This Week’s Torah Portion: Va-et’chanan – וָאֶתְחַנַּן (Deuteronomy 3:23–7:11)
שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֶחָֽד
Sh’ma Yis’rael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad!
This week’s Torah portion Vaetchanan contains within it the central platform of our Jewish faith. Adonai is our God, Adonai is One. Each time we pray, we declare God’s oneness with these words. This is not the first time this sentiment appears in Torah. Just two chapters before this declaration Moses espouses:
אַתָּה֙ הׇרְאֵ֣תָ לָדַ֔עַת כִּ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה ה֣וּא הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ין ע֖וֹד מִלְּבַדּֽוֹ
It has been clearly demonstrated to you that the LORD alone is God; there is none beside Him.
Chasidic Rabbi Judah Zvi of Stretyn explains “there are two names of God in this verse: Adonai and Elohim: Eternal and God.” Adonai represents the divine attribute mercy, while Elohim represents its counterpart, the divine attribute of justice. Rabbi Judah continues, “in reality [these two attributes and names] are one.” God is both justice and mercy; all encompassing oneness between two seeming opposites. When we cry Adonai Echad we recognize this embracing oneness of the Divine. You may notice that there are two bolded enlarged words in our opening verse. Together, they create the word עד eid, witness. The opening word, Shema is the commandment- “listen!” When we pray these words, we are witness to the presence of Adonai. At this moment of our prayer service, we should be fully present, both physically, with our ears listening, and spiritually, allowing ourselves to move beyond the mundane into the sacred. This week, take a moment to consider, what moves you beyond the mundane to the sacred?
Parsha Va-et’chanan – וָאֶתְחַנַּן Torah Summary: Moses pleads with God to let him enter the Land of Israel with the people, but God once more refuses his request. (3:23–28)
Moses orders the Children of Israel to pay attention and follow the laws given by God in order to be worthy of the land they are about to receive. (4:1–40)
Specific areas of the land are set aside to serve as cities of refuge. (4:41–43)
The covenant at Sinai and the Ten Commandments are recalled. Once again, the people are exhorted to heed God’s commandments. (5:1–30)
Moses speaks the words of the Sh’ma, the credo of Judaism, and commands Israel to show their love for Adonai and keep God’s laws and ordinances. (6:1–25)
Moses warns the people not to commit idolatry by worshiping the gods of the nations they will conquer in Israel. (7:1–11)
Va-et’chanan – וָאֶתְחַנַּן