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1. How is it possible to 'cling' to G-d (4:4), according to the Talmud (Ketuvot 111b)?
2. How, according to Rabbeinu Bachya, would Israel's following Torah teachings convince other nations that the Israelites themselves are 'a great nation of wise and discerning people'? (4:6)
3. Why does Moses recall the spectacular Revelation at Mount Sinai within his warning of exile if the Israelites turned to paganism - according to (a) the Ramban and (b) the S'forno?
4. What is the 'teaching (Torah) that Moses placed before the Israelites' (4:44), according to Rashi?
5. What is the difference, within the commandment to observe the Shabbat, between 'Zachor' (Remember the Sabbath Day - Ex. 20:8) and 'Shamor' (Guard the Sabbath Day - 5:12) - according to the Maharal?
6. What is the difference between 'lo tachmod' (Do not covet) and 'lo titaveh' (Do not consume oneself with desire - 5:18)) - according to the Ramban?
7. What is the meaning of 'Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad' (6:4), according to Rashi?
8. What is the significance of the word 'hayom' (today) in Moses' declaration that what G-d 'commands you today should be on your heart' (4:6), according to Rashi?
9. Did the prohibition of the Israelites 'not making a covenant or showing favor' (7:2) to the Seven Canaanite Nations apply in all circumstances, according to the Rambam?
10. How, according to Rashi, does G-d 'not delay to repay His enemy in his lifetime', (7:10) according to Rashi?
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT VA-ETCHANAN
1. According to the Talmud (Ketuvot 111b), one 'clings to G-d' by revering and supporting Torah scholars.
2. According to Rabbeinu Bachya, Israel's following Torah teachings will impress the Nations for the following reason. The wisdom inherent in the Torah that appeals to human reason will convince intellectually honest people that there is also great Divine wisdom within those parts of Torah practice that are not reached by human reason.
3. Moses recalled the spectacular Revelation at Mount Sinai within his warning of exile should the Israelites turn to paganism for the following reasons: (a) According to the Ramban, this was recalled to explain why G-d should punish the Israelites so harshly - a nation which had its roots in such a high degree of spiritual benevolence deserved to be punished for turning its back in such a manner. (b) According to the S'forno, it was included to comfort the Israelites at their time of future distress. This implied how G-d wished to establish a special relationship with His people, and He would never abandon them permanently.
4. This is the Ten Commandments. [In addition, Rashi to Ex. 24:12 follows Saadia Gaon, who develops the theme that each one of the 613 Mitzvot comes under the heading of one of the Ten Commandments.]
5. 'Shamor' means avoiding transgressing Shabbat through forbidden activities - 'melacha'. 'Zachor' means positively observing Shabbat though activities promoting its true spirit - prayer, festive meals, Kiddush, learning Torah…
6. According to the Ramban, 'lo tachmod' (Do not covet), is taking action to obtain property belonging to another - such as the use of duress or undue influence to sell. 'Lo titaveh' (Do not consume oneself with desire - 5:18) involves a person becoming obsessed with wanting something which he knows he will never get.
7. 'Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad' means according to Rashi, that the Almighty, who the Israelites recognize (our G-d) will eventually be recognized by all humanity - as One.
8. 'Hayom' (today) means that the Torah should be seen each day as something new. As the Stone Artscroll edition explains (following Rashi), if one makes the effort, one can always find stimulation and challenge in the Torah and commandments, and this is the way to guarantee that Torah observance will not become a routine and uninspiring habit.
9. According to the Rambam (Hil. Avodah Zarah 10:1), this prohibition does not apply if the Canaanites choose to renounce paganism and keep the Seven Noachite laws binding on all humanity.
10. G-d's 'not delaying to repay His enemy in his lifetime', refers to His letting the wicked enjoy properity in this world, rather than in Eternal Life, for the few good deeds that they did perform.
ADDITIONAL QUESTION ON PARASHAT VA-ETCHANAN.
'G-d commanded us to perform all these statutes… for our own good… and it will be [tzedaka] a merit for us if we are careful to perform all the commandment(s) before L-rd our G-d as He commanded us' (6:24-5).
This emphasis on 'all the commandments(s)' - means the entire body of Torah Law in the Ten Commandments, which breaks down into the 613 Mitzvot. The above passage seems to imply that the whole body of Torah observance only has merit if observed in utmost fullness.
This would seem to contradict the text containing several Mitzvot for whose observance the Torah promises Divine reward - without reference to all the Mitzvot. For example, the Torah tells us to honor parents 'so that your life may be lengthened and so that it will be good with you' (5:16). It does not say that one has to keep all the other Mitzvot as well in order to merit this Divine reward. How may these sources be reconciled with each other?
My attempts to answer the above may be found on the Shema Yisrael website under Va-etchanan 5762
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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