Ibn Ezra

Ibn Ezra: Beginning to Learn (Vayeilech)

The Torah Text

As Moses finishes writing the Torah, and transfers authority to Joshua, the text describes his instructions:

“Moses wrote down this Teaching and gave it to the priests, sons of Levi, who carried the Ark of the Adonai’s Covenant, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses instructed them as follows: Miketz the seventh year, the year set for remission, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Adonai your God in the place that God will choose, you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel. Gather the people—men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities—that they may hear and so learn to revere Adonai your God and to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching.” (Deuteronomy 31:9-12)

Miketz literally means from “the end”, in the sense of “the edge”, and Ibn Ezra will explain what that means here.

Ibn Ezra’s Teaching

מקץ שבע שנים. תחלת השנה

Deuteronomy 31:10 FROM THE END OF SEVEN YEARS. The beginning of the year.

למען ילמדו. כל השנה גם כן השבת

Deuteronomy 31:12 SO THAT THEY MAY LEARN. The entire year; and so too is Shabbat [dedicated to Torah study.

Reflections for the Path

By clarifying that the Torah learning event happens at the beginning, not the end of the seventh year, and that one dedicates oneself to learning for the whole year, Ibn Ezra illustrates a remarkable collective affirmation of the centrality not only of Torah, but of universal access to it. A shared text that is not hidden by powerful elites but studied all together forms a strong practice of democratic justice. While some may be experts, and others novices, transparency allows for respectful and inclusive relations among all members of society.

For more on Abraham ibn Ezra:
1. Read my introduction.
2. Listen to ibn Ezra’s opening prayer poem for his Torah commentary.
3. Explore the five paths, ibn Ezra’s introduction to his Torah commentary.