Parshas Vayailech

This weeks Parsha is Parshas Vayailech. In the Parsha we read the last mitzvah (number 613) in the Torah: The mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah, a Torah scroll. This Torah tells us of this mitzvah after the verse telling how Hashem will hide His presence from us on the day we are punished, in response to the terrible sins we have done. The Chofetz Chaim comments that the reason these two verses are so close to each other is to teach us that the power of Torah is that it can protect us from danger and adversary. Even when the presence of Hashem seems hidden, the light of the Torah can help us and guide us.

The Mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah is not simple. To hire a competent Scribe to write a Sefer Torah can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Many people rely on the opinions who say that one can write a Sefer Torah in partnership. Therefore they purchase a letter in a Sefer Torah being written by a group in partnership.

The Talmud tells us that even if one inherited a Sefer Torah from his fathers, he must still write one on his own. What is the reason for this? Isn’t the fact that he has a kosher Torah enough? Why must he go through the major expense of writing his own Sefer Torah?

In the classic work Darchei Mussar, the author offers a beautiful thought. The Torah is teaching us that the Torah should never be followed by rote. If a person keeps the commandments just because his father or mother did, something is lacking in his observance. Our Sages have taught us that “every day the Torah should be like a new gift”. When a person has to write his own Torah, it is a fresh, exciting, personal possession. When a person inherits a Torah from his parent, it can simply be an old family heirloom, with little meaning and impact on everyday life.

This beautiful lesson applies to all areas of our observance. We must try to find meaning and fulfillment in all the commandments, not to allow ourselves to ever fall into the trap of following customs with no feeling and no vitality.

As we approach Yom Kippur, and prepare to offer an accounting of all our deeds in the past year, this is certainly a most important point to bear in mind: how important maintaining vigor and freshness in our relationship to Hashem is. We must strive to always think before we do, to reflect how special a mitzvah is, what tremendous reward we get for doing it, and how grateful we must be for this wonderful opportunity. If we manage to accustom ourselves to always thinking before we act, our entire relationship with Hashem can be uplifted and made more meaningful.