Friday, July 31, 2009

Parshat V'etchanan - פרשת ואתחנן

"ואתם הדביקים ביהוה אלוהיכם חיים כלכם היום / And you who cling to Hashem your God, are living today"
(דברים, ד:ד)

Parshat V'etchanan is jam-packed full of events, ranging from Moshe's request to enter Eretz Yisrael to the recounting of the Ten Commandments through part of the text we recite daily in Kriyat Sh'ma. The focus of this D'var Torah though, is on the last Pasuk of the Levi's Aliyah in Rishon, quoted above. It is well known to any Jew who attends a Bet Knesset frequently - for it's recited by the entire congregation just before we read from the Torah.

The Degel Machane Efraim makes an interesting comment on these words. He points out that it is well-documented in Jewish texts that Kriyat Sh'ma is comprised of 248 words. These 248 words correspond to the 248 limbs of the human body, and we believe that each word gives strength to a specific limb. Thus we believe that reading the Sh'ma helps sustain a Jew in this world.

There's a problem though, namely that the 248th word, "Emet" (truth), isn't part of the text of Sh'ma as it's found in the Torah. It's really part of the next paragraph, and we join the two paragraphs together and repeat the two words preceding it so that we have our 248th word. But this solution doesn't seem too tidy at all. It all seems a bit arbitrary.

Fortunately, the Degel Machane Efraim resolves the matter with a neat suggestion as to why we do this. He explains taht the word אתם (you) in the text, "And *you* who cling to Hashem your God, are living today" can also be formed to make another Hebrew word - אמת. And when it says הדביקים (clinging/sticking), it really refers to an instruction for us to make stick the the word Emet to the paragraph that precedes it. In this way, we will merit the second part of the pasuk, where it blesses Am Yisrael with life, "חיים כלכם היום."

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!

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