Vayeilech means “and he went.” At the start of this portion, Moses went before the Children of Israel and informed them of his death which was in the near future. He was preparing them for the time when he would no longer be their leader. Even though Moses’ leadership was coming to an end, Joshua would take on the role of leadership and lead the people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land.
Leaving the wilderness where all of their needs were provided for and entering into a new land where their enemies would have to be completely destroyed already seemed like a scary transition. On top of that, the only leader the people had ever known—Moses—would soon be leaving this world and would not be with them in this new journey of life. What would life be like without Moses?
Moses knew the people were anxious and afraid. He enjoined them not to fear, but to be strong and courageous, for God Himself would go before them to destroy their enemies, and God had appointed Joshua to lead them from there. When they entered the Promised Land, they would benefit from what Moses taught them and what they had experienced in the wilderness.
Amid all of this change, Moses gave them the instruction of a perpetual, unchanging nature. At the end of every seven years following the Shemitah year, all of the people were to assemble together during the holiday of Sukkot and the king would publicly read portions of the Torah. This commandment is called hakhel (“assembly”).
God and His Word were a Source of consistency and strength that the people could hold onto amidst whatever change would be taking place in their lives. Gathering together with the community and hearing God’s unchanging Word gave them a tangible sense of strength that comes from unity.