Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:       V’etchanan
                                        (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)
                                

Av 11, 5780

A Life Lesson

Effort is the only work required
by Adam Lieberman
In this week’s Torah portion, Moses reiterates to the Jewish people the Ten Commandments they heard on Mount Sinai. Moses tells that Jewish people that: “Six days shall you labor and accomplish all your work; but he seventh day is Sabbath to the Lord, your God…” (Deuteronomy, 5:13-14)
A LIFE LESSON
God commanded that in addition to the Jews resting on the seventh day, they should also have all of their work accomplished at the conclusion of the six preceding days. Resting on the seventh day is a concept we can certainly grasp, but there isn’t a person among us who feels that he’s truly completed all of their work come Friday afternoon. We all leave the office with our in-boxes overflowing, having countless emails that still need to be answered, and several projects that are all behind schedule. We even have a mental to-do list to tackle immediately after our commanded day of rest. God wired us to be doers, so how is it possible to understand the commandment to have all of our work completed at the end of the week?
The answer — if you let it — might just be one of the most liberating concepts to which you’ve ever been exposed. When God commands us to have all of out work accomplished, we have to understand what “work” God means. Our work is our effort — which is the only thing we can control. And it’s God — and only God — who controls the outcome of this effort. So it’s only our effort that God says we will have completed.
And therein lies the powerful life-changing message. On one hand, the amount of things we have to do will NEVER end. But that’s okay, because the only thing God demands of us is the effort we put forth in these endeavors. Therefore, God tells us that for six days we need to put in the necessary effort to make a difference and then our “work” is completely accomplished. On the seventh day, God wants us to take a breather and stop putting forth any more effort.
When you understand this life-changing concept, you will no longer feel overwhelmed, over-burdened, or stressed. You will no longer be shackled by the mountain of work that’s constantly before you. By the way, if you do feel out of control, it only means that you’re simply spending too much time being consumed with the outcome — of which you cannot control or dictate. When you focus only on your effort and not the outcome, you’re certain to be on the track of a balanced and happy life.
Just do your part for six days by putting in the proper effort, then sit back and remember who’s really in control. Understanding and living with this reality will free you from the illusion most of us call living, and allow you to break into what the enlightened call paradise.

 

Between the Lines

The Iron Furnace
by Rabbi Abba Wagensberg
This week’s parsha is always read on the Shabbat following Tisha B’Av. This Shabbat is known as “Shabbat Nachamu” (Shabbat of Consolation), based on the opening words of the Haftorah: “Nachamu, nachamu, ami — Be consoled, my nation (Isaiah 40:1). Shabbat Nachamu is intended to console us after the destruction of our Temple, since our Sages teach that if the Temple is not rebuilt in a given generation, it is as if the Temple were destroyed in that generation (Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 1:1).
Since Parshat Va’etchanan always coincides with Shabbat Nachamu, it seems logical that some type of “comfort” is found within the parsha itself. What comforting words does it share with us?
In this week’s parsha, God tells the Jewish people (Deut. 4:20), “I have taken you out of an iron furnace” (kur ha-barzel). The expression “kur ha-barzel” refers to the Egyptian exile. We might wonder why the Torah describes Egypt with this particular phrase, when similar words could express the same idea. For example, a prophesy in the Book of Malachi (13:19) states, “Behold a day is coming, burning like an oven.” It seems that the word “oven” would be an equally fitting description of Egypt. So why does this week’s parsha specifically use the imagery of an iron furnace?
We can shed light on this issue by examining Rashi’s commentary on our verse. Rashi defines the word “kur” (furnace) as “a vessel within which gold is purified.” We could suggest that Rashi is not merely translating the word “kur,” but is also explaining why we refer to the Egyptian exile as a “kur” (furnace) and not a “tanur” (oven). An oven is used for the everyday cooking and preparation of food. A furnace, on the other hand, has the specific function of refining gold. We can learn from here that God sent us into the Egyptian exile because He considers the Jewish people to be as precious as gold. No one bothers to refine ordinary rocks, because the result is worthless; however, people will expend great effort to refine gold, because we know that the outcome is valuable.
So,too, God sent the Jewish people into the hottest of furnaces because He knew how valuable we would be when we emerged. God knew that the Jewish people would be molded by the process of exile and that, through that process, we could achieve extraordinary levels. Everyone knows that through adversity, greatness emerges.
This is how this week’s parsha comforts us after the desolation of Tisha B’Av. As a nation, we have certainly gone through many forms of “kur ha-barzel” during the two millennia since the destruction of the Holy Temple. Yet, our experience in this “kur” is the surest indication that we are as precious as gold in God’s eyes. Even as we yearn for redemption, we must realize that God will do whatever it takes to refine us, so that we can become as pure and as elevated as possible.
May we each recognize our intrinsic self-worth and utilize every golden opportunity to become all that we can be. In this way, may we merit the re-building of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Family Parsha
Don’t Give Up
by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Sometimes we feel like we want to give up. When things seem to be going against us we can feel sunk. But the Torah teaches us otherwise. In this week’s Torah portion, Moses asks God to let him come into the land of Israel with the rest of the Jewish people. God had already told him that he wouldn’t be allowed into the land. But Moses doesn’t give up. He just keeps on praying and praying to be able to come in. Moses knows that God is very merciful and might still let him in. Our sages teach us never to give up, even when the sword is at out neck, meaning that even when things look hopeless, we should still try to do what we can. We should ask God for help, and we should never give up hope.
“It’s Not Over Till It’s Over”
“Batter up!” called out the umpire impatiently. It was the ninth inning. The Jets were all in the field waiting for the Hawks’ first batter to come up. But nobody was coming out.
Meanwhile in the Hawks’ dug-out a heated conversation was going on between Donny, the team captain, and Elly, the second baseman. “Elly, you’re up,” said Donny. “Get out there, you’re holding up the game.”
Elly looked up from the end of the bench where he had been sitting, flipping a ball up and down to himself. “Why bother?” he said. “The Jets scored eight runs in the last inning. They’re up by 10. We don’t have a chance. So tell me, why should I bother?”
“Why should you bother?” repeated Donny incredulously. “Because the game’s not over yet. OK, they are way ahead. But that doesn’t mean we can’t catch up,” he added. “One thing’s for sure, though. If we don’t try, then we will definitely lose.”
Elly shrugged his shoulders, stood up to grab a bat, and said, “Look, you’re the captain. If you tell me to go up to bat I will. But I still think we’re wasting our time.”
Elly walked out to the batter’s box. “Thought you got lost on the way,” teased the Jets pitcher.
“Just pitch!” Elly called back to him.
The pitch came in and Elly suprised everyone, especially himself, by getting a hit. After two more hits and a run in, the Hawks started to get excited. Two hits, two walks, a wild pitch and a home-run later, the score was tied! The game was going to go into extra innings.
As the Hawks ran out to take the field, Donny noticed the second baseman who now was all charged up with energy. “Well, do you feel like it was worth going up to bat after all?” he asked, with a wink.
Elly smiled, pounded his fist into his glove and said, “Donny, whether we win or lose this game, I feel like you gave me a big victory in learning how to play the game.”
Discussion Questions
Ages 3 – 5      How did Elly feel when it was his turn to go to bat?
Ages 6 – 9      Sometimes when we ask for something we’re refused. When do you think we should keep   trying to “get our way” and when is it better to just take “no” for an answer?
Ages 10 +  There are times when things really do appear hopeless and it seems totally irrational to believe that things will improve. Why then does the Torah enjoin us to maintain hope even then?

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The mercy we show to others, Heaven will show to us.”
                                                       — The Talmud

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JOKE OF THE WEEK

The school bell rang and the children ran down to the lunchroom. The Jewish day school was having a special lunch which included treats that parents had brought in as a fundraiser for the school. At the beginning of the lunch line, there was a basket full of apples. Next to the apples, a teacher had placed a little card that read, “Take only one, Hashem is watching.”
Later on in the line, there was a big plate of cookies that was already half empty. There was a small piece of paper laid up against the plate with a note written in a child’s sloppy handwriting that read, “TAKE AS MANY AS YOU WANT, HASHEM IS WATCHING THE APPLES.”

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