V’etchanan

  1. It says, in Hashem addressing Moshe’s complaint, “Rav Lach” There are various interpretations of this phrase which literally means “there’s much to you (feminine).” When Beckham was traded from Manchester United, people were shocked. One of the reasons Man U gave for the trade is they wanted fans attached to the team, not a single player. They wanted the international brand of Man U to have standing outside of Beckham. There’s a lot ascribed to Moshe. Exodus, law giving, leadership, protection. For the people to take on the full responsibility discussed in the previous parsha, Hashem has to trade in their marque player. And that player has to give up the glory of being in the land.
  2. This is the first mention in Torah of Hashem loving anything. We are commanded to love Hashem, and the forefathers loved their children or wives or even food. But it never says Hashem loved them or even that they loved Hashem. Why here and now? In this parsha it is said again and again. He chose and rescued their offspring because He loved them. He will bless your fruit of the body and land and corn and wine and oil and children when he loves you. He will keep a covenant and mercy for a thousand generations to those that love him. What a person worthy of Hashem’s love cares most deeply about is the fruit of their life having the permanence of Kedusha. Hashem shows his love by blessing that fruit. And Hashem shows love in a way only Hashem can – but enabling one’s fruit (in ideas or creations) to persevere forever.
  3. Here Moshe decides to designate three cities. The words used are Az Yavdeel ‘then he will separate’. But the commandment was to Karitem ‘Y’all will establish’. It is a totally different act because Moshe isn’t fulfilling the Mitzvah. He is simply providing guidance for the people to do it. This is Moshe’s last will and testament, and he’s doing everything he can to impact what is to come and remain a part of the team even after he’s gone.
  4. There is enormous emphasis on the covenant being made with us. There’s no metaphor here – it is direct. How can you be a party to a contract you weren’t at? In fact, we all are and not just in Judaism. None of us knew anybody who was at the signing of the Declaration of Independence or the ratification of the Constitution. And yet, we are parties to that contract. But this pasuk goes further. It says your forefathers weren’t party to the contract. Just us who are alive today. How can this be? Who is our counterparty with the Constitution? Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton – they are all dead. Our counterparty is other Americans alive today. For this contract, Hashem remains a party and he needs a counterparty. And so all those alive here today serve that role.
  5. This deal cutting is very personal. Like we were there. But this rendition is different. In parshat Yitro, the people feared death and spoke simply in one short pasuk. It was the voice of terror. But there is no terror here. Here we form an argument of fear in four longer pasukim and we are sent back to our tents. Why the change? Because the experience is actually different. We know how it turns out – we have no abject terror of Hashem’s voice in this context. People who grow up in Virginia realize they are present as Virginia when the Constitution is ratified – but they know it is ratified so they discuss why there was uncertainty, not experience the uncertainty itself. But note that for all time Moshe remains an intermediary just as Madison was an author.
  6. Being told we were parties is one thing. But this portion focuses on how we make it real. With Tefillin and Mezuzah and teaching our children and remaining faithful. In the last pasuk we had tents. We recognize here that our homes are gifts from Hashem. We teach our sons, we were slaves in Egypt. We internalize that the Constitution of the Jewish people is our Constitution. We do our part to love Hashem, to find that love answered, and to see the blessing of the relationship flow to the next generation. This is how Moshe seals his permanence.
  7. In this reading, we see punishment for hatred is face-to-face. And we can go back to the first reading and perhaps understand more. Moshe received his punishment face-to-face at the beginning of this parsha, but in the rest he recognizes that the love of Hashem will outlast that. Hashem’s love for Moshe continues even today as the fruit of his labor continues to be blessed. Moshe’s last will and testament continues to be honored. It is a lesson for all of us. With the love of Hashem, our legacy can last a thousand generations.

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