Parsha Va'etchanan - Debarim/Deuteronomy 3:22 -7:11
Parsha Va’etchanan continues to present Moshe’s closing words to Yisrael. He will be gone soon, and Yehoshua will lead them. Soon, they will be leaving the wilderness and entering the land of Promise. The miraculous nature of the wilderness journey will come to an end, and they will enter the phase of living an everyday life for the esteem of YAHUAH.
Moshe had to prepare them for these dramatic changes. They weren't negative changes, but they were changes nonetheless. Yisrael was entering into a different phase of their lives and of their history. It was a good change, yet, a change they needed preparation for.
In this week’s Parsha, Moshe finishes his opening speech and begins his (long) second speech. This Parsha recounts their experiences at Har Sinai and begins to review “the command, the laws and right-rulings which YAHUAH your Elohim has commanded” (Deb/Deut. 6:1).
Why does Moshe recount them?
“... to teach you to do in the land which you are passing over to possess, so that you fear יהוה your Elohim, to guard all His laws and His commands which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days be prolonged." (Deb/Deut. 6:1-2)
Moshe has to prepare them for life in the land of Yisrael. So here, he begins a lengthy review of the commands Yisrael must follow and obey when they inherit the Land.
We can see from Moshe’s words that he is trying to instill a certain mindset in the people of Yisrael. He wants them to live their lives in the Land with a constant awareness that YAHUAH is Elohim - their Elohim - and there is no other.
All the commands he reviews with Yisrael lead to this awareness, and his admonishments and rebukes warn them of not having this mindset (i.e. of forgetting Elohim).
All of Moshe's words are fitting for us today. It is so easy to get caught up in life and forget Elohim. Perhaps not literally, but many times our busy daily activities make us less mindful of Him and His Presence in our lives. We have to work to stay constantly aware of Him.
That’s why in the 13th century, a rabbi (believed to be Rabbi Aharon HaLevi) compiled what’s known as the Six Constant Mitzvot in the book Sefer HaChinuch.
These are six commandments in the Torah that are obligatory at all times in all places. These are the commands that help us build the constant awareness of YAHUAH in our lives.
If we look in this week’s readings, we can find all six of these commands (either the command itself or a related command) as Moshe worked to instill this awareness into Yisrael.
Constant Mitzvah #1 - Believe in YAHUAH
Deb/Deut. 5:6 "I am יהוה your Elohim who brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim, out of the house of bondage."
Deb/Deut. 4:35 “You have been shown it, to know that יהוה Himself is Elohim; there is no one beside Him."
Deb/Deut. 4:39 “And you shall know today, and shall recall to your heart that יהוה Himself is Elohim in the heavens above and on the earth beneath; there is none else."
Know that YAHUAH exists and that He is the Creator of the world and all that is in it. Not only did He create the world, but He constantly sustains the world. Without Him, everything would perish. Not only does He sustain the world, but He is constantly involved with the world - constantly interacting with His creations even down to a personal, individual level. He “brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim, out of the house of bondage” (Deb. 5:6).
Live with the constant awareness that YAHUAH is the Almighty who created all, does all, and is capable of all. Know that He is personally involved in your life. Every moment of every day, He is with you. Build a relationship with Him. He is real! Don't just believe it. KNOW it!
Constant Mitzvah #2 - Not to Believe in Any Other
Deb. 5:7 "You have no other mighty ones against My face."
Deb. 4:35 “You have been shown it, to know that יהוה Himself is Elohim; there is no one beside Him."
Deb. 4:39 “And you shall know today, and shall recall to your heart that יהוה Himself is Elohim in the heavens above and on the earth beneath; there is none else."
Deb. 6:14 “Do not go after other mighty ones, the mighty ones of the peoples who are all around you,"
Combine this with #1: YAHUAH is Elohim, and there is none else! Only Him! We must be constantly aware of who or what we look to for our needs. Who or what do we see as the source of our blessings and provisions? If we look to anyone or anything other than YAHUAH - including our self - for even a moment, we are guilty of idolatry. Look to YAHUAH alone and rely on Him only. Constantly be aware that everything comes from Him, and it is not our power but His power.
Constant Mitzvah #3 - Know that YAHUAH is One
Deb. 6:4 “Hear, O Yisra’ĕl: יהוה our Elohim, יהוה is one!
YAHUAH is One. He is the Always-Present, Forever-Existent, Never-Changing One. He wasn’t one Elohim at Creation, then another one at Sinai, and another now. He is One, and He is the same One. He and His word never change.
YAHUAH is the only One. He is the only One in control of the world. Everything exists because of Him, and nothing exists outside of Him. All power is His. He does not share His Ultimate Authority with any other being or entity. All the host of heaven, including Mashiach, are under His Power and Authority. He alone is YAHUAH.
Truly understanding His Oneness is living with the constant awareness that He is greater than what we can ever imagine. We will never completely know or understand Him. YAHUAH is great! Do not limit Him. Realize that your understanding of Him is only a fraction of who He is. Live with the constant awareness of the greatness and vastness of the One Elohim.
Constant Mitzvah #4 - To Love YAHUAH
Deb. 6:5 “And you shall love יהוה your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your might."
This is a command to do the things that will increase love and cause us to express love for YAHUAH. Read His word to know more about Him. Be grateful for all that He does for you and your loved ones and for the world. Give thanks for all the added pleasures that He doesn’t have to do for you. Be in awe of His miraculous creation around you. Speak to Him continuously. Meditate on His love for you.
Make a commitment to Him, as one does for a spouse. Give Him your time, energy, talents, gifts, and resources. Devote your being to Him to the extent that you’re willing to die for Him. Through thought, speech, and action, continuously bring your awareness to the goodness of Elohim to engender feelings of love and express your love for Him.
Constant Mitzvah #5 - To Fear YAHUAH
Deb. 6:13 “Fear יהוה your Elohim and serve Him, and swear by His Name."
Deb. 4:10 “The day when you stood before יהוה your Elohim in Horeb, יהוה said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me and I make them hear My Words, so that they learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth and teach them to their children.’
Deb. 5:29 ‘Oh, that they had such a heart in them, to fear Me and to guard all My commands always, so that it might be well with them and with their children forever!
Deb. 6:2 "so that you fear יהוה your Elohim, to guard all His laws and His commands which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days be prolonged."
Deb. 6:24 ‘And יהוה commanded us to do all these laws, to fear יהוה our Elohim, for our good always, to keep us alive, as it is today.
This mitzvah also includes every verse in which Moshe warns of the consequences of forsaking YAHUAH.
YAHUAH is a righteous Elohim. He reigns in righteousness and right-ruling. He will reward the righteous and punish the wrong. There are consequences for our actions. YAHUAH sees and pays attention to everything we do. Live with that awareness - that our thoughts, actions, speech, and behavior matter. YAHUAH will punish us if we sin against Him.
Love and fear of YAHUAH work hand in hand. When you love YAHUAH and have a relationship with Him, then you should be afraid of damaging that relationship. You don’t want to anger the One you love. Don’t do anything to hinder the building of your relationship with Him. To constantly live in fear of YAHUAH is to constantly be aware of your actions so as to not displease your Father whom you love.
Constant Mitzvah #6 - Not to Stray after Your Heart and Eyes
Bem/Num. 15:39 “And it shall be to you for a tzitzit, and you shall see it, and shall remember all the commands of יהוה and shall do them, and not search after your own heart and your own eyes after which you went whoring,"
Deb. 5:32 “And you shall guard to do as יהוה your Elohim has commanded you – do not turn aside, to the right or to the left."
Deb. 4:9 “Only, guard yourself, and guard your life diligently, lest you forget the Words your eyes have seen, and lest they turn aside from your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren."
Deb. 4:23 “Guard yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of יהוה your Elohim which He made with you, and shall make for yourselves a carved image in the form of whatever יהוה your Elohim has forbidden you."
Deb. 6:12 "be on guard, lest you forget יהוה who brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim, from the house of bondage."
We are constantly bombarded with temptations. Temptations pull us to indulge in physical pleasures; to pursue materialism, entertainment, and the desires of our heart and eyes; and even to follow different spiritual ideas and beliefs that are not of YAHUAH.
There is a constant evil inclination to put our self first and to put our own desires ahead of everyone and everything else, including our relationship with YAHUAH. This inclination is what drives us to fall to temptations. We have to constantly “be on guard.” We have to guard ourselves so that we are not drawn away. This requires a constant focus on our priorities (the first 5 mitzvot). Do not turn to the right or the left. Be aware of the sneaky attempts to draw you away. Stay focused, and be vigilant always! Be on guard!
These are the Six Constant Mitzvot, six commandments that must be obeyed at all times, 24/7, 365 and ¼.
Believe in YAHUAH
Don't Believe in Any Other
Know that YAHUAH is One
Don't Stray After Your Own Heart and Eyes
If you go back through the week’s readings, you’ll see that everything Moshe said to Yisrael fits into one of these six categories. He was making them aware of YAHUAH in such a way that they will always be aware of Him, even after his passing and even after the transition to daily life in Eretz Yisrael.
Moshe was instilling belief, fear, and love of YAHUAH and making them instinctively resistant to serving idols and straying after their own desires.
This mindset and constant awareness of YAHUAH is what we all need, and these Six Constant Mitzvot are the building blocks to get us there.
May we all strive to learn and obey these commands, at every moment of every day, to the best of our ability.