Published Date: September 07, 2018
In this Shabbat’s weekly Torah portion Vayeilech Deuteronomy 31:1 – 31:30, (“and he went”) recounts the events of Moses’ last day of earthly life. “I am one hundred and twenty years old today,” he says to the people, “and I can no longer go forth and come in.” He transfers the leadership to Joshua, and writes (or concludes writing) the Torah in a scroll which he entrusts to the Levites for safekeeping in the Ark of the Covenant.
The mitzvah of hak’hel (“gather”) is given: every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot of the first year of the shemittah cycle, the entire people of Israel—men, women and children—should gather at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where the king should read to them from the Torah.
In this week’s Haftara Prophets reading Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is known as Shabbat Shuva or “Shabbat of Return (Repentance).” The name is a reference to the opening words of the week’s haftorah, “Shuva Israel — Return O Israel.” This haftorah is read in honor of the Ten Days of Repentance, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The prophet Hosea exhorts the Jewish people to “Return, O Israel, to the L-rd your God,” encouraging them to repent sincerely and ask for God’s forgiveness. Hosea urges the Jews to put their trust in God, not in Assyria, powerful horses or idols. At that point, God promises to remove His anger from Israel, “I will be like dew to Israel, they shall blossom like a rose.” The prophet then goes on to foretell the return of the exiles and the cessation of idol-worship amongst the people.