Va’etchanan ~ Sh’ma redux
People often talk about Deuteronomy as the “laws” book, and there is a lot of that. But Leviticus is all about rules too. In fact, much of the Torah is really two strands, the historical saga and the rules. These are always intertwined.
Va’etchanan – pleading. As with other parshat, it comes from the beginning of the portion where Moses tells of how he pleaded with G-d to be allowed to enter the promised land, to be told no. He is only to see it from a mountaintop. The notion of pleading with G-d is interesting. How often have you tried to bargain with your G-d, for relief from a behavior, redemption from a wrong, freedom from an addiction, life or peace for a suffering loved one? Just as Moses was told no, so I think are we; I just don’t think it works that way. I struggle to pray for grace, dignity, courage, strength, serenity and love and for the same for those I love. The G-d I understand is more likely to help me to find those things than to grant specific wishes. As usual, however, I digress.
I learned something new last week, because I am a Torah rookie. The Sh’ma has more verses than we normally presume, one of which is the v’ahavta prayer. In this Torah portion the Sh’ma in all its glory and verses is repeated by Moses as an exhortation to the people. What it is, really, is another “pleading” to retell our story, to remember the rules that make us Jews, to remind ourselves and our children in our homes and all the time what we believe. As with so much in the Torah and our tradition, we are ever reminded of where we came from, we are encouraged to cry “never again”, we are instructed to teach our children well.
Whether you take a literal view of the Torah, or, like me and many reform Jews, a more expansive and interpretive view, everything you need to know about living in the world at peace and without anarchy, is contained here. As is, again, our central prayer, the verse that binds all Jews, everywhere, of every kind, together. And so we should plead with G-d for that, for a world in unity, at peace and without anarchy. Isn’t that a vision of the world redeemed some day? And why we pour a glass for Elijah, on the off chance. Shabbat Shalom