It is apparent from these verses that there are three possible situations in the Creator-Yisrael relationship:
Verse 27) “…if you obey…” – life will be a blessing
Verse 28) “…if you do not obey…” – then life will be a curse
Verse 26) “Perceive! I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse” – when life is a blessing imbedded and disguised as a curse, as is transpiring today in front of our eyes.
1. Why is the first paragraph of kri’at shema (the standardized recitation of Shema Yisrael) worded in the singular, while the second is in the plural?
2. Why did HaShem not give the Torah to the Patriarchs — Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov?
3. Why must a Gentile convert in order to be obligated to keep the Torah?
Our parasha enumerates the 42 stations where the Jewish nation encamped in their 40 years of wandering in the desert; some are well known, others are just markers on a map.
Wandering is the essence of Jewish history when HaShem banished us from His holy land.
To have to leave the land in which you and your parents were born, in order to begin a new life in foreign surroundings, with the knowledge that in three or four generations your descendants will also have to leave for a new place, is traumatic. But these situations also held within them the survival of our people. The feeling that we are “permanently temporary” decreased the degree of assimilation into the cultures of our “host” countries. Some might argue that the “treatment” was much too harsh in combating the disease. Perhaps! But it worked.
This parsha always draws me close to tears. How I feel for the greatest of men – Moshe Rabbeinu – who was forced to succumb to HaShem’s absolute and terminal judgment prohibiting him from entering the Holy Land.
But it should not have come as a complete surprise to the great Moshe. Among his ten names, Moshe’s holy Jewish name given to him by his parents at birth was Tuvia, whereas Moshe was the name given to him by Batya, the Egyptian princess who saved him as a baby from the river (Moshe in ancient Egyptian means “to draw out from water”).
From all his names, why did HaShem choose to call him by the Egyptian word “Moshe”?
Our parsha begins with the unfathomable ritual of para aduma, the red heifer. The completely red-haired animal is burned on Har Ha’zaytim to the east of the Temple Mount, in direct line with the Holy of Holies, which enabled the officiating kohen to see into the Holy of Holies.
The Torah informs us that all the people involved in the preparation of the para aduma become tamei (a state of ritual impurity), even though the result of their efforts is the purification of people or objects which became tamei through contact with a corpse.
How strange that the people who are engaged in the purification of others become themselves impure!
But here the Torah is teaching us a huge lesson in Yiddishkeit; that, in the fulfillment of Hashem’s will, a Jew at times is called on to dirty his hands – literally and figuratively.
Avraham established Yerushalayim as the eternal capital of the Jewish nation and the Temple Mount as HaShem’s eternal embassy, from where HaShem manifests Himself to the world.
Next week, we shall see an event similar to Avraham’s declaration. Although not as breathtaking, it will be more widely witnessed.