Ha'azinu »
« Nitzavim


Vayelech sets the scene for Moses’ swansong as he is told he is about to die and he gathers the elders and officers of the tribe for one final song.

Another voice

Vayelech by Akiva Wharton :: 5768

Akiva Wharton (aka Akiva The Believer) is a passionate percussionist, writer and singer of prayers and songs, and teacher of Spiritual Drumming. A master drummer, he accompanies the best of Jewish Spiritual Music including Craig Taubman, Shefa Gold, Gad Elbaz and Storahtelling. He performs, teaches and leads drumming workshops around the world.

This year, Parashat Vayeilech comes on Shabbat Tshuva. This means we will read it between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. Why?

When we look into this Parsha, we pull back. Horrorstruck.

We see G-d doubting us, the People of Israel. He says after we enter the Land of Israel, we will rise up, we will forsake God and annul the covenant.

Then God’s anger will flare. G-d will forsake us and conceal His face from us.

What kind of religion is this? Where is G-d's faith in us?

Where is G-d’s faith in me?

And why should I go back for more long prayers, to bang my closed fist against my beating heart and repeat all those terrible things I am supposed to have done?

The answer to these questions comes to us from our Holy Teacher, the Baal Shem Tov as he saw everything with Sacred Eyes.

Eyes that saw past the riddles. Past our doubts. Even into the soul of our G-d.

He saw the nature of illusion.

He saw that when G-d is concealed, this, too, is just an illusion.

G-d is there. In the concealment. In the illusion.

The world of darkness is not evil. It is G-d concealed.

When we make poor choices, this is not evil. This happens when G-d is concealed from us. When the Spark of G-dliness in each of us is forgotten, concealed.

Our Soul is pure.


No matter what we do.

What we think.

What others say about us. At our root, our bottom, we are pure. As pure as the day we first came down into this world.

Yes. It is true. We didn’t always do the right thing or follow the right instinct. But deep, deep down ... we know what is right.

We do know.

And we long to get back to that right way. We don’t always know how to do it though. We so long to return to the best in us. To return...


In Hebrew return is tshuva. Not repent.

We return to G-d. To the concealed G-d.

But how do we find our way back? Really back.

It says in this parsha to call three witnesses into our lives at this moment: Song: Torah, Heaven and Earth.

What does this mean?

It means when you want to return to the best in yourself, the G-d in yourself, go to Torah and then walk out into nature and just be.

Walk to the shore. Watch the sun rise or set. Look at the moon. See a rainbow. Find G-d's Creation all around.

All questions fade as the illusion of concealment also fades. G-d is always here. Always.

So take a break. On Shabbat Tshuva. Close the books.

Reframe your life. Your mistakes. See yourself as pure.

Open your fist. Caress your chest.

See yourself with Sacred Eyes.

Eyes that see illusion.


More by Akiva Wharton

Another voice by David Hoffman

David is a barrister and author on human rights law, and a longstanding Limmudnik, who has been chair of Limmud International and co-chair of Limmud Fest and Manchester Day Limmud. He is also a regular Limmud performer with his mix of Jewish rock and musical whimsy, occasional Acoustic Café compère and founder and CEO of Limmudniks Anonymous.

In Vayelech, we read how the priests are commanded to read the law before all Israel at Succot every seventh year so that the people 'may hear, learn and fear the Eternal your God, and observe and carry out all the words of this law.' This is also meant for the benefit of the children, who have not known the revelation of God in the Exodus and at Mount Sinai. This is a remarkable provision. At the core of something which now permeates Judaism, the regular reading and studying of Torah, is not just for its history and stories, but for its law, as a practical guide to how we should live our lives and behave towards each other.

Now, much of the Torah is a great, exciting, and meaningful tale, which lends itself to repeated reading for its significance and drama. But law is typically dry and not very exciting (English law certainly isn't!). And yet we, as a people, not only read, digest and study, but debate, dissect, analyse, comment, dissect the comments, analyse the analysis... Ensuring that law is public, and known to all, and able to guide action, is an important part of what we would today refer to as the rule of law, but what is remarkable is the way in which we, as a people, have seized on this, and made it the heart of our way of life. In a very profound sense, it could be said that we are a nation of lawyers...


More by David Hoffman

Other Divrei Torah on Vayelech

  • 5766 (Mark Goldsmith)
  • 5766 (Taste of Limmud Team)
  • 5767 (Peninnah Schram)
  • 5767 (Taste of Limmud Team)
  • 5769 (Adam Frankenberg)
  • 5769 (Leanne Stillerman)
  • 5770 (Taste of Limmud Team)
  • 5770 (Taste of Limmud Team)
  • 5772 (Matt Plen)
  • 5773 (Arik Ascherman)
  • 5773 (Robbie Duschinsky)
  • 5774 (Avi Killip)
  • 5774 (Judith Abraham)