By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
Torah Reading: VO-ESCHANAN, Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11.
Haftara: Isaiah 40:1-26.
“AND I TRIED TO INGRATIATE MYSELF.”
In the opening word of our PARSHAH of VO-ESCHANAN, Moses tells how “I tried to ingratiate myself” with G-d — elicit His favor — praying repeatedly to be allowed enter the land of Israel, “Eretz HaTzvi”, the “Land of Beauty, the graceful gazelle”, and come to the place of the Holy Temple. The Midrash teaches that in order to try to revoke the decree against his entry to the land, Moses prayed no less than 515 prayers — corresponding to the gematria (numerical value) of the word VO-ESCHANAN. The root of this word is CHEN, meaning the “grace” that is bestowed by G-d as a gift of pure love and kindness. The grammatical form of the word is HISPA’EL – reflexive: the person praying must WORK on himself or herself in order to become open to that gift. The parshah is a call to us to the inner work that must be combined with our Torah study: the work in our heart and soul to open ourselves to G-d’s grace — through meditation, contemplation, prayer and refinement of our traits. We must try and try again and again!!!
(The meaning of CHEN, and how to receive the shine of G-d’s wisdom and grace in our hearts, is fully explored in the opening teaching of Rabbi Nachman’s Likutey Moharan.
Parshas VO-ESCHANAN, is always read on this, the Shabbat of comfort after the fast of Tisha B’Av — SHABBOS NACHAMU (so-called after the opening words of the Haftara). Having mourned past destruction and ruin on Tisha Be’Av, it is now time to put the past behind us. We must bind up our wounds and embark on the work of rebuilding and reconstruction during the coming days of Teshuvah in the months of Av and Elul, leading up to the New Year and Days of Awe. To initiate this period, many Bnei Torah have the custom of taking trips away from the city in order to able to broaden their horizons, gaze at the sky, the hills, the sea and G-d’s other wonders for the sake of physical and spiritual reinvigoration.
Parshas VO-ESCHANAN provides us with spiritual sustenance for this reinvigoration process, giving us the very foundations of our faith in the One, Unified, Incorporeal G-d. In some of the most sublime passages in the Bible, Moses evokes the awesome greatness of G-d, the greatness of Israel, His chosen people, the preciousness of the Land of Israel, and the love and fear of G-d. Moses takes us again through the fearsomeness of the Giving of the Torah, and teaches us our basic declaration of faith, repeated twice daily: SHEMA YISRAEL, HASHEM ELOKENU HASHEM ECHAD. Many other phrases from our present parshah are also incorporated into the regular set prayers in the Siddur.