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Va’etchanan Summaries

Va’etchanan 5777-2017

“The Power of Prayer”

Moses’ prayers were able to make the heavens tremble, but there is nothing more powerful than the prayers that emanate from a broken heart.

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Va’etchanan 5776-2016

“Blessing G-d for the Good and the Bad”

Surprisingly, Jews are advised to bless G-d both for the bad as well as for the good. Few recognize that the challenges that we face in life are very often the true source of inner strength and blessing.

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Va’etchanan 5775-2015

“Do Not Add…and Do Not Detract”

There are many unusual aspects to the fascinating and complex mitzvot of not adding and not detracting from the words of the Torah.

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Va’etchanan 5774-2014

“The Prediction of Return”

The Torah, in parashat Va’etchanan, predicts that massive numbers of Jews in exile will return to traditional Jewish practice. Is that happening today?

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Va’etchanan 5773-2013

“Behold the Beauty of the Land”

Moses pleads with G-d to allow him to enter the Promised Land to see the “good land,” the “good mountain” and “the Lebanon.” What exactly was Moses hoping to accomplish with this fervent plea?

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Va’etchanan 5772-2012

“The Magic of the Mezuzah”

In this week’s parasha, parashat Va’etchanan, we encounter the first of two textual references to the mitzvah of mezuzah that are found in the Torah. The mezuzah is one of the most widely known rituals of Judaism. Among other purposes, it serves to strengthen Jewish identity.

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Va’etchanan 5771-2011

“The Ten Commandments: The Differences”

The fact that there are two versions of the Ten Commandments in the Torah with slight differences in the texts raises significant questions. These questions are confronted head-on by the incredibly intellectually honest approach of Jewish scholarship. This educational legacy of Judaism, which encourages students to constantly search for truth, has shaped young Jewish minds for millennia, resulting in unparalleled intellectual achievements.

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Va’etchanan 5770-2010

“Moses Blames the People for His Fate”

On several occasions, G-d tells Moses directly that he may not enter the land of Canaan because he failed to sanctify G-d’s name when he hit the rock at May M’reeva. Why, then, does Moses, at least twice, blame the Jewish people for his being unable to enter the Promised Land?

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Va’etchanan-Tisha B’Av 5769-2009

“Tisha B’Av: Never Beyond Redemption”

Given the extent of the evil, and the commitment to evil that pervaded those early generations, it is almost inconceivable that G-d would grant his prodigal children forgiveness. Yet, not only did G-d grant forgiveness to His children, He actually predicted their return, saying that no matter how distant the Jewish people stray, they will always be welcomed back.

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Va’etchanan-Tisha B’Av 5768-2008

“A Hopeful Message for Jewish Future”

In parashat Va’etchanan, we find the well-known citation, “Kee to’leed ba’neem,” which is read on Tisha B’Av. It predicts that the Jewish people will stray from G-d and commit horrible sins. And yet, in one of the most optimistic statements, G-d assures His people that they will always be welcomed back with open arms, no matter how far they stray.

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Va’etchanan 5767-2007

“May We Test G-d?”

In parashat Va’etchanan we seem to be given a very strong admonition prohibiting the testing of G-d. Why is this so? Are there any exceptions to this rule?

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Va’etchanan 5766-2006

“A Small Verse that Started a Mighty Revolution”

Although parashat Va’etchanan is filled with many important verses and themes, one surprising verse, “You shall do what is fair and good in the eyes of G-d” (Deuteronomy 6:18), stands out for its revolutionary quality, setting a new precedent for Judaism’s moral/legal underpinnings. This verse teaches that each Jew is exhorted to go beyond the letter of the law and to always strive to relate to neighbors and friends in a generous and giving manner.

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Va’etchanan 5765-2005

“The Jewish Attitude Towards Intermarriage”

In parashat Va’etchanan, we read of the stern prohibition against intermarriage with those who are not members of the Jewish faith. Different arguments are often presented why Jewish young people should not intermarry. Perhaps the most compelling argument is that only those who marry within the faith can hope to be part of the revolutionary mission of the Jewish people to perfect the world under the rule of the Al-mighty and to serve as a light unto the nations.

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Va’etchanan 5764-2004

“The Dialectic of Body and Soul”

Judaism has always placed a premium on the spiritual, an emphasis that has kept Jewish life alive and flourishing for over 3000 years. While we certainly need to continue to focus on the well-being of our souls, now may be the propitious time for all people, especially the Jewish community, to pay more attention to our bodies. Jewish leaders need to speak out forcefully regarding the ills of overeating and smoking, to encourage proper eating and exercise. This parasha, which features some of the ultimate spiritual texts of the Torah, such as the Shema and the Ten Commandments, also underscores the critical attention that needs to be placed upon the mitzvah of taking care of our bodies.

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Va’etchanan 5763-2003

“Why the Sh’ma?”

The Sh’ma prayer is the central prayer that speaks of the acceptance of the dominion of G-d upon us. Two major questions come immediately to mind. Why do our rabbis speak of this text, calling it the acceptance of the “yoke of heaven,” a phrase that is rather intimidating and seemingly overbearing? Another major question that is bothersome is the nature of the first line of the Shema. Why are we told to “love” the L-rd, with all our hearts, soul, and might? Shouldn’t we be told to “believe” in the L-rd, our G-d, with all our heart, souls, and might?

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Va’etchanan-Tisha B’Av 5762-2002

“Loving the Land of Israel”

One of the kinot, the liturgical poems that are read on Tishah B’Av, speaks of the calamity that befell the Jewish communities of the Rhineland, Germany–Worms, Speyer and Mainz (Mayence)–in the year 1096 during the First Crusade. The ArtScroll commentary on this poem throws out a profound challenge to the Jewish people today. Will we rise to the occasion and acknowledge the special gift of the land of Israel, or will we ignore it, and continue to compose elegies for the losses that we sustain?

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Va’etchanan 5761-2001

“The Mandate for Parental Involvement in Jewish Education”

The phrase “V’shee’nan’tahm l’vah’neh’chah” and you shall teach your children, found in the Shema, underscores the Torah’s mandate requiring Jews to educate their children. There is no such thing as overdosing on Jewish education, or being too zealous or too extreme about Jewish education. Parents must not compromise on Jewish education. The alternative is very much Jewish oblivion.

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Va’etchanan 5760-2000

“The Torah’s Radical Approach to Parenting”

In parashat Va’etchanan, we learn of the fifth commandment of honoring father and mother. The Code of Jewish Law goes into extensive detail regarding the obligations of honoring and revering parents. A cursory study of the Code’s directives seem to place all the obligations on the children and all the privileges on the parents. However, Judaism attempts to create a very delicate balance. The radical regulations of parenting set down in the Talmud and in our Code are based on insights of our Torah. They are ancient and insightful, and they work.

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