This incredibly short portion tells of Moses passing the torch onto Joshua. He tells the people that Joshua will lead them into the land of Israel, and offers Joshua words of encouragement. God does likewise. Also in the portion, God tells Moses to record a song which the Children of Israel will learn, so they never forget that any suffering they experience is the result of their own actions.
Some Last-Minute Arrangements
As Moses prepares for his own death, he reminds the people that he will not be leading them into the Promised Land; rather, God will go before them and Joshua will be His representative. Moses tells them God will wipe out their enemies, just as he did with Sihon and Og.
He then addresses Joshua in front of all the people, telling him to be strong and courageous, for God will be with him as He leads the nation. God will not forsake him or the people, and He will give them the land to inherit.
Moses records the Torah and gives it to the care of the priests, instructing them to read it before the Children of Israel when they assemble once every seven years. This is meant to keep the word of God fresh for all future generations, so that they might learn to fear Him.
These words are as relevant today as when they were spoken. As the Israel Bible notes, the people of Israel today draw strength and courage to face adversity and danger from the knowledge that God is with them. The soldiers of the Israel Defense Force are the spiritual heirs of Joshua, fighting to defend Israel with that strength and courage.
Points to Ponder
Why do you think Moses chose to address Joshua in front of the entire nation?
God Addresses Moses and Joshua
God tells Moses to call Joshua forth, so that He may address him. The two stand before God at the tent of meeting, and He tells Moses that upon his death, the people will stray towards idolatry. God will punish them by hiding His presence, allowing evil to befall them. The people will say it is because God has abandoned them that such things have happened, but it is in fact their own behavior that has warranted God’s hiding. Therefore, God instructs Moses to write down a song which the people will learn, and which will serve as witness to the fact that their behavior determines their own fate. The Torah states that Moses records God’s song, which he teaches to the people. Then God finally turns to Joshua, reiterating Moses’s charge to be strong and courageous. He promises Joshua that He will remain with him as he leads the people into the Promised Land.
Points to Ponder
Why do you think God wanted Joshua present when he instructed Moses to record the song of warning?
Moses Charges the Levites
The Torah then returns to Moses’s instructions to the Levites regarding the Torah he has recorded. He commands them to lay it by the Ark of the Covenant, where it should serve as witness. He reminds them that they have been rebellious during his lifetime, and he has no reason not to anticipate their continued rebellion against God after his death. He therefore instructs the Levites to gather the elders and officers of the tribes, so that he can speak to them, calling heaven and earth as witnesses, and he recites God’s song. The words of the song itself appear in the next Torah portion, Ha’azinu.
Points to Ponder
Why do you think it was important to place the Torah scroll by the Ark of the Covenant?