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Torah Teasers Parshat Vayelech

Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30 )

by Moshe Erlbaum

1. What is unique about this parsha with regard to the annual Torah reading cycle in the synagogue?

Vayelech is the only parsha that can be read in its entirety twice in one year. This can happen if parshas Nitzavim and Vayelech are read on separate weeks, in which case Vayelech is read after Rosh Hashana. Then in the following year, if the parshas are read together, Vayelech is read before the Rosh Hashana - i.e. twice in one year.

2. In this parsha, Moshe passes away at the age of 120 years. Where from the Torah do we see an explicit verse that 120 years is an appropriate age to die?

In parshas Bereishis, Hashem explicitly states that the days of mankind should be 120 years (Genesis 6:3, according to the Ibn Ezra; see Rashi).

3. What holiday is explicitly referred to in this parsha?

The festival of Sukkot is explicitly referred to as the time when the mitzvah of Hakhel takes place, following the Sabbatical year (Deut. 31:10).

4. What two words found in this parsha are also names of parshios in the book of Genesis?

The words "miketz" (Deut. 30:10) and "vayera" (31:15).are also names of parshas in the book of Genesis.

5. To whom are the encouraging words "be strong and courageous" said in this parsha? (2 answers)

Moshe encourages the Jews to "be strong and courageous" in their war against the Canaanites (Deut. 31:6). Moshe also encourages Yehoshua to "be strong and courageous" in leading the Jews into the land (Deut. 31:23).

6. In this parsha, where do women and small children appear in the same verse? What 4 other places in the book of Deuteronomy are women and small children mentioned in the same verse?

Regarding the command of Hakhel, women and children must come to Jerusalem to hear the king read the Torah (Deut. 31:12). Elsewhere in the book of Deuteronomy: (1-2) Twice in parshas Devarim when Moshe recalls the destruction and occupation of Cheshbon and Bashan, women and small children are mentioned together (Deut. 2:34, 3:6). (3) In parshas Shoftim, regarding the rules of conquering a city, the Jewish army may keep alive the women and small children (Deut. 20:14). (4) In parshas Nitzavim, Moshe lists groups of people who are "standing" before Hashem - including women and children (Deut. 29:10).

7. What four items are described in this parsha as a "witness"?

The parsha describes as a witness: (1) The song that Moshe will write in the next parsha (Deut. 31:19). (2) The Torah Scroll placed with the Holy Ark (Deut. 31:26). (3-4) Heaven and Earth (Deut. 31:28).

8. Where in this parsha is an a fortiori argument (kal vechomer) mentioned? What 3 other places does this appear in the Torah?

Moshe tells the Jews that "since you rebelled when I was alive, surely you will rebel after I die" (Deut. 31:27). Elsewhere in the Torah: (1) In parshas Vayigash, when the brothers are accused of stealing Joseph's silver goblet, they respond: "We brought back the money that we found in our sacks... so how could we have stolen from you silver or gold?" (Genesis 44:8). (2) In parshas Va'erah, Moshe says to Hashem: "If the Jews did not listen to me, why would Pharaoh?" (Exodus 6:12). (3) In parshas Behaalosecha, Hashem tells Moshe: "If a father would spit in his daughter's face, she would be humiliated for 7 days; surely Miriam should be outside the camp for 7 days" (Numbers 12:14).

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