Parashat Va’etchanan – Erev Shabbat 23 July 2021
Week of 18-24 July 2021
Torah portion: Deut 3:23-7:11 Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26
Theme: The Voice of God
This parashah speaks of the unthinkable: “Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have and lived?” (4:32-33). Moses was convinced that the Israelites must understand this relationship and know its significance. They possess a story unlike any other people. What happened to them is unique! They were and are a nation called to greatness. They received the great revelation at Sinai, the giving of the Torah and were called into a covenant as God’s treasured possession. They are a people holy to the LORD (7:6).
In his final address, Moses, always the teacher summarized the very essence of their belief in God: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.”(6:4-5). These few lines are the centerpiece of his message. It is good to recall that Moses on numerous occasions confessed that he was not a man of words, yet now as he stands alone, Moses eloquently holds forth. These two sentences have come to be the most influential tradition in Judaism. “Hear O Israel,” he says, in his own voice, exhorting the people now and here to internalize and teach others what was undergone many years ago: laws were given and dramas played out in those days and in that time, in which I played a key role.” (Zornberg 172)
“What do we mean when we proclaim that God is one? Firstly, we reject the claim that God is none, that there is no God and the world is the product of random chance. Secondly, we reject the claim that God is two, a god of good and a god of evil.” (Hayim 1025)
Having been the first to receive God’s revelation, both Christianity and Islam have inherited this unique faith in the one true God from Judaism. The three monotheistic religions have the same awesome responsibility to be an example within the world.
The Shema, (meaning to hear, listen, take heed) as it has become known is technically not a prayer; rather it is more a pledge of allegiance, an affirmation or declaration of God’s relationship with Israel. The people are to focus first and foremost on God, their creator and sustainer, as they enter deeply into this covenantal relationship. They are to live and breathe the Shema into their very beings. Parents need to take seriously the command to teach their children about the covenant with God in a holistic and practical manner (6:7). It is to open the heart and to serve God with love and joy.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. When we think of God’s choice and how this people were formed, we need to stand in admiration of their trust in God and of their courage to respond wholeheartedly. 2. Do I truly realize that all God has given to me is a blessing? What is my response?
Bibliography: Lehmann, J. The Chumash, (Brooklyn, N.Y. 1993), Lieber, D., Etz Hayim, Torah and Commentary, (Jewish Publication Society, New York, 1985), Zornberg, A, Moses A Human Life, (Yale University Press, New York, 2015
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna: 2001