Two Paths of Teshuvah

Two Paths of Teshuvah

Jul 20, 2002 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Va'et-hannan | Tishah Be'av

This week marks the commemoration of great national calamities in Jewish history. The Torah reading for the morning of Tisha B’Av is a selection from this week’s Torah portion (Deuteronomy 4:25–40). This reading highlights an important aspect of our spiritual response to tragedy.

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Teaching Our Children

Teaching Our Children

Jul 20, 2002 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

The words of the first paragraph of the sh’ma, taken from this week’s parashah va–ethannan, are among the most important in all of Jewish liturgy and learning — the closest thing we have to a catechism. The words of Deuteronomy 6:4–9 proclaim the unity of God and declare the deepest commitment of faith. They mark the doorposts of the Jewish home, they are recited morning and evening and they were the last words of martyrs in many generations.

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Our Nature Is to Be with God

Our Nature Is to Be with God

Aug 9, 2000 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

Parashat Vaet’hanan comes in the aftermath of Tisha B’Av, the fast in which we commemorate the destruction of both the First and Second Temples and other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people. The theme of our asceticism on this day is not only mourning, but more importantly a spur to teshuvah, repentance. This week’s parashah informs our understanding of calamity and its relation to teshuvah. Moses warns the Israelites, “take care, then, not to forget the covenant that the Lord your God conc

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Moses and the Code of the Samurai

Moses and the Code of the Samurai

Aug 4, 2001 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

The code of the samurai is strict. A warrior who fails his lord is expected to perform seppuku, a ritual suicide better known outside Japan as hara-kiri. His death is atonement for the dishonor that his failure has caused. In modern Japan, this ultimate sacrifice is rarely offered, but personal accountability for failure remains a virtue. However, in many cases, the direction in which responsibility flows is reversed: a superior will accept punishment because of the misdeeds of a subordinate.

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Judaism’s Message

Judaism’s Message

Aug 9, 2003 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Va'et-hannan | Tishah Be'av

Reenacting an historical moment through liturgy and deed is a forte of Judaism. Our calendar year overflows with holidays and observances that transport us to our former days and inspire us to reenter the narrative and relive salient moments of history. This week in particular, observing the 9th of Av, we read of the destruction of the Temple and continue the mourning of our ancestors for the calamities that befell them. While it is possible to read this narrative as a preventive measure to ensure that we, too, do not fall victims to George Santayana’s dictum condemning us to either learn from our history or repeat it, I believe that Judaism’s message is a blessing, not a curse. It is a blessing for us to be able to relive life’s difficult moments – and the reason why can be gleaned from Moses’ behavior and our parasha this week.

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The Day After Destruction

The Day After Destruction

Jul 24, 2010 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

The dreaded has happened. The inconceivable has come to pass. The Temple has been destroyed. Our center is no more. Our sense of safety is shattered. The world is no longer familiar. We are in a place of disorientation. So this Shabbat we begin the hard work of consolation: Nachamu, nachamu ami (“Comfort, oh, comfort My people, Says your God” [Isa. 40:1]).

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Humility: God Is Above and Below

Humility: God Is Above and Below

Aug 8, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

Parashat Va’et-hannan, the second Torah reading of the book of Deuteronomy, places much of its emphasis on the loyal observance of mitzvot, God’s commandments.

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Pluralism From the Bible to Israel

Pluralism From the Bible to Israel

Jul 31, 2015 By Alex Sinclair | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

Shamor vezakhor bedibur ehad” (“keep” and “remember” in one utterance), we sing in Lekhah Dodi (a phrase originally found in the Talmud, BT Shevuot 20b), because The Ten Commandments were given twice, once telling us to “remember” shabbat, and once, in this week’s parashah, telling us to “keep” it.

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