Moses Receiving the Tablets of the Law
The first paragraph
of the Shema yisrael
seen in a
Moses Pleading with Israel
(illustration from a Bible card published 1907 by
the Providence Lithograph Company)
What's the proper emotional attitude towards God?
This week's portion highlights the value of loving God.
Some argue that we must fear and venerate God,
while others stress the need to love God.
The two modes of relationship, fear and love,
have a long history within Judaism. Both yirat
shamayim (fear of heaven) and ahavat
ha-Shem (love of God) find ample attestation
in traditional and modern writings. While most
Jews retain elements of both, individuals and
communities tend to stress one tendency
over the other
Moses Views the Land of Israel
Moses looks at the promised land by the banks
of the river Jordan, and continues his final
speech to the Israelites before he dies.
Jewish Family & Life!
Moses says, "I implored God to let me see this promised land, but God was angry with me because of you. God told me to appoint Joshua as your leader.
"And now, O Israel, hearken to the commandments that I am teaching you so that you may live and possess this promised land. Do not add or subtract anything to that which I am commanding. Your own eyes have sees that everyone that followed Baal Peor was destroyed. Those of you who remained with God are all alive today
* TORAH * Institute
The Aleinu prayer, recited at the conclusion of every prayer service, contains the following verse:
"Know it today and ponder it in your heart: God is the Supreme Being in heaven above and on the earth below — there is no other." (Deut. 4:39)
What is the difference between 'knowing it' and 'pondering it in our heart'?
"You, who remained attached to the Lord your God, are all alive today." (Deut. 4:4)
What does it mean 'to be attached to God'? As the Talmud (Sotah 14a) asks, is it possible to cleave to the Shechinah, God's Divine Presence, which the Torah (Deut. 4:24) describes as a "consuming fire"?
When the Romans decreed that teaching Torah is a crime punishable by death, Rabbi Akiva's reaction was not surprising. The great scholar, who had supported Bar Kochba in his revolt against Rome, gathered people together and gave public Torah lectures.
"You shall love the Eternal your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." (Deut. 6:5)
What does it mean to love God bechol me'odecha — "with all your might"? The Talmud offers two explanations for this phrase.
The Torah records Moses' prayer to God to be allowed to enter into the land of Israel:
"O God, Eternal! You have begun to show me Your greatness and power. What force is there in heaven or earth that can perform deeds and mighty acts as You can? Please, let me cross (the Jordan river) and see the good land...." (Deut. 3:24-25)
Judaism's ultimate prayer is the Shema, our declaration of God's unity. And the ultimate word in the Shema is its last word, echad ('one'). The Sages gave detailed instructions how this important word should be pronounced.
"Listen (Shema), Israel: Hashem is our God, Hashem is one." (Deut. 6:4)
To recite the Shema, the central message of the Jewish people, is to accept "ohl malchut shamayim," God's kingship and authority. The Torah instructs us to recite the Shema twice a day — "when you lie down and when you rise up" (6:7). Why isn't once a day sufficient?
7 MORE COMMENTARIES
ON THE PARASHAH
SECTS OF JUDAISMS
from Jewish Outreach Initiative
Moses' final speeches highlight the
importance of giving our children
transformative Jewish experiences
How does the concept of the uniqueness
and choseness of the Jewish people,
as expressed in Parashat Va'et'hanan,
inform our relationship with
God and with non-Jews?
People's perceptions of a society are often
based on that society's judicial system.
from Social Action
Our affirmation of the unity of God and our love
for God serve as fundamental grounding principles
for social action.
Our existential relationship to our ancestors
and how we learn empathy.
from Orthodox Union
Doing what is "right and good" in the eyes
of God means promoting the values of the
Torah beyond the explicit laws.
Moses as a model of one who
seeks greater understanding
Finally, some words of comfort
for Jerusalem and its people.
The haftarah selection is from Isaiah 40:1-26.
The special name for this Shabbat is derived from the first words of the haftarah, “nahamu, nahamu”--meaning “be comforted, be comforted.” These words open one of Isaiah's most famous prophecies of consolation.
Isaiah promises that, after the people of Israel are punished and exiled, they will experience remarkable reconciliation with God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” God instructs, and tell the city that her term of service is over (40:2). She has finished paying the price for her crimes, and has atoned for her sins. Now is time to prepare for an amazing revelation of God's presence. The valleys will be raised, the hills flattened, and on a vast level plain God's presence will appear for all people to behold.
Isaiah emphasizes that this prophecy will no doubt come to fruition. Unlike grass and flowers, which wither and fade, God's word is always fulfilled.
Again, Isaiah addresses the city of Jerusalem with comforting words: “Ascend a lofty mountain, herald of joy to Zion. Raise your voice with power, herald of joy to Jerusalem” (40:9). The message is explicit: God is here for all to behold. Like a shepherd taking his flock out to pasture, God carries His people with tender love.
A Celebration of God's Greatness
Isaiah illustrates God's awesome strength with a series of questions: “Who measured the waters with the hollow of His hand? Who meted the earth's dust with a measure? Who weighed the mountains with a scale?” (40:12) Compared to God's incredible power, the nations are like a drop in a bucket, like nothing in His sight.
Twice in the haftarah Isaiah asks: “To whom, then, can you liken God? What form compares to Him?” (40:18, 25) Isaiah outlines how foolish it would be to compare God to idols, made from silver and wood. A skilled woodworker can make a firm idol that will not topple, but God Himself made the entire earth.
“Lift your eyes and see,” the haftarah closes, “Who created these?” (40:26) Referring to the stars, the text indicates that God fashioned them all. He numbers them one by one. His great might and vast power are unmistakable.
We wish you our dear observers a happy
Shabbat * Nachamu * in this weekend .
enjoy this worthy holiday in the parks
and beaches and .... with family members,
friends, neighbors and even some strangers!
so what if you don't know them!, SMILE