Parashat Va’etchanan – Erev Shabbat 12 August 2022 (5782)
Week of 7-13 August 2022
Torah portion : Deut. 3:23 -7:11 Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26
Theme: The Center of Meaning
This stunning parashah, which contains Moses’ final words of instruction to the new generation of Jews who are about to enter the Promised Land that remind them of all that the G-d has done: warnings against idolatry, reminder of the revelation from Sinai and the repetition of the Ten Commandments and the Shema, resounds with exhortations for Israel to put G-d at the center of their life, instructing them to love this G-d, faithfully.
It is not by chance that G-d is mentioned about 93 times. It is not naïve to say, that G-d is all over it, rightly occupying space and weight as the center, spotlighted in the 122 verses of this parashah. What this unveils to us is the kind of G-d, with whom Israel is in relationship. This G-d who is like no other (Deut. 4:35; 4:39) is the Living G-d (Deut. 5:23) of their Fathers, “great and mighty, awesome and unequaled in powerful deeds” (Deut. 3:24; 4:34; 5:15 ) who freed them from the house of bondage of Egypt (Deut. 5:61, 6:12); hears their plea (Deut. 5:25); and delivers them from their enemies (Deut. 7:2). G-d who is “impassioned, a consuming fire”, and who is “displeased and vexed” when the people are hardhearted (Deut. 4:24; 4:25; 5:9; and 6:15); indeed, as one treasured and chosen by G-d, as G-d’s own (Deut. 4:20; 7:6).
How could Israel not love G-d? For G-d who holds them even if at times they let go and wander away from G-d (Deut. 4:31). “For your God is a compassionate God who will not fail or let you perish. God will not forget the covenant made on oath with your fathers showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deut.5:10). Indeed, Israel has to live their lives in the light of this unrivaled G-d, “the steadfast God who keeps the divine covenant faithfully to the thousandth generation of those who love G-d and keep the divine commandments” (Deut. 7:9).
The Shema rings with Israel’s life orientation: “Hear O Israel! The LORD is our G-d, alone. You shall love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). This must be recited with focus, with clarity and with unity of heart and mind (Rambam, ma2:1) day after day. This expresses the ideal with which they must surround themselves and “constantly speak about it with their children” (Deut. 6:9). This confession of faith which impels them to put G-d at the center of their life and order all other relationships thereto, is Israel’s blessing (Deut. 6:1, 6:24-25) to all nations.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. How have you experienced God’s love concretely these past days? 2. How have you expressed your love for God concretely these past days? 3. What is the possibility of taking the text of the Shemaas your prayer-mantra for this week?
Bibliography: 1. The Contemporary Torah (JPS: 2006) 2. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Making Love Last read fromhttps://www.rabbisacks.org/covenant-conversation/vaetchanan/making-love-last/
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Shela Mae D. Jaso, Philippines, Bat kol Alumna 2017