Parshat V'etchanan

(To prepare for this shiur,
see the questions for self study.)

The first two parshiot of "kriyat shma" surround us each and every day of our lives. Not only do we recite them at least twice daily, but they are also written on every doorpost (i.e. on every "mezuzah"), and in the boxes of our "tfilin". What makes them so special?

This week's shiur, which analyzes the overall structure of the main speech of Sefer Devarim, we help us better appreciate why specifically these two parshiot are so important.

Introduction: Review
Recall from last week's introductory shiur how the first 26 chapters of Sefer Devarim divide into two speeches:

1) An introductory speech (chapters 1-4), in which Moshe explains why forty years have passed since Bnei Yisrael should have entered the land;
2) The main speech (chapters 5-26), in which Moshe reviews the special set of mitzvot (originally given at Har Sinai) which the people must now keep, as they prepare to enter the land of Israel.

In contrast to that shiur which focused on 'introductions', [i.e. we studied chapter 5 which explained when and how these mitzvot were first given], this week's shiur focuses on how the mitzvot themselves are presented in the main speech. We will show how and why the mitzvot of this main speech divide neatly into two distinct sections:

A) The ha'mitzva section, which focuses on proper attitude; [which emerges sort of like a "musar" sefer];
B) The chukim u'mishpatim section, which focuses more on more specific mitzvot [sort of like a "Shulchan Aruch"].

First, we will explain the technical (i.e. textual) reason for this division, then we will discuss its significance.

Setting the Framework
In chapter five, Moshe Rabeinu began his main speech by explaining how and when the mitzvot (which he is about to review) were first given - i.e. after the Ten Commandments when Bnei Yisrael requested to hear the remaining mitzvot from Moshe instead of directly from God (see 5:20-26 & last week's shiur).

Let's pay careful attention to the wording of God's positive response to the people's request, for it sets the framework for this entire set of mitzvot:

"Go say to them: 'Return to your tents', but you remain here with Me and I will give you the mitzvah & the chukim u'mishpatim which you shall teach them..." (5:27-28).

Note the key words - (A) ha'mitzvah and (B) chukim & mishpatim - in this pasuk. Now, continue reading carefully until three psukim later, where Moshe repeats this key phrase once again - when he actually introduces those mitzvot:

"And this is the mitzvah and the chukim u'mishpatim that God has commanded me to teach you to observe on the land..." (6:1)
[Note as well how this introduction continues until 6:3, and how the mitzvot themselves begin with "shma" in 6:4!]

As we proceed, we will see how this key phrase sets the stage for the division of the entire speech into two sections, corresponding to these two headers:

A) The mitzvah section - chapters 6-11
[Parshiot V'etchanan thru Ekev]
B) The chukim & mishpatim section - chapters 12-26
[Parshiot Re'ah, Shoftim, Ki-teze, & Kitavo]
(See board #1)

'Headers' & 'Footers'
To prove this division, we simply need to skip ahead to the beginning of chapter 12 in Parshat Reah. Note how those psukim clearly introduce a new unit and thus form a 'header' (see board #2):

"These are the chukim & mishpatim that you are to keep in the land which the God of your forefathers gave to you..." (12:1)

As we should suspect, this introductory pasuk is followed by a lengthy list of mitzvot that Bnei Yisrael must keep upon entering the land - which continues on all the way until the end of chapter 26! There, as we should expect, this list concludes with a very appropriate summary pasuk (what we call a 'footer') (see board #3):

"God commands you today to keep these chukim & mishpatim, keep them with all your heart... " (26:16)
[Scan the chapters in between (if you don't believe me) to verify that there are no 'new headers' in the interim. Note also how many parshiot begin with "ki" & "lo"!]

Now that we have found the very obvious 'header' and 'footer' of the chukim u'mishpatim section, we can work 'backwards' and identify the less obvious 'header' & 'footer' of the mitzva section.

Let's start by taking a closer look at the pasuk which opens the mitzvot of the main speech (as we explained above, i.e. 6:4):

"Hear o Israel, the Lord is our God... and you shall love God with all your heart and all your soul... and these instructions which I "m'tzaveh" [command] you today, teach them to your children..." (6:4-6)

Note how this phrase: "v'hayu ha'devarim ha'eyleh asher anochi m'tzaveh etchem..." (6:6) [and these instructions that I command you today] introduces the mitzvot which follow. Thus, this pasuk could be considered as the 'header' to the mitzva section (see board #4).

In a similar manner, towards the end of this unit we find a very 'worthy candidate' for a closing pasuk:

"If, then, you faithfully keep - ha'mitzva ha'zot - that I command you, to love God.... to follow His laws and to attach yourselves to Him." (see 11:22)

Here, not only do we find our key word - ha'mitzva, but it's context suggests that it could be considered as a conclusion (or the 'footer') of this entire section (see board #5). [Later in the shiur we will explain the small set of psukim which form a 'buffer' between these two sections, i.e. 11:23-29 (see board #6).]

Up until now, we have found textual support for dividing the mitzvot of the main speech into two distinct sections. Now, we must find the primary theme of each section by examining their contents.

Section #1 - Ha'Mitzvah: "Ahavat Hashem"
The theme of the ha'mitzva section is quite easy to identify, for its opening pasuk - the famous pasuk of "Shma Yisrael" says it all:

"Shma yisrael... and you shall love God with all your heart and soul... and these laws which I "m'tzaveh" you..." (see 6:4-6)

Note how this general theme of 'to love God in every walk of life' continues in each subsequent parshia which follows.

For example:
Upon conquering the land, you may inherit an entire city with houses already built and vineyards already planted, etc. Don't let this affluence cause you to forget God... (see 6:10-15).
When your children (who did not go through the desert experience) will ask you why we have to keep all these mitzvot, remind them and teach them about all the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim... (6:20-25)
When you conquer your enemy, don't intermarry; etc. (7:1-5)
If you become fearful of your enemy, don't worry, remember what God did to Mitzrayim, He can help you as well... (7:17-25)
Don't act in a rebellious manner as your forefathers did in the desert (chapters 8-10).
As Eretz Canaan does not have a constant water source (like the Nile in Egypt), you will be dependent on the rainfall in this new land. Therefore, recognize that it is God who gives you rain (and not any other god; see 11:10-15)

This theme is so predominant in chapters 6-11, that its mitzvot appear to be quite redundant. Each parsha discusses in one form or other a different aspect of one's proper attitude towards God [what we call "ahavat Hashem"].

In fact, when we examine this unit more carefully, we find that these mitzvot simply apply this theme of "ahavat Hashem" to the various situations which will arise as Bnei Yisrael will enter the land (see board #7). To verify this, see 6:10,18; 7:1,13,16,22; 8:1,7; 9:1,4-6; 11:10-12, 13-17, & 22-25!

Furthermore, note how the concluding parshia of this section promises Bnei Yisrael with a reward should they indeed follow God with the proper attitude:

"If, then, you faithfully keep - ha'mitzvah ha'zot - that I command you, to love God.... to follow His laws... then God will help you conquer these nations... every foot step that you take will become your land [to its widest borders]... No man shall stand up against you..." (see 11:22-25)

This promise forms an appropriate conclusion to this mitzvah section, as God promises Bnei Yisrael His assistance in their conquest of the land, should they indeed keep the proper attitude towards Him.

And for a finale, the final psukim of chapter 11 (see 11:26-30) conclude this section by promising a blessing or a curse on the land, depending if Bnei Yisrael continue to keep this mitzvah (or not) once they settle the land.

[Note how this 'mini-Tochacha' continues in chapter 27 (after the main speech is over). Iy"h, we'll deal with this structure in the shiur on Parshat Ki-Tavo.]

Kriyat Shma
With this background, we can better appreciate Chazal's choice of the first two parshiot of "kriyat shma".

Recall that the opening parsha of the mitzvah section was none other than the first parsha of "kriyat shma" (6:4-9). Recall also that this section ended with the concluding psukim in 11:22-25. Now, the parsha which precedes these finale psukim is none other than the second parsha of "kriyat shma" - "v'haya im shmoah..." (see 11:13-21 to verify this)!

In other words, the first two parshiot of "kriyat shma" form the bookends of the mitzvah section (see board #8), for it begins with "Shma Yisrael... v'ahavta" (6:4-8) and ends with "v'haya im shmoah... " (11:13-21).

This could explain why Chazal chose that we read both these parshiot to fulfill our daily obligation of Torah study [which is based on 6:6 -"v'hayu ha'devarim ha'eyla asher anochi m'tzaveh..."]. Theoretically, based on this pasuk, one should be required to read daily the entire mitzvah section. However, since this section is too lengthy, we recite instead its opening and closing parshiot. However, by reading these two parshiot, it is as though we have read (and hopefully internalized) all of the mitzvot of the mitzvah section.

[The Mishnah at the end of the seventh perek of Mesechet Sota arrives at a similar conclusion in regard to reading Sefer Devarim at the Hakhel ceremony (see Sota 41a). There, instead of reading the entire speech, the custom was to read the first parsha of shma (6:4-8) and then skip to the last parsha of shma (11:13-21).]

Section #2 - The Chukim & Mishpatim Unit
As your read the conclusion of chapter 11, note the smooth transition from the mitzva section into the chukim u'mishpatim section. Again, note the key phrases and theme:

"... Now that you are crossing the Jordan to inherit the Land... keep these chukim & mishpatim that I am teaching you today." (11:31-32)
With this transition, we flow right into the opening pasuk of Section #2, which details these laws:
"These are the chukim & mishpatim that you are to keep in the land which the God of your forefathers gave to you..." (12:1)

The many chapters which follow this opening pasuk contain numerous laws which Bnei Yisrael must keep upon entering the land (see board #9). However, in contrast to the laws relating to proper attitude in the ha'mitzvah section, the laws in Section #2 are more specific in nature. For example, we find laws concerning when and where to build the permanent Bet Ha'Mikdash (chapter 12), dietary laws (chapter 14), laws of "aliyah la'regel" on the Holidays (chapter 16), laws about appointing judges and political leaders (chapter 17), and a full assortment of civil laws (chapters 19-25).

This list continues until the end of chapter 26. [Recall that chapter 27 begins a new speech.]

As we should expect, this unit also contains a very appropriate conclusion:

"God commands you today to keep these chukim & mishpatim, keep them with all your heart and soul. You have affirmed this day that the Lord is your God, that you will walk in His ways... The Lord has affirmed this day that you are, as He promised, His am segula... and you shall be, as He promised [at Har Sinai] a holy nation to the Lord your God." (see 26:16-19)

[In the shiurim to follow, we will deal with the nature of the mitzvot of this unit in more detail.]

In summary, we have identified the two very distinct sections of the main speech of Sefer Devarim and explained the nature of their distinction (see board #9):

A) The ha'mitzvah section (6-11) contains several mitzvot and various rebukes that encourage Bnei Yisrael to keep the proper attitude toward God as they conquer the land.
B) The chukim & mishpatim section contains an assortment of more specific laws which Bnei Yisrael must follow once they inherit the land.

Now, we can suggest a reason for this manner of presentation.

The Proper Balance
So what section is more important? The mitzvah section - which deals with proper attitude [sort of like a musar sefer], or the chukim & mishpatim section - which details the specific mitzvot that one must keep [sort of like a Shulchan Aruch]?

[Any "yeshiva bachur" faces this dilemma every time he sets up his daily schedule. How much time to dedicate to "musar" and how much time to "halacha".]

The summary pasuk of Section #2 (quoted above) alludes to the proper balance between them:

"This day, God commands you to keep these chukim and mishpatim, and you should keep them with all your heart and all your soul..." (26:16)

This 'finale' closes not only the chukim & mishpatim section, but also beautifully relates it back to the mitzvah section (see board #10). These "chukim u'mishpatim" must be kept with all your heart & soul - "b'chal l'vavcha u'vchal naf'shecha".

Note once again the textual parallel between this closing pasuk and the opening pasuk of the first section:

"v'ahavta et Hashem Elokecha - b'chal l'vavcha u'vchal nafshecha" - and you shall love God with all your heart and all your soul..." (see 6:5, compare with 26:16)

This obvious parallel emphasizes that these specific laws of the "chukim u'mishpatim" section must be kept with the proper attitude of "ahavat Hashem", as explained in the first section!

Only with the solid base of "ahavat Hashem" is it possible to fulfill the more specific laws in the proper manner. And only with a comprehensive set of specific laws is it possible maintain "ahavat Hashem" as a daily way of life.

Virtual ClassRoom enhancements by Ronni Weinstein.

For Further Iyun

A. Back to Har Sinai
To better appreciate this entire unit and its concluding remarks, we must recall that the mitzvot of this main speech should actually be considered an integral part of Ma'amad Har Sinai. [Recall from last week's shiur that it was God's original intention was to give these mitzvot directly to Bnei Yisrael immediately after the Ten Commandments!]

With this in mind, carefully read the final psukim of the speech, noting their thematic (and textual) parallel to the Torah's description of Ma'amad Har Sinai in Sefer Shmot (especially Shmot 19:3-6).

Note how these psukim reflect the covenant made between God and Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai:

"... You have taken upon yourselves today that He will be your God and that you will follow His ways and laws...
God has affirmed on this day that you will be his special people - "am segula"... as He spoke to you [at Har Sinai (see Shmot 19:5-6)]. And to set you above all nations to be His glory and Name (reputation)... that you shall be an "am kadosh" as He spoke to you [at Har Sinai]." (26:16-19)

Considering that these mitzvot are an integral component of Ma'amad Har Sinai, it is only fitting that Moshe concludes this speech by summarizing the most basic elements and purpose of that covenant.

B. Some 'Additions'
Go through the ha'mitzvah section of Sefer Devarim (i.e. chapters 6-11) and try to determine which parshiot were 'added' now by Moshe in the fortieth year and which parshiot seem to be a word for word repeat of what God had first commanded him on Har Sinai forty years earlier.
1) Note that many mitzvot sound as though Moshe Rabeinu is speaking to Bnei Yisrael as they left Egypt, and as though they themselves went out of Egypt and witnessed the plagues etc.

Does the above distinction explain this?

2) See 6:16, why is "masa" the only or best example of a rebellion against God? When did this rebellion take place? Wasn't here a more recent rebellion? (e.g. Mei meriva...)
3) Compare 7:7-11 to 9:4-7, use the above observation to explain the apparent discrepancy between these psukim.
4) Why is chapter 8 clearly an 'add on'? Does this 'add on' fit in thematically to the main topic of the ha'mitzvah section?

C. Two Types of "Yirah": A Mini-Shiur
As we discussed in last week's shiur, chapter 5 details the events which took place at Ma'amad Har Sinai when Bnei Yisrael were overcome with fear. In Sefer Shmot (see 20:14-18), we find what appears to be a parallel account of the same event. Let's compare them.

We begin with the account in Sefer Devarim, when Bnei Yisrael request that Moshe Rabeinu act as an intermediary immediately after the completion of the Ten Commandments:

"Let us not die, then, for this fearsome fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of God any longer, we shall die! For what mortal ever heard the voice of the living God speak out of the fire, as we did, and lived? You go closer and hear all that Hashem says; then you tell us everything that Hashem tells you, and we will listen and do it." (5:22-24)

God concedes to this request [note the positive aspect attributed to this fear]:

"I have heard the plea that this people made to you; they did well to speak thus. May they always be of such mind, to revere Me and follow all my Commandments..."

Sefer Shmot records a very similar incident that took place immediately following the Ten Commandments, which according to some commentators (see Ibn Ezra) describes the same event:

"All the people saw the thunder and lightning..., and when the people saw it, they fell back and stood at a distance and asked Moshe: You speak to us and we will listen, but let not God speak to us, less we die. Moshe answered them: be not afraid, for God has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may be with you forever..." (Shmot 20:15-17)

Although Rashi and Ramban explain this event (in Shmot) took place either before or during the Ten Commandments, for the purpose of this mini-shiur, we will follow Ibn Ezra's shita which understands that both accounts describe the same event.

There is one major discrepancy between these two accounts: in Sefer Shmot, Moshe is not pleased with this fear, while in Sefer Devarim, God praises it!

It seems as though Moshe prefers that Bnei Yisrael confront God directly during Ma'amad Har Sinai, while God Himself endorses a more distanced relationship. Could this discrepancy reflect a dispute between Moshe and God regarding the value of fearing God?

An understanding of the two forms of "yirat Hashem" - the fear of God - can help us appreciate this controversy.

Type I: Positive (or Constructive) Fear
When one recognizes God's infinite greatness, even though he may be enthralled with the possibility of encountering the Almighty, out of humility he feels that it be improper to confront Him directly. This fear is commendable, for it reflects an ideal balance between possible closeness and necessary distance.
Type II: Negative Fear
On the other hand, a person not interested in any relationship with God would view a divine encounter such as Har Sinai as a nuisance, for it is meaningless to him. Fearful of its inherent danger, he prefers distance and limited responsibility. This type of fear of God, like a 'child running away from school', can ruin a relationship.

The Machloket
It seems that Moshe Rabeinu, based on his experience with Bnei Yisrael since the time of the Exodus, is concerned that the people's fear stems from the latter reason. Therefore, he is unhappy with Bnei Yisrael's request that he act as their intermediary. He encourages them to stay at Har Sinai.

God, on the other hand, aware of the nature of man's haughtiness, stresses the positive aspect of this fear. He agrees with Bnei Yisrael's request, sends them to their tents, and gives the mitzvot to them thru Moshe instead.

Nonetheless, when the mitzvot of the main speech actually begin, we find a beautiful resolution of this conflict.

Because God is indeed aware of Moshe's worry that there is a danger of the distance caused by "yirat Hashem", God chooses to begin the mitzvot which He gives via Moshe to Bnei Yisrael with the commandment of "ahavat Hashem" - the love of God!

"Shma Yisrael... and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might..." (6:4-5)

To counter this potential danger of 'too much yirah', God begins with the mitzvah of ahavat hashem! The love of God and the proper appreciation of His laws assure that one's fear will strengthen his relationship, rather than weaken it.

D. For a Future Shiur
In chapter 4, at the conclusion of the Speech I, we find a very detailed warning against making idols. Read 4:9-24, and note its context.
1. Why do you think that these laws included in the opening speech?
(How do they relate to the fact that Moshe will soon die?)
[Recall what happened last time that Bnei Yisrael thought that Moshe was dead!]
2) Read 4:15-20. In the list of warnings, note the examples of images which Moshe warns that Bnei Yisrael should not make.
Compare each one carefully to the first perek in Breishit!
Can you find a connection?
Is Moshe worried about "avoda zara" - worshiping other gods or making an image of Hashem? Explain!
3) Note the extensive use of the word "tavnit" in these psukim.
Relate it to the use of "tavnit" in Shmot 25:1-7.
[Note that these are the only times in Chumash that the word "tavnit" is used!]
Is there anything in the Mishkan which is an image, which could be considered a representation of God or His revelation?
Does this image also relate to the story of Creation.
(relate to Breishit 3:24!)
4) Use your answers to questions 2, 3, & 4 to answer question #1 again. See also Rambam in Hilchot Avodah Zara 1:1.

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