Weekly Reading Insights: VaEtchanan 5764



Overview of the Weekly Reading: VaEtchanan

To be read on 13 Av 5764 (July 31)

Haftorah: Isaiah 40:1-26 (1st of the Seven Haftorahs of Consolation)

VaEtchanan is the 2nd Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and 45th overall, and 7th out of 54 in overall length.
Pirkei Avot: Chapter Four

VaEtchanan opens with G-ds 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 Veahavta. The Jews are again reminded to keep G-ds mitzvos and avoid the consequences of sin, particularly idolatry and assimilation.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:45-64/VaEtchanan)

"G-d shall guard you from all evil; He shall guard your soul. G-d shall guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore." (Psalms 121:7-8) This [guarding] is because of the secret of mezuzah. It is always standing at the opening and is directed against the opening to the higher worlds.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:45-64/VaEtchanan)

Now, G-d blesses the leader of every generation with wisdom concomitant with the collective refinement of the generation. (Arachin 17a)

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:45-64/VaEtchanan)

When the sages use the expression that someone is "invited", they refer to the future when the light of the moon will become as brilliant as the light of the sun. This is the future we have in mind when we add to the words of the Shema Yisrael the twenty-four letters (in Hebrew) of the formula "May the Majesty of His glorious kingdom be blessed forever".

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"And I pleaded with (va'etchanan) the L-rd at that time, saying... "Let me go over and see the good land."
One reason the Torah uses this phrase "va'etchanan" instead of "va'etpalel" ("and I prayed") is that the numerical equivalent of "va'etchanan" is the same as "tefila" ("prayer") and "shira" ("song"). This teaches that it is commendable to pray in a melodious, pleasant voice, utilizing the best of one's G-d-given abilities for speech and song for a higher purpose.
(Pa'aneiach Raza)

Why did Moses so desire to enter the land? "The Jewish people have been commanded many mitzvot which can only be done in the land of Israel. Let me therefore enter the land so that they can all be performed through me," he reasoned, as related in the Talmud. Moses' motivation was not personal. Rather, had Moses merited to accompany the Jewish people into Israel, the Final Redemption would have occurred immediately, without the necessity of having to endure subsequent exiles and wait several thousand more years for Moshiach.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

At first glance, Moses' request that he "see the good land" seems superfluous; if G-d allowed him to cross over the Jordan, wouldn't he automatically "see" the land? Rather, Moses was praying to avoid the same transgression as the Twelve Spies, and see only the "good" in the Land of Israel.
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:45-64/VaEtchanan)

The verse says "Olat Shabbat b'Shabbato", that on every Shabbos it is a mitzvah to bring a burnt offering (Bamidbar 28/1). The verse can also be read that every Shabbat has its unique spiritual quality (olat is like the word aliyah-advantage) over every other Shabbat. This holiness is revealed to us through the weekly Torah portion.

Parshat VaEtchanan is always read after the ninth of Av, which is the completion of the three week mourning period in connection with the destruction of the Temples. On the 9th of Av we read Megilat Eichah, which closes with the verse, "G-d, help us return to You, so that we may truly return, renew our days as it was in the previous times". The lesson of parshat VaEtchanan must be how to do this tshuvah. We see this in how Midrash Eicha explains the words, 'renew our days as it was in previous times'. This refers to Adam HaRishon, the first man, that we ask G-d to renew us to the level of purity and clarity of Adam before the damage caused by his sin. How can we do teshuvah?

The Midrash (Shmot 38) quotes the verse, 'Take 'dvarim'-things-with you, return to G-d, and I will forgive you all of your iniquities.' Dvarim can also mean 'words'. Which 'words' are being referred to? "These are the dvarim that Moshe said", the words of Torah (Dvarim 1/1). If you study Torah, I will forgive you all of your sins.

The Midrash continues, "And they said to G-d, 'But we do not know any Torah!' And G-d answers them, 'Cry and pray before me (prayers are also 'dvarim') and I will accept it'.
We see from this that the main way to do tshuva is to study Torah, as it says in the Talmud, 'If you meet a bad person, drag him to the Torah study hall' (Sukkah 52b).

But the evil inclination of a person is very clever, always finding ways to turn a person to negative things. Why is this? Whoever is more righteous, his evil inclination is greater, so as each of us grows older, our evil inclination also grows bigger. We see this even with great tzadikim like Rabbi Akiva who went into the Pardes, lofty spiritual realms, where he was threatened by his evil inclination. Nevertheless, he returned undamaged from there due to special protection he received from Heaven (Sukkah 52B). This is why we need prayer, so that the Almighty will help us and protect us.


This is why the portion contains the Ten Commandments, emphasizing how we should study Torah, especially the oral Torah, which has the ability to fix all of our past transgressions and heal wounds. And this is why the parsha begins with the word "VaEtchanan" referring to Moshe beseeching G-d. This verse is the source of the power of all prayer. When is the most potent time to pray and learn? On Shabbat, as it says, "Everyone agrees that the Torah was given on Shabbat!" (Shabbat 86B) signifying that the most effective time to study Torah is Shabbat.


Further, we learn that Shabbat is the time to do tshuvah, since tshuvah is about leaving our bad ways and Shabbat is all about leaving our regular weekday activities (Pirkey d' R' Eliezer 119). We also learn that whoever takes pleasure in Shabbat receives all of his "heart's desires" (Shabbat 118b), which are the time and motivation to pray to G-d and study Torah! This Shabbat is the time to make the effort in doing tshuvah by studying Torah and praying to G-d-and we will be immediately redeemed!

(Translated from Pri Tzadik Ve'etchanan, by Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen, who is known for building his Torah explanation from unique interpretations of different Torah verses).


Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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