Parashas Vaeschanan

Parashas Vaeschanan reviews the Giving of the Torah. Hashem, our loving Creator, gave us the Torah as a guide to life. When we learn Torah, we must pay careful attention to what it says, even though there are some instructions that we feel we have heard many times before. We must take care to follow Hashem’s instructions exactly. Thus, earlier in the parashah, Moshe teaches (Devarim 4:2): “You must not add to the word that I have commanded you, and you must not subtract from it, to observe the commandments of Hashem your God, which I have commanded you.” The Maggid expounds on this injunction.
He explains that Hashem’s Torah is an intricate combination of many parts, like a precision watch. When assembling a precision watch, you must follow the design exactly. If you leave out a part, the watch will not work properly. And there is no advantage in being “generous” by making a part bigger than specified, or inserting extra parts. On the contrary, oversized parts or extra parts just interfere with the proper operation of the watch. The principle “more is better” applies well to a block of gold, but it does not apply at all to a precision watch.
Now, a person might think, far be it, that if he is generally observant, it is not so bad if he skips over a few mitzvos – Hashem will overlook the omission. Since there are so many mitzvos, it seems it shouldn’t matter if a few are left out. In regard this attitude, the Gemara teaches (Yerushalmi Shekalim, ch. 5): “One who says that the Holy One Blessed Be He foregoes matters, let his intestines be foregone.”
The Maggid explains the idea behind this teaching as follows. Consider a person who has many utensils. If some of them are spares, he is willing to forego holding on to them all, and lend a few to a neighbor. But if he has just one of every type for each member of his family, and they constantly use every type, he will not be openhanded. Even though he has many items, he will not forego a single one. Similarly, although the Torah has many mitzvos, Hashem is unwilling to forego a single one. Every mitzvah is essential. Hashem designed the Torah with various goals, and He built into it exactly one mitzvah to cover each goal. There are no “extra” mitzvos, and so it is no small matter if some are left out. A person who thinks otherwise is misguided. Let him reflect, our Sages say, on his own body. Let him imagine someone saying to him: “Listen, you have a few feet of intestines. I’d like to have some for a project I am working on. You can spare a couple of feet, can’t you?” Obviously this is ridiculous. If a person would forego a couple of feet of his intestines, his body’s functioning would be significantly impaired. In the same way, if Hashem would forego a few mitzvos, the Torah would no longer function as He designed it. We must follow the Torah to the letter.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.