Parashat Vaetchanan (וָאֶתְחַנַּן) 5782, and Free Legal Utterances

    This week’s Torah portion, Vaetchanan (וָאֶתְחַנַּן),  is the 45th (45/54 or 52, depending on the year: this year, it’s 54…) reading in the annual cycle.  It’s the second parashah in the book of Dvarim, with the full reading in Dvarim/Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11.

   Among other things, like the second recitation of The 10 Utterances,  aka The Law, with a key word change (emphasized in L’cha Dodi…), this portion has the Shema,  which is a bit like the Shahada for Muslims, in that it is recited at death, but also in the daily prayers (with the full paragraphs, not recited as often), as well as at the taking out of the Torah scroll, in the form of a call and response.  There is a midrash that Yaakov/Israel, on his death bed, asked a worried question, to which his sons responded by reciting the Shema, and he responded to his sons’ answer  with the additional phrase that we now say quietly (Baruch shem kavod malchuto l’olam vaed -due to the Roman prohibition on that phrase, 2000 years ago).

      This was held to be a uniquely personal and powerful experience.  This is foundational for western, and even parts of Eastern, civilization, but now, are we capable, at least in theory, of upholding law through logic rather than divine command?

What do you think this parashah full of sayings/utterings and responses does to help us build an empathetic society?

I look forward to hearing your opinions on this matter, Thoughtful Readers.

We can really  Do Better. -Shira

                                       Last week was: Dvarim: Parashat Dvarim (דְּבָרִים) 5782, on The 9th of Av…  ,

Action Prompts:

    Share your thoughts on how to build buy-in to create a more equal, or at least less inequitable, society, please.   Guest posts are always welcome.  Writing, by the way, is my personal contribution to Project Do Better. What would yours be, if you had the spare time and energy?


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Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil, MAT, BsCs
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17 thoughts on “Parashat Vaetchanan (וָאֶתְחַנַּן) 5782, and Free Legal Utterances

  1. As a Christian I would say that God does not command. God is offering the possibility to reunite with him, and whether or not we are making use of it is our free choice. But in any case we are enveloped in Gods universal love. He will not give up on us, even if we give up on him. Without divine love touching us all the time, there would be no empathy or love thy neighbour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. I learned a very different idea, growing up: God very much did command and demand our obedience. And without questioning. That was a great part of what pushed me to leave Christianity.

      But I do agree that every religion with which I have had experience (Christians and Jews growing up, muslim neighbors and friends at school and working in Turkey, Buddhist meditation groups) emphasizes love for fellow human beings as part of the divine.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah! Ok. Fascinating. I didn’t know there were any more Gnostics! Excellent! Have you written about your faith? I very much liked the ideas I saw about the Albigensians/Cathars, whom I read were actually originated from Bogomiles in Eastern Europe? I’d love to hear more from you on thoughts. That is what I love reading of Rumi, as well.

          Liked by 1 person

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