Weekly Reading Insights:  VaEthchanan

Overview of the Weekly Reading

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




"And I pleaded with (va'etchanan) the L-rd at that time, saying... "Let me go over and see the good land." (3:23-25)
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)

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)

"To do, so that you may live." (4:1)
That is, to heed the Torah in practice. From this verse we learn that the study of the Torah itself is not the most important thing: rather, to do good deeds. Indeed, this is the very life of man.
(Tzena U'rena)

"You shall not add...nor shall you diminish." (4:2)
The Torah is called the "prescription for life" - a medicine able to purify those who take it. That is why we are warned not to add nor detract from the Torah's words. A prescription drug is a precise mixture of various substances, and changing the proportions can have toxic effects. So, too, are the commandments of the Torah given in the exact and correct proportions, and to change even a word has a deleterious effect.
(Rabbi Yonoson Eibeshutz)

"Your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations." (4:6)
A Jew is expected to keep the commandments in the Torah, not because he understands them rationally with his mind, but because the Creator of the World has commanded him to do so. But "in the eyes of the nations," the Torah is "your wisdom and your understanding": one must know how to answer heretics.
(in the name of Ktav Sofer)

"Take good care of your souls." (Deut. 4:15)
One must not abuse or neglect the physical body, for "a small defect in the body creates a large defect in the soul."
(The Mezeritcher Magid)

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 there you will seek the L-rd your G-d and will find Him." (4:29)
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 G-d."
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.
(Sefat Emet)

"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)

"I stand between your G-d and you." (5:5)
The "I," the awareness of self, the ego, stands between the person and his efforts to come closer to G-d.

"You shall teach them to your children..."(Deut. 6:7)
It is an absolute duty for every person to spend a half hour every day thinking about the Torah-education of children, and to do everything in his power - and beyond his power - to inspire children to follow the path along which they are being guided.
(Hayom Yom)

"You shall teach them to your children." (6:7)
It is the duty of Jewish educators to remove from the child any vestige of inferiority complex about his Jewishness in a predominantly non-Jewish environment, until he understands that democracy and freedom are not cauldrons of assimilation, but rather the contrary; they offer everyone the privilege to have his place, to enjoy his rights, and to live according to his faith without compromise, the opportunity for the Jew to fulfill his life's destiny.
(Lubavitcher Rebbe)



"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 Moshiach, for we have been promised that we are the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

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)

"Nachamu, Nachamu Ami" - "Comfort, I will comfort My people" (Haftorah - Isaiah 40:1)
On the Shabbat after Tisha B'Av, the day on which we commemorated the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples, G-d promises us that the rebuilding of the Third and eternal Holy Temple will also serve as a complete and perfect comfort for all of the destruction that took place throughout Jewish history.
(from L'Chaim #781)

The haftorah after Tisha B'Av is always Nachamu, Nachamu - Be comforted, be omforted. The doubled expression refers to the first Two Temples. As each possessed an advantage over the other, the Jewish people needed to be comforted for the destruction of each. These represent two forms of Divine service: actions inspired from Above, and actions inspired from within. In the times of the First Temple, the Jewish people were like tzaddikim; in the times of the Second Temple, they were like baalei teshuvah. This parallels the two times the Ten Commandments were given. The time of the Third Temple will have the advantages of both.
(From www.Shluchim.org.)

"Clear a way in the desert [to Yerushalayim,] for G-d [and His people who are returning from exile]; prepare a straight path in the plain [for the congregation and] for our G-d." (Isaiah 40:3)
The verse actually says to "clear the way for G-d," since - like a king returning home with his army after the victory - G-d will be at the head of the Jewish people. He was with them in exile and he will be returning with them now to Eretz Yisrael.
(Metzudat Tzion and Targum Onkelus on the verse, as published in "The Midrash Says")

The Midrash states that in the time of the Redemption, if a person goes to pick off a fig on Shabbos, the fig tree will scream out: "Today is Shabbos!"
The reason for this is that in the time of the Redemption, there will be a total G-dly revelation, and the entire Creation will feel the absolute reality of G-d. The world itself - even the inanimate and vegetative - will feel that there is nothing in the world except G-d.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe; translated by Michoel Lieb Dobry)

Our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have said (BaMidbar Rabba 19:13) that at the Future Redemption, Moses will enter the Land of Israel, heading the entire generation of the desert. Accordingly, the Redemption of the entire Jewish People in its truest and most complete sense, when not even one Jew will remain in exile, can only be the Future Redemption. For the ultimate purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was coming to the Land of Israel, and the six hundred thousand Jews who went out from Egypt remained in the desert and were not privileged to reach the land; only at the Future Redemption will they arrive there.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe; translated by Michoel Lieb Dobry of Tsfat)

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