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Parshat Vayelekh   (Deuteronomy 31: 1 - 30)  

 

a.k.a  Moses looks into the future and sings a song 

  

On the bank of the River Jordan the Israelites listened to Moses. “I am 120 years old today,” Moses said. “God has told me that I shall not go into the Promised Land. Nevertheless, God will go in before you. God will destroy the nations so that you can take possession of the land. You shall deal with these nations as you have been commanded. Be steadfast and strong and do not fear the nations or be frightened of them, because God is going with you. God will not let go of you, nor will God forsake you.” 

Then Moses called Joshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel, “Be steadfast and strong, for you are to go with this people to the land that God swore to their fathers to give to them. You shall ensure that they take possession of it, as their inheritance. God will be with you. God will not let go of you, nor will God abandon you. Fear nothing.” 

Then Moses wrote down these words and handed it over to all the elders and to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the Ark of the Covenant of God. Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of seven years, on the Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot), when all Israel comes directly before the Presence of God, you shall read this teaching in the presence of all Israel.” 

God then said to Moses, “Your day of death is approaching. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Appointed Meeting so that I may tell him his duty.” Moses went with Joshua and they presented themselves in the Tent of Appointed Meeting. And God appeared in the Tent in a pillar of cloud, which stood at the entrance of the Tent. 

Then God said to Moses, “You are now going to lie down beside your fathers, and then this people will rise and stray and will follow foreign deities and will become unfaithful and forsake me and break my covenant. Then my anger will be stirred up against the people and I will forsake them. I will hide my face from them so that they will be almost destroyed and many troubles will come upon them. At that time, they will say, ‘Truly, because my God is not with me these troubles have come upon me.’” 

“Now, write down this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths so that this song may become a witness for me. For I know what the people's frame of mind will be after I have brought them to this Promised Land.” 

Moses wrote down the song on that day and taught it to the Israelites. 

And God gave Joshua his duty and said, “Be steadfast and strong! For you are to bring the children of Israel to the land that I have promised them, and I will be with you.” 

Moses spoke in the ears of the entire assembly of Israel the words of this song until the end. 

 

Commentary on the 52nd parsha (portion) of the Torah. The Torah consists of the five books of Moses, the first part of the Old Testament. 

 

To get to grips with this parsha, our Supermaven, Sigmund Albert Spinoza, interviews Methuselah Solomon (an Ancient Elder). Supermaven is a modern philosopher who is trying to understand Judaism and how we got where we are.

 

He will do this every week by investigating the Old Testament.

 

SAS: Well, I see we are getting ready to say farewell to Moses, but not without some last promises, threats, regrets and recriminations. Poor Joshua! Does he know what lies ahead of him? 

MS: As usual, your lack of respect and empathy come to the fore. Do you not think that after all these years Moses parting from the children of Israel might be a serious occasion? He is about to hand over to Joshua, and what he has to hand over is a fearsome responsibility. 

SAS: Oh, I have no doubt it is a fearsome responsibility and God is putting the fear of God into him. 

MS: This is a most profound parsha. Moses is looking over the Promised Land and at the same time facing his death. He is receiving a sacred song to hand over to the Children of Israel. He is at the end of writing his own history. 

SAS: His punishment for being the most loyal, long-suffering mouthpiece God has ever had or is ever likely to have. Do you think it’s fair that Moses should not be allowed into the Promised Land? After all he has been through to get there, and bring the Israelites along with him? It seems the most grossly unfair thing in the whole Torah. 

MS: Although it looks unfair, Sigmund, I think there are other ways of thinking about it. Moses himself chose Joshua as his successor. Moses was the one who led the people to their freedom. His role is over. And he understands why God has determined that it be so. It is a punishment for breaking the tablets, true, but it is also his time to go. What would Moses do in the Promised Land? He is a desert leader, not a settler. He is man of tents and wandering, a prophet of transition. 

SAS: Well, I would not end the story this way. Moses does his 120 years and is dismissed, without even a gold watch. Joshua takes over the family business but, before he does, there is the standard set of promises, warnings and threats. It seems to me, Methuselah, that God is not an easy person to have a relationship with. He is full of foreboding, constantly expecting the relationship to turn sour, and his beloved people to leave him. Then he threatens them with tantrums, bad crops, the loss of animals and children, and terrible unhappiness because they have abandoned him. He warns them about what it means to step out of the bounds of the relationship, and how awful the consequences will be. I think that for as long as he goes on in this way, he will drive them to consider it. 

MS: First of all, I think you need to imagine the awesome responsibility Joshua is to inherit. He needs to be prepared for all eventualities. The people of Israel are, after all, people, and God is aware of their humanness. That is why he knows that they cannot remain constant. They will be attracted to other gods, other cultures, other lifestyles. God, no doubt, wants to protect them from these dangers, and to help Joshua in understanding the new and special problems that might emerge once the people are comfortable and thriving in the Promised Land. When people are too comfortable, they forget how privileged they are, and what they owe to God.  Moses understands human fickleness. He tries to pass this understanding on to Joshua. The people need a constant reminder that it is their faith in God that ensures their wellbeing and when they lose their faith they lose their wellbeing. It is only when they recognise the necessity of having God in their midst that they can be returned to health and prosperity. 

SAS: But it’s all so conditional, Methuselah. We have bribing, cajoling, threatening, jealousy, bullying, all in the name of love and protection. Surely your god is better than this? 

MS: He is better, but his deal is with people, who are but people, and this is the language that people understand. 

SAS: Evidently! God’s view of his people is a deeply pessimistic one, Methuselah. He expects the worst from them and even sends Moses to his grave with the message that it’s all going to go horribly wrong the moment he has died – “This people will rise and stray,” God says. “They will follow foreign deities … they will become unfaithful … they will break my covenant … I will forsake them.” What an unfortunate thing for poor Moses to hear before he passes on. Why such a bleak vision for this great man on his death bed?  

MS: But what about the song, Sigmund? God allowed Moses to die while teaching the song that would keep calling them back to Him, and he died with this holy song on his lips. Was this not a fitting end for God’s greatest servant? 

SAS: I think it shows God’s selfishness and exploitative nature. Could he not have let Moses go off and die peacefully with the knowledge that he had completed his earthly tasks? Not a bit of it. God kept him working until the last breath went out of him. God squeezed him for one more favour and Moses, being the ever-willing sap he was, went off into the darkness with a job sheet in his hands. Boy, God’s a slave-driver! 

MS: That’s ridiculous! Moses died doing God’s will and nothing could have given him more joy and more satisfaction. No, he never entered the Promised Land, but he brought Israel the promise of the land and led them to it. He spoke daily with God and knew, beyond all doubt, that his redeemer lived and walked beside him. What more could any man ask for? 

SAS: A period of retirement, a happy vision of the future and a few months in the Land of Milk and Honey. It wouldn’t have been hard for God to set that up. 

MS: “The Hollywood ending,” is the expression, I believe.  You’re always telling me to get real, Sigmund, so now I’m returning the favour. Moses’ death was a real one devoid of syrup and saccharin. Take it or leave it. 

SAS: I’ll leave it, thanks. And I’ll take my leave of you too. Enjoy the rest of the day. Or has God ordered you to work till midnight? 

MS: From you, parting is a pleasure. 

 

History 

 

If you’d like to know more about the real history of our extended Jewish family, read on.

 

Israel and the United Nations 

Ever since November, 1947, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 recommending the partition of the British Mandate into Jewish and Arab states, the UN has spent a great deal of time debating, and passing resolutions regarding the Palestinian question.

From 1967 to 1989, for example, the United Nations Security Council passed 131 resolutions addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Particularly noteworthy were the resolutions adopted on 10 November, 1975, when the UN passed Resolutions 3375, 3376 and 3379. The first of these saw the Palestine Liberation Organization being invited to participate in peace efforts in the Middle East. 3376 entrenched “the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people” while 3379 equated Zionism with racism. On 16 December, 1991, however, Resolution 4686 annulled Resolution 3379.

The UN has given support to Palestinian refugees through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and organizations such as the United Nations Division of Palestinian Rights and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People have provided a platform for Palestinian political grievances. The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is usually held on 29 November and marks the anniversary of Resolution 181.

The UN General Assembly has adopted several resolutions saying that its strategic relationship with the United States has encouraged Israel to pursue aggressive and expansionist policies. The standard US response to such criticism is to invoke the Negroponte Doctrine. This refers to the stance set out by US Ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, on 26 July, 2002, at a closed meeting of the Security Council.

In essence, the Negroponte Doctrine states that, on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the USA – which enjoys a veto in the 15-nation council – will oppose all Security Council resolutions that condemn Israel without also condemning terrorist groups. A successful resolution on the Middle East would need to: condemn terrorism strongly, condemn al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, appeal to all parties for a political settlement, and demand an improvement in the security situation before any call relating to Israel withdrawing to positions held before the onset of the Second Intifada, is made.

The United States has received a lot of criticism regarding the Negroponte Doctrine.

The UN has attempted to broker peace between the contending, and sometimes warring, parties in Palestine. The 2002 Road Map for Peace saw the UN joining forces with the USA, Russia and the European Union in order to construct a three-phase program for the creation of a Palestinian State side-by-side with Israel. All hostilities were to have ceased by 2005. Since then, of course, there has been the Gaza War, and the Road Map has not been followed.

While the UN expressly condemns anti-Semitism, it is often accused of tolerating anti-Semitic comments in debate. Some commentators believe there is a disproportional criticism of Israel within the United Nations. 

Pro-Palestinian factions enjoy numerical superiority at the UN and Israel has few friends. American-Israeli journalist, Caroline Glick, recently wrote: “Due to the UN’s unvarnished belligerence toward it, in recent years a consensus has formed in Israel that there is nothing to be gained from cooperating with this openly and dangerously hostile body.” 

Geographically, Israel should be part of the Asian bloc. However, its inclusion has always been blocked by Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. In 2000, Israel’s 50-year exclusion from UN bodies ended when it agreed to become a temporary member of the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group. It has now received permission to be part of this 27-member group on an ongoing basis.

Israel has never been elected to the UN Security Council.

On 24 January, 2005, the UN General Assembly commemorated the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps – the organization’s first such commemoration. Another first occurred in 2007 when the General Assembly passed a non-political resolution sponsored by the Jewish State – a resolution calling for assistance with agricultural growth in developing nations. 

Israel has been America’s most consistent ally at the UN. For example, it voted with the USA 86.4% of the time in 2007, easily outstripping the loyalty of Great Britain, Canada and France.

 

Here follows a discussion on this historical segment by Dad, Chaya and Ben. 

 

BEN: Isn’t it extraordinary how Israel has to be part of the Western European and Others group at the UN?  It’s such a geographical anomaly! No doubt there are huge political strategies at work here! 

CHAYA: Yes, but it’s not such an ideological anomaly. In a way, it’s good that Israel can at least contribute to the workings of that group and prove its credentials as a hard-working and forward-thinking nation. 

DAD: The State of Israel will certainly find it encouraging that the UN is starting to pass resolutions that Israel itself sponsors, even if such motions are politically uncontroversial. 

BEN: The Holocaust commemoration by the UN was very welcome too – although long overdue. In fact, I think it’s ridiculous that it was so long in coming. 

DAD: The harsh reality remains, though, that Israel is a pariah state in the eyes of a majority of nations at the UN. But the host nation, the United States, naturally, is in its corner. 

BEN: The Negroponte Doctrine is very important to Israel, I think. Now that it’s in place, it greatly reduces the scope of Israel’s enemies when it comes to formulating condemnations of the Israeli State. There’s little point in tabling resolutions that simply won’t fly.  

DAD: Well, it leaves no doubt about where America stands. Not that it’s ever been in doubt. 

CHAYA: Israel certainly owes a debt of gratitude to America, and Israel’s voting pattern certainly shows where its allegiance lies. 

DAD: The USA hasn’t been an unequivocal supporter of Israel at the UN, as some voting clearly shows, but the relationship will surely hold although Israel has engaged in conduct that puts a serious strain on it.  

BEN: I want to look at that resolution about Zionism being racism. I think that was very unfair and a real insult to the Zionist movement. 

DAD: The vote passed by 72 votes to 35, with 32 abstentions. Israeli ambassador to the UN, Chaim Herzog, famously tore the resolution up after he’d concluded his speech in response to it. He branded the resolution anti-Semitic and hate-based. 

CHAYA: What led to the resolution being repealed? I’ve heard that it’s the only UN resolution that has ever been repealed. 

DAD: That’s quite right.  What happened is that Israel made its participation in the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 dependent upon Resolution 3379 being scrapped. It was, in fact, revoked that same year in terms of Resolution 4686. 

BEN: Four odd numbers replaced by four even ones. There’s something symbolic about that!  It’s amazing that it happened, isn’t it? 

CHAYA:  How did the voting go? 

DAD: Believe it or not, it was an overwhelming “yes” – 111 to 25 with 13 abstentions. President George Bush senior introduced the resolution and said that, “to equate Zionism with the intolerable sin of racism is to twist history and forget the terrible plight of Jews in World War II and indeed throughout history”. 

BEN: I guess the failure of the UN Road Map for a two-state solution is something we would have expected. Just because it’s the UN doesn’t mean it can actually change anything, or even begin to solve the conflict. 

DAD: The UN has, on occasion, risen way above the skeptical view that it is a glorified debating society. Several of its agencies have done sterling work in their efforts to relieve disease, hunger and rural poverty across the world. The World Food Program is just one of many life-saving initiatives. Politically, however, it cannot achieve much. Its member nations are fundamentally divided on many issues and ideologically the different groupings are poles apart. 

CHAYHA: At least all the nations have a place to meet and express themselves. Better a frenzied, if aimless, debate than a military confrontation. 

DAD: Amen to that, although, to be frank, vigorous debate brings only limited satisfaction to aggrieved and aggressive nations. If a country is spoiling for a fight, it’s usually going to get one.  

BEN: Whatever the UN’s shortcomings, I think Israel needs to be there and a part of it. 

DAD: Yes, to keep its friends close and its enemies closer. 

 

Sayings 

 

Every Shabbat we read five short sayings that express, with typically Jewish wit and humor, insightful reflections on this life of ours.

 

Here are tonight’s sayings:

 

·        Give it a kick in the right place and it’ll work.  (Ezer Weizman)

·        Trouble comes in gallons and departs in drops

·        In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles. (David Ben Gurion)

·        How many calories does an American man spend making love? Ten. An Englishman? Ten. An Israeli man? One hundred. Ten to make love and ninety running to tell all his friends. (Donna Rosenthal)

·        Wine is an unreliable messenger! I sent it down to my stomach, and it went up to my head. (Al-Harizi, Tahkemoni)

 

 

Celebration of Great Lives 

 

Every Friday night we celebrate the achievements of our Jewish family in contributing to changing the world for the better and having an extraordinary impact on those around them.

 

Jonas Salk (1914 - 1995) 

Salk was born to Ashkenazi Russian immigrants in New York City. He attended New York University School of Medicine where he elected to do medical research. He was the man who discovered the polio vaccine. Polio was a major health problem in the USA in the post-World War 2 period, with 58,000 people falling victim to the disease in 1952 alone. By 1955, Salk’s vaccine was announced to be safe and effective. Salk became a hero and received a Presidential citation as well as the first Congressional Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service. By 1962, polio was almost extinct in the USA and thanks to his work the disease has virtually been eradicated worldwide. Former US President Ronald Reagan declared 6 May, 1985, Jonas Salk Day.  

 

 

Mark Zuckerberg (1984 - ) 

Mark Elliott Zuckerberg was voted Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2010, the same year in which his co-founding of the Facebook site was featured in the motion picture, The Social Network (directed by David Fincher). Zuckerberg was born into a Jewish family in New York, although he has described himself as an atheist. It was at Harvard University that Zuckerberg, a computer programming prodigy, launched Facebook. It quickly spread to other colleges and then became a worldwide phenomenon. By July, 2010, there were 500 million users of Facebook worldwide. The world’s youngest billionaire, Zuckerberg supports several philanthropic causes.  

 

Song 

 

We will now sing a traditional song to conclude our Shabbat celebration. You have a copy of the words, so please join in as we sing.

 

The song is sung

 

Farewell and an Invitation

 

Thank you for coming together to share our Shabbat. May you go out into the new week with renewed strength, confidence and happiness.

 

We now cordially invite you to join us for some coffee and cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO SING THE SONGS
ADON OLAM WORDS
Adon Olam David Solid Gould & The Temple Rockers
ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS
ALLE BRUDER SONG
ALLE BRIDER SONG
AL KOL ELEH WORDS
AL KOL ELEH
BASHANA words
BASHANA SONG
BEI MIR BIST DU SHEYN
BEI MIR BIST DU SCHEYN SONG
BMBDS song
CHIRIBIM WORDS
CHIRIBIM Song
DAYENU WORDS
DAYENU SONG ENGLISH
DAYENU SONG
DONNA DONNA
DONNA DONNA SONG
HALLELUYA
HALELUJA KARAOKE
HATIKVA
HATIKVA SONG
HATIKVA SONG
DAYENU
HATIKVA WORDS
HATIKVA SONG 1
HAVA NAGILA WORDS
HAVA NAGILA SONG
HAVA NAGILA KARAOKE
HAVEINU SHALOM ALEICHEM
HEVENU SHALOM ALEICHEM WORDS
HEVENU SHALOM ALECHEM SONG
HINEH MA TOV WORDS
JERUSALEM THE GOLD WORDS
JERUSALEM THE GOLD KARAOKE IVRIT
JERUSALEM THE GOLD SONG
JERUSALEM THE GOLD JARAOKE
MAYIM MAYIM WORDS
MAYIM MAYIM DANCE
OIF'N PRIPITSCHOK song
OSE SHALOM
OSE SHALOM SONG
PAPI ROS'N
PAPIROS'N SONG
PARTISAN SONG 1
PARTISAN SONG
PARTISAN SONG MUSIC
RABBI ELIMELEKH
RABBI ELIMELEKH SONG
AS DER REBE SINGT
AS DER REBBE SINGT LEONARD COHEN
AS DER REBBE SINGT SONG
RAISINS WITH ALMONDS WORDS
SIMANTOV U MAZELTOV WORDS
SIMAN TOV MUSIC
MAZELTOV CLARINET
TUMBALALAIKA WORDS
TUMBALALAIKA MUSIC
TUMBALALAIKA MUSIC
TZENA TZENA
TZENA TZENA
TZENA TZENA 4
TZENA TZENA The Weavers
TZENA TZENA WORDS
ALLE BRIDER KLEZMATICS
ALLE BRIDER KLEZMATICS
HATIKVA STREISAND
HATIKVA STREISAND
BIM BAM SHABBAT SHALOM FOR KIDS
BIM BAM SHABBAT SHALOM FOR KIDS
YO EN ESTANDO - SEPHARDIC
ELIYAHU SEPHARDIC
SEPHARDIC SONG
SEPHARDIC SONG 3
Sholem Aleichem Susan Allen
Shalom Aleichem Susan Allen
OTHER VERSIONS OF SONGS
DUVID CROCKET WORDS
DUVID CROCKET MICKEY KATZ
MODERN PASSOVER SONGS
This will help you find yourself]