Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vaetchanan - 5773

My friends,

This Shabbat, we read the second portion in the Book of Devarim - Vaetchanan. Vaetchanan includes familiar passages - the Sh'ma and the Ten Commandments. But its recurring message is the beauty of Eretz Yisrael and what the Israelites must do to deserve it.

It begins with Moses telling the people of Israel how he yearned to enter the Land and pleaded with G-d to allow him to enter the land. But his request was denied. He tells the people how fortunate they are to be able to live in the land - but that they will be exiled if they do not observe the commandments. The portion ends with these words: "Eretz Zavat Halav Udvash" - A land that flows with milk and honey. Being in Israel and hearing these words read on Shabbat has a very special meaning.

We hope and pray that the external - and especially the internal - problems in Israel can be solved, so that our people will continue to deserve the Land and continue to make it a true LAND THAT FLOWS WITH MILK AND HONEY.

I look forward to seeing you at Shul next Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram




Photo of Uri Koppel

Parashat Vaetchanan - 5773

My friends,

This week, we read the parasha of Vaetchanan. It is a difficult parasha to discuss because there are so many themes:

I would like to focus, however, on the Ten Commandments, because they are repeated in this parasha. Question: Is it proper to stand or sit during the recitation of the Ten Commandments? It is a question our sages have debated for centuries.

In most congregations, it is customary to stand; however, back in the days of the Temple, when the Ten Commandments were read every day, there was the fear that heretics (i.e., non-Jews) would say that, because that was the only time people would stand, they alone were given at Sinai and not the remainder of the Torah. As a result, not only was their daily reading abolished, so as to not single out one portion of the Torah over another, but standing when they were read was also prohibited; again, so as to give equal respect to all parts of the Torah.

During the Gaonic period (roughly the 7th century C.E. thru the 11th century C.E.), public reading of the Ten Commandments was brought back, but was again discouraged and prohibited, for the same reasons as before. Maimonides even weighed in on the question, agreeing with the earlier sages that it was improper to stand.

Despite all of this, it remained popular custom to stand during the reading of the Ten Commandments. In fact, Rabbi Shmuel Abohav, who lived in 17th-century Italy, said, "We rule to observe this custom which has spread over most of the congregations of Israel," saying that standing was an expression of honor and reverence, "As if we were welcoming the Holy Presence (Shechina)," and going on to say that the earlier fears of what non-Jews would claim were no longer relevant.

Today, in most congregations, it is customary to stand. Some say that, since some people stand, everyone must stand so as not to show disrespect. Nonetheless, the question remains open even today.

Shabbat Shalom,

Uri Koppel
Sharei Chesed Congregation