We welcome a d’var Torah from Eagle Scout William Sherwin of Brookline, MA, Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 7 Dedham, MA.
This week, having ended three weeks of mourning the destruction of the First and Second Temples and many other evil things that happened on Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), we read Parshat Va’Etchanan. It gives us hope that God’s promises will be fulfilled.
The parsha begins with Moses asking God to reverse the decree that he cannot enter the Land of Israel. God refuses, and tells Moses he will be able to glimpse the Land from the mountain on which he will die. God forbids Moses from bringing up the matter ever again. Moses must have been crushed by this; after all, he spent the last third of his life leading an often-ungrateful Children of Israel from the confines of Egypt, through complaints and rebellion, to the border of the Land only to be turned back for decades. Now Moses was denied that which he wanted most: to enter the Holy Land.
What Moses does next, though, defined his life and who he was, and is why we continually look up to him. Instead of abandoning God as unmerciful, he begins a lengthy review of the Mitzvot, repeating some and introducing others, and reminding Israelites of their obligations to God. Rather than forsaking the Mitzvot, he reminds us that we “shall observe His decrees and His commandments … for all the days.” Moses teaches us the prayer we recite every morning and evening, the Shema, and repeats the Ten Commandments.
In times of trouble, we must remember Moses’ incredible lesson of faith and humility. We must remember that “The Lord is our God; the Lord God is [the] One [and Only].” We must “guard the Shabbat and keep it holy”. We must steadfastly “honor [our] father and [our] mother“. Though we live amongst other nations, we must not follow after false gods. We may be prosperous in our lands, but we must never forget the One Who grants us our prosperity.
Though answers to our prayers may be delayed, we must remain true to ourselves and thus remain true to God. Just as God is the One “Who took [us] out of Egypt, out of the House of Slavery,” God will redeem us from our current exile. This year, we sat on the floor in mourning on Tisha B’Av and read the Book of Lamentations. Next year, may God bless us to spend Tisha B’Av celebrating the Ultimate Redemption and dancing, with all generations, in the streets of Jerusalem.