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The Torah Is Engraved on Every Jewish Soul

Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31 )

by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

The parashah begins, "Vayeilech Moshe - And Moses went …."[1] Where did Moses go? The Torah doesn't specify, but our Sages explain that he went into every Jewish heart so that the Torah might be engraved on the souls of our people for all eternity. But how did Moses accomplish that feat?

The answer to that question reveals the awesome greatness and sanctity of Moses. In the previous parashah, Nitzavim, Moses addressed the entire nation and renewed the covenant with them. In doing so, he also charged the people with a new covenant of areivus, which commanded each and every Jew to assume responsibility for his fellows. Henceforth, not only would individuals be held culpable for their own sins, but also for the sins of the nation: one nation, with one destiny, inexorably intertwined.

After Moses sealed this covenant, the people returned to their tents. Moses then did what only the greatest of men would be capable of doing. He went from tent to tent to bid them farewell, for he knew that on that day, he would return his soul to God and die. But if that be the case, we might well ask, why didn't Moses say his farewells and bless the nation when they were all gathered as one and stood before him? Visiting millions of people would be a superhuman undertaking for even a young man, and would take, not a day, but weeks or months. But Moses' love for his people was such that no undertaking was too much for him. And more, he wanted, on this last day of his life, to engrave not just faith, but also love for Torah on the heart of each and every individual. And for that, loving, personal contact was required.

Our Sages teach that Moses, our teacher, placed the Torah within the heart of every Jew for all eternity; because of that, wherever a Jew might find himself, at whatever time in history, whenever he sincerely desires to study Torah, Moses would be at his side and teach him.

When God's Face Is Hidden

And Hashem spoke to Moses: "Behold, you will lie with your forefathers, but this people will rise up and stray after the gods of the foreigners of the Land … it will forsake Me and annul My covenant that I have sealed with it. My anger will flare against it on that day and I will forsake them; and I will conceal My Face from them … and many evils and distresses will encounter it. It will say on that day, 'Is it not because my God is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?' But I will surely have concealed My face on that day because of all the evil that it did, for it had turned to the god of others."[2]

Thus, God informs Moses that after his death, the nation will abandon the covenant; subsequently, God's wrath will be kindled against them and terrible suffering will befall them. And the people will realize, "God is not in our midst. It is because of this that these evils have come upon us."

One would have imagined that such an admission would be regarded as a positive step toward repentance. But strangely enough, the verse states that God would continue to hide His face from them. How do we understand this? Why doesn't Hashem accept their declaration as a true expression of repentance? The answer is simple. God never abandons us. He is our loving Father; when there is a breakdown in our relationship, it is not because He is not in our midst, but rather, because we have abandoned Him. Until such time as we realize our responsibility to return to Him with a full heart, there can be no real reconciliation.

But even under those painful circumstances, God's message is filled with hope. He does not say, "I will forsake them," but rather, "I will conceal My face from them." When someone hides, it means that he is still there; we need only find him.

Similarly, God, Who is our loving Father, never forsakes us. He is always there, watching over us, guarding us, even in our darkest moments. We are never alone … God is in hiding, waiting for us to find Him.

There is a well-known story about a Chassidic rebbe who found a little boy crying. "Why are you crying, my son?" he asked.

"Because I am hiding, and no one is looking for me," the boy answered.

"Woe unto us!" the rebbe said. "God is hiding and we are not looking for Him. We don't even make an attempt to find Him!"

Song of the Jewish People

So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it in their mouth …."[3]

This is the last mitzvah that Moshe Rabbeinu imparted to us, and it is a command for every Jew to write a Torah Scroll. This, of course, does not mean that every Jew must write his own Sefer Torah; what it does mean, however, is that by writing a single letter to complete a Torah Scroll, we can fulfill this mitzvah.

Throughout the centuries, no matter how dense the darkness of our exile, how bitter our persecution, and how abject our poverty, our people fulfilled this mitzvah of writing Torah scrolls with enormous zeal, sacrifice, and love. The celebration accompanying the dedication of a new Torah is akin to that of a wedding, and the joy that it generates envelopes the entire community.

Some years ago, our Hineni organization dedicated a new Torah Scroll and we celebrated the occasion by dancing with the Torah along Park Avenue, which was closed to traffic. The Torah was carried under the chuppah, and as we made our way down the avenue, multitudes of people joined us, dancing and singing with joy. Children waved flags, the music played, and men and women from every walk of life came to participate, their eyes brimming with tears of joy - tears that spanned the centuries, going back thousands of years to the moment when Moses proclaimed, "Write this song for yourself and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it in their mouth …."

In thousands of years, we have never forgotten Moses' commandment, and when a new Torah is dedicated, even the most secular Jew comes forth to celebrate with a full heart.

But the question that still must be asked is why the writing of a Torah Scroll is compared to writing a song.

A song is something that you can never forget. Even if you forget the lyrics, the melody remains in your heart. Yes, the Torah is the song of our people. Even for those among us who may have forgotten the holy words, the melody nevertheless remains in their hearts, and in an instant, they can relearn the lyrics.


1. Deut. 31:1.

2. Ibid. 31:16-18.

3. Ibid. 31:19.

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