SEDRA - RABBI ARNOLD SAUNDERS

Vayelech / Shabbat Shuva / Yom Kippur

AS a relief from the long services over the High Holy Days, this week’s sedra is the shortest in the Torah (30 verses).

It is sometimes joined to the previous sedra, Nitzavim — but not this year (an interesting statistic is that because last year Vayelech was joined to Nitzavim and read before Rosh Hashana and this year it is read alone after Rosh Hashana, Vayelech was not read at all in 5778).

Moses has now reached his 120th birthday (traditionally, 7th Adar). He begins his final farewell. He reminds the Children of Israel that he is soon to pass away and that his right-hand man, Joshua, will succeed to the leadership. They must be obedient to him.

Two final mitzvot are recorded. Every seven years after the shemitta year is concluded, a special ceremony is to take place in the Temple. The King would read from the Torah to all the people, including the children.

The final mitzva in the Torah is indeed to write a Sefer Torah. Although a person can have a portion in a sefer by paying towards one — as is very prevalent — nevertheless those who are able to afford it, should commission (or write themselves!) their own Sefer.

One should also buy Jewish books (and use them!) according to his means (you can also read Torah articles in the Jewish press — such as this one!).

This week is known as Shabbat Shuva. The haftorah begins with the words Shuva Yisroel — return (repent) o’ Israel — a timely reminder before Yom Kippur, which occurs on Wednesday.

Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) has now concluded till after Pesach.

On Yom Kippur, we read from the sedra of Acharei Mot from Vayikra (Leviticus). We read of the service which the high priest conducted in the Temple on Yom Kippur.

He entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled sacrificial blood and brought incense. We also read the Torah at mincha, when we read the Book of Jonah as the haftorah.

I wish all readers well over the Fast and a Gemar Chatima Tova.

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