Dvar Torah on Parshat VaEtchanan 5775 2015 – Be a Role Model

One of the most common prayers Jews recite is found in this week’s Sidra – the Shema. It is said morning and evening. It is on the lips of the dying. It is proclaimed by martyrs and soldiers who fall in battle. In it we read: וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם עַל לְבָבֶךָ, “And these matters which I command you today shall be on your heart.” The next verse reads: וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, “You shall teach them thoroughly to your children.” (Deut. 6, 6-7) This implies education, to teach our children. Why mention education in this context and why the sequence?

Every parent wants their child to grow up knowledgeable and to do the right thing. Our literature tells us, הדברים היוצאים מן הלב נכנסים בלב התלמידים, “that which comes out of the heart goes into the heart of the students.” If we want our children to follow in our footsteps, if we want them to accept our teachings, then what we want must be imbedded in our own hearts.

We cannot expect our children to act in a particular way when we ourselves act differently. Unfortunately, too often parents don’t act ethically and they want their children to act differently. This does not happen. What we have imbedded in our hearts we can transmit to them. What we don’t accept totally in our hearts we cannot expect our children to learn from us.


Dvar Torah on Parshat VaEtchanan 5773 2013

Harav Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, offered a very meaningful explanation of a particular passage in this week’s Sidra. Moshe is pleading with Hashem to be granted permission to enter Eretz Yisrael. אֶעְבְּרָה נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, “Let me now cross and see the good Land that is on the other side of the Jordan…”. (Deut. 3,25) He was denied this request.

His pleading and begging was so much and so persistent that Hashem finally said to him: רַב לָךְ אַל תּוֹסֶף דַּבֵּר אֵלַי עוֹד בַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה, “…It is too much for you, do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter.” (3,26)

Harav Kook stresses that this plea of Moshe was not in vain. Moshe want to instilled in the hearts of our people the love for the Land and the great desire to dwell in it and benefit from its mighty holiness and majesty.

This enormous desire to live in Israel had been a crucial element that has kept the Jewish people alive throughout history and was responsible for the Jewish return to rebuild the land after nearly 2000 years of exile. The Jewish people never abandoned hope of coming back to the land promised him by Hashem.

It is unfortunate that many people do not see this great attachment of the Jews to the land. They see Israel as just another nation among the nations of the world. It is not just another nation. It is the nation and the land that Hashem promised He would give to our forefathers and their descendants as an inheritance. It is a Holy Land and not another land like other lands. The world finds it hard to accept that principle.

Dvar Torah Parshat VaEtchanan 5772 2012

Many people believe in order to be a pious soul one must isolate oneself from society and go to some forsaken place where they can live without the temptations of the mundane world. They believe that when you come in contact with other people they have a nature to corrupt you and to lead you astray from living a virtuous life.

This is far from the Jewish belief. When Moshe instructs Bnei Yisrael to live up to the Mitzvot of the Torah he says to them, “ I have taught you decrees and ordinances as Hashem…has commanded me…”, לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ, “…to do so in the midst of the land…”. (Deut. 4,5)

Moshe is telling the people that they do not need to go away and separate themselves from society in order to live up to the dictates of the Torah. The Torah was given to teach a way of life that will help people be devout and live morally among others. No need to isolate oneself. No need to disassociate from people. On the contrary, the Torah teaches how to live ethically and decently with others.

We saw this attitude exhibited by Avraham Avinu. He did not hide in his tent or go to some distant land where he could practice his religious beliefs in peace. We are told he sat at the entrance to his tent and waited for visitors to come. He did not fear that he would be affected by them but rather felt he could influence them.

Dvar Torah Parshat Va’Etchanan 5770 2010

Moshe tells the Israelites, and we recite it twice daily in the Shema: VEHAYU HADVARIM HA’ELEH ASHER ANUCHI METZAVCHA HAYOM…, “And these words which I command you this day…”.(Deut. 6,6)

The Chafetz Chaim explained this beautifully. A person has to imagine he is the only person left in the world and he has only one book and Hashem directs a request straight to him. “And these words” you should be studying, that is the words of the Torah; “which I command you’, I am directing the request to you personally; “this day”, today is your last chance. Do not procrastinate.

Time wasted can never be recaptured. If you waste it, it is gone. Hence a person should always feel as if he will not get another chance to recoup what he misses today. Every minute is precious and one should use his time wisely. The Torah is so vast and if we do not keep with it constantly we lose a priceless opportunity.

Dvar Torah Va’etchanan 2009 5769

There is a dire prediction in this week’s Sidra which is also read on Tisha B’Av which foresees a time when the Jews living in the Land of Israel shall go astray and worship false gods. When this happens the Jews will be dispersed throughout the world.

The Torah then says that from these lands they will seek out Hashem: KI TIDRESHENU BECHOL LEVAVCHA UVECHOL NAFSHECHA, “…with all your heart and with all your soul” and you will find Him (Deut. 4.29)

Rabbi Simcha Bunim had a very unique and telling interpretation of this passage. People who try to elevate themselves spiritually often start seeking in the strangest places. They search in books, in strange philosophies, in foreign lands. The Torah in this verse tells us to seek Hashem in “your heart and in your soul”. Spirituality does not reside in far flung places. It is to be found in one’s own heart and one’s soul.

People who want to achieve greater religious heights must search within themselves and their own manner of living. They can raise themselves to great spiritual living by simply contemplating on how they are living and how they can improve their religious lifestyle. It is within our reach; it is within ourselves.

Dvar Torah Parshat Va’etchanan 2008 5768 דבר תןרה פרשת ואתחנן

During Tisha BeAv we read a Biblical portion that comes from this week’s Sidra. We read: KI TOLIDU BANIM UVNE VANIM VENOSHANTEM BA’ARETZ, “When you shall give birth to children and children’s children, and you shall be long in the land, and you shall become corrupt…” (Deut. 4,25) A Rabbi explained this passage in a very unique way.

He said, if you have children and grandchildren and they look upon you as having been living long in the land and have already passed your age of understanding, that is, they look upon you as from a different generation and a different type of life, then it is an indication that they have become corrupt. It is a sign that they have rejected your way of life and your teachings. They are seeking a new lifestyle, inconsistent with your ideals.

Judaism teaches us to respect our elders and not to reject their teaching. What they have to say may sound strange to you but they speak from experience and have much to contribute to your lifestyle.

Dvar Torah VaEtchanan

Dvar Torah VaEtchanan 5766

We are commanded in the Torah this week to keep the Mitzvot and LO TOSIFU…VELO TIGRE’U MIMENU, “You shall not add … nor shall you subtract from it …” (Deut. 4,2) The Dubner Magid, who was a great preacher and always used a parable to demonstrate the meaning of a Pasuk, has a very interesting way of expounding this passage. He tells that a man once went to his neighbor and asked to borrow a spoon. The neighbor gladly lent it to him. The next day the man returned two spoons. When his neighbor protested that he had only lent him one spoon, the man replied, “The spoon gave birth to another”. Then one day he came and borrowed his neighbor’s expensive silver candelabra. The neighbor gladly gave it to him anticipating getting two back in return. A few days went by and the man never returned the candelabra. Finally his neighbor came to inquire about it. The man told him the candelabra died. In his excitement the neighbor started shouting and protesting how can candelabra die. The man very calmly explained, “When I told you the spoon gave birth to another one, and the same with the other objects, you believed me. If they can give birth they can also die”.This, said the Dubner Magid, is why the Torah says we should not add to the Mitzvot. For if we can add then we can also subtract. Judaism has a set number of Mitzvot and practices. It is not necessary to look for additional difficulties to cast in our way and make adherence to the Torah more difficult.