Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of Return
If you knew that you were living your final day on earth, how would you spend your last hours?
According to the traditional commentaries, on Moses’120th birthday he spent his last day dedicated to addressing the needs of his community. He visited each of the tribes and offered words of encouragement. Even on his very last day of life, Moses dedicated himself to the Israelites, devoting himself to his congregation.
On this first Shabbat of 5776 we will read the Torah portion of Vayelech, which follows that last day, and Moses’ final interactions with God. It is clear that although he has reached the extremely advanced age of 120, he still has a clear mind and physical strength. His death is a kind of sacred retirement, rather than the decline and eventual failing that so many of us experience. At the end, he uses his remaining energy, and seeks to ensure the success of his people through dedication and devotion.
This Shabbat is also Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of Repentance, a time of return to the best that is within us, a time to make peace with those with whom we have conflicts, a time to atone for our errors in the past year.
Vayelech teaches us that it is also a time to renew our commitment to our congregation, to our synagogue community, and to dedicate our resources and our energy to ensure that it continues to thrive in this new year.
On his final day of life, Moses’ demonstrated a sense of devotion to the well-being of the Jewish people, and to the kehillah, the sacred community. On this Shabbat Shuvah, may we follow his example.