Parashat Va’et-chanan: Impress them upon your children

2016-08-16 20.15.37Our Torah Portion for this week, Parashat Va’et-chanan, is for sure the most cited section of the Torah in Jewish tradition, as it contains the  Sh’ma Israel, the fundamental declaration of our Jewish faith: the unity of God; and our parasha includes the Decalogue, the ten commandments, what underlines its special place in our tradition.

The first passage we read after the words of the Sh’ma lays out the blueprint for how we are supposed to teach Torah to the next generations: “when you sit in your house, when you walk on your way, when you lie down and when you rise up“, in other words: “talk Torah, God, and Mitzvot.”

Torah has never been something I expect children to learn solely in religious school. Torah and God should be part of every dinner table discussion, every moment of family life, every act of tzedakah (charitable giving and doing), and also every fun activity. The Jewish way of life invites God into our homes and our lives. Having everyone and our children make Jewish choices, and live a Jewish life when they left the Synagogue, has been my goal as a rabbi and friend, because only a way of observance of kashrut, Shabbat dinner and weekly worship, Torah study, and community service that is based on your and their own interpretation and commitment will insure Jewish continuity for next generations to come, not what “a rabbi says”.

If you asked me to tell you which the most important words of our Torah portion are, they would be these four words from Deuteronomy 6:7 ” V’shinantam l’vaneycha v’dibarta bam,” which our siddur (Prayer book) translates as “Impress them upon your children. Recite them . . .”

Most English prayer books, for over a century, used the translation “teach” for v’shinantam instead of impress, but I like the word “impress” because it is not enough for us to love God and keep God’s words upon our hearts; we are commanded to pass God’s words on to our children – our own and other people’s children in a way that make a lasting impression in word and deed.

The Torah tells us to share our sacred stories with our children, for the Torah contains the stories of our relationship with God and our history as a people. Talking Torah teaches us to remember and inspires us to find our own way of observance. If we do more than recite the Sh’ma every morning and every night, if we walking the walk of Torah, I am confident that we continue to have a vibrant, pluralistic and fullfilling Judaism.

Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Amy R Perlin)

Torah Reading for Shabbat Va’et-chanan

Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11

Reading: Dtn 3:23-4:18 (P. 1188 /Hertz 755)

Haftarah Isaiah 40:1-26 (Plaut 1222/Hertz 776)

Continuing his “review of the Torah,” Moses describes the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah, declaring them unprecedented events in human history. He predicts that future generations will turn away from God, worship idols, and be exiled from their land; but from there they will seek God, and return to obey Gods commandments.

 Podcast of Rabbi Schell’s weekly Sermons Tuesdays on Radio Today (10h30) or:  http://goo.gl/LsHQrY.

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