Vayelech (“then he went out”)

Today is “Shabbat Shuva” – the Sabbath of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Torah reading is Deuteronomy 31:1 to 31:31

Moses is now one hundred and twenty and is no longer able to lead the people. They were to cross over the Jordan and do to the nations the other side of the Jordan the same as they had done to the Amorite Kings Og and Sihon on the east side of the Jordan.

Moses presents Joshua to the people and encourages them to be courageous as they prepare to go into the Land since God would go before them.

Moses wrote down the Torah and gave it to the Priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant. Every seven years the law was to be read on Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) in the hearing of all the people. This ensured that no generation would grow up having not heard the whole Torah being read publicly.

Moses’ predicts a falling away

God summons Moses and Joshua to the tent of meeting where Moses is told that the day of his death is near. Moses’ prophesies that once they enter the land, they will prostrate themselves before the foreign deities there. Many calamities will come upon them because God will have forsaken them since they went astray from worshipping Him.

The song of Moses

Moses wrote the warning of calamity if they served other gods into a song which the Israelites sang so as future generations would understand that God would not bless them when they turned aside to worship idols.

God repeated his command to Joshua to be strong and courageous. After writing down the whole Torah it was given to the priests to place in the Ark and carry it.

Moses knows that if the Israelites rebelled against God while he was alive how much more were they going to do it after his death.

Shabbat Shuva – Haftarah    הפטרת שבת שובה                               

The Haftarah for Shabbat Shuva consists of three short readings from Hosea 14:2-10Micah 7:18-20 and Joel 2:15-17

The theme of these readings is T’shuva (repentance) which is what everyone has on their minds as Yom Kippur approaches. Shuva has the sense in Hebrew of returning or turning around and walking in a different direction. Repentance differs from remorse in that we can be sorry for doing something without actually turning our lives around. In T’shuva the emphasis is on the turning around and walking in a new direction rather than simply regretting our actions.

The Haftarah passages contain some well-known verses regarding restoration and repentance

‘I will heal their waywardness
    and love them freely,
    for my anger has turned away from themHosea 14:4

Who is a God like you,
    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
    of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry for ever
    but delight to show mercyMicah 7:18

Messianic Message

When John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah his message was repentance –

Saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near Matthew 3:2

After Yeshua was immersed in water by John, he repeated the same message:

From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Matthew 4:17

T’shuva is turning around. In the past we might have chased after worldly success, weath impressive homes and sexual fulfilment. After turning around in T’shuva we become rich by embracing austerity, we become fulfilled by serving others and become well known for doing good deeds with no desire for a reward.

Many Jewish people after a day in Synagogue reciting the Selichot (penitential prayers and fasting come out with a determination to lead better lives.

What we need though is something living inside of us so the change is internal not external. The proper Jeremiah promised that a time would come when the Torah would be written on our hearts

‘This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,’ declares the Lord.
‘I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33

That time is now. Faith in Messiah provides not just forgiveness, but the power to lead a holy life by the Spirit that dwells within. Invite Him into your heart today and be assured of your name being written in the book of life.

שבת שלום וגמר חטימה טובה

Shabbat Shalom, and may your name be inscribed in the (Lamb’s) Book of Life

This article originally appeared on the BMJA website and is reposted with permission.