Va’etchanan 5781 – And I Pleaded

By: Larry Tobin

Parshat Vaetchanan. What an incredible Parsha. My bar Mitzvah Parsha. Okay, that’s not what makes it so incredible. But it was incredible to me to have the opportunity to chant this entire Parsha to a congregation so many years ago.

Vaetchanan means “and I pleaded”. Moses pleaded to G-d to be able to enter the promised land. But He refused the request. G-d instead only allowed Moses to look down on the promised land from a mountain top. Look, but don’t touch. I also pleaded to G-d so many years ago to be allowed to become an integral part of my people, the Jewish people. Isn’t that what Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are all about? Unlike Moses, my request was granted.

G-d instructed Moses to select Joshua to lead the B’nai Yisroel forward and to ready him for the task. Moses was then told to make his farewell speech to the children of Israel as his time to die had come.

Moses repeated the Ten Commandments and cautioned the B’nai Yisroel to observe them carefully and faithfully in their new land. He recited to them some prayers which have become a significant part of our liturgy; namely, the Shema and the Ve’ahavta (love of G-d). He taught them the mitzvot of Tefillin and Mezuzah. He described their future and told them that they would abandon G-d, but that G-d would not abandon them. Please note how nicely this corresponds to today’s Haftorah, Nachamu, wherein Isaiah comforts the B’nai Yisroel following the destruction of Jerusalem. He similarly notes that although they had abandoned G-d, He will not abandon them. How fitting that Parsha Vaetcahanan and Haftorah Nachamu always follow immediately after Tisha B’Av.

On the other hand, how ironic that we would read about Moshe’s unsuccessful pleadings on the Sabbath of Consolation. This leads to the inevitable question: Did Moses get screwed? The man who gave so much and asked so little for himself is now denied his dream. But notice how Moses reacted. And especially in light of the fact that Moses had just learned of his imminent death. No complaint. Just got back to business. Taught the people. Blessed the people. Praised G-d. Cautioned the people to believe in G-d. Love G-d. Fear G-d. Have faith in G-d.

What an amazing man! What an amazing Parsha! And what an amazing lesson on how to conduct oneself during times of heartache and disappointment!

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