah who will come. Moses says that Joshua will go together with the people and will give them possession of the land. In a far greater way, when the Messiah came to redeem from sin, he went before those he was saving. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6.19-20).




Haftarah: Hosea 14.2-10; Joel 2.15-27; Micah 7.18-20

Hosea 14.4: “I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.”

Rabbi Tzadok Hacohen of Lublin brings out another angle that clarifies the quality of valor of this Man: “Messiah will be the only one for whom, on account of his repentance, the whole world is forgiven” (Pri Tzaddik, Shlach Lecha 12). This idea is based on the Hebrew syntax of: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him” (Hosea 14.4). According to this verse, God forgives “them” because of “him” who is Messiah. Therefore, continues Rabbi Tzadok, Messiah’s repentance will cause the whole world to reflect upon repentance, for it calls him “the man raised up” and, as the Hebrew has it, instead of “on high” one can read “burnt offering.” This allows Rabbi Tzadok to read: “the man raised up as burnt offering.”

The Man and his valor are thus clarified in a remarkable way. Unlike the earthly expectation from a great warrior, Messiah’s valor is his ability to cause humanity to reflect on its condition and repent. Further, as a burnt offering suggests, his repentance is accomplished by his being completely consumed. Potentially, therefore, Messiah’s death is susceptible to being forgotten, due to the fact that apart from ash there are no remains. And yet it is this kind of offering that is pleasing to God, as it says, “sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord” (Numbers 28.6). To put it succinctly, the valor of Messiah is shown in his willingness to sacrifice himself and even to be blamed for the sins of humanity—this for humanity’s sake.




Hosea 14.7: “They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden.” The Targum expands this: “They shall be gathered from among their exiles, they shall dwell in the shade of their Messiah. The dead shall be resurrected and goodness shall increase in the land.”


Shabbat Shalom!

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