“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” — Deuteronomy 31:6
The Torah reading for this week is Vayelech, which means “and he went,” from Deuteronomy 31:1–30, and the Haftorah is from Hosea 14:2–10 and Micah 7:18–20.
In this week’s reading, Moses told the people that he was about to die. He would not go with them into the Promised Land; instead, his disciple Joshua would take over and lead the children of Israel.
Now, let’s take a moment to appreciate what impact this must have had on the people of Israel. Until that time, Moses was the only person who had ever led them. It was Moses who led their parents out of Egypt and shepherded them through the desert. It was Moses who ascended to the mountaintop in order to receive and bring down the Word of God. After the Israelites had sinned with the golden calf, it was Moses who prayed for them and brought about God’s forgiveness.
Moses was more than a leader; he was a parent, a confidant, a savior.
Just as Moses was about to depart, the people would face their greatest challenge. Back in Deuteronomy 9 we read a description of what was ahead for the Israelites. They were told that they would face giants who were greater and stronger than they. The cities they were commanded to conquer were surrounded by strong impenetrable walls. Talk about a challenge!
And yet, God, through Moses, reassured the people with these stirring words, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” In essence, God was telling them, “You will succeed because I am with you and will continue to be with you always.”
Recently, comedian Jim Carrey was asked to give a college commencement speech. Among his advice to the new graduates was the following: “Now fear is going to be a player in life, but you get to decide how much . . . . You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world . . . don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”
Today, I want to encourage us to choose trust over fear knowing that God is with us in any battles that we might face. We may feel like the Israelites did at the bank of the Jordan River, about to face a monumental battle and on the verge of losing their leader. Things might seem uncertain, difficult, and even impossible. But we must know today, as God told the Israelites then: God is with us.
Even when other people and things that we may have relied upon have disappeared, God is always here. If we walk in faith and obedience, God will fight our battles alongside us. And when God fights for us, no one and nothing can stand against us.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President