Vaetchanan 5779 – Oy Such a Wonderful Parasha

By: Larry Tobin

Va’eschanan means and I pled. Who pled and to whom? Pled for what? What was the result? Before I delve further into this, allow me to briefly discuss a matter of interest. It is stated in a Midrash that Moshe offered 515 prayers to Hashem to beg to be allowed to enter the Promised Land. You may be aware that each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value assigned to it.  Aleph has the value 1. The numbering system assigns 1-9 to the first nine letters, 10-90 by tens to the next nine letters and 100-400 by hundreds to the last four letters. The numerical value of Va’eschanan is 515. Another word having a numerical value of 515 is tefillah which means prayer. Coincidence? When the name of  G-d having the numerical value of 26 is added to 515, the end result is 541. This is precisely the numerical value of Yisroel. This is particularly intriguing since the opening of the Parsha reflects that Moshe pled to G-d to be allowed to enter the Promised Land. No need to delve further into my opening questions since they have all now been answered. This marvelous Parsha does not end here.

Contained within the Parsha are found the V’ahavta and Shema paragraphs. Also, we find the Ten Commandments. Moshe implores the people to follow the commandments and remember that G-d brought them out of the land of Egypt. Make certain, he cautions, that you teach your children and grandchildren to understand these concepts. He notes that G-d got angry with him as a result of actions that he (Moshe) took on their behalf. He would not, as a consequence, be allowed to enter the Promised Land. He informs everyone that he appoints Joshua to lead them into Canaan.

One of the most powerful statements found in the Parsha reflects that one must safeguard the commandments given by Hashem by neither adding nor subtracting from them. Now, I can certainly appreciate that subtracting from the Commandments should be a no-no. But what’s the harm in doing more than is required? Consider the following story related by Rabbi Yonasan Eybeschutz. He told of someone who suffered from stomach pain. The man went to his doctor seeking relief and the doctor prescribed some medicine. The doctor instructed the man to take one teaspoon in the morning and one at night. The man was so overjoyed he would soon be healed that he gulped down the entire bottle. Needless to say, the man became seriously ill after this foolhardy lack of good judgment. Rabbi Eybeschutz concluded that just as a patient must understand to take only that amount of medicine prescribed by his doctor, so too must we understand not to add or subtract from the mitzvot that Hashem commands us.

Another wonderful story is from the Dubno Maggid. He explains the statement from a different perspective. He told of an individual who asked his neighbor to borrow a spoon. The next day he returned the spoon together with an additional small spoon. The neighbor asked why two spoons were being returned. The man explained that the loaned spoon was pregnant and gave birth to the little spoon. Although the neighbor truly believed that the man was unstable, he nevertheless accepted the two spoons without further comment. A few days later the man asked his neighbor to borrow a cup. The neighbor eagerly consented. The man returned the next day with two cups claiming that the cup was pregnant and had given birth to the second cup. The neighbor was all too anxious to lend the man a pair of silver candlesticks. Several days passed and the man did not return with the candlesticks. The neighbor asked the man what happened to his candlesticks. The man, with a sorrowful look on his face, responded that unfortunately the candlesticks died. The neighbor complained that no one ever heard of candlesticks passing away. The man responded, “Who ever heard of a pregnant spoon or cup?”  Thus, cautioned the Dubno Maggid, just like borrowing requires precision so too does the observance of mitzvot.

Yes, such a wonderful Parsha.

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