The song of freedom

Vayelekh(He Went) D’Varim (Deut.) 31:1-30

Today, as we draw near to finishing our yearly reading of the Torah, we study this portion called Vayelekh. Also, this Sabbath is known as Shabbat Shuva or the Sabbath of Turning or Repentance. However, I want to look at another important subject in this short portion.

In this Torah portion Moshe stressed the importance of each person taking a part in writing the Torah. He stressed the importance of the nation coming together every seventh year. The people were to come to Jerusalem to renew their faith during the holiday of Sukkot. Everyone was included in this celebration, even the stranger that was within their gates. Why do you think this celebration was so important?

Before we get to an answer let me share a few thoughts on our present world we live in. Hosea 14:2-6 gives us a good idea of what can happen to a people and a nation. In the words of Hosea we see where the people had fallen into a bad place. They were in a place of self-reliance, back sliding and searching out other gods, mainly the work of their own hands. These things had become their gods.

When we look at our world today, our country, our lives, we have no problem seeing these same traits. We have forgotten that our lives were bought with a price. We have forgotten who is the boss, who is in charge. Our Heavenly Father is the one who makes the sun to rise and set each day. He is the true source of real life, not the vain things we spend our life chasing.

In James 4:13-16 we see described a similar picture of how James saw the world even in his day. How do we as the people of G-d rise above this vanity? I believe this Torah portion holds the answer for us. In Deut. 31:19 we read the final commandment Moshe gave the people as they stood at the door of entering the Promised Land. This verse reads, “Now then write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be my witness against the people of Israel.”

In this one verse we see what may be one of the most important verses for all of us as we navigate our way through life. Here, it is as if Moshe is saying don’t rely on tradition or what you think. The most important thing for all of us is to make G-d’s word our own. It must be the song that sustains us through our life. It is where we should turn to take us through difficult times. It is our guide for every day. Here in this portion the word used by Moshe that is translated as song is used five times in this chapter. This word in Hebrew is shir. It can also be translated as poem.

A song or poem are two things that touch us deeply, possibly more deeply than prose. A song or poem can stay in our mind for years. G-d’s word is like that. Most of us can remember the words of hymns that we may not have heard for years. So Moshe is saying to these people, remember, remember.

In this verse it says also that the word of G-d will be a witness against us in our life. That is a difficult idea but when looked at closely it is absolutely the truth. G-d is saying we have no excuse for saying we didn’t know. The word and the spirit have always been available to us. If we don’t know then the problem is ours.

These days we are presently in, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are looked at as the days of self-examination of our lives. Where did we miss G-d? Where did we hurt another or any other sin we may have let slide? Have we moved to the place of thinking what the Bible says needs to be adapted to the present because some of it is outdated? I believe that opinion will not stand before the Father. 

I urge each of you to begin to read what the word says. It is our responsibility. Take a few minutes each day to read G-d’s love letter to you. 

Lastly, to go back to my original question, why do you think it was important for everyone to come to Jerusalem every seven years to read the Torah during Sukkot?  I think it was important for them to each feel this was their Torah and to remember they were responsible for living out what they read. It was G-d’s covenant with them. 

Bless each of you during these special days.