Thursday, August 18, 2016

Va’etchanan (“and I pleaded”)

Va’etchanan (“and I pleaded”)

Deut. 3:23-7:11

On the Biblical/Jewish calendar some significant events have taken place between last week and this week that can be somewhat related in our weekly Torah portions. Last week we had the event of Tishah B’ Av, the ninth day of the month of Av which is an annual day of mourning that recalls the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, in particular the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples, also the expulsion of the Jews from both England and Spain on this very day. The consequences of some very bad decisions from the Jewish people can be seen in other Torah portions before this one that have lead them to this tragic and sad event that we have on the Jewish calendar. I have heard commentaries by some Jewish Rabbis that “the Jewish people not having faith/trust in Hashem to enter the Promise Land and receiving a bad report from the twelve spies”, to say that Hashem will truly give the Jewish people something for them to mourn about due to their lack of trust in Him.

Another mini-holiday on the fifteenth day of Av, the Jewish people celebrate Tu B’Av: Love and Rebirth. On this day Jewish law instructs that “tachanun” (confession of sins) and similar portions should be omitted from the daily prayers and that you should increase one’s study of Torah. The full moon of the tragic month of Av is a festival of the future redemption of the Jewish people, which in essence it’s an unknowable day. These two Jewish holidays can be looked at in a positive way in the aspect of turning our mourning into joy, pointing us to when the Jewish people will enjoy a redemptive a state with Hashem in the future.

This Torah portion is a building up of Moshe rabbeinu’s speeches to the Jewish people, about what truly it is to listen to Hashem and to keep His Torah/Instructions in the right manner. Moshe is retelling them some of the greatest events that have taken place in this world, of having the almighty God which is the creator, reveling Himself to and giving the Jewish people the Torah for righteous living from a loving father to his people. Moshe knows that his time is limited and he will soon by passing away, so therefore would like nothing more then to know that the Jewish people understand and grasp all that Hashem has told them. Some other basic fundamental key elements are retold like the “Ten Commandments” and one of the greatest religious proclamations of the oneness of God, know as the Shema, which are strongly emphasize here in this Torah portion. Moshe’s speeches can be seen as a call to obedience for the Jewish people to Hashem.

Moshe states that acknowledging the oneness of God, found in the Shema, to be the first fundamental principle that the Jewish people need to have. If there’s only one God, then he would be the source of our existence and the source of all our needs. The fact that He has made a covenant (Deu 5:1-27) with the Jewish people right before this declaration, we see a binding factor of respect in His relationship with them. Only when someone takes into consideration the welfare being of others, by giving them instructions and guidelines, that one can truly say that it’s no longer about oneself and that would lead to show a caring attitude towards that other individuals. This is exactly what Hashen has done and Moshe doesn’t want the people to forget this. Everything that Hashem has done for his people has been out of love and wanting them to be an example to the other nations in bringing a restoration to all humanity through them, the Jewish people. Deu 6:7-8 states “It was not because you had greater numbers than all the other nations that God embraced you and chose you; you are among the smallest of all the nations. It was because of God’s love for you, and because He was keeping the oath that He made to your fathers. God therefore brought you out with a might hand, liberating you from the slave house, (and) from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Also in Deu 4:5-8 See! I have taught you rules and laws as God my Lord has commanded me, so (that you) will be able to keep them in the land to which you will be occupying. Safeguard and keep (these rules), since this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, “This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people.” What nation is so great that they have God close to it, as God our Lord is, whenever we call Him? What nation is so great that they have such righteous rules and laws, like this entire Torah that I am presenting before you today?

We see great pleads of exhortations from Moshe to love God with all of our hearts and with all of our souls and all of our might, by doing this we show our desires to follow Him fully. Truly Moshe wants to get his point across when basically going thru almost all of the Torah in the book of Deuteronomy. Point by point we start to see in this Torah portion and to include the whole book of Deuteronomy of a complete break down of Hashem’s laws and the reasons behind them. May we also take heed from these instructions and not overlook the mistakes that the Jewish people have done in the past, so that we to may hear and obey (Shema), to be a witness onto other people by living a life reflecting God's essence, which is His Word. 

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