Weekly Reading Insights: Va'etchanan 5765


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Va'etchanan

To be read on 15 Av 5765 (Aug. 20)

Torah: Deut. 3:23-7:11
Haftorah: Isaiah 40:1-26 (1st of the Seven Haftorahs of Consolation)

Pirkei Avot Chapter 3

Shabbat Nachamu and Tu b'Av

Va'etchanan is the 2nd Reading out of 11 in Deut. and 45th overall, and 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 mitzvos and avoid the consequences of sin, particularly idolatry and assimilation.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:45-65/Va'etchanan)

Come and see. How great is the strength and the authority of the Torah and how elevated is its study in relation to all other endeavors! This is because everyone who strives to understand the Torah has no fear [from those who cause damage] in the spiritual or physical worlds. He has no fear from attack and misfortune that comes in This World because he is at one with the Tree of Life.

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:45-65/Va'etchanan)

Thus, the verse can be mystically translated as: "Trust in G-d forever, for with the letters yud and hei G-d formed the worlds." Based on this (and other verses), the Sages say that G-d created This World with the letter hei and the World to Come with the letter yud. (Menachot 29b) Thus, it follows that G-d "used" the divine name Y-ah, i.e. the two letters yud-hei, to create the two worlds: this world and the next.

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

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From the "Shelah". (S:45-65/Va'etchanan)

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 'engraved' [in Hebrew 'charut'] but rather 'free' [in Hebrew, 'cheyrut', i.e. from death].

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


"In the heavens above, and on the earth below." (4:39)
"In the heavens above" - in matters of the spirit - a person should always look to those who are on a higher, more advanced level, and strive to emulate them. As for material concerns ("on the earth below"), one should always look to those who have less, and be grateful and happy with what he already possesses.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe) (from L'Chaim #530)

"Take therefore good heed of yourselves." (4:15)
According to Torah law, a Jew is required to take care of his body and refrain from things that are harmful. But a person must never place too much emphasis on his own physical welfare, while treating someone else's spirituality as his own domain, i.e., offering unasked-for reprimands and comments about the other person's conduct. In fact, the correct order is the reverse: As regards the self, an individual's primary focus should be spiritual. But when relating to others, the primary concern should be helping with material needs.
(Rabbi Yisrael of Salant) (from L'Chaim #631)


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:45-65/Va'etchanan)

"I besought G-d at that time, saying...let me go over, I pray You, that I may see the good land." (Deut. 3:23-25)

The Midrash relates that Moses beseeched G-d with 515 prayers (the numerical equivalent of the word "va'etchanan" -- "and I besought") to be allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Even after G-d explicitly told him, "Do not continue to speak to Me any more of this matter," Moses persisted. We learn from this that we must never give up begging and imploring G-d to allow us back into the land of Israel, with the coming of Mashiach, for we have been promised that we are the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption.

Lubavitcher Rebbe

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:45-65/Va'etchanan)

Rashi brings two commentaries on the first word of this week's Torah portion, "Ve'etchanan": The first is related to the concept of a free - in Hebrew, "chinam" - gift, referring to Moses' request of G-d to allow him to enter Israel without being judged - even if he didn't deserve it. The second is that "ve'etchanan" is one of the ten words for prayer used in the Torah. This would make the translation simply: "And I (Moses) prayed...." (Deut. 3:23)

We have, one G-d and one Torah. From this we understand that even if there seems to be differences between Torah commentaries, nevertheless, all 70 "faces" of Torah join together as they move in the channel that connects physical and spiritual worlds. What is the connection here?

Chassidut explains the idea of a "free gift" in this world. Each Jew is given certain abilities and characteristics in order to reach his or her true potential. It is impossible for the individual to break out of these boundaries on his or her own. Only when one is chosen by G-d to receive a ray of divine light, incomparably more intense then his or her own strengths, can a person be transformed. This is because that person is tapping into the infinite. It is called a "free gift" since it is not given in any quantifiable relationship to our observance of the commandments. Even though we must earn this gift, it is considered free because its value transcends all aspects of our reality and can be given to anyone, not only tzadikim or extraordinary souls. It is available to every Jew.

There is one specific method for tapping into this infinite strength: the study of Torah. Torah existed before the world's creation, so it is not limited to the natural order. It is G-d's will and wisdom. Since it transcends this physical world, it can tap into strengths beyond the world, to help a person break his or her boundaries. We learn from this verse Moses' inner intention: He wanted that the Jewish people should merit reaching spiritually lofty levels when they entered Israel through the study of Torah. Moses was unsuccessful in his goal. This is hard to understand, for it was Moses who learned the Torah from G-d on Mount Sinai and thereby was certainly able to tap into the infinite! He must have known the formula! If he was unable to draw this process down for the Jewish people, who possibly could?

The inherent problem is that though Torah learning taps into levels much higher than This World and our observance of mitzvahs, the learning (just because of is great power) sometimes remains "suspended"- it does not always descend into the physical world.

If so, what about prayer? The entire purpose of prayer is to effect positive change in this world. The power drawn by prayer does not remain Above, for we see that the sick are healed and the rain falls!. Prayer is such an easy method to draw power into the world because it specifically does not always reach a relatively high source. In the same way, the prayers of Moses were also not enough to grant the Jewish people added spiritual abilities, either. So what could?

On one hand, the high level of Torah cannot descend to our earthly plane, and on the other hand, prayer cannot go high enough. Neither alone can bring the desired affect. Moses' goal was to combine the unique benefits of Torah and prayer in his effort to help the Jewish people. We learn this through the dual meanings of the word "ve'etchanan". As mentioned, "ve'etchanan" can refer to both "prayer" and the "free" gift that Torah brings in reaching above worldly heights.

With all the good intentions that Moses had, G-d did not heed his request. This is because G-d wants us to do the work by ourselves, to strive in both Torah and prayer and not to rely on Moses. This lofty spiritual combination will only ultimately be revealed with the revelation of Mashiach. May it be now. Remember the next time you want to change the world: you have to join both Torah and prayer.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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