This week's parsha
Completing the Torah Scroll
The sedra concerns the last day in the life of Moses. On this day G‑d transmitted to him the concluding passage of the Torah Scroll and he wrote this down. It was a kind of Divine "dictation". The Sages tell us Moses wrote the last twelve sentences in tears, because they speak of his death, without his being able to enter the Promised Land.
Having completed the Torah Scroll, he then gave it to the Levites. They would look after it. The Scroll was placed in the Holy of Holies, together with the Golden Ark containing the Tablets of the Ten Commandments.
Before it was placed in the Holy of Holies, twelve copies of the Scroll were made - one for each of the Tribes. During the following generations, further copies were made of the Torah in an unbroken line of continuity which includes the many thousands of Torah Scrolls of our own time.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches: each Jew is like a letter in the Torah Scroll. This means that each individual, whether man or woman, elderly person or child, is infinitely important. In a Torah Scroll, if one single letter is missing or is damaged, the entire Scroll is unfit for use until it has been repaired by a Scribe. In the same way every single individual is vital for the wellbeing of the entire Jewish people.
The Shabbat of Return
This is the Shabbat of Return, Shabbat Shuvah. The name comes from the Haftorah, which begins with the words Shuvah Yisrael, "Return, Israel, to G‑d, for you have stumbled in your sin."
The purpose of the laws of the Torah is to connect the individual with G‑d. Every single law helps to strengthen this connection. There are 613 spiritual strands which join the soul to its infinite source, corresponding to the 613 Mitzvot (laws) of the Torah.
If a person transgresses a law of the Torah, he weakens, or even breaks, one of these strands. The accumulative effect is to separate the person from G‑d. He feels less "spiritual". He might think of this as 'freedom'. "I don't care about such things," he says. "I do as I like". In fact he or she is more trapped in the confines of a materialistic world.
"Return" is the movement back, to reconnect with G‑d. The broken strands are repaired. At this time of year there is a new opportunity to maintain and strengthen one's bond with the Divine.
Ten Point Plan for Improvement
Which points of connection might need strengthening? Each of us might benefit by considering how we score in the following ten areas of activity.
- Love of one's fellow
- Supporting Jewish education for oneself and others
- Torah study
- Putting on Tefilin, for males
- Having kosher Mezuzot on one's doors
- Giving charity
- Having Jewish books
- Lighting Shabbat candles, primarily for women, and girls from the age of 3 should light one candle
- Eating Kosher food
- Family purity (Mikveh).
In one or more of these ten areas one might find room for improvement. The decision to make a step forward makes Yom Kippur a more meaningful and luminous day. Enjoy!