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Vaetchanan

PARSHA ON PARADE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY
OF MY DEAR FATHER AND REBBI:
HARAV HAGAON RAV YESHAYA SHIMANOWITZ Z'TZL ,
ROSH YESHIVA
IN
YESHIVAS RABAINU YAAKOV YOSEF
(RABBI JACOB JOSEPH YESHIVA - RJJ)
IN NYC FOR OVER 23 YEARS.
NIFTAR ON 20 ADAR 5758 - MARCH 18, 1998.
MAY HE BE A MAYLITZ YOSHER FOR ALL OF KLAL YISROEL.

AND

MY DEAR MOTHER
REBITZEN BRACHA ETEL SHIMANOWITZ A'H
WHO DEVOTED HER ENTIRE LIFE TO MY FATHER AND HIS TORAH,
NIFTERA ON 21 TEVET 5770 - WED EVE. JANUARY 6, 2010.
MAY SHE BE A MAYLITZA YOSHER FOR ALL OF KLAL YISROEL


Menachim Z. Shimanowitz

You too can dedicate a Parsha or any other section of Torah Tots in honor or in memory of someone close to you.
For further info, click here.

PARSHA
FACTS

NUMBER OF MITZVOT: 12
8 MITZVOT ASEH (POSITIVE COMMANDMENT)
4 MITZVOT LO TAASEH (NEGATIVE COMMANDMENT - PROHIBITION)

NUMBER OF PESUKIM (SENTENCES): 118

NUMBER OF WORDS: 1878

NUMBER OF LETTERS: 7343

\HAFTORA: (Additional portion, from Prophets, which is read after the Parsha)
Yeshayahu / Isaiah 40:1 - 26
(this is the first of seven Haftorot, [the שבע דנחמתא - the Seven Haftorot of Consolation] that precede Rosh HaShana).

The Shabbat after Tisha B'Av - the Ninth of Av, is called שבת נחמו - Shabbat Nachamu - The Shabbat of consolation or comfort. The Shabbat is called Shabbat Nachamu, for the Haftorah which begins with the words: "Nachamu, Nachamu Ami - Be comforted, be comforted, my people..." (Yeshaya / Isaiah 40). In this chapter, the Navi describes the Ultimate Redemption (Moshiach) which we have yet to experience. May it be speedily in our days.

MONDAY AUGUST 7, IS TU B'AV, READ ALL ABOUT IT HERE

This week we study Chapter 4 of Pirkei Avot - "Ethics of the Fathers"


פרשת ואתחנן
THE
PARSHA
In our last episode Moshe began a riveting five week speech - the speech of his career! His combination rebuke/reminisce style has captured the audience.

As our Parsha opens, Moshe moves from Bnei Yisroel bashing to a moan of his own... hitting the rock.

When Miriam, Moshe's sister, dies, the well that provides water for Bnei Yisroel in the desert dries out. The Jews complain. Hashem tells Moshe to talk to this rock and ask for water to pour forth. But Moshe blows his cool and hits the rock instead.

Busted!

Hashem decrees that Moshe may not enter Eretz Yisroel.

After Bnei Yisroel conquers Sichon and Og, Moshe figures that Hashem might let him finish the job in Eretz Yisroel against the Canaanite nations. So Moshe prays to Hashem: "I've been the messenger for all these great miracles You've performed. Now that we're about to finish the job, You are cutting me off. Let me complete the mission. Or at least let me enter the land and perform some Mitzvot that can only be observed in Eretz Yisroel." Moshe asks Hashem to annul His decree. But Hashem won't move from His position. Hashem won't even allow Moshe to be buried in Eretz Yisroel. He does, however, allow Moshe to climb a hill and view all of Eretz Yisroel from the distance.


MESSING
WITH THE
MITZVOT

Before Moshe begins to teach Mitzvot, he explains one basic rule:

Keep Mitzvot; don't add to them or change them in any way.

For example, the Torah commands us to wear Tefillin. Tefillin is worn on the head and arm. You may try to "beautify" this Mitzvah by wearing Tefillin on your head, arms, legs and wrap the straps around your body. But this is not allowed.

Every Mitzvah must be kept the exact way that Hashem commands us in the Torah. We can't say,"This Mitzvah is obsolete, it doesn't apply today." Mitzvot are forever, and because we don't know the hidden meaning of the Mitzvot, they may NOT be changed.


STICK
WITH
HASHEM

Moshe reminds the nation of the time that Jews worshipped the idol Baal Peor. Some were executed by the Bait Din. Others died by plague. Anyone who is alive as Moshe speaks is a true follower of Hashem. Moshe recommends that every Jew attach himself to Hashem.

CloseHow do you do this? Do Mitzvot and stay close to scholars, giving them the respect they deserve.

Keeping Hashem's laws is the key to staying close to Hashem. Don't look to add or subtract. Even other nations who don't keep Hashem's mitzvot respect the wisdom of the Torah. This is because the Torah is the word of Hashem.


PUTTING
MATAN
TORAH

TO
MEMORY

The entire generation of people who witnessed Matan Torah have died out. Moshe is now speaking to a brand new generation. But, still, he exclaims, "YOU stood at Har (Mount) Sinai and YOU heard the Aseret Hadibrot (Ten Commandments) from Hashem's own voice." It is a Mitzvah to tell your children about Matan Torah and they must tell their children so that every generation will feel as though they have received the Torah at Har Sinai.

Moshe warns Bnei Yisroel not to try to capture Hashem's image in a physical form. On the same note, a Jew may not make images of people, animals and other figures (sun, moon) that might lead to idol worship. Don't forget that in those days the urge to worship idols was so strong that anything could trigger it. Moshe is concerned that after many years of living in Eretz Yisroel the Bnei Yisroel may think that Hashem will never take away the land. But it's not true! If the Jews worship idols or forget the Mitzvot, Hashem will scatter them among the nations.

Just in case the Bnei Yisroel do end up in exile, Moshe's got some advice: Do Tshuva! Hashem will be merciful and remember his deal with the Avot (forefathers). If a Jew ever doubts that Hashem will remember His promise, all he has to do is remind himself that Hashem spoke directly to the Bnei Yisroel at Har Sinai. Hashem speaks to individuals here and there, but only Bnei Yisroel was privileged to hear the voice of Hashem as an entire nation at once.

And what about all the miracles? True, miracles happen everyday - you forget to study for a test and the teacher is absent that day... you really want to buy a candy bar and you find a dollar on the floor.. But only Bnei Yisroel as a whole nation witnessed the miracles of Yetziat Mitzrayim (taking Bnei Yisroel out of Egypt), the Mann, the Slav, the plagues and the victorious battles.


PUSHING
THE CITY
OF
REFUGE

Moshe interrupts the Mussar for a Mitzva. Till now he's been doing a lot of talking about Mitzvot. Now he wants to fulfill one.

Back in Bamidbar we learned that there would be six Arei Miklat (cities of refuge) set up. Three in Eretz Yisroel and three east of the Jordan in the land settled by Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe. The catch is that the three east of the Jordan don't work until the three in Eretz Yisroel are built. Moshe could say, "since I won't be entering Eretz Yisroel, I can't build all six Arei Miklat so I won't even bother with the first three - they'll be useless!"

But Moshe knows that he must fulfill whatever Mitzvot he can right now. The cities he chooses are medium sized. Each has wells or water sources of its own. The cities also are surrounded completely by walls.

The lesson is to grab a Mitzva while you can. Don't think you've got all the time in the world to push off a Mitzva. You've got to run to do a Mitzva.


REMEMBER
THE
TOP TEN

Since Moshe is dealing with a new generation, he wants to be sure that these people preparing to enter the promised land hear the Aseret Hadibrot. He repeats them at this time (with some very slight variations in text).

  1. I am Hashem, your G-d who took you out from the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt).

    The first of the Aseret HaDibrot is to recognize with all your heart and mind that Hashem is the one who created the entire universe. He knows everything and controls everything. When Hashem took the Bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim he showed His great power and His love for the Jewish people. To be a servant to Hashem is a great privilege.


  2. You shall have no other gods before me.

    Since the times before the flood people made a mistake by believing in Hashem as the Creator but praying to other forces of nature like the sun or planets or angels. This eventually led to a wicked world where Hashem was forgotten. Here, Hashem makes it clear that one may not serve any god or force of nature. One must only serve Hashem.


  3. You shall not take the name of the L-rd, your G-d in vain.

    Even the name "Hashem" or "G-d" should be used sparingly. And you certainly mustn't swear in Hashem's name falsely.


  4. Safeguard the Shabbat day and keep it holy.

    Shabbat is a special gift given to the Jewish people. Hashem created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested. On Shabbat we are not permitted to work.

    During the week we count down to Shabbat. Did you ever notice that in the Hebrew language there are no names for the days of the week, (Sunday, Monday, etc...). Instead, the week is split up into six days leading up to Shabbat. The first day (Sunday) is called "the first day of the week leading up to Shabbat." The second day (Monday) is called "the second day of the week leading up to Shabbat." etc.. etc.. Because it is a Mitzva to prepare all week for the upcoming Shabbat. There are many examples in the Talmud of sages who would prepare for Shabbat every day of the week, choosing the finest foods, silver and clothing and saving them for the Shabbat.


  5. Honor your Father and your Mother.

    Honor your parents - that makes good sense, doesn't it? Our parents give us everything. They worry about us 24 hours a day. Who else would buy you clothes, feed you, let you hang around on their property. It is important that we treat our parents with great respect. We must do whatever our parents ask us to. The Torah tells us that whoever honors his or her parents will be rewarded with long life.


  6. You shall not murder.

    It is forbidden for a Jew to commit murder. Our sages warned that the Bait Hamikdash would be destroyed and Hashem's shechina would leave Eretz Yisroel if Jews commit murder.


  7. You shall not commit adultery.

    A Jew must remember that marriage is a special bracha from Hashem. When a Jewish man and woman get married they are bonded with Hashem. If, chas v'shalom, (heaven forbid) anyone comes between a man and woman who are married they will be cursed.


  8. You shall not steal.

    The very foundation of community depends on whether or not you can trust your neighbor not to ride off with your bike or pick tomatoes from your garden without your permission. Someone who steals is saying they don't want to be a trusted part of the community.


  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

    Truth is another building block. Especially in court. You've got to be able to count on witnesses to tell the truth. Even among friends, those little lies that we think of as good fun are really wrong.The Torah warns us not to let false witnesses get away with lying, otherwise Hashem will turn away from Eretz Yisroel. No rain will fall and drought wil result in a terrible famine.


  10. You shall not want what your neighbor has.

    The Aseret HaDibrot wrap up with a warning against wanting things that belong to other people. If your friend owes a bike or a baseball card that you really like you're not allowed to push him to give it to you. You've got to learn to be satisfied with that which Hashem has given to you. Jealousy leads to all kinds of terrible averot (sins). Once you learn to be happy with what you've got, you can truly keep the first commandment - understanding that everything belongs to Hashem. Only then will you know with all your heart and soul that Hashem rules all creation.

These are the Aseret Hadibrot - the 10 Commandments that are the basis of all the laws of the Torah!

SHEMA

One of the highlights of davening, the "Shema," makes its appearance in this Parsha. The first line of the Shema: "Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokaynu Hashem Echad - (Hear Yisroel, - Hashem is our G-d, - Hashem is the One and Only)" is how we declare that Hashem is our ruler. We also boggle the minds of ancient idol worshippers when we let 'em know that our G-d is the one and only creator of the universe.

The rest of the verse teaches us to cherish the Mitzvot. We must fulfill the Mitzvot of Hashem with great vigor and tender care. We are to love Hashem with "all your heart and all your soul and all your possessions."

The next verse of the Shema: Hashem's words (the Torah) should always be on your mind.

The next verse of the Shema: Teach the Torah to your children, discuss the Torah all the time, when your home, when you travel, when you get up and even when you go to sleep. This is also the Mitzva to recite the Shema every morning and night.


TEFILLIN
AND
MEZUZAH

The Mitzvot of Tefillin and Mezuzah make a one line appearance in the last two verses.

TefillinWhen a Jewish boy hits the age of thirteen he must wear Tefillin on his arm and head.

Ever see these fellows with boxes on their arm and head during weekday morning davening (prayers)? Well, that's Tefillin. Those black boxes are divided into compartments that contain scrolls of parchment with words from the Torah on them. These words must be written by a Sofer (Scribe) specially trained for the job. Tefillin is strapped on to the arm and head with leather strips. In the old days Jews wore Tefillin all day. These days we wear them during morning prayer.

Mezuza A Mezuzah is a scroll of parchment that contains the first two sections of Shema, (The verses of Shema from this Parsha and the verses of V'haya Im Shamoah from Parshat Eikev).

These words must also be written by a Sofer (Scribe) specially trained for the job. This scroll is hung on the right doorpost as you walk into a room. A Mezuzah is a reminder that it is Hashem who protects us and we must keep His Mitzvot.


TOO
MANY
RICHES

While the Bnei Yisroel have been wandering through the desert, the nations of Canaan have been building cities, digging wells and planting vineyards. When the Bnei Yisroel conquer these nations they will inherit all the great wealth and property left behind. Moshe is worried that the Jews will forget Hashem. A Jew must never forget all the miracles that Hashem has done for all the Bnei Yisroel. One way to prove your love for Hashem is giving Tzedaka (charity).

CHARITY
GONE
AWRY

Little tests like "If Hashem gives me a million bucks I'll give Tzedaka" or "If the Yankees win I'll stop speaking Lashon hora" are "out-of-bounds." When you do a Mitzva it's got to be purely from the heart, with no conditions attached. You don't worry about what Hashem is doing and Hashem will take care of everything.

The same deal applies to a Navi (Prophet). Once a Navi has the Sanhedrin's stamp of approval, you are not allowed to test him. For example, you are not permitted to say to Yossi the Navi, "Hey, Navi Joe, if you're such a Navi, how many points will the Knicks score tonight?"


SEVEN
NATIONS

There are seven nations in Canaan that Bnei Yisroel must conquer: Canaani, Chiti, Emori, Perizi, Chivi, Yevusi and Girgashi.

Moshe warns that these guys are idol worshippers. They've got customs that are wicked. If the Bnei Yisroel let them live in Eretz Yisroel, the Canaanite ways will spread amongst the Jews.The only way these people can live in Eretz Yisroel is to accept the seven laws that Hashem gave to Noach. If they refuse, they must be destroyed - no feeling sorry for them, no treaties, no buddying up with them! There are bound to be all kinds of altars and idols throughout the land. They must all be destroyed.

The Parsha ends with a simple statement. "You are a holy nation. Hashem has chosen you as His special nation."


Tune in next week as Moshe's Mussar train makes a stop at the broken luchot station in the next exciting episode of:
Parsha on Parade

Midrash Maven
See the Midrash Maven on Va'etchanan


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