Shabbat Table Talk

Parashat Ve’ Etchanan—Erev Shabbat August 04, 2017

20 July - 05 of August

Torah portion: Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11   Haftarah:  Isaiah 40:1 – 40:26




In Parashah Va-etchanan Moses addresses the nation and gives a summary of the history of their special relationship with God. This relationship is defined by the belief that there is but ONE God, Creator of all and that He has given them Torah as the mechanism that binds the people to Him. This Torah provides the nation with the information they require to be a holy nation. Torah is to be studied diligently and transmitted faithfully to successive generations so that they will learn to revere the Lord and to ensure their continued presence in the Promised Land.


God has chosen the Israelites to be His treasured people. He has given laws and rules to live by that will set them apart and distinguish them from all other nations. They will be regarded as a wise and discerning people if they follow them faithfully; a nation whose G-d lives in their midst. “For what great nation is there that has a god so close at hand as is the Lord our God whenever we call upon Him? Or what great nation has laws and rules as perfect as all this Teaching I set before you today” (Deut. 4:7-8)


Remembrance is a vital key for the Israelites to maintain their intimate relationship with God; He has been their protector, defender and deliverer. They are to recount that journey and include how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt, their encounter with Him at the mountain with the Voice, smoke and fire, the 10 Commandments, and their journey through the desert with the cloud by day and fire by night.


Their failures are also important to recount, it was Moses’ failure to credit the Lord with the water from the rock that prevented him from entering the Promised Land; this teaches no one is exempt from the law, especially a leader. “Because you did not trust me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them”. (Num. 20:12)


The Israelites are reminded numerous times to recall their slavery in Egypt. What is the significance of their “remembering” such a bleak time in their history? Why is it so important? Could it be that their long period of suffering in Egypt, where they experienced every kind hardship, servitude, enslavement, and injustice has developed within them the characteristics of understanding, compassion, and mercy; attributes ascribed to God. After all that suffering they had not forgotten WHO it was who could save them – their ONE true God. It was God they cried out to.


They are to teach future generations in such a manner that each person internalizes the laws and rules as well as their history and makes them a part of their very essence. “He who teaches his grandson is as if he received his teaching from Mount Sinai.” Kiddushin, 30. “If thou hast learned much Torah do not hold fast to it thyself but teach it to others, for thereunto wast thou created.” (Avot 2:8 according to the explanation of Rabbi A. Hayman)


For Reflection and Discussion: [1] What has been the result of periods of suffering in our development? [2] Have they effected positive changes in empathy and understanding?


Bibliography:  JTS Hebrew-English Tanakh; Newman, (selected and edited by) in collaboration with Samuel Spitz, The Talmudic Anthology - Tales and Teachings of the Rabbis, (New York, 1962); Plaut, The Torah: A Modern Commentary, (New York, 1981); “Covenant and Conversation Parashat V’etchanan” Lord Jonathan  Sacks,


This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by

Gwen-Ellen Dankewich, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  Bat Kol alumna, 2008

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