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The Weekly Parsha

Vayeilech (and he went)

Deut 30:1-30


In Vayeilech, Moses tells the Jewish people: “I am one hundred and twenty years old** today and I can no longer go forth and come in.”


* He transfers leadership to Joshua and concludes the writing of the Torah in a scroll which he entrusts to the Levites for safekeeping in the Ark of the Covenant.


* The mitzvah of Hak’hel (to gather) is given: every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot, all of the Israelites should gather at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the king should read to them from the Torah.


* Vayeilech concludes with the prediction that the people of Israel will turn away from their covenant with God, causing God’s face to hide from them, but also with the promise that our descendants will not forget Torah.


Parasha Vayeilech is the shortest portion in the Torah, and often falls between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.


Here is Moses, our greatest prophet, making his final promises. Moses tells the Israelites that there will be sad times of estrangement between the Jewish people and God, but that we or our children will come back, and the Torah will never be forgotten. Fittingly, this special Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur has two names: Shabbat Shuvah (Return!) and Shabbat Teshuva (Repent!) It's a time of deep and emotional review of past deeds, facing regrets and coming up with goals and strategies to do better.


** This is where the expression: “To 120!” comes from when Jews wish someone a happy birthday.




Kol Nidre


Kol Nidre is both the opening prayer and the name for the evening service that begins Yom Kippur. Kol Nidre literally means "All Vows." It asks God to annul vows we may make (to God) during the coming year, either innocently or under duress - vows that we may have made unintentionally through the careless use of words; or vows made because a person was forced to do so.


 Kol Nidre was originally written and is still recited in Aramaic. It comes at the beginning of the service. It is sung three times so that latecomers to the service will have an opportunity to hear the prayer. It is also recited three times according to the custom of ancient Jewish courts, who would say "You are released" three times when someone was released from a legally binding vow. This Yom Kippur, we will hear this evocative prayer from three singers, each who will interpret these ancient words from their own hearts: Sergio Bicas, Joe Schultz and Rabbi Robbi.