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Va’etchanan (Shabbat Nachamu) • 5773 • דברים
Moshe continues his narration of how he beseeched G-d to allow him into the Promised Land, but was only permitted to glimpse at the Land from afar. Moshe further chastises them to remember to obey all of G-d’s Commandments and Laws. As G-d created miraculous deeds on Israel’s behalf in the past, so too can G-d’s miracles guarantee Israel’s future. Moshe forewarns the people not to be led astray from the Torah and G-d; to remember the miracles of Mt. Sinai and never worship physical representations. Committing idolatry shall lead to Israel’s dispersion and degradation. If Israel remains loyal only to G-d, the greatest blessings will be visited upon the descendants of Israel. Moshe finishes his first discourse and then delineates three of the six “Cities of Refuge” that G-d commanded to be established for accidental murderers.
Moshe assembles the entire Nation to again reiterate the Covenant G-d gave at Mt. Sinai—The Ten Commandments. When the Israelites heard and saw the miraculous events associated with the Giving of the Ten Commandments (Fire, Thunder, Lightning and Clouds), they begged Moshe to intercede with G-d to halt any additional revelation for they feared death by the “Great Fire.” “Study for the purpose of doing” is Moshe’s continued admonition. The “Shema,” one of Judaism’s most stirring prayers, is the basis of Moshe’s continuing plea to not forsake G-d or G-dliness. The Seven Nations residing in Israel shall be shown no mercy. They and their idols must be destroyed completely. Israel was not chosen because of our great numbers but because of our lineage from great ancestors.
MAFTIR Deuteronomy 7:9-11 ~ page 775
HAFTARAH Isaiah 40:1-26 ~ Shabbat Nachamu ~ page 776
The call goes out from G-d to the prophets to comfort the people of Israel, who have been punished more than enough for their past sins. Heavenly voices request a highway to be cleared before the Lord who will Himself lead the exiles back to their Homeland, and the good tidings are announced in Zion. Nothing, declares Isaiah, is impossible for G-d—who can measure His wisdom and power? How absurd it is therefore, to compare Him to the worthless idol shaped by humans? Nature and history testify to the infinite might of the Creator of Heaven and Earth in whose hands lie the destinies of princes and rulers.
Parashah Study Questions
1. The rabbis explain that Moshe beseeched G-d 515 times to enter the land of Israel. Where did they get the number 515? In doing so, do you think Moshe was being persistent or annoying?
2. What is the relationship between Moshe’s being kept out of Israel and Shabbat Nachamu?
3. If balance is so important in Judaism, why are there “Three weeks of Sadness” but “Seven Weeks of Consolation”?
4. Why are letters in the Shma in different sizes (6:5)?
5. Does verse 7:7 contradict the biblical benediction that the Children of Israel will be as numerous as the stars of the sky?