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Home » Va'etchanan

Va’etchanan: Food for Thought for Your Dinner Table

Submitted by on August 11, 2008 – 3:29 amNo Comment | 6,310 views

Sunday: Pray to Pray

“I have beseeched the Almighty at that time . . . saying.” These words introduce Moshe’s heartfelt plea, later denied, to enter the Land of Israel. The last word of this verse, “saying,” seems superfluous, what does it mean?

The prayer of Amidah is introduced with a short prayer: “Lord, open my lips and may my mouth offer your praises.” This sentence is a prayer to G-d that we be inspired to pray with a full heart and articulate our thoughts clearly. We are also taught that a prayer easily articulated is well-received above. Conversely, prayers not easily articulated are not accepted above. From the fact that Moshe’s request was denied we deduce that his prayer was not articulated easily. Thus the word “saying” indicates that Moshe prayed that his prayer be expressed articulately. This request was also denied for had it been granted, his plea to enter Israel would also have been granted. Kedushas Levi

Monday: The Reason behind the Reason

Speaking of the commandments the Torah tells us, “You should observe and fulfill them for it is your wisdom and discernment before the eyes of the nations.”  It is curious that the Torah would consider the perception of the nations, ahead of our own. Could the Torah not have written that the Torah is our source of wisdom irrespective of the nations?

A deep teaching is rooted in these words. At times we are asked to explain the reasons for a particular commandment and we respond by explaining the many benefits that it provides. These benefits are not our true reason for performing the Mitzvos. Our true reason is obedience of G-d’s will. G-d surely has His reasons, which transcend human comprehension. For us it is sufficient to know that it is what G-d wants us to do.

This acceptance of a higher authority is admirable in a society that believes in G-d. Societies that reject such belief would also reject the wisdom of Torah if not for the logical explanations that the Torah offers. Hence, the logical wisdom of Torah is “before the eyes of the nations.” They are not for our benefit. We know better. Ksav Sofer

Tuesday: Exile for Murderers

Inadvertent murderers were sent to a city of refuge till the death of the High Priest. Taking a life is the most egregious sin known to humanity and even when life is taken without intention it should result in a significant penalty. If inadvertent murderers were not sent away, the value of human life would be diminished.

A practical benefit to residing in the cities of refuge was protection from the victim’s family who might otherwise exact revenge. It is human nature to be somewhat comforted by those who have suffered a similar tragedy. When the High Priest dies and the entire nation is in mourning it is expected that the wrenching grief of the victim’s family will be somewhat mitigated. At this point the murderer is permitted to return home. Sefer Hachinuch

Wednesday: Shabbos and the Exodus

The commandment to keep Shabbos is described as an opportunity to remember that G-d redeemed us from bondage in the land of Egypt. Shabbos and the exodus share a common denominator – they both transcend the normal order of nature. On Shabbos we are required to avoid creative activity that would alter the raw material of nature and share it to suit our needs because on this day we are required to reflect on nature’s Creator rather than on His creation. The Exodus also transcends the order of nature for in the natural course of events a nation of slaves would have remained enslaved. G-d appeared and redeemed us with a mighty, supernatural arm. Hence the link between the two. Sefas Emes

Thursday: Two Commandments

“You shall be careful to observe the commandments that G-d your Lord has commanded you.” (Deuteronomy 5: 30) Two verses later the Torah seems to repeat, “These are the commandments . . . that G-d your Lord has commanded to teach you to perform.”

Here we see the precision of the Torah’s wording. The first verse speaks of the commandments G-d commanded the Jews directly –the Ten Commandments. The second verse speaks of the commandments that G-d commanded to teach. This refers to the commandments that G-d communicated to Moshe and instructed him to teach to the Jews. Ramban

Friday: Love for G-d

G-d instructs us to love Him, but does G-d need our love? Of course not! Yet he wants our love. This very idea should fill us with reverence and gratitude as we contemplate His desire. The King of all Kings, Creator of heaven and earth, Master of the heavenly hosts has rejected every other being, from the lofty souls to the celestial angels, and has chosen the love of the lowly human. The ministering angels view this in wonder and awe. As we contemplate this distinction – we should too. Sefas Emes

Shabbat: Numerical Superiority

“Not because you are more numerous than all peoples did G-d desire you and choose you.” In light of the fact that the Jewish nation is indeed not the most populous nation, why would we suspect this to be the reason we were chosen?

Numerous need not be understood as most populous, it might also be understood as most meritorious. Our merits are indeed more numerous than those of other nations, but this is not the reason G-d chose us. He chose us “Because of (His) love for us and because He observes the oath that He swore to our forefathers.” The message therein is, yes we have been chosen and for that we consider ourselves fortunate, but we cannot allow ourselves to grow arrogant on account of being chosen. Being chosen does not imply that we are better. Being chosen merely implies that G-d chose to promise His love to our forefathers. Kli Yakar