Parashat Vayeilech: I was there

Rabbi James Stone Goodman serves Congregation Neve Shalom and Central Reform Congregation.

By Rabbi James Stone Goodman

Moses spoke to Joshua, his successor. He told him a couple of things but what I remember most is the phrase chazak v’ematz: Be strong and courageous. I loved it when Moses talked about courage. He was one of the few who did.

Moses said not to be afraid, that G*d would accompany us. G*d would not have brought us this far to let us go on alone, Moses said.

Then Moses did something really important. He sat down and inscribed the Torah. He wrote the entire document so we would have something for sure to carry into the future. He wrote it down for us the whole thing. 

When Moses was done writing, G*d began to speak with him again.

Your days are drawing near to die, G*d said to Moses, Go get Joshua and stand in the Tent of Meeting so I can give Joshua the final instructions.

That’s just what they did. Moses and Joshua stood in the tent of meeting and G*d appeared in a pillar of cloud so we didn’t catch everything.

What we heard was difficult. It was about the future and what we would forget and how someone would have to remind us now and again what we are all about. We will have obstacles; some of the greatest will be ourselves.

What we are all about, everybody repeated that phrase like it was a mantra a poem an invocation, something mantic, vatic, syballine, something fatidic. We repeated it we sang it we swung it we danced it. We knew we would be distracted and would need to remember: What we are all about.

So Moses wrote out the Torah then he made up a song. Moses taught us the song that day. It was a song, or a poem, the word is the same in our language. Some of it was heard and is known and some of it remains hidden. There is a known song and a secret song, a known poem and a secret poem.

One is flesh and form, the other bone and spirit.

I was taught the song and I remember it and I teach it at the right times to the right people.