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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayelech

Living In The House Of Torah

The Torah has so many diverse lessons to teach, if we follow any of these, we indeed “own” the Torah.
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We have reached the final Shabbat of 5773 & fittingly, our 2nd Sedra of Vayelech contains the last of the 613 Mitzvot in the Torah (31:19):

"And now, write for your-selves this song & teach it to the Children of Israel."

Rambam interprets this to mean that each person must write for himself a sefer Torah. While this is usually accomplished by participating in the dedication of a new Torah, the larger principal & intent of the pasuk remains: Each one of us should make the Torah "our own."

In other words, each of us should not only follow the specific dictates of Hashem as given via the Torah & its commandments, but we should also internalize its many messages. Perhaps we will connect to the chesed of Avraham, the self-sacrifice of Yitzchak or Rachel, or the unshakeable faith of Sara. Perhaps we will become pursuers of peace like Ahron haKohen, or practice Ahavat Yisrael like Moshe, who - as the very title Vayelech indicates – went to visit all of his fellow Jews before he died.

The Torah has so many diverse lessons to teach, ideals such as having courage during times of adversity, or being responsible for one’s actions, or developing a sense of discipline, or passing on our tradition to the next generation. If we follow any of these, we indeed "own" the Torah.

Two more lessons emerge from this short pasuk: The Torah should be "a song," something that brings joy, that gets into our soul, that we sing almost instinctively (don’t you wonder why we still can recite the lyrics of songs from the ‘60’s?!)

And we must teach this Torah to fellow Jews. It is not enough to "keep the faith;" we must share it with others!

Chazal tell the story of a king who hired 3 contractors to build him a palace. He gave them each a million gold pieces & said, "Spare no expense!" The first builder decided to pocket most of the money & build a substandard edifice with cheap materials; the second improved a bit on that, but still took many short-cuts. The third contractor, however, decided to use all the funds he had been given to create the most superb & perfect palace he could.
When all of the buildings were done, the king came to inspect & decreed: "These palaces are for you; you will now live in them for the rest of your lives!"

The Torah we embody, the Judaism in which we live, is given to us by the King of Kings. Let us work hard, with all the means at our disposal, to construct the very best palace we can, & to joyously sing the sweet song of Torah.

Shana Tova & may we be inscribed for only bracha!
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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