Drash on Parashat Va'etchanan
Rabbi Allison RH Conyer
Eta Chayim Progressive Synagogue
Can you imagine what it would be like to stand on top of a mountain knowing you are about to die? Imagine seeing a review of your entire life, as well as seeing into the future for your children and grandchildren. What mixed emotions you would have! What a privilege and what a curse. This is what happened to Moses in this week’s parsha, Va’etchanan. Despite pleading with G-d to let him enter the Promised Land, to the place where he spent the better part of his life leading the Israelite people, Moses was refused entry. G-d, for a variety of reasons discussed by our Sages, made the decision that Moses would not enter. For Moses, his life’s purpose was fulfilled. He did his part, leading the people through the multitude of trials during their 40 years in the desert. Now it was time for a new leader with a new generation to enter the land and begin their lives anew.
As a good leader, who had finally accepted his fate, Moses continued to lead one last time, reminding the people what an honour it had been for them to “see” G-d (in the fire) and to “hear” G-d (at Mt. Sinai) and live. Within this week’s parsha, we read the words of the Shema – “Hear O Israel, Adonai is our G-d, Adonai is one.” (Deut. 4:6) Otherwise understood as: Listen, Jewish people, Adonai is our G-d. We only have one G-d (and don’t you forget it). And not only must we remember this crucial point at all times in everything we do, but we must also pass it on to our children and let the knowledge of G-d inspire us to do good in this world and make it a better place.
Also, within this parsha lies the second recounting of the Aseret Ha’Dibrot – the 10 commandments. Moses continued to say that when your children ask, “What is the meaning of these laws and commandments?”, we are to explain that G-d took us out of Egypt and freed us from slavery in order that we would follow G-d’s teaching to live a Jewish life and set an example to help repair the brokenness in our world. This is why we are here.
This sounds like the talk my parents gave me when I left for University. Good luck out there and remember the values of your family. Remember we love you and remember you love us. Make us proud in everything you do, for you represent what we brought into this world. We tried to teach you to do the right thing, be a good person, respect others and yourself. Don’t forget who you are and where you came from. And make this world a better place than the one into which you were born.
Then Moses shared his predictions of the future - that the Israelites will go after other gods, not follow the commandments and turn their backs on Judaism. He also predicted that they will change their ways and return to G-d and Judaism.
Again, like a teenagers or young adults leaving home, questioning and challenging everything they had been taught, eventually they return to the values and practices of their family (albeit tweaked their own way).
Parshat Va’etchanan is the story of growth and maturity that we all face. There comes a time when we must let go, when we can see where we came from and what brought us to this point; A time to let go, knowing that others will make mistakes and having the faith that they will learn from their mistakes and find their way back to doing what is right. We also can learn that like Moses who did what he needed to do in his lifetime, he couldn’t do it all. With each new generation in our ever-changing world, we need to work with the younger generations and new leadership that emerge in response to a new world with new demands and hope that this new leadership will respect where they came from and make this world a better place for all of us. It’s not easy letting go. But sometimes, it’s the best thing to do, trusting that we’ve done all we can to set others up for success in the future. Ken y’hi ratzon – May this be G-d’s will.