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Vayelech 5783 ~ Sept. 30, 2022

Our Torah reading for this Shabbat, parashat Vayelech, narrates the final days of Moses. In those moments, Moses becomes somewhat disenchanted with what the future holds for the Israelite nation as they are about to enter the Promised Land.  Perhaps it is out of his sadness and regret, knowing that he will not be able to enter the land. Then again, as he has now reached the ripe old age of one hundred and twenty years of age, Moshe has become realistic of his age and his capabilities, and he is accepting that it is time for his “swan song.”

Often when we reach that final stage of life, people have a deeper understanding of what the future holds for others, based not only on our own life’s experiences, but based on being a witness to their lives. Moshe, is no different.  Our Torah reading for this Shabbat shares with us how Moses sees the future and provides both to the Israelite nation, and to us, his prediction for their future, and, in some ways, our future as well.  Moshe maintains that their stubbornness, and ours too, will be theirs and our undoing.  I wonder if Moshe’s words might have been more than just a projection. Perhaps it was his way of instructing the Israelite nation to figure out how to tip the scale in the opposite direction.

Maimonides in his monumental legal work, the Mishneh Torah, has a most interesting understanding of the days that we have now entered, the Ten Days of Penitence.

Unlike Moshe, who predicts much turmoil in the future, Maimonides (whose first name was also Moshe) provides a much different lens into the future.

In the chapters related to repentance, Maimonides suggests that instead of being as stubborn as the Israelite nation, the Jewish people are conscientious and overconsumed with teshuvah during the Ten Days of Repentance. Maimonides asks why is it that so many individuals extend themselves and expend their energy to achieve an overabundance of teshuvah. He maintains that most Jewish people go out of his or her way, not only to experience and express his or her own teshuvah, but to counterbalance the misdeeds of others. He writes:

Every man should to behold himself throughout the whole year in a light of being evenly balanced between innocence and guilt, and look upon the entire world as if evenly balanced between innocence and guilt; thus, if he commit one sin, he will overbalance himself and the whole world to the side of guilt, and be a cause of its destruction; but if he perform one duty, behold, he will overbalance himself and the whole world to the side of virtue, and bring about his own and their salvation and escape, even as it is said: "But the righteous is an everlasting foundation" (Prov. 10. 25), it is he, by whose righteousness he overbalanced the whole world to virtue and saved it.” (Mishneh Torah, Repentance 3:4)

If we understand his thought, then our goal on this Shabbat Shuva, Sabbath of Return, should be to find the meaningful thoughts and acts that not only finalize our place in the Sefer Hachayim, the Book of Life, for the year to come. It is to overbalance the scale, in favor of anyone and everyone… so that our world might find its blessing through a scale that is overbalanced in everyone’s favor.

Shabbat shalom and l’shana tova tikatevu v’teychateymu.  May our world find itself with an overabundance of blessing in the year to come.

Rabbi K

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783