Vayelech (Shuva)

Moments before Moses’ death, God predicts a gloomy future for Israel: they will sin and be cast away. After forty years of teaching them how to live, Moses is now instructed to “write a song and put it (sima) in their mouths,” although the midrash prefers to read it as siman, symbols. Why a song? Because nothing preached is effective, and reciting rules, however reasonable, won’t change people. But poetry might, and so might symbolic rituals: both are experienced rather than learned. On Yom Kippur, for example, weird rites, poetic prayers of death and judgement, and physical hunger can realign our life-path in a way that cold ethical philosophies never could. May we be inscribed in the song of life.

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[Inspired by: Deuteronomy 31; Ein Yaakov, Eiruvin 5Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) by Artemisia Gentileschi.]

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