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שמע ישראל ד' אלקינו ד' אחד

Hear O’ Yisrael, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One. (6:4)

When the Romans led Rabbi Akiva to his execution (for teaching Torah), it was his time to recite Krias Shema.  They subjected him to inhumane torture by scraping off his skin with metal combs.  Meanwhile, he was engaged in Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shomayim, accepting upon himself the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom.  His students watched in horror as their revered, saintly Rebbe calmly focused on the spiritual sphere, while ignoring his physical pain.  His students asked, “Must one go so far?”  (Is it necessary to suffer so much in showing one’s devotion to Hashem? How far should mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice…

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וידעת היום והשבות אל לבבך כי ד' הוא האלקים ... אין עוד

You shall know this day and take to your heart that Hashem He is our G-d … there is none other. (4:39)

We know (and understand) so many things intellectually, but do not take them to heart to the point that they guide and control our demeanor.  The above pasuk exhorts us to believe in Hashem, to have emunah, faith, in the Almighty.  Faith means trust. Trust means that one does not question, which, by its very nature, implies his lack of trust.  The pasuk implies that our faith in Hashem must be such that we know that He is our G-d.  This does not seem consistent with the term emunah, belief/faith, which is a prelude to knowledge.  One who knows does…

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ועתה ישראל שמע אל החקים ואל המשפטים אשר אנכי מלמד אתכם

Now, O’ Yisrael, listen to the decrees and to the ordinances that I teach you. (4:1)

Chukim are mitzvos which defy human rationale.  Mishpatim are mitzvos whose reason, although not stated, are common-sensical and relatable.  The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh offers a novel interpretation of Moshe Rabbeinu’s appeal to the Jewish People.  When Moshe mentioned chukim and mishpatim, he was not referring to any one mitzvah of the 613 commandments; rather, he was referring to two events which, on the surface, are unrelated to one another, although he demonstrates that they are actually very much connected. One event was Moshe’s decision to strike — rather than speak to — the rock.  Moshe intended to carry out Hashem’s…

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ואתחנן אל ד'

I implored Hashem. (3:23)

Moshe Rabbeinu prayed – and prayed.  He pleaded with Hashem five hundred and fifteen times to grant him access to enter Eretz Yisrael.  It is not that Hashem did not listen.  Hashem hears every prayer.  Every tefillah pierces the Heavens. The answer is not always “Yes.”  When we receive “No,” as an answer we think that Hashem did not hear the tefillah.  He heard it, but His response is not what we want to hear.  Hashem stores up the tefillos that, for one reason or another, carry a “no” response, and He transforms them into a “yes” for someone else. …

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ושננתם לבניך

You shall teach them thoroughly to your children. (6:7)

Rashi comments that “children” is not an exclusive category. It applies, likewise, to one’s students, since the Torah considers students to be like children. We have a responsibility to reach out and teach, or see to it that all children are taught. If one has limited time, and he must decide between teaching his own children or someone else’s children, however, his children take precedence. Horav Yechezkel Sarna, zl, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron, and premier expositor of the Slabodka approach to gadlus ha’adam, the greatness of man, was a prime example of a Rosh Yeshivah/Rebbe to whom his talmidim, students, were…

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וזאת התורה אשר שם משה לפני בני ישראל

This is the Torah/teaching that Moshe placed before Bnei Yisrael. (4:44)

V’nasan lanu es Toraso, “And Hashem gave us His Torah” is the motif that should accompany each Torah learning session. When we study Torah, we are hearing the words of Hashem and carrying out His will. He gave us His Torah, so that we should learn it, learn from it, observe its precepts and lessons. It is from the Torah that we, as Jews, receive and accept our guidance concerning our derech ha’chaim, way of life. The Jew that lives his life with the Torah as his lodestar has the ability to navigate the murky, stormy waters of life, to…

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והיו הדברים האלה אשר מצוך היום על לבבך ושננתם לבניך

And these matters that I command you today shall be upon our heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children. (6:6,7)

The Alshich HaKadosh writes: “If these matters will penetrate deep into your heart and not simply be superficial, then your words will be able to penetrate into the hearts of your children/students.” The Sefer HaYashar (Rabbi Zerachyah or Rabbeinu Tam), expresses a similar thought, “Anything that emanates from the heart will enter into the heart (of the listener).” Whatever the mouth simply expresses will not get past the ear. In other words, only one who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah, who makes it a part of himself, can effectively transmit that Torah to others. Horav Shraga Grossbard, zl,…

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שמע ישראל ד' אלקינו ד' אחד

Hear, O’ Yisrael: Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is the One and Only. (6:4)

Judaism’s seminal verse, the pasuk that accompanies us as we end our sojourn in this world is: Shema Yisrael: Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad; “Hear, O’ Yisrael, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One.” The Tur Orach Chaim 61 rules that one places his hand over his eyes when he recites the Shema. What is the significance of Shema, and why does one cover his eyes upon reciting it? In his preface, the Kol Arye observes that two of Hashem’s Sheimos, Names, are seemingly contrary to one another. The name Elokim/Elokeinu is the Name that represents the Almighty’s, middah, attribute, of…

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ראה למדתי אתכם חוקים ומשפטים כאשר צוני ד' אלקיך

See, I have taught you decrees and ordinances, as Hashem, my G-d, has commanded me. (4:5)

Chazal derive an interesting halachah from this pasuk. Moshe Rabbeinu enjoins the nation to observe his manner of teaching the law to the nation. Just as he performed his mission gratis, likewise, when a Jew teaches Torah to his fellow Jew, he should not do so for remuneration. Does that mean that the thousands of rebbeim, moros, roshei yeshivah, rabbanim, roshei kollel, menahalim, anybody who teaches and disseminates Torah, should relinquish payment? Does this indicate that their profession is a “non-profession”? You get what you pay for. The salary one commands indicates the significance and value of the position. If…

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ויאמר ד' אלי רב לך אל תוסף דבר אלי בדבר הזה

Hashem said to me, “It is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter.” (3:26)

The Midrash Tanchuma (Va’eschanan 4) relates that Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hashem, “Ribon HaOlamim, You referred to me as Moshe, My servant (Bamidbar 12:7). I truly am Your servant. You also wrote in Your Torah (Shemos 21:5) that the eved Ivri, Hebrew bondsman who refuses to leave servitude after the prescribed six years goes through a process and avado l’olam, he remains in servitude until Yovel. Thus, Hashem, I ask to be allowed to remain in my position as an eved and continue serving You.” Hashem replied, “Rav lach, it is too much for you. It has already been decreed…

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