Vayelekh–Write this song

[Moses said]  Write down this song for yourselves.  (Deut 31:19)

The reference here is to a specific poem that Moses teaches Israel at the end of the book of Deuteronomy. Oddly enough, perhaps in part because the command is in the plural, the sages of old understood this as a general, ongoing commandment: that every Israelite should write a Torah scroll.   Maimonides says that since it is not permissible to write scroll of the law containing only certain sections of it, the words “this song” must mean the whole of the Torah that includes the song (Book of the Commandments).

The most important aspect of this commandment is to have a copy of the Torah in one’s possession, but the sages consider it particularly praiseworthy if you write it yourself: “If he writes it with his own hand, Scripture considers it as if he had received it from Mount Sinai.”   I can only imagine how writing down the entire text, like an scribe, would intensify one’s involvement in it.  Even for those who can only dabble in calligraphy, or take a look from time to time at an actual scroll, the physical aspect of writing adds its own level of meaning, and is an integral part of what we mean by “Torah.”

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