Parshios Netzavim & Vayeilech
The Covenant and Remembrance
These final parshiyot of the Torah always coincide with the approaching end
of the old year and the beginning of the new year. This is in line with the
contents of these parshiyot which contain the review of Moshe’s career as
the leader of Israel and of his life and its achievements. So too does the
end of the year demand of us a review, if not of our entire past life at
least a review and accounting of our actions during the past year.
Moshe’s review is really the main contents of the book of Dvarim itself.
Though it recalls historical and national events, there is no doubt that
Moshe himself is the central figure of the book. He records for us his
personal feelings and candidly admits as to his disappointments and
frustrations. But he never departs from his central mission of reminding the
people of Israel of the unbreakable covenant that has been formed between
them and their Creator.
That covenant is renewed again in this week’s parsha. It is no exaggeration
to assert that it is constantly renewed and at the year’s end we are
reminded of this automatic renewal. That is the essential essence of
remembrance that characterizes this special season of the year. For
remembrance brings forth judgment and accountability and leads to an
eventual renewal of spirit and faith.
Moshe reminds the people that the future is also contained in their
remembrance and observance of the covenant. All the generations past,
present and future are bound together in this covenant of accountability.
And through this process, the mortal Moshe gains immortality, as all of us
can acquire this immortality through our loyalty to the covenant.
Moshe at the end of his life has in no way lost his acumen, strength or
vision. He leaves this world in perfect health and free of bodily ailments
and restraints. Yet he tells us in this week’s parsha that he “can no longer
go forth and return.” For humans exist by the will of God and when that will
decrees the end of life then the human being will cease to function on this
earth. Who can claim greater merits in this world than Moshe had? Yet the
hand of human mortality struck him down.
Part of the great lesson of Torah is that life continues without us
necessarily being present. Moshe sees far into the distant future but knows
that he will not be present to see those events actually unfold. He harkens
back to the covenant of remembrance as being the instrument of his
continuing presence throughout all of Jewish history. As long as the
covenant is remembered and observed, Moshe is still present with Israel.
It is this covenant that defines us as a people and even as individuals. Our
relationship to it is under constant heavenly review. It should be
self-evident that for our part we should enthusiastically renew our
allegiance to it at this fateful part of our life and year.
Rabbi Berel Wein