In last week's portion, Vayeilech, we read, “Then Moses recited the words of the following poem to the very end, in the hearing of the whole congregation of Israel” (Deut. 31:30). This verse concludes last week’s portion, Parashat Vayeilech, and in doing so, creates one of the most dramatic cliffhangers in our entire Torah. Surely this forthcoming poem, Moses’ actual last words to the Israelites, will be emotional, inspirational, and transformational.
Cantor Sacks has beautifully discussed the importance of Shirat Moshe, the Song of Moses, and her expertise in analyzing the musical components of this parashah highlights succinctly how it retells Israel’s relationship with God throughout the Exodus and Moses’ leadership. There is also something noteworthy when one simultaneously considers both the arc of the poem’s narrative and the timing of its recitation. This year Shirat Moshe is read in between the Yamim Nora-im (the High Holidays) and Sukkot. The arc of the poem tells of God’s power to punish B’nei Yisrael when they turn away from God, and then reminds us of God’s willingness to defend B’nei Yisrael and seek vengeance upon those who would do them harm.