| Published: July 24, 2023
In this week’s Torah reading, Va’etchanan, Moses continues his attempt to impress upon the Israelites the importance of following G‑d’s commandments, the rewards which will result from obeying G‑d’s words, and the punishments they will incur if they neglect to do so. Moses recounts the story of the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai, and repeats the Ten Commandments. Moses designates cities of refuge. This portion also contains the Shema.
First Aliyah: Moses recounts how he pleaded with G‑d to allow him entry into Israel. G‑d refused this request, but instructed Moses to climb a mountain from where he would see the Promised Land. Moses enjoins the people to follow G‑d’s law, and never to add to or detract from it. Moses uses the Baal Peor incident to demonstrate that those who remained faithful to G‑d survived and thrived.
Second Aliyah: Moses implores the Israelites to treasure the Torah, praising its wisdom, its righteous and just precepts, and the closeness to G‑d it affords. He admonishes them to never forget the day when G‑d gave them the Torah, and vividly describes that awesome event, enjoining them to recount that day’s events to their children and grandchildren. He then focuses on the divine revelation, reminding them that G‑d did not appear as any image or form. Worshipping graven images, Moses warns, will result in national exile and decimation. But even when exiled, G‑d will not forsake His people, and eventually they will repent and return to G‑d. This section concludes with Moses extolling the Israelites’ uniqueness: the only nation personally delivered by G‑d from bondage, and the only people to whom G‑d revealed Himself.
Fourth Aliyah: Moses repeats the Ten Commandments, reminding the Israelites that the Sinai covenant was not limited to those who were physically present at Mount Sinai.
Fifth Aliyah: Moses describes the fright which gripped the nation following the revelation on Sinai. The leaders of the tribes approached Moses and pleaded that he be the intermediary to transmit G‑d’s words to them, and G‑d agreed.
Sixth Aliyah: This section begins with the first section of the Shema prayer. This paragraph contains the fundamental mitzvot of belief in G‑d’s unity, love of G‑d, tefillin, mezuzah and Torah study. The section continues with G‑d’s promise to give the Israelites a land filled with bounty and spoils. Moses admonishes the people to never forget the Creator who provided them with this wealth. Moses instructs the nation what to respond to their children who might inquire why they observe all the commandments: “We were slaves in Egypt, and G‑d took us out in order that we serve Him, so that we could reap the rewards for doing so.”
Seventh Aliyah: The Israelites are directed to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan along with their idols, and the prohibition against intermarriage is discussed.
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