Parsha Vaetchanan – 5777

Parshat Vaetchanan In-Depth

“I beseeched G‑d at that time (Deuteronomy 3:23)

Prayer is called by ten names: cry, howl, groan, song, encounter, stricture, prostration, judgment and beseeching. [These synonyms for prayer are derived from: Exodus 2:23–24, Jeremiah 7:16, Psalms 18:6, Deuteronomy 9:25, Psalms 106:30 and Deuteronomy 3:23.] (Midrash Rabbah)

Prayer is called by [thirteen] names: cry, howl, groan, stricture, song, prostration, encounter, judgment, entreaty, standing, appeal and beseeching.
[The additional synonyms in this Midrash are from Genesis 25:21, Psalms 106:30 and Exodus 32:11.] (Sifri)”

Torah Sparks: Vaetchanan 5777

“What does the prophet Zechariah have against ‘Shema Yisrael’?

The most famous line in the Torah appears in our parasha. It is the first verse we are to teach to our toddlers and the last we are to recite on our deathbeds: ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.’ Or: ‘…the LORD is one.’ (Deut. 6:4; the JPS translation offers both options).

Either way, the point is the uniqueness of the God identified in our tradition by a particular name, YHWH. No other entity is really a god, says Deuteronomy. Nothing else deserves to be worshipped, no matter what other nations might call a ‘god.'”

When Imploring Fails to Give Us What We Want

“The verses at the very beginning of Parashat Va-et’cḥanan record a searingly poignant incident of hopes shattered and prayers denied.

Years before, Moses had heard the words that must have filled him with immeasurable sorrow. Because of a failing described by the Torah only as a vague sin of omission — that on one occasion he had failed to sanctify God in the presence of the Israelites — he was told that he would not be permitted to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:8–12).

At the very beginning of Va-et’cḥanan, we learn that Moses did not accept this decree without protest. We are told that Moses prayed and implored God to change His mind and grant permission for Moses to fulfill his dream by leading the people into the land of their destiny.”

The Ten Commandments

“The Torah reading of Va’et’khanan continues the retrospective view of the 40 years in the desert, given by Moses and ending in a list of “commandments, statutes and ordinances.” This is rich material—not only the ten commandments, but also the Shema, the credo statement of Judaism; we even find the passage for “the wise son” in the Haggadah.

Let us focus on the ten commandments, quite enough to fill today’s ticket.

If you compare this version (Deuteronomy 5: 6) to the one in the book of Exodus (Exodus 20:2) you immediately notice the differences. As the old saying goes: If you have a watch, you know what the time is; if you have two watches, you no longer do. Because, if the watches disagree (quite likely!), which of them do you trust?”

Haftarah Vaetchanan

“This Shabbat begins a two-fold journey from the darkness of Tisha b’Av to the light of the Yamim Noraim (the holidays of the month of Tishei – Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot). The haftarah cycle for this period is marked by the Shiva d’Nehemta (the seven haftarot of consolation) all taken from the later part of the book of Isaiah (chapters 40 to the end of the book). These haftarot proclaim the idea of reconciliation with God and the return of the people from exile.

The reestablishment of a rapport between God and His people was not a simple process after the trauma of exile. The prophet had to work hard to remind the people that God was at their side in confronting the trials which faced them. A series of three verses, juxtaposed with each other, offers a window into this renewed acknowledgement of God: ‘(10) Behold the Lord God comes in might, and His arm wins triumph for Him… (11) Like a shepherd He pastures His flock; He gathers His sheep in His arms and carries them in His bosom, gently He drives the mother sheep. (12) Who measures the waters with the hollow of His hand. And gauged the skies with a span, and meted earth’s dust with a measure, and weighed the mountains with a scale and the hills with a balance? (13) Who has plumbed the mind of the Lord; what man can tell of His plan?'”