Friday, July 23, 2010

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. The pasuk is one well-known; each time we read from the Torah, it is recited by the entire congregation as a confirmation of how much the Torah means to us.

The verse is straightforward enough, but the Degel Machane Efraim makes an interesting comment on these words. He points out that it is well-documented in Jewish texts that three paragraphs of the Shm'a cumulatuively comprise 248 words. We learn that these 248 words correspond to the 248 limbs of the human body, and we believe that each word gives strength and vitality 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, אמת (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, and in that way we have our 248th word. But this solution doesn't seem too tidy at all. It all seems a tad arbitrary.

Fortunately, the Degel Machane Efraim resolves the matter with a neat suggestion as to why we do this. The text reads: "And you who cling to Hashem your God, are living today" but if we look closely, we may see that the word אתם (Atem - you) has the same letters as another Hebrew word - אמת. These two words are connected.

Furthermore, when the text says הדביקים (which means clinging/adhering), we may read it literally as an instruction for us to 'stick' something to something else. The insinuation as for us to attach the word אמת (Emet) to the paragraph that precedes it. And what will happen if we are to do this? Simple - the verse continues to bless Israel with life, "חיים כלכם היום - and you are living today" It is my wish that with our prayers, we may realise both our own inner capabilities and be able to make use of all the faculties of our bodies to realise them. Similarly, may we all be blesssed to really live life and grasp the truth of this world.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom.

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