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Passing on the Tradition

Tuesday, 2 May, 2017 - 4:54 pm

 Published 5/2/17

Shabbat Parsahat: VaEschanan:
Deuteronomy 3;22-23- 7;11
Shabbat Nachamu 2013:
Shabbos of Consolation after the 9th of Av – the day the 2 Temples were destroyed
by Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht
A rich man by the name of Abe, having confidence in his son, gave him all his property in his lifetime. After
a while, the son began to neglect his father, ill treating him and eventually sending him away to be among
the beggars.
One day the old, once rich man, clad in tatters, met his grandson and asked him to beg his father to let him
have a mantle to cover himself, as it was so cold. After much begging, the father sent his son up to the loft
to fetch a certain mantle which was hanging on a hook. While in the loft, the boy Jake took the mantle
down cut it in half.
The father, Isaac, was wondering what the boy Jake was doing all that time, went to find out. The son Jake
told him that he was busy cutting the mantle in half, one half he was going to give grandpa and the other
half I will keep for you dad, for when you get old.
The father Isaac was greatly surprised at this reply and recognizing the wickedness of his action, took his
father back and treated him honorably.
In this weeks Torah Portion we read one of the most fundamental passages in the Torah and in Jewish
life, this being the Shema Prayer. שְׁמַע, יִשְׁרָאֵל: יְׁהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְׁהוָה אֶחָד - Hear, O Israel: the
LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deuteronomy 6,4). The question that comes to mind
on this classic statement of faith and proclamation of acceptance of the oneness of G-d is why
do we need to say a public proclamation “Hear or Israel”? This prayer is a prayer of one’s
individual acceptance of G-d and affirmation of G-dliness in the world
Why is it necessary for
one to proclaim it; in a plural sense, and for the masses, hence the pre fix “Hear oh Israel”,
when once could simply:” The Lord our G-d is one”?
Perhaps to address this question we turn to an earlier part of this weeks portion, (Deuteronomy 4;6) - where another awesome statement and proclamation of G-d to the
Jewish people is written and which reads as follows: וּשְׁמַרְׁתֶם, וַעֲשִיתֶם--כִי הִוא חָכְׁמַתְׁכֶם
וּבִינַתְׁכֶם, לְׁעֵינֵי הָעַמִים: אֲשֶר יִשְׁמְׁעוּן, אֵת כָל-הַחֻקִים הָאֵלֶה, וְׁאָמְׁרוּ רַק עַם-חָכָם וְׁנָבוֹן, הַגּוֹי
הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶה. - Observe therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that, when they hear all these statutes, shall say: 'Surely this great
nation is a wise and understanding people.
כִי מִי-גוֹי גָּדוֹל, אֲשֶר-לוֹ אֱלֹהִים קְׁרֹבִים אֵ ליו, כַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, בְׁכָל-קָרְׁאֵנוּ אֵלָיו.'
For what great nation is there that has God so close to them, as the LORD our God is always there
when we call upon Him?!
וּמִי גּוֹי גָּדוֹל, אֲשֶר-לוֹ חֻקִים וּמִשְׁפָטִים צַדִיקִם, כְׁכֹל הַתוֹרָה הַזֹאת, אֲשֶר אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְׁנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם.
- And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law,
which I set before you this day?
רַק הִשָמֶר לְׁךָ וּשְׁמֹר נַפְׁשְׁךָ מְׁאֹד, פֶן-תִשְׁכַח אֶת-הַדְׁ ברִים אֲשֶר-רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ וּפֶן-יָסוּרוּ מִלְׁבָבְׁךָ, כֹל,
יְׁמֵי חַיֶּיךָ; וְׁהוֹדַעְׁתָם לְׁבָנֶיךָ, וְׁלִבְׁנֵי בָנֶיךָ. - Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul
diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes saw, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of thy life; but make them known unto thy children and thy children's children.
After reading these four passages, what we get is quite clear and simple. G-d is close to us, He cherishes us, and all he asks of us is that we ourselves should not ruin it. By requesting that we
keep the moral values and ethics of the Torah, teach it to our children and grandchildren for all time.
This past week I returned from an outstanding most miraculous trip to Israel with Birthright- Maynot sponsoring the trip1. There were 40 fellow American Jews between the ages of 20 and
28 as well as five Israeli soldiers, some of the sweetest and most amazing unique, intelligent and beautiful people.
Many of my fellow Birthrighters may never have celebrated Shabbat in their lives. Some never had a Bar/ Bat mitzvah and others never had a Jewish/ Hebrew name – now they do.
One can argue “how can I, a Rabbi, A 7th generation New Yorker a practicing and devout Jew, an educated Jew, 3rd Generation Rabbi relate and connect and love each and everyone of these
precious souls – the differences are so great? The gap is so wide. The level of practice is oh so
The answer my friends is, “how can I not”?!
Our greatest blessing and our greatest intrinsic G-d given value is our collectiveness and unity as a people! If we can’t love each other withstanding our differences, our many and even
fundamental differences then we fail at being a nation under G-d! We fail to remember our ancestors and ultimately we fail our future and our next generation – our children and our
children’s children.
1 Birthright, one of the greatest programs in the Jewish world; with more than 330,000 participants to date. From the Torah portion this morning, we glean a clear directive - in turn G-d is saying we are all
great, we are all special and close to him – as a nation.
With this thought in mind we can answer our earlier question: the reason why we too proclaim G-d’s existence and oneness in the world in the plural even when we pray alone in the singular
is because, everyone see’s G-d in a different way, depending on his wisdom, nature and experiences in life. Some are more afraid of G-d, others are enthused by His mercy, others
focus on His glory, and some others on the cosmos.
What ultimately connects us to G-d is our nationhood and unity as a nation, as brothers and sisters united under one roof – keeping the family heritage and lineage alive and vibrant for the
next generation, and for all time – regardless of our differences and withstanding our differences. If we become disoriented and confused and we forget our unity and nationhood, we forget our morals and our ethics then we in turn lose what makes us so special and close to
G-d. As I always say, as I was always taught, “we in turn are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.”
Considering all the differences between us, it is still but One and the same G-d. Hence the proclamation in the collective.
Today’s Haftorah, the portion which we read from the Prophets and this is morning from
Isaiah2: The Malbim,3expounds and he explains with such love and sensitivity: Why does the
prophet say twice the word Nachamu – may you be consoled? And he explains, we as a nation
have sinned, our temples have been destroyed and now we are in the Diaspora, yet, we are
promised that we will be redeemed, and this will happened for us in one of two ways. Either we
will be punished and reprimanded for our sins and ultimately Moshiach will come because of
our merits, and maybe even earlier then pre planned or, plan B: Moshiach will come any way,
regardless of punishment or our merits – because this is the Divine plan. Nachamu- we will be
consoled on merits or Nachmu – we will be consoled – even without merits.
What the Malbim is ultimately saying is we are all destined for greatness and salvation and redemption into an era of pure good and bliss for all mankind, the question is how do we get there?
2 Chapter 40
3 Meïr Leibush ben Jehiel Michel Wisser, March 7, 1809 – September 18, 1879, served as Rabbi and spiritual leader in Volochysk
- Volhynia, Kherson, Mogilev, Dnieper, Konigsberg, & Chief Rabbi of Bucharest –Romania. His writings, a wide-ranging,
comprehensive commentary that infuses traditional Hebrew linguistic, philosophical, and mystical learning with
contemporary concepts from science, psychology, epistemology, logic, and metaphysics became classically accepted
& authoritative commentary to the Chumash – the Bible found in most unabridged versions of the Chumashim today.
Are we going to give our grand dads a cut in half mantle, or are we going to make them proud
with a well earned and deserved home and dwelling place to keep the heritage and the dynasty
I am a Jew and I am Shema Yisroel. I am a Jew and I am the nation of Israel. I am a Jew and I
love every Jew because they have an intrinsic connection to G-d. When I love a jew I am loving
G-d. I am a Jew with an intrinsic connection to the Land of Israel. I am Jew and I believe in a
better Era for all mankind – may we merit to see the day indeed where all Jews will return to
the Land Of Israel in peace and harmony, and to see the Temple be rebuilt on Temple mount
with the full service G-dliness that once existed, may it be a reality for all of us today. Amen.
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