The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Vaetchanan and is found in Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11. In this parasha, Moses continues his speech to the people, giving them the first of several exhortations in this parasha about the importance of obeying God’s commandments, with particular emphasis on the prohibition of idolatry. Moses again exhorts the people to study and observe all of God’s laws and rules. He reminds them of the revelation at Sinai and reviews the Ten Statements (i.e., ten commandments). He recalls their reaction to hearing God’s voice and encourages them to retain that feeling of reverence so that they may thrive in the land. Moses teaches the first paragraph of the Shema. He tells the people yet again that they must keep God’s commandments and shun idolatry. They are to teach their children about the covenant – that God brought Israel out of Egypt and into the land so that they might worship God and keep His commandments.
This parasha is rich with important passages about our covenantal relationship with God, where God promises to love us and we are commanded to love God with all of our heart, soul, and resources, and to love and respect others. Love is a powerful concept. It is an abstract item that cannot be touched, seen, or heard, yet we can feel its presence and give love in ways that translate to positive concrete expressions we do feel, see, hear, and understand. Perhaps that is why love is such an important aspect of our covenantal relationship with God. It represents an abstract God that cannot be touched, seen, or heard but can be experienced. Idols are the opposite: tangible items that can be seen and touched, but have no ability to love or to be expressions of love. This week, may we focus on the intangible things which are truly meaningful in our lives and may we meaningfully touch the lives of others in positive and concrete ways.