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BITESIZE TORAH – RABBI LIONEL ROSENFELD

Shabbat Nachamu – the Sabbath of Consolation
by Rabbi Berel Wein 
 

This week’s parsha of Va’etchanan  begins the seven-week period of consolation and condolence that bridges the time space between Tisha b’Av and Rosh Hashana. In order to properly prepare for the oncoming year and its challenges one must first be comforted by the vision of better times ahead and the belief in one’s ability to somehow overcome those omnipresent challenges. Healing occurs when one believes that there is yet a future ahead. And this year with its devastating pandemic we have to believe  that things will improve sooner rather than later. All medical doctors agree that hope and optimism on the part of the patient are great aids in the process of recovery.

Throughout the book of D’varim, Moses shows his pain at not being allowed to enter the Land of Israel, but he is strengthened and even somewhat consoled by his vision of his student and loyal disciple, Joshua, succeeding him in the leadership of Israel, and in his firm conviction that the people will successfully conquer and settle the Land of Israel.

The parsha also deals with the Ten Commandments of Sinai. The repetition of the 10 Commandments, which seem to have been  adequately covered the first time in the Book of Shemot, teaches us an important lesson, which again may serve to be a source of consolation to us. The “first” Ten Commandments was given at the beginning of the Jewish sojourn in the desert of Sinai. There was no Golden Calf, no complaints about the Manna, no spies, no Korach, no plagues of snakes – nothing had yet occurred to diminish the light and aura of Sinai. Well, in such a perfect society there is no reason not to recognize the values and laws of the Ten Commandments as being valid and even necessary in practice. But now Moshe stands forty years later, after all of the disappointments and rebellions, the backsliding and the pettiness, the death of an entire generation, and reassures us in the “second” Ten Commandments that all of those values and rules have not changed at all. The lesson of the immutability of Torah and Halacha is thereby engraved upon the Jewish heart and mind.

Many things have happened to the Jewish people since Moshe’s speech before his death. Many have mistakenly thought that all of the changes in technology, economies, world orders, have made the Ten Commandments, Torah and Halacha somehow less relevant. Moshe stands and speaks to us to remind us that the basic anchor of Jewish life and in fact of all world civilization lies in those words of Sinai. Everything has changed, but human beings have not changed. And neither then have G-d’s instructions for us. 

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