Shabbat Shalom! Vayeilech

It’s Shabbat Shuvah – the Shabbat that falls in the midst of the High Holy Days – and this week we read Parashat Vayeilech. It’s a short portion, chapter 31 of Deuteronomy, and Moses gives his final charge to Joshua his successor and to the other leaders of Israel. He introduces the poetry we will read next week in Ha’azinu.

He said to them: I am now one hundred and twenty years old, I can no longer be active. Moreover, the LORD has said to me, “You shall not go across yonder Jordan.” – Deut. 31:2

The traditional Jewish blessing for birthdays comes from this verse of Torah. When we say to someone “May you live to be 120” we are not only wishing them a long life, but the other attributes of Moses as well. Moses was simultaneously a humble man and a great leader, a rare combination.

Now, the divrei Torah [words of Torah] from around the Internet!

This Poem – Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Parashat Vayelech, Shabbat Shuvah – Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

Someone Sees and Now We All See – Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Parenting by the Parasha – Rabbi Eve Posen (VIDEO)

The Hidden Face – Rabbi David Kasher

Get Us To Safety – Rabbi Nina Mizrahi

Famous (Almost) Last Words – Rabbi Jason Parr

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A Jewish Birthday Greeting

You may hear one Jew say to another on a birthday: “Ad mea v’esrim!” [Ahd MAY-ah v’es-REEM] If you know your Hebrew numbers, you’ll know that this means “To 120!”

What on earth?

Parashat Vayelech begins:

Moses went and spoke these things to all Israel. He said to them: “I am now one hundred and twenty years old.” – Deuteronomy 31:1-2

This is the beginning of the death narrative of Moses, which will consume the rest of the book of Deuteronomy. We know from this that Moses was 120 at the time of his death. Yes, I know: awfully old. Perhaps Moses meant, “I FEEL 120.”

At any rate, when we say to a birthday person, “Ad mea v’esrim!” we are saying, “May you live to be a ripe old age, and as righteous as Moses!”