Lingering Memories: Vayelekh 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you believe that how you leave a room is just as important as how you entered it? What are ways that you can ensure that you leave a good final impression on others?

Our sages teach that this week’s Torah portion begins on the final day of Moses’s life, and one senses that he wishes to conclude appropriately:

The Pitch: “Moses went and spoke these things to all Israel.” – Deuteronomy 31:1

Swing #1: “From one unusual phrase in the verse, ‘Moses went, and spoke these words,’ the Kli Yakar suggests a teaching about the urgency of seeking peace. The Torah states that Moses went, but there is no indication of his destination. Moses is 120 years old, reaching the end of his life; but, the commentator writes, he finds the energy to visit every tent where his people resided in order to urge them to make peace with each other and with God.” – Sheldon Lewis, The Torah of Reconciliation

Swing #2: “Moses wanted to show that though he was 120 years old and about to die he had the strength to say all the words recorded from here until the end of the Book of Deuteronomy. No one except Moses possessed the physical or intellectual strength to do this.” – Or HaChayim

Swing #3: “Moses left the encampment of the Levites, where the assembly had taken place, and went to the encampment of the Israelites, to show them respect and to take his final leave of them as on that very day he was to die on Mount Nebo. It is good manners not to take one’s leave without asking his host for permission to absent oneself, and Moses adhered to this time-honored custom.” – Tur HaAroch

Late-Inning Questions: What do our commentators believe is Moses’s strategy for leaving a good impression on the Israelites? To what extent do you think Moses is concerned about his reputation, and to what extent is he concerned about the lessons the Israelites will remember? What would you like to be remembered for?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Be sure to attend our congregational meeting next Sunday, October 13th, beginning at 10:15AM, to hear updates on Synagogue activities and to participate in focus groups to share your thoughts about selecting its next spiritual leader. Stick around for lunch sponsored by Dr. Michael Kogan at noon, and then for a forum of candidates to represent Charleston’s 9th District in City Council starting at 1:00PM.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of what we remember, when Henry Aaron approached Babe Ruth’s career home-run record, he faced scrutiny, anger, and sometimes racism by fans who didn’t want him to break the mark. Aaron, in his typical humility and decency, once mused, “I don’t want them to forget Ruth. I just want them to remember me.”

Shabbat Shalom and G’mar Hatimah Tovah – may you be sealed for a good year!