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THOUGHTS FOR PARASHAT VAETCHANAN BY ANNETTE KOSLOVER

How to Have an Intimate Relationship with God

With thanks to Rabbi Forhman’s Alef Beta.

Rabbi Forhman identifies 3 distinct “speeches” by Moshe within this week’s parasha. Although there is no punctuation in the Torah he sees the repetition of certain phrases as the “bookends” of the sections, e.g. The parasha begins “Now, Israel, listen to the laws and rules” and ends with “and you shall keep the laws and commandments that I command you today”. The next “speech” begins “listen, Israel, to the laws and rules that I tell you today” and so the pattern continues.  And this continues – for the rest of the parasha, each section begins and ends with this phrase – chukim, mishpatim, and mitzvot.

In last week’s parasha, the first in the book of Devarim, the very first speech was about quelling Israel’s fear about entering Israel and fighting the Canaanite nations. Therefore, Moses reassured them, acknowledged their fear but said that Hashem is with you, always, and will fight for you.

This is the foundation of a relationship: acknowledging that the other is there, and won’t leave you. The first speech in this week’s parsha begins with Israel’s destiny – a destiny that was established when the nation had their first meeting with Hashem at Sinai, as a people. From a relationship standpoint, this is the very next step. Hashem isn’t only there, He also speaks to you, appears to you – He meets you, face to face.

In the “second” speech Moses talks about the covenant between the people and Hashem, in the Ten Commandments. What is the essence of the Ten Commandments? In Rabbi Fohrman’s videos on this topic, he explains that the commandments are really expressions of larger principles, which can be distilled down to one idea: Respect. Building an Intimate Relationship with Hashem. At its most fundamental and basic level respect is about recognizing the value of others. Whether the relationship is with a family member, a co-worker, or Hashem, a real relationship cannot be formed without recognition of the intrinsic value of the other, and giving him or her the space to be. If you claim to care for someone, but don’t respect them, you make the relationship about you, and your desires – and you’re really just loving yourself. Therefore, after the people realize that Hashem is there, and after they actually meet Hashem, Moses teaches them the next step in their relationship with Him: Respect. Only then can we move to the highest level in our relationship with Hashem…love.

This brings the parasha to the third of Moshe’s “speeches”. Hashem’s Oneness leads to love of Hashem, with all of our hearts and souls, and it ends with Hashem’s love for us. It’s mutual love… the sign of a genuine, intimate, two-way relationship. 

Shabbat shalom.

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