Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Parshat VaEtchanan

Despair and Hope

The Torah reading for Tisha Be’Av appears in this week’s parsha, which is apt, as the fast always falls in the week of VaEtchanan.

Like many of the kinot we read on Tisha Be’Av, the reading begins with despair and gloom but ends with hope.

“I call as witness against you this very day the heaven and the earth, that you will speedily and utterly perish from the land to which you cross the Jordan, to possess; you will not prolong your days upon it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will remain few in number among the nations to where the Lord will lead you” (Devarim 4:26-27).

The events of these pesukim seem terrifying and final, yet they do not signal the end of the Jewish people and nor do they even signal the Jewish people’s distance from God. On the contrary, they signal the restoration of that relationship.

“There you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are distressed, and all these things happen upon you in the end of days, then you will return to the Lord your God and obey Him” (ibid 29-30).

Furthermore, “He will not let you loose or destroy you; neither will He forget the covenant of your fathers, which He swore to them” (ibid 31).

The Jewish people will return to its historic homeland.

To amplify this point, Moshe brings evidence from the events of his day: “Has any god performed miracles to come and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation…as all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt” (ibid 33).

Moshe states that just as God brought the exiled Hebrews from Egypt to Canaan in the past, He would do so again in the future.

Our generation has been fortunate to witness that restoration and can take comfort in these difficult days of war in Israel’s northern (and south west) border that God does control our destiny and that He will always remember the covenant with the Patriarchs.
Nevertheless, even though the covenant with our ancestors is unconditional, the Jewish people must never forget that its claim to Eretz Yisrael is dependent upon its loyalty to God. The threat issued to a complacent generation, in passuk 25, still applies today. The Jewish people will be safe in its land if we “seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (ibid 29).


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