For the week ending 28 July 2007 / 13 Av 5767

Parshat Va'etchanan

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Although Moshe is content that Yehoshua will lead the nation, Moshe nevertheless prays to enter the Land of Israel in order to fulfill its special mitzvot. Hashem refuses. Moshe reminds Bnei Yisrael of the gathering at Sinai when they received the Torah that they saw no visual representation of the Divine, but only the sound of words. Moshe impresses on Bnei Yisrael that the Sinai revelation took place before an entire nation, not to a select elite, and that only the Jews will ever claim that Hashem spoke to their entire nation. Moshe specifically enjoins Bnei Yisrael to "pass over" the Sinai event to their children throughout all generations.

Moshe predicts, accurately, that when Bnei Yisrael dwell in Eretz Yisrael they will sin and be scattered among all the peoples. They will stay few in number but will eventually return to Hashem.

Moshe designates three "refuge cities" to which an inadvertent killer may flee. Moshe repeats the 10 Commandments and then teaches the Shema, the central credo of Judaism, that there is only One G-d. Moshe warns the people not to succumb to materialism and thus forget their purpose as a spiritual nation. The parsha ends with Moshe exhorting Bnei Yisrael not to intermarry when they enter Eretz Yisrael, as they cannot be a treasured and holy nation if they intermarry, and they will become indistinguishable from the other nations.


How to win people and influence friends

“My L-rd, G-d, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness…” (3:23)

After the Second World War, there was a certain town in which most of the brides were orphaned during the holocaust. The townspeople decided to bring in a famous and gifted lecturer to inspire the young brides with the importance of family purity.

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, zatzal, told them that this was not the right way to achieve their purpose: He pointed out that those who were currently uninterested in family purity would be the least likely to attend; the speaker would end up “preaching only to the converted”.

Instead, he suggested that they use the money to start a bridal fund to assist young brides with their wedding expenses, and through this kindness the brides would be receptive to the message of family purity.

The people of the town disagreed with Rabbi Wolbe and so he went to the Gadol Hador, the Chazon Ish who concurred with his advice.

“My L-rd, G-d, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness…”

This week’s parsha starts with Moshe imploring G-d to let him enter the Land of Israel. Ostensibly, why should Moshe appeal to G-d’s greatness when asking for his request to be granted? Wouldn’t it have been better to appeal to G-d’s kindness? Rashi explains that G-d’s greatness is expressed by His kindness.

Man is created in G-d’s image, meaning that just as G-d is kind, so we must be kind; and just as His greatness is expressed through kindness, so will be ours.

True greatness is kindness.

Avraham Avinu was the first person to recognize G-d in the world. In the silent prayer, G-d’s greatness is linked to Him being “the G-d of Avraham.” Avraham is also the personification of kindness. It was through Avraham’s belief in G-d, that he realized the greatness of kindness. At that time, the prevalent view of the idol worshippers was that even if there was a god, he was far too lofty to be bothered or be interested in this world and its happenings.

Avraham established an inn where he cared for his guests in every conceivable way. He influenced the world to believe in G-d, not by logical proofs or lectures but by demonstrating through his own example that G-d’s kindness extends down through all the worlds to this, the lowliest.

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