June 4, 2020 ~ Shabbat NASO. Maqam SABA.

Shabbat Vaethanan - שבת ואתחנן



ולא שמע אלי - Moses presents an impassioned plea to God to allow him to enter the Promised Land. When his request is denied, Moses immediately continues (Deuteronomy 4:1) with the nation's preparation to enter the land by teaching them the laws (ועתה ישראל שמע אל החקים ואל המשפטים אשר אנכי מלמד אתכם לעשות). This episode teaches us that when we pray to the Almighty, we are required to accept the final outcome, whether good or bad, and should not feel discouraged by a rejection of the prayers. In addition, by continuing his role and not stepping down, Moses follows the adage from Abot 2:16 of "It is not incumbent upon one to finish the task, but neither is one absolved from it" (לא עליך המלאכה לגמור, ולא אתה בן חורין להבטל ממנה). Moses accepts that while it is not his destiny to complete the mission, nevertheless, he does not absolve himself from any leadership responsibilities of preparing the people. Beth Torah, August 5, 2017.


רק השמר לך ושמר נפשך מאד - After reviewing their history in the desert, Moses encourages the people to observe the laws in order “to live" better lives and “inherit the land.” From the instruction in Deuteronomy 4:9 to “safeguard yourself (רק השמר לך) and safeguard your soul more (ושמר נפשך מאד)," the biblical commentator Rabbi Shlomo Luntschitz (1550-1619), known as the Kli Yaqar (כלי יקר), learns that there is a commandment to maintain ones health. From the placement of "השמר לך" prior to "ושמר נפשך מאד," we learn that maintaining physical health (שמירת הגוף) is a prerequisite to maintaining mental and spiritual health (שמירת הנפש). Sometimes people have the tendency to engage in habits that harm their health (overeating, smoking, drugs, not exercising, dangerous sports). It is important to realize that striving for a healthier existence ultimately enables us to achieve our goals of observing the commandments and living better lives. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 28, 2018.


שמע ישראל ה׳ אלקינו ה׳ אחד - In the "Shema' Yisrael" verse (Deuteronomy 6:4), Masoretic scribal tradition indicates a large letter 'Ayin (ע) in the word Shema' (שמע), and a large Dalet (ד) in the word Ehad (אחד). One theory for the large letters is to emphasize preciseness in these specific words; so that one may not err and replace the 'Ayin of Shema' (hear) with a letter Aleph (שמא means "perhaps"). The same goes with the importance of precision for the letter Dalet (ד) in the word Ehad (one) and not to confuse it for a letter Resh (אחר means "another"). For this example, the importance of precision is clear. By an error of just one or two letters, the main principle of the Torah becomes corrupted. Instead of affirming "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone," it becomes "Perhaps O Israel, the Lord is our God; there is another God." The lesson from this is that details in the Torah can never be overlooked; for doing so will create major misinterpretations. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, August 17, 2019.