Parashas Vaeschanan

1. In parashas Vaeschanan, Moshe declares to the Jewish People (Devarim 4:7): “For who is a great nation that has a God who is close to them like Hashem, our God, whenever we call to Him.” I previously presented one of the Maggid’s commentaries on this verse; here I present another.
The starting point is a plea that David HaMelech presented to Hashem (Tehillim 86:3): “Show me grace, my Lord, for I call unto You all day long.” The Maggid explains this plea as follows. If a person asks his neighbor for help and the neighbor refuses, often he will accept the refusal and leave. But there are situations where the person knows that the neighbor he has approached is the only one who can help him. In this case, if the neighbor refuses to help, the person will continue pleading and crying nonstop for help until the neighbor relents and grants the request. Now, if the neighbor knows ahead of time that this is what the person will do, he will grant the request immediately, reasoning that there is no point in refusing. This is the idea behind David HaMelech’s plea: He is asking Hashem to help him, and telling Him that if He refuses he will continue beseeching Him. In a similar vein, Asaph declares (Tehillim 80:19): “And we will not retreat from You – revive us and we will proclaim Your Name.”
2. Later in the parashah, Moshe tells the Jewish People (Devarim 4:2): “You shall not add to the word that I command you and you shall not subtract from it, to observe the commandments of Hashem, your God, that I command you.” Again, I previously presented a selection from the Maggid’s commentary on this command. I present here a famous parable that the Maggid composed to bring out the point.
A person had a habit of borrowing utensils from his neighbor, and each time he would return double what he borrowed – for example, two spoons in return for one, or two plates in return for one. The first time this happened, the neighbor asked him in astonishment: “I only gave you one – why are you bringing back two?” The borrower replied: “While the utensil was in my house, it gave birth to another one, and so it belongs to you. The neighbor said, “Well, please feel free to borrow another utensil today,” he gave him one, and the borrower again returned two. These exchanges continued for a long time. One day, the borrower approached the neighbor and said: “Please lend me today your large silver candelabra, because today we are having a family celebration.” The neighbor gave him the candelabra with great joy, figuring that, as usual, he would get back two. The next day, the borrowed did not come, so the neighbor went to his house to ask for his candelabra back. The borrower replied: “Your candelabra died.” The neighbor exclaimed indignantly: “Who ever heard of a candelabra dying?” The borrower responded: “Well, who ever heard of a plate or a pot giving birth? Just you believed me in the past when I told you this happened, so, too, you should believe me now when I tell you the candelabra died.”
The parallel is as follows: Hashem tells us not to add extra mitzvos, for if a person gets into the habit of doing so, then ultimately, when an important and difficult mitzvah comes his way, he will say: “Just as Hashem previously accepted extra mitzvos from me, He will accept my claim that I cannot do this one.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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