Vaetchanan

In this week’s parasha Moses reiterates the Ten Words. He adds his comments to them, like the one concerning honoring one’s parents. There he adds: so that your days will be lengthened and so that it will be good for you, upon the Land that Hashem your G-d, gives you. Moses finds it important to repeat the Aseret Hadibrot, the Ten Words, so let us also look at them again. He begins with the first of the ten: I am Hashem, your G-d, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. The Lord has taken us out of Egypt, the land of evil bonds and darkness. This does not mean that the land of Egypt is out of our souls. But at least we have been taken out of the domain of darkness, out of the reign of bonds, out of the kingdom of evil.  

Slavery is the pull and suction power which presence we still feel and which are able to draw us back. Weaknesses, paralysis at important moments at which we should act and say No or Yes, attractions which should not be attractive, we still need to fight them with all our might. But having been drawn out of Egypt makes clear how bright the future looks and how beautiful life can be without Egypt. Setting limits, drawing lines, never allow anybody to cross our borders, as happened in Egypt, is so important. Learning to let impertinent people know that you do not like their impertinent remarks and/or deeds at all. Is there manipulation in your life and you are not able to defend yourself, ask yourself questions like: what is this person that he/she plays that important of a role in my life. And: why am I so vulnerable and defenseless. I left Egypt, why is Egypt still in me? What is my connection, my hesitation to break through.  

The second one: You shall not recognize the gods of others in My Presence. Next to our own weaknesses is the fact that we have to deal with the weaknesses and even gods of others. It is important to know of these other gods and then to definitely not recognize them, which is to acknowledge them. It is very difficult for us to live and to go to school and to work in this world. Many of us have or have had problems with bosses and colleagues or other school children who did not like us, who tried to fire us or who tried to push us into their way of oppression and their objectionable ideas and remarks. Learn to be straight and businesslike. Let your boss or colleague know what you like and what not, what you can accept and what not.  
 

Learn to not being dependable of the approval or disapproval of others. Learn to listen to constructive criticism and make changes in the way you work or in your attitude in whatever you see as a need to be changed. Also in relationships and marriages the gods of the other person should not be recognized. Don’t allow your partner to push you into his or her way of oppression and objectionable ideas and remarks if this applies in your life. Learn to be straight and transparent. Let your partner know what you like and what not, what you can accept and what not. Learn to not be dependable of the approval or disapproval of your partner. Learn to listen to constructive criticism. And make changes in your attitude where changes need to be made. Do not bow to other gods. 

You shall not take the name of Hashem, your G-d, in vain. We have a great responsibility in holding high the name of the Lord. Fellow believers who treat us or others really bad show a lack of this responsibility. Also when we involve G-d into our live in specific situations it is so important to learn to finish those situations the way we are convinced G-d wants us to do that. A learning process is allowed. But as other gods are forbidden the name of our G-d is holy and precious. There is the power of His Kingdom in His name, there is authority in His name, there is healing and comfort in the name of Hashem. Those who call upon that will be saved. 

Safeguard the Shabbat to sanctify it. I hear sometimes people say: Not important, as long as you safeguard a day in the week as holy. It is funny to then ask the question why that person is so adamant in keeping the Sunday when the G-d of Israel ordered the Shabbat and never changed His mind on that day. Sad to see how human made dogmas are more important than G-d made commandments. And so the Shabbat becomes the symptom of willingness to obey G-d’s will. Question is then: how should we sanctify the Shabbat. The answer is to be found in Vayikra/Leviticus 23:3, Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is the Shabbat of rest, a holy convocation. 
 

So one task is to organize a holy convocation or service. What else can we do to sanctify the holy day of the week? The text continues: You shall do no work therein. It is the Shabbat of the LORD in all your dwellings. What “no work” means is something to discover if you never studied the subject or did not grow up in a Jewish home. In the Temple in Jerusalem the Shabbat was more busy than other days, filled with holy duties. But that is something we cannot compare ourselves or our living situations with. It has to do with our position of being slaves while we lived in Egypt, read Devarim/Deuteronomy 5:15. I will not go into this any further, but the day should be different from all other days. 

Honor your father and mother is the fifth Word. They are our connection with the past, they received life which they passed on to us, they fed us, hopefully they loved us, sometimes they mistreated us. We honor them but we do not always follow their example. When we have parents who abused us by violence or oppressing and judgmental remarks we developed a whole in our soul. And we are choosing to reject their example. When we have parents who were weak or even depressed we developed a lack of love and feeling safe and we tend to imitate them. But we will ask our heavenly Father to comfort and heal us from wholes in our souls and to give us the love and safety we missed. 

You shall not kill. That, like all the other commandments, is to be taken literally. But also killing someone name or reputation belongs to this subject, as well as killing someone’s enthusiasm and spontaneity or killing initiative and the potential in someone else. Abortion is part of this, as well as killing the life of a congregation by doing damage. In all these situations it is the life Hashem has given which we should honor and cultivate if possible. 

You shall not commit adultery is the seventh commandment, as not to steal and not bearing vain witness against your fellow are numbers eight and nine. Not killing and these four, including coveting your neighbor’s wife are commandments which deal with human relationships in the fields of life and death, marriage, property, happiness and honor. We are not to take what is someone else’s property. Stealing is taking someone else’s property, bearing vain witness is taking someone’s reputation and good name. 
 

Coveting goes even further, because it bears on illegal thoughts instead of only performing illegal deeds. We are told that in human relationships we are to respect the other person in specific aspects of life. We are not to respect another person when he or she violates our borders. The Ten Words deal with setting borders. When someone violates our borders we should set that person straight. That is not being unfriendly. It is protecting G-d’s property, because that is what we are. We are His precious possession, to be honored and well taken care of. 

Shabbat shalom,
Lion S. Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua
Amsterdam, Holland