Parshat Va’etchanan/Nachamu Highlights

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First Portion

  • This Parsha reminds me of my great grandfather, and many like him, that when arriving in the land of Israel in the late 1800’s, would kiss the ground and thank G-d for having been privileged to be there. They actually found his and my great-great grandfather’s grave in Har Hazetim recently which was under Arab control. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so with our leader, as we see in the beginning passages. Moshe prays to G-d intensely, to overturn a decree that he shall not enter the Promised land. The Chasam Sofer holds that G-d did indeed listen to Moshe’s prayer. We have a rule under certain circumstances prayer accomplishes half. Moshe prayed, “Let me please pass over and see.” (Devarim 3:25) and the prayers were answered in that G-d told Moshe “see with your eyes, for you will not pass over this Jordan.” G-d answered part of the prayer regarding seeing, but not the part of entering the land.

There are many new insights we can derive from these passages; the power of prayer is one. G-d tells Moshe to stop praying for if he prayed a little more, G-d would have to negate on his oath that he will not enter the land. Another crucial point of these passages as the Ibn Ezra relates is that the main purpose here was to endear Eretz Yisrael – the land of Israel – to the Jewish people. If the people would be understanding enough to appreciate the land in the way expressed by Moshe’s prayer, they would surely keep the mitzvot (commandments) in order not to be exiled from their land. One question is asked, if he so desired the benefits of the land why is it not mentioned that he became satisfied from its fruits? He could have ordered out. I guess take out wasn’t as popular then like it is here in New York. From here we see that there is an added benefit besides the physical. The Shelah mentions that the air of Eretz Yisrael makes one wise. It is there that one receives the crown of Torah. Perhaps, Abarbenal adds, this is why our Parsha begins and ends with the topic of the land of Israel, with the giving of the Torah in the middle.

  • “Do not add nor subtract from my commandments.” Many Sages comment how an extremely important commandment this is. It is self-preservation par excellence. Human nature is such that one gravitates and alters things during the course of time. Although it’s inevitable that modern technology has altered our lives, however the Torah is designed to withstand the changes and many of the core laws are performed as our ancestors did thousands of years ago.

Second Portion

“There you will serve other G-ds.” Once the new generations will be removed from the revelation at Sinai, then they will be more susceptible to stray. Moshe prophesizes those generations to come will try to gain acceptance from the non-Jews at the expense of our tradition. This happened many times through the course of history. Rabbi Beryl Wien, a famous historian, explains when Jews have no respect to their host countries then assimilation is at a bare minimum. However, if Jews look up to their host countries, whether in education, culture, fashion/style, then assimilation rises. The assimilation is at 60% in the US.

Third Portion

City of refuge, where if one accidentally kills a fellow Jew, which was designed by Moshe in Reuben’s territory, the town of Betsar. Afterwards, Moshe designed the Town of Ramos in the territory of Gad and Golan, Menashe’s territory on the eastern side of the Jordan.

Fourth Portion

  • After the Israelites were receptive to Moshe’s criticism, he then repeated the Ten Commandments. One who is open and eager to learn will advance tremendously. So, Moshe thought it’s a perfect opportunity for the nation to hear. It’s important to note, many who were present did not hear the revelation at Sinai. That generation died over the course of forty years.
  • One of the differences of this version and the one in the book of Shemot is in the commandment of Shabbat. There it says Zachor – remember the Shabbat. In this version, it says Shamor – be careful of transgressing the Shabbat. There is both a positive and negative commandment regarding the Shabbat. It’s not enough to just sleep and lounge around in pajamas for 24 hours. One has to enjoy the Shabbat with all its rich traditions. The Shabbat table has to be performed with respect and dignified manner; that is zachor – remembering.

Fifth Portion

Passing the tradition is crucial in Judaism. It’s a big aveira – sin – to break the chain. The parent/child relationship is important and should be handled with a great deal of responsibility. Education in Judaism is key. Let’s say, though, one didn’t have religious parents whom followed the tradition, or for that matter, if one doesn’t have parents at all to learn from. I know a fine person who grew up without a father and yet had the most amazing Shabbat table one could imagine, week after week. This person will have a tremendous reward after he passes on. Those people have an added test in life. So if they keep the tradition of their ancestors once removed, they will reap tremendous rewards.

Sixth Portion

After the war, they gathered all the older toddler orphans and they wanted to tell which one is Jewish (boys are easy to tell). How are they able to determine if they’re Jewish? Answer: scream out to them SHEMA YISRAEL, most likely, if they are Jewish, they’ll answer back: “HASHEM ELOKANU, HASHEM ECHAD.” That is the power of the Shema. It’s the first phrase Jewish parents teach their toddlers.

Seventh Portion

G-d emphasizes separation from the non-Jews and reiterates the seven nations that are currently living in the land would be bad neighbors and should be removed from the country. Israel should be pure and only marry among themselves is repeated. The Jews are now leaving the secluded comfort zone of the desert and will be faced with new challenges in their homeland.

Credit to:Rabbi Avi Matmon