There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Va’etchanan 3:23-7:11, aliyah by aliyah.
Aliyah 1: Deuteronomy 3:23-4:4
Deuteronomy 3:24 HaShem Elokim, you have begun to reveal your greatness to your servant, and your strong hand — for what other god is there in heaven or on earth that can do the works and mighty deeds that you do?
Do verses like this imply the existence of other gods? If so, what is the nature of those gods or they some type of demon or fallen angel?
Deuteronomy 3:25 Please! Let me go across and see the good land on the other side of the Yarden, that wonderful hill-country and the L’vanon!
Mohse’s longing to be in Israel is bitter-sweet
Deuteronomy 3:26 But HaShem was angry with me on account of you, and he didn’t listen to me. HaShem said to me, ‘Enough from you! Don’t say another word to me about this matter!
This is harsh. It feels like a fed up parent reacting to a persistent child.
Deuteronomy 3:27 Climb up to the top of Pisgah and look out to the west, north, south and east. Look with your eyes — but you will not go across this Yarden.
So Moshe got to see the Land, but he could not touch it or walk in it. Is there some hidden meaning to “you will not cross this Yarden?”
Deuteronomy 3:28 However, commission Y’hoshua, encourage him and strengthen him; for he will lead this people across and enable them to inherit the land that you will see.
HaShem focuses Moshe on the mission. Yes, it is sad that he won’t enter Israel, but that is much less important than HaShem fulfilling His promise to bring the entire Nation of Israel into the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 3:29 So we stayed in the valley across from Beit-P‘or.
Is that related to or near Ba’al-P’or? If so, why would they stay near such a tragic site?
Deuteronomy 4:1 Now, Isra’el, listen to the laws and rulings I am teaching you, in order to follow them, so that you will live; then you will go in and take possession of the land that HaShem, the G-d of your fathers, is giving you.
This sounds a bit like “the wages of sin is death” but I think it is actually saying that the “wages of obedience is life” because remaining faithful to HaShem is brings blessing and prosperity to the current generation of accountable Israel. Time and again, it is repeated that His promises will be fulfilled with physical Israel, the actual descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. As we saw with the original Exodus generation, their sin and disbelief got them all killed, but as that judgement came down, the assurance that their children would indeed inherit the Land of Israel was given.
Deuteronomy 4:2 In order to obey the mitzvot of HaShem your G-d which I am giving you, do not add to what I am saying, and do not subtract from it.
What does this mean? Should there be no so-called New Testament? Are the books of the Jewish Bible, outside of the 5 Books of Moses bad? Should they be cast away? Is this about the Oral Torah? Does the statement hinge on “obeying the commandments” or is it about something else?
Deuteronomy 4:3 You saw with your own eyes what HaShem did at Ba‘al-P‘or, that HaShem destroyed from among you all the men who followed Ba‘al-P‘or
Again, sin and disobedience are not the path to long life and prosperity in walking with HaShem.
Deuteronomy 4:4 but you who stuck with HaShem your G-d are still alive today, every one of you.
Again, faithfulness is a shield and source of salvation. Not only did the survivors not believe it was wrong to sin and engage in idolatry, they refused to participate in these activities. They were obedient because of their faith and lived as a result.
Aliyah 2: Deuteronomy 4:5-40
Deuteronomy 4:8 What great nation is there that has laws and rulings as just as this entire Torah which I am setting before you today?
How can believers reject the Torah and call it outdated, or lacking in some way? This is only one of many verses that lauds and elevated the laws, teachings and instructions HaShem gave to Israel.
Aliyah 3: Deuteronomy 4:41-49
Deuteronomy 4:45 these are the instructions, laws and rulings which Moshe presented to the people of Isra’el after they had come out of Egypt
Notice Israel is saved by the grace and love of HaShem and only afterwards given Torah and instructed to keep it. They never earned their salvation, it was always a gift.
Aliyah 4: Deuteronomy 5:1-18
Deuteronomy 5:1 Then Moshe called to all Isra’el and said to them, “Listen, Isra’el, to the laws and rulings which I am announcing in your hearing today, so that you will learn them and take care to obey them.
This is part of the reason there is a Divine conflation of the 10 Commandments and the Torah, or the entire Law. The 10 Commandments are the Torah, the Torah is the 10 Commandments.
Aliyah 5: Deuteronomy 5:19-6:3
Deuteronomy 5:30 You are to follow the entire way which HaShem your G-d has ordered you; so that you will live, things will go well with you, and you will live long in the land you are about to possess.
This feels to me like an an appeal to love and obey HaShem in order to have a more abundant life. The Torah is a blessing.
Aliyah 6: Deuteronomy 6:4-25
Deuteronomy 6:21 Then you will tell your child, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and HaShem brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand.
I love that the Torah has liturgy built into it. There is nothing wrong with having a formula or script to read from when engaging with HaShem. Keep your heart true and your intention focused and you can connect to HaShem and others by saying words that have been said millions of times by millions of people. The words are only empty and meaningless if you allow them to be, like saying “I love you” when you don’t mean it.
Aliyah 7: Deuteronomy 7:1-11
Deuteronomy 7:4 For he will turn your children away from following me in order to serve other gods. If this happens, the anger of HaShem will flare up against you, and he will quickly destroy you.
This is harsh, but fair. What do you expect will happen if you give your children over to another culture and faith? How will they stay true to the One True King if they accept or embrace the gods of others? You have to love HaShem more than you love other people and you have a duty to raise up a godly next generation who will cleave to HaShem with all their heart, mind , soul and strength.
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- Are there other gods?
- Is there another Jordan?
- Can the Law turn bad?
That concludes my journey through Va’etchanan for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.