Parashat Va'etchanan // “I Pleaded”

- ל ו ו -

What is Judaism’s most fundamental text?

Moses’ message to the Israelites 

“Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes” Deut. 4:5 – 6

  • “Your fate will only become evident to all the nations once you engage in divine wisdom and ethics.” Israel’s mission doesn’t exclusively pertain to Jews. It’s a commitment to all of the nations of the earth, as well. God’s nation can help influence the world by championing the divine, universal values of freedom, justice, scholarliness, and compassion. Though the Jewish nation is small in size, its influence can be enormous thanks to the values and light it promotes. The size of a nation is irrelevant; its impact is what makes it vital. 
  • Following the miraculous events of the Israelites’ exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the wanderings in the desert (which were the climaxes of Israel’s relationship with God), Moses feels the need to reinforce the covenant by enacting additional laws. This is the basis underlying Israel’s centuries – long relationship with God.

God instructs the Israelites to say Shema Yisrael (“Hear, O’ Israel”)

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them…Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land” Deut. 6:17 – 18

  • This passage has been the most essential credo of the Jewish people throughout the generations. It is a declaration of Jewish identity and an admission of God’s supreme kingship. Reciting Shema Yisrael out loud establishes the Jewish people’s relationship with God – a relationship that is fundamentally based on mutual listening. What makes this bond so different from that of other faiths is the component of listening. By exercising this sense, we can come closer to others and empathize with them. This force is what created the powerful love that has lasted for generations.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “I Pleaded”

  • The highest form of contact with God is contact “for the sake of Heaven.” In other words, spiritual work is itself a source of blessing and should be performed without any expectation of reward.
  • Moses renounces his personal achievements and therefore remains at the highest spiritual level. Our world is full of free gifts. As such, we do not require further compensation – our efforts are all the blessings we need.
  • To reach the highest spiritual level, we must release ourselves from our ego and dedicate our whole life to the love of everything. We must summon our full mental capabilities in order to prevent the physical world from taking hold of our lives.
  • Once we overcome the negativity that pulls us in, we can live in a true earthly paradise – as we will have earned eternal life and boundless bliss.
  • The mission of the believer is one of wisdom and ethics. Our influence will stem through spreading the set of values established by God. 
  • Shema Yisrael (“Hear, O’ Israel”) is the ultimate credo of every Jew and the essence of their inner relationship with God – a relationship that is based on listening.

Self-control relates to the principle of restriction; it is the ability to feel and notice without responding reactively.