I am posting a day early, and writing in memory of my father, Norman Block, Nachum ben Nachman HaLevi, on his Yahrzeit. Also, we are all thankful for calm in Israel.
This week’s parsha, V’Eschanan, begins with our review of many important laws already covered in the Torah. This review is why Devarim (Deuteronomy) is often called the Mishna Torah (Repetition of the Torah). This parsha includes such important things as the Ten Commandments and parts of the Shema.
The parsha also includes a touching moment. The Children of Israel have conquered the strong armies of Sihon and Og. Moses describes these victories as a show of God’s greatness and strong hand. Rashi explains God’s greatness refers to the attribute of God’s goodness, and God’s strong hand refers to God’s practice to temper strict judgment with mercy. Because of God’s goodness and mercy, Moses thinks this would a good time to ask God to reconsider the decree that Moses cannot enter the Land of Israel because of his sin in striking the rock in the Wilderness for water, instead of asking for water as God had told him.
But God’s decree has not changed, and answers Moses: “It is much for you. Do not continue to speak to Me any more about this matter.”
Rashi inteprets “It is much for you” not as a rebuke, but as announcing a gift – “More than this is in store for you in the World to Come”. (Rashi to Deuteronomy 3:26). God then tells Moses that, although he cannot enter the Land, he is to ascend to a cliff and will be given the power to see all of it.
Thus God comforts Moses, who longs to enter the Land but cannot.
The theme of this week’s haftorah is also one of comfort. Taken from Isaiah (40:1-46), the haftorah is the first of seven read during the Shabbats between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah, called the Seven of Consolation.
Tuesday was Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, on which many terrible things happened to us, including the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the Second Temple in 70 CE. On Tisha B’Av the custom is to fast and avoid pleasurable things. So, after this sadness, we are comforted each Shabbat for the next seven weeks by these readings. In fact, this week’s haftorah begins, Nachamu, nachamu – “Be comforted, be comforted.”
As we go through the weeks leading to Rosh Hashona, look for opportunities to comfort others, and be comforted yourself.
PS – You may have noticed that the names of both my father and grandfather, Nachum and Nachman, come from the same Hebrew root word we see in the haftorah, meaning “to comfort”. My Dad was known as a peacemaker in his community, and the fact of his passing midway between Tisha B’Av and the first Shabbat of Consolation is significant to me.
©2014 Nelson R. Block