D’var Torah: Parashat Va’etchanan
In this week’s D’var Torah for Va’etchanan, the Chief Rabbi explains the enormous significance of repetition found in the Torah.
Why is there so much repetition in the Torah?
Time and again we find Mitzvot which are mentioned more than once. In fact if Hashem had mentioned each of the Mitzvot only once, the Torah would be far shorter.
What we find is that every time a Mitzvah is repeated, the presentation is slightly different. There is what we call, a ‘Chiddush’ – Something new. Something fresh to add a new dimension to the performance of that Mitzvah.
A fine example of this is in the first two paragraphs of the Shema. In Parashat Va’etchanan we read the first and in the following week’s Parasha of Eikev we read the second. We find that in these two Parshiot, various Mitzvot are repeated: to love Hashem, to study and to teach Torah, to wear Tefillin and the Mitzvah of Mezuzah. However, you will notice, there is a significant difference.
The first paragraph of the Shema is in the singular. “V’Ahavta – You in your own personal capacity should love Hashem.” “B’Shivtecha B’Veitecha – When you are in your home you should be studying and teaching Torah.” “Al Mezuzot Beitecha – Upon the doorposts of your house you should have a Mezuzah.” These same Mitzvot in the second paragraph of the Shema however, are all in the plural. The message is, that we have a dual responsibility.
One should love Hashem. And loving Hashem means that we should enable other people to appreciate how the love of Hashem can enhance their lives. Through my love of Hashem, I should be ‘Mekadesh Shem Shamayim,’ to sanctify God’s name by being known as a person, who has a connection with the Almighty, always to lead a responsible life. So wherever I go and whatever I do, I will be a fine ambassador for my Creator and my people.
With regard to the study of Torah for example, once I know how to appreciate the value of Torah in my life, I have the responsibility to ensure that formal and informal facilities for the study of Torah should be available to others. I should be supporting Jewish schools and all educational opportunities.
Similarly, with regard to Mezuzah. In Israel there are wonderful charities, knows as ‘Gemachs’, which lend out Mezuzot. You see, when we live in the diaspora, when you move into a new home, you are given a period of grace of thirty days until you have to have Mezuzot up on your doors. That is because you are a temporary resident in the home until then. It only becomes ‘Beitecha – Your home’, once you have lived there for a month.
However in Israel there no such thing as a Jewish person living there temporarily. Israel is our permanent home. Therefore, once you have moved into your new flat or home, in the midst of the tumult of all the suitcases and boxes, you have to have your Mezuzot up for the first night in which you are sleeping there. And therefore, there are wonderful charities that lend out Mezuzot. These charities are fulfilling the Mitzvah, in the second paragraph of the Shema, to enable others to perform the Mitzvah.
Therefore, from the two paragraphs of the Shema, we don’t only learn a lesson with regard to these specific Mitzvot, it is lesson about all of the Torah.
It is lesson for us throughout our lives. I live for myself but at the same time, I must also live for the Jewish people around me and for every single person on the face of the Earth.