Vaetchanan – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

The Sedra contains many of the basic texts and practices that define us. Moses reiterates the Ten Commandments, we hear the Shema, the instructions for Mezuzah and Tefillin and our duty to study and to teach our children. We are reminded that we were chosen as “the fewest of People” and that our duty continues with us.

To this day, in the Pesach Haggadah, we recite

If your son asks you in time to come, saying, "What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the ordinances, which the Lord our God has commanded you?" You shall say to your son, "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord took us out of Egypt with a strong hand.”
Not with our forefathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, we, all of whom are here alive today.

Moses pleads with God (“Va Echtchanan”) to allow him to enter the Land.

וָֽאֶתְחַנַּ֖ן אֶל־יְהֹוָ֑ה בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִ֖וא.
I entreated the Lord at that time

The response from God is dismissive. Moses seems to blame the people but he will not be allowed to enter. His work is to remind the people of what they had experienced, to punctuate the requirements of the Law, to anticipate further digression and the subsequent scattering. What he does do is to remind us of our unique relationship with God.

Did ever a people hear God's voice speaking out of the midst of the fire as you have heard, and live?

In the Haftorah, Isaiah records God pleading with Israel to offer consolation. “Nachamu, Nachamu.” The instruction is in the plural we are to console one another.

נַֽחֲמ֥וּ נַֽחֲמ֖וּ עַמִּ֑י יֹאמַ֖ר אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם
Console, console My people," says your God

Offering consolation is seen as offering calm and reassurance at times of loss; it is traditionally tinged with sadness and empathy. What we sometimes forget is that it is also an opportunity to be reminded of all the good we have had in our lives. It can give us a choice to choose what we want to take with us and offer to those around us.

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