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Insights to Parsha Va'etchanan

Updated on September 11, 2010

Obedience, Love and Education

Parsha Va’Etchanan is from Deuteronomy 3:23 until Deuteronomy 7:11. This is the most special parsha (section) of the Torah (5 Books of Moses) to me, since this was my Bar Mitzvah portion. This parsha covers some of the most fundamental truths of G-d to the world not only to the Jewish people.

The word Va’Etchanan in Hebrew means “And I implored”. It is a unique word because in the root is the word CH-N-N which is related to grace. In other words in Deuteronomy 3:23 say’s, “I implored HaShem at that time…” Moshe (Moses) was drawing upon the grace of HaShem. This is what implore means, it means to seek the grace. Moshe wanted to seek grace from HaShem and have HaShem’s judgment about Moshe not being able to enter the Promised Land turned over. However, in verse 3:27 HaShem (G-d) says, “Ascend to the top of the cliff and raise your eyes westward, northward, southward, and eastward, and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this Jordan.” This teaches us, that no matter how much we try to escape from our punishments in this world, sometime we just cannot escape. Sometimes we need to stand up and do what we are supposed to do.

Verse 4:1 says, “Now, O Israel, listen to the decrees and to the ordinances that I teach you to perform, so that you may live, and you will come and possess the Land that HaShem, the G-d of your forefathers, gives you.” This verse tells us about the reward for obedience to HaShem, and that reward is so that we may live. It is so that we will live a better life, since the Master of the Universe created all things, the Master knows what is best for all of His creation. The decrees and ordinances are the wisdom of G-d. When we are being obedient then HaShem is able to heal the heart, and give us financial blessing, emotional blessing, spiritual blessing and many other blessings. When we are obedient HaShem, the Almighty opens up the heavens and showers blessing down upon us.

Verse 5:6 deals with the Ten Commandments. This is a mistranslation. The phrase in Hebrew is Aser Dibaroth, and this means the Ten Sayings. It is a summation of the law. The first 5 sayings deal with the commandments of man to HaShem, and the second 5 deals with mankind’s relationship to other men. All the 613 Commandments of Judaism can be summed into these two categories.

Verse 6:4, is known in Judaism as the Shema, the verse says, “Hear, O Israel:HaShem is our G-d, HaShem is the One and Only.” This is the central principle in Judaism. There is only one G-d, and G-d is Unique. The following verses continue to teach us that we should love HaShem with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We are to love G-d with everything that is inside of us. Avraham loved G-d that he was willing to sacrifice everything in order to draw close to HaShem. We need to love G-d in the same fashion. We need to put aside our desires and selfishness and sacrifice our wants and desires to draw close to G-d.

The follow on verses also instruct us that we are to teach our ways to our children. Verse 6:7 says, “You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise.” Education is primary. We need to take the time to teach our children. I cannot hope that the school system is going to do this. I cannot hope that the neighbor is going to do this. I cannot hope that the children will get educated at daycare. No, I have to teach my children. In the Talmud it says that if a man does not teach his child to swim, then it is like he killed his child. This is because one that does not know how to swim will drown. One that does not teach is child a trade is teaching his children to be thieves. Likewise, we need to make sure that our children are equipped. That they can swim in the stormy seas of life, and that they can make a way for themselves so that they do not turn to theft.  It is my responsibility to teach my children, and if it does not start here between the parents and the children than all society is lost.

This parsha teaches us many things, and what we need to take from it is that HaShem wants us to be obedient, to love HaShem, and teach our children to do what is right by giving them the proper tools for them to use.     

The Shema

The Ten Commandments

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