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108http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2012/08/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---08_03_2012
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 08_03_2012
08/02/2012 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
August 3, 2012

 

                The Book of Deuteronomy continues this week with the portion, called Va’etchanan. Pronouncing the name correctly is much less important than understanding essential lessons found within it. Take note that the Ten Commandments are repeated here (Deut. 5:6ff). We would expect them to be repeated in the final speeches Moses makes to the Israelites. Even though 613 commandments can be found in Torah, these Ten represent core lessons first expounded by God to Moses on Sinai. The Shema, the “Watchword of our Faith,” is also found here (Deut. 6:4ff). This core prayer, recited twice each day, emphasizes the duty of the Jewish people to worship one God.

                These two parts of the portion are vital to us, but they cannot remain vital if we don’t also focus on what precedes them. In Deuteronomy 5:3ff, we hear Moses tell the Israelites, “It was not with our fathers that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, the living, every one of us who is here today.” God’s covenant is made with the living, not with dead. Moses highlighted how important the people were who stood with him that day. The same is true for us. When we pass Torah and its teachings to the next generation it continues to be a living document entrusted to the present and the future. It enables everybody to say, “This is the covenant God makes with ME!”

                Some time ago, I stood on the bemah with two children who were becoming bar and bat mitzvah. Their bar and bat mitzvah preparation was long and sometimes difficult. But, on the day of their bar and bat mitzvah, they did great. When I spoke to them on the bemah, I encouraged them to see Torah now as their own. “When you walk into the synagogue next time, or into any synagogue,” I said, “I want you to see the Torah and say to yourselves, ‘That belongs to me! That’s my Torah!’” It was a lot for them to comprehend, but even they knew it was true. The power of that day was found in the treasure of Torah that was beyond all the treasures they ever had the luxury of owning. That episode in their life became epochal as it linked them to the heritage of our people.

                For me, the power of that moment illuminated the meaning of passing Torah to our children. It’s easy to pass Torah to children who “get it” and who appreciate what it means to “hold it fast.” It’s a pleasure to give them Torah and to watch them reach new heights in their life because of it. And, while it’s not as easy to bring children to Torah who are less interested, it’s a huge achievement to persist in helping children grow inside and out, as they grasp each Hebrew letter and each new insight in their Torah portions. Sometimes we actually wipe our brow when such days end; but, not because we’re happy they’re over. We wipe our brows because the “work is long, the day is short, and God is waiting.” It’s a mitzvah to learn and to teach Torah. Some children just help us earn our mitzvah through extraordinary effort!

                Torah is meant for the living, and not only for children. Torah is meant for all of at any age. You and I have to embrace our Jewish inheritance, too. Moses said to the Israelites, and by extension, to us, that God’s covenant is fresh and alive as long as it lives with us. So, take a moment to ask yourself, “What have I done about the covenant lately?” I ask myself the same question especially before the New Year. Just like many other parts of our life that we need to keep current, fresh and interesting, we need to keep the covenant fresh, too. How would you answer the question for yourself this week? Would you go about answering it in the New Year?

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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