Parshat Vayelech finds Moshe completing the writing of a Sefer Torah. On the final day of his life he transfers leadership to Joshua. The community is ordered to hear the entire Torah read to them once every seven years.
When reading this parsha, it is clear that Moshe is concerned on the day of his death, that the Hebrews will stray. What did he see during these last hours of his life? Could he even imagine the future and what it would hold for this people? In this poem I have brought Moshe to the present. What would he see?
If You Could See Us Now
If you could see us now as you speak,
as you read the law.
So many years later
to be a Jew is sometimes to be bold,
yet sometimes it is to be afraid.
Two sides of the coin
flipped again and again.
To be Jew is not taking for granted
that you will
be as numerous as grains of sand
or stars in the sky.
It is to be forever cautious.
Yet, to be a Jew is to affirm.
to be a Jew now is to see,
women on the bimah
and leading the way?
Moshe you would see
that there is much to disagree about,
but so much more that binds us.
You would see to be a Jew is to do something good,
to be fair
and to call that action
that has been imprinted in your head
through your heart.
To be a Jew is to hear the sound of a breaking glass at a wedding
and hear history crunching in your ears.
To be a Jew is learning from teachers on a page that spans millennia and continents.
It is arguing,
It is affirming.
It is innovating old customs to make them ready for our time.
It is looking forward while carrying history in your suitcase.
To be a Jew is to slowly embrace change.
To be a Jew is to see the possibilities.
To be a Jew is to be an optimist.
To be a Jew is to defy the odds.
To be a Jew is to wake up in the State of Israel,
a miracle in this long stream of sand
falling through the hourglass of time.
It is to pinch yourself that you are living
in the midst of a long awaited
Moshe, if you could see us now.
Children at summer camps, school
singing at the top of their lungs
Hearing Hebrew, a language that is not dead
and not forgotten.
Moshe, you would be so proud.
As you read the law to the people,
as Ezra read the Torah to those Jews who had returned from Galut,
you saw the failures,
but you hoped for the chain to continue,
and so onward we go,
Shabbat to Shabbat
year after year
century after century
we arrive until now,
to this day
to this hour
here we are, Moshe.
She'hecheynu, V'higianu, V'kiy'imanu La'Zman Hazeh.
We stand before you;
still a stubborn group,
but we are so much more than that.
Can you see that, Moshe?
So, Moshe, our leader,
you can close your eyes
because we are still here.
We are still standing.
And Moses instructed them as follows: Every seventh year, the year set for remission, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before your God יהוה in the place that [God] will choose, you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel.
Gather the people—men, women, children,*men, women, children and the strangers in your communities—that they may hear and so learn to revere your God יהוה and to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching.
Translation from Sefaria
the entire people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which the LORD had charged Israel.
On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding.
He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate, from the first light until midday, to the men and the women and those who could understand; the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching.
Translationg from Sefaria