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You shall teach them to your children… (11:19; second paragraph of Keriyat Shema).
In many ways the second paragraph of the Shema: Vehaya im Shamoa, is similar to the first paragraph, Shema Yisrael (6:4), towards the end of the previous Parasha. Both focus on the obligations of loving and serving G-d every day, and on the following other Mitzvot: teaching Torah to one's children, Tephillin, and Mezuzza.
There are, of course, many differences. The first paragraph focuses on kabbalat ol malchut shamayim - the daily renewed acceptance of G-d's Authority on ourselves as individuals (Talmud: Berachot 13a). The second includes sechar ve-onesh - Divine Reward and Punishment. This is detailed to promote kabbalat ol mitzvot - our obligation to serve Him by carrying out His Commandments.
The Mitzva of teaching Torah to one's children is mentioned twice, but expressed differently on each occasion. The first paragraph states ve-shinantam; whereas the second paragraph uses ve-limadetem. What can be learnt from those two different expressions, which appear to express the same thought?
A clue may be found in looking at the two paragraphs in their respective contexts.
The first paragraph is brought after Moses recounts the Ten Commandments, which, according to Saadia Gaon contain the entire 613 Mitzvot in microcosm (quoted by Rashi to Shemot 24:12). When the Israelites received the Torah, and when Moses repeated the Torah to them before his death, they were close to the Torah. The Revelation at Mount Sinai was an experience the older generation actually remembered. However in life, even the most powerful experiences become only of maximum use if we learn from them, we recall them frequently, and we discuss them with others. Thus the use of the word veshinantam - as Rashi explains, means that the Torah must be communicated in such a way that it is 'sharp'. The Torah experience is passed down intact to the next generation with such accuracy and enthusiasm that it becomes a de facto living experience even for those who did not personally witness Matan Torah.
This is only fully practicable for those who lived historically close to the Revelation. As generations succeeded one another, the impact of Matan Torah began to fade. Indeed, earlier in this Parasha the context is different: the Torah warns us the consequences of what will happen if you forget the L-rd your G-d (8:19-20). For, over time, the Torah experience was not 'sharp' in the mind and consciousness of the average Israelite, or later, the typical Jew. Just repeating and talking about holy writ was not sufficient by itself recreate the Torah Experience. It required a new process… ve-limadetem - 'and you shall teach them'. Teaching is not just instruction, but education; involving in depth study, questions, probing texts for the Shivim Panim La-Torah, and - the most difficult task of all - recreating the Torah Experience as if it happened today (Sifri 58). (Indeed Rashi on 11:18 specifies that this section of the Shema applies even following G-d's expulsion of the Israelites from Eretz Yisrael to the Golah).
The distinction thus made between ve-shinantam and ve-limadetem may be seen to have the following consequences in Torah Education, by the standards and realities of the present generation. Both have their applications, as suggested below.
Some children - especially in Israel - grow up in an all-embracing Torah environment. Their actuality is such that their entire experience is Torah. Their lives virtually never encounter a non-Torah thought - from the moment they get up until the last beracha before falling asleep at night. Their Cheder education, and the circumscribed society in which they mix are designed - as Matan Torah - not to allow a single non-Torah related expression or activity. Teaching such children is indeed in the context of the Torah being a fresh, intensely-lived daily experience. It is something that already has meaning by itself, given their background, and needs to be learnt, repeated, expanded and repeated again. The key word and approach is ve-shinantam.
It goes without saying that today, others grow up and experience Torah in a very different context. This includes mixing in a much wider society even as small children, and non-Torah influences exemplified by those viewed on television make up part of their existence. Such people need a deeper, more probing, and questioning approach for the Torah to have maximum impact. They will have the experience to question Torah teachings in a manner unthinkable to the secluded individuals discussed above. So teaching such children is not in a context of the Torah being lived in all its purity every waking moment, as Matan Torah. Rather, the emphasis is on ve-limadetem - having to teach and re-create the Torah experience to such an extent that they will be committed to Torah values so that ve-shinantam will follow.
As King Solomon writes in Mishlei: Educate a young man according to his way so that when he ages it will not depart from him (Mishlei 22:6).
QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT EKEV
1. How does the Chinuch understand the prohibition of 'bringing an abomination into your home'? (7:26)
2. Moses reminded the Israelites that G-d made them go hungry in the wilderness (8:3). How may this be reconciled with the very next words recording G-d's supplying them with manna according to (a) Ibn Ezra and (b) the Ramban?
3. List the seven sources of food that the Torah lists in praise of the Holy Land.
4. Why, in the context of the Parasha, does Moses recall the shortcomings of the Israelites after the Giving of the Torah according to (a) the Ramban and (b) the S'forno?
5. What is the relationship between the wooden ark recalled in the Parasha (10:1), and the Ark of the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:10) - according to (a) Rashi and (b) the Ramban?
6. For what reason does Moses recall Aaron's death within the context of the Parasha - according to (a) Rashi and (b) the Ramban?
7. How does the Ramban understand Moses' emphasizing that 'G-d does not take bribes' (10:17).
8. How does the Chinuch (431) understand the commandment of being required to 'love the stranger'? (10:19).
9. Moses describes the Holy Land as the 'Land which G-d… seeks out' (11:12). What is the meaning of that phrase according to Rashi?
10. Where, according to Rashi, are the following principles shown in the Parasha?
(a) The Israelites must faithfully observe the Mitzvot even if they are exiled from the Land.
(b) The dead will come back to life one day in the future
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT EKEV
1. The Chinuch (435) understands the prohibition of 'bringing an abomination into your home' as not just referring to objects associated with idolatry, but also to wealth accumulated in violation of Torah law. The Chinuch states that the force that persuades people to seek forbidden enrichment is identical to the one that tempts people towards paganism.
2. Moses reminding the Israelites that G-d made them 'go hungry' in the wilderness does not mean actual hunger per se, but basic living, without any luxuries (Ibn Ezra). The Ramban regards this 'hunger' as referring to its seemingly insubstantial nature - manna was a new experience, which they did not know if they would survive for long.
3. These are wheat, barley, the vine (grapes), figs, pomegranates, olives (for oil) and dates (for honey). As 8:8.
4. According to the Ramban, Moses recalled the shortcomings of the Israelites after the Giving of the Torah to reinforce that the commandments were to be taken seriously at all times. (b) The S'forno uses these incidents to stress the continuous nature of rebellion as the reason for the Israelites being unworthy of inheriting the Land in their own merits (9:4-5).
5. Rashi quotes the view found in the Jerusalem Talmud (Shekalim 6) that the wooden ark was the permanent home of the shattered First Tablets of Stone shattered by Moses. That was the ark that normally accompanied the Israelites on the battlefield. The Ramban brings the view that the wooden ark was a temporary home for both the First and Second Tablets, with both being transferred to the Ark in the Holy of Holies on completion of the Tabernacle.
6. According to Rashi, Moses recalls Aaron's death as a continuation to the words of warning earlier on. Following the Jerusalem Talmud tradition, his death led to a period of despair with breakaway groups and civil war amongst the Israelites. According to the Ramban, it relates to Moses having successfully interceded for Aaron's life following his role in the incident of the Golden Life (9:20) - indeed, he lived for nearly another forty years.
7. 'G-d does not take bribes' means that He does not trade off good deeds for bad ones. Rather, he rewards the good ones and punishes the bad ones - the good deeds not being 'bribes' to cover the bad ones.
8. The Chinuch (431) declares that the Torah's command to love the stranger does not only include the convert, but any newcomer who is a 'stranger' to a community - be it in the neighborhood, at work, or at school.
9. The Holy Land being the 'Land which G-d… seeks out' means that when G-d blesses the world at large, he seeks out the Land of Israel, and the rest of the world is blessed through its blessings. [In that light, the Ohr Hachayim points out that the whole world suffers when Israel is exiled or unworthy of His blessing.]
10. Both concepts are derived from the Second Paragraph of the Shema; according to Rashi:
(a) The Israelites must faithfully observe the Mitzvot even if they are exiled from the Land: after they are 'swiftly banished from the good land…' (11:17), they must still 'put My words on their hearts and on their souls' (11:18) - these verses being understood to follow consecutively.
(b) The dead will come back to life one day in the future: G-d states that He swore to your fathers that He would give the Land to 'them' (rather than the expected 'you') - meaning that they would one day be revived and inherit the Land in person. This is one of the Biblical sources for the resurrection of the deceased (see also Ez. 37).
ADDITIONAL QUESTION ON PARASHAT EKEV.
What is the connection between - You shall observe the Commandments of the L-rd your G-d, to go in His ways and fear Him (8:6), and the next verses, which detail the superior natural resources of the Holy Land? Moses told the Israelites to observe the Torah because G-d was about to bring them into the richly endowed Promise Land. Is that a reason to observe the Commandments? For 'there is no sufficient reward in this world for a observing a Mitzvah.' (Talmud: Kiddushin 39b, based on Deut. 5:16)
My attempts to answer the above may be found on the Shema Yisrael website under Ekev 5761
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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