Vayelekh – Thoughts on the Perasha

Life is a dynamic process. In life, we move, we progress, we change. The most important factor in life, is time. Time is measured and defined scientifically as the movement from point A to point B. As time passes, so life passes. We move in life from one stage to another, from one place to another, from one situation to another.

Maimonides writes in his fourteen volumes of the “Yad HaHazaka,” that a person should always strive to improve his standing in life – socially, financially and spiritually. In Judaism, we believe these moves also apply to a person, when he or she passes onto the next world – the metaphysical world; for Judaism considers the afterworld as part of life in general. In fact, life on Earth is considered to be only a small part of an eternal life that spans from the moment the soul is created.  It descends onto Earth and ultimately it returns to its Creator and beyond.

In this week’s perasha, Vayelekh, Moshe concludes the new covenant with the People of Israel. Afterwards, the People of Israel leave him and return to their homes. As its name “Vayelekh” suggests, Moshe “went” from his own dwelling and then walked through the camps of all twelve Tribes to deliver twelve copies of the Torah; one to each Tribe. The allusion of “Vayelekh” was also meant to convey the message that the time had come to take his leave of them. After forty years of leadership, it was time for Moshe to leave and for a new leader to take his place. That is part of life, a move from one stage, one place, one situation, to another.

This past week we bade farewell to the past year 5778, as we recited תכלה שנה וקללותיה  – ‘let the old year end with its curses’ and we welcomed the new year with תחל שנה וברכותיה – ‘let the new year begin with its blessings’.

As years pass, and as time goes by, King Solomon states in Ecclesiastes דור הולך ודור בא   – ‘a generation goes and another one comes.’ Certain values are transmitted, certain instructions are given and wisdom is handed down from one generation to another; all to assure continuity of human civilization. In any transition of power or leadership, for that transition to be proper, legitimate and self-perpetuating, values, instructions and wisdom have to be transmitted.

Values are the rules and regulations by which a society lives; agreements and principles that they abide by.

Instructions are the ‘how-to-go-about’ fulfilling the rules and regulations; the agreements and principles.

Wisdom is the life experience of the previous leader and generation – encompassing the advice, the counsel and the proper way of governing.

As Moshe concludes his sermon, after recalling all the values, the laws and regulations, combined with his wisdom – now he instructs the Israelites to, “Assemble the people, men and women, and children once they enter the land, on the Sabbatical year, to hear the reading of the Torah, so that they may learn and observe to do all what is written and their children may hear and learn.

That is the secret of our People and the nation of Israel. For over 3300 years we have been gathering every Sabbath, not necessarily every Sabbatical year, but every Sabbath, to hear the reading of the Torah; learning, observing and transmitting the values, instructions and the wisdom written in it. That has been our secret of continuity and perpetuity. We adopt and adapt the Torah to our values in combination with what the modern world has to offer. Through physical challenges, oppression and persecution, and through an onslaught on our values and principles, we are still holding steadfast to our identity and our distinctiveness. And we have succeeded. Unlike the rest of the nations of the world, as the bastion of leadership passes from one generation to the other, there is a disdain for the previous generation. There is a desire to run away from the cherished values of the elder generation. Values that have defined humanity for centuries and millennia are being discarded as old fashioned, as primitive, as not ‘politically correct’, all in the name of change! The confusion that is being instilled in the young generation in regards to family values, gender identity and the nucleus of society which is the family, composed by a father and a mother, will eventually destroy this civilization as it has been and as we know it.

It will not be terrorism, Islamic or otherwise; it will not be wars or battles. It will not be anti-Semitism or Islamophobia; it will not be discrimination or prejudice that will destroy this civilization. What will destroy this civilization will be the disdain, disparagement, scorn and contempt of traditional age-old values that were transmitted from generation to generation and assured its survival.

What destroyed the Babylonian, the Greek and the Roman Empires? It was not the battle field or the wars; it was the depravity of their civilization, the immorality and the disdain for ‘age-old traditional’ values.  The same will destroy our civilization.

Although, life is a dynamic process; we move, we progress, we change, we grow and we are transformed – however, our Torah principles, its moral values are immutable, unchangeable, for they are Divine. They are not civilization or fashion dependents. For a fashion arrives and leaves, and, “a generation goes and another one comes” – yet our Torah, with its values remains eternal.

Shabbat Shalom and Tizku L’Shanim Rabbot,

Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D.

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