Torah: Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11 Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26 Brit Chadashah: Matthew 23:31-39; 12:28-34
Vaetchanon is the Hebrew word for “pleaded” or “begged.” This refers to Moshe (Moses) pleading with G-d that He might allow him to enter the Promised Land. Some of the sages point out that this was likely because of the merit of destroying the two kings Og and Sichon. In the end, his plea for pardon was rejected. Although he was allowed to look into the Land, he was not allowed to enter in. In fact, the book of Deuteronomy is essentially the last 30 days or so of the life of Moshe as he prepares to die and encourage the people to keep the mitzvah (commands) of the L-RD.
There are many patterns that beg to be studied here in this parasha (portion.) Last year was a pretty exciting one where we looked at the pattern of “three” that repeated through chapter 6. This year we are looking at three things again. We will take a look at keeping, doing and teaching.
Deut 4:1, “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the L-RD G-d of your fathers is giving you.” (NKJV)
Moshe tells the people to listen to that which they have been taught. The obvious implication is that they are not just to hear what is being said, but to keep, adhere to, cling to these things that they may do them. Instruction without application leads to destruction!
Moses offers up evidence that this statement is true in that those who kept and “did” the mitzvah were the ones who had survived to take the Land.
Deut 4:5, “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the L-RD my G-d commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess.”
Moses declared that he taught the people that which he had been taught himself from G-d. He makes clear that the point of the teaching is that there would be “doing.”
We can then tie in the next verse from chapter 4 with the “Shema” in Deuteronomy six. Let’s look at them back to back.
Deuteronomy 4:9, “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Hear, O Israel: The L-RD our G-d, the L-RD [is] one! 5 “You shall love the L-RD your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This reinforcement of the hierarchy of teaching, so to speak, is clear. Moshe was taught by G- d and then he taught the people. Here we are being made fully aware that our job is first to be good students in that we hear it and learn it, but that we put into practice that which we have
been taught that we may experience G-d and His Way as fully as possible. It is in this experiential set of lessons that we then are filled up that we may pour out. Pour out into our children. This is a responsibility that we are to set about with diligence!
But wait there’s more! Remember what we discussed last year from this same parasha. What does it mean to teach our children? On the pashat (surface) level it means what it sounds like. If we have sons and daughters we teach them thoroughly the Word of the L-RD, i.e., Torah. We speak of it all the time fulfilling the mitzvah and instilling in them the firm foundation of the faith.
But we learned that beyond that we are to have “spiritual children.” It is well known and accepted in Judaism that the person who teaches you Torah is considered your spiritual father. We are not hearing and doing the commands of Torah to be part of some club. We are not learning and keeping them just so we can be good examples to our kids, although that is a good thing. The fact is that we all are required to have children spiritually speaking regardless of whether or not we have natural children! We are commanded to go and make disciples of all men! You can’t make disciples you are not first teaching.
Oh my! There is so much more to teach, but I believe I have given you enough to chew on for now. Next year, HaShem willing, we will pick up from here. Shalom!