Weekly Reading Insights
of the Weekly Reading: VaEtchanan, Shabbat
be read on 11 Av 5763 (Aug.9)
Torah: Deut. 2:23-7:11; Haftorah:
40:1-26 (first of the seven "Haftorahs of Consolation")
Avot - Chapter Four
, 2nd Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and 45th overall,
contains 8 positive mitzvot and 4 prohibitive mitzvot. It is
written on 249.5 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 7th out of 54
in overall length.
Va'etchanan opens with G-d's refusal to allow Moshe to enter the Land. Next, Moshe
reminds the Jews how they were taken out of Egypt, given the 10 Commandments,
taught Torah, and should not stray from G-d and His laws. Moshe invokes heaven
and earth as witnesses in warning the Jews of the consequences of erred ways.
Then, Moshe designates 3 of the locations of the cities of refuge for the unintentional
murderer. Following this is the review of the giving of the 10 Commandments and
the famous verses of "Shma" and "Ve'ahavta". The Jews are
again reminded to keep G-d's mitzvahs and avoid the consequences of sin, particularly
idolatry and assimilation.
FROM THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:45-63VaEtchanan)
"From there you will seek the L-rd
your G-d and will find Him."
It is precisely when you
seek the L-rd your G-d "from there" -- from the depths of your heart
and with a sense of complete nullification before the Creator, that "you
shall find" -- the sudden revelation of the greatest G-dly light. (The
Baal Shem Tov)
"You have been shown to know that the L-rd is
When G-d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai to the
soul of every Jew of every generation, He thereby made it possible for any Jew
who sincerely desires to serve Him to perceive the true essence of the world,
despite the darkness and concealment of what presents itself as reality.
A MYSTICAL CHASSIDIC DISCOURSE (M:45-63VaEtchanan)
FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALA (K:45-63VaEtchanan)
with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney
Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah,
as translated, condensed, and
annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of
the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served
as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his
first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became
the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where
he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.
have found the following comment among the writings of a great Kabbalistic scholar,
Rabbi Chaim Vital, the leading disciple of the Arizal. [The comment has been paraphrased
by the translator:]
As a consequence of Moses' accepting the mixed multitudes
as converts, he became involved in the "Sod Ha'Ibur," the calculations
pertaining to leap months, leap years, etc. One of these calculations involves
determining when a Jubilee year occurs (the fiftieth year after the conclusion
of seven cycles of seven years).
G-d had not wanted to accept this mixed
multitude as converts. Had they not been accepted, Israel would have experienced
neither death nor exile, since acceptance of the Tablets would have signified
everlasting life, as our sages said: "Do not read charut - 'engraved,'
but cheyrut - 'free' (from death)."
Moses had not consulted
G-d regarding the acceptance of the mixed multitudes, which had been Abraham's
lifework. In addition he had developed a personal interest in the conduct of these
people as he had hinted when he referred to them (Num. 11:21) as "the people
amongst whom I find myself." He had also foretold that these people would
convert when he told Pharaoh (in Ex. 11:8) that "all these people who sit
at our feet will bow down to me." This meant that Moses was anxious to convert
Alas, not only did Moses fail to truly convert
them but they also infected the Israelites proper with their lack of faith during
the episode of the golden calf, so that G-d told Moses: "Go and descend,
for your people have become corrupt" (Ex. 32:7).
These people and their
offspring by now made up the majority of the Jews in the desert. This is why Moses
was forced to insert an extra year (the jubilee year) after every 49 years. This
extra year serves as a warning that Israel must not again err by accepting converts
wholesale and being misled by them.
from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the
Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)
essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh shared the following insight. This mourning period of
the first nine days of Av that ends on this Thursday with the fast day of the
9th of Av is related to the exile that we are now in, that will be completed with
the final redemption.
The comparison is made between exile and pregnancy.
Just as during pregnancy the discomfort grows, so too the pain of the exile grows
from minute to minute.
Just as the birth of a child is anticipated, so too
we look forward to the end of the exile which will herald a millennium of revelation.
There is a Talmudic statement that Mashiach is born on the 9th of Av corresponding
to the 9th month of pregnancy. To prevent the ayin hara- the "evil
eye," there is a tradition not to speak about a pregnancy until the 5th month,
when by most women the pregnancy is apparent to all. So also the 5th day of the
9 days is the hillulah/yahrzeit of the holy Ari of Safed, whose teachings
of the inner dimensions of Torah opened the eyes of the Jewish world to the imminent
arrival of Mashiach and the coming redemption.
This duality of exile and
redemption is also brought out in this week's Torah portion of Vaetchanan, which
is usually read in the week of the 9th of Av. The Torah is not just stories but
eternal lessons for all generations.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe asks, what do we
learn from Moshe's persistent prayers to G-d to rescind the decree forbidding
him to enter the land? First of all, even if his prayers were not accepted then,
we must say that the prayers of Moshe are always in force and will be fulfilled.
This is as the Torah teaches (Tanchuma Vayera 19) that 'when a Tzadik wills,
G-d fulfills!' Furthermore, since it will be the soul of Moshe, reincarnated as
Mashiach, who will ultimately lead all of the Jewish people back to Israel in
the final redemption (Shmos Rabbah 82, Zohar 1/256), we know that his prayers
will be fulfilled. We also know from the commentaries (Yalkut Reuvaini, Alshiech,
Ohr HaTorah), that had Moshe in fact brought the people into the land, we would
have been brought the final redemption then, with no subsequent exiles.
though Moshe knew he was forbidden to enter the land, he prayed anyway, and not
just once, but 515 times (the numerical value of the Hebrew word vetchanan). Moshe
knew that since the entire redemption was at stake, he had to push all the limits,
even praying when G-d had already said 'Ask no more'. Since we know there is a
Mashiach that exists in every generation (Zohar 3/273), ready to redeem
us and more so, there is a small portion of the soul of Moshe found in every Jew
(Tanya Ch. 42), the teaching from the above is as follows: Just as Moshe, we must
not look at the prayers that were already prayed, or at the apparent difficult
situations, we must each continue to call out and pray against all odds, "G-d
Almighty, how long can we wait in this miserable exile!"
On the other
hand, further in V'etchanan, we find the perspective of after the 9th of Av, when
we are past the days of mourning, almost - a mini state of redemption. In connection
with this, the portion describes the giving of the Torah, an eternal event which
was higher than any exile. It then moves on to the Shmah, which contains
our allegiance to G-d, our responsibility to G-d and also the foundation verses
for all of the positive and negative commandments. The portion ends with the words,
'to do today!' (all the commandments) which refers to all of our efforts which
will *ultimately bring us to the reward of the 'world to come' and the seventh
and final millennium of the days of Mashiach!
This teaches us that as long
as a Jew is doing the commandments with all of his or her strength, he is already
in a state of redemption. He is being guided by the Almighty and all of the negatives
will fall away. May the days of Menachem-Av be transformed to days of joy and
Shalom, Shaul Leiter
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