D’var Torah – Parshat V’Etchanan

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By Cantor Carol Chesler

cantor cheslerI could not have picked a better Parsha for a D’var Torah than V’Etchanan!  In chapters 3 to 6 in Deuteronomy, one finds the Ten Commandments, The Sh’ma/V’ahavta.  As I am always thinking musically, this line-up reads like a “Greatest Hits” album of the Jewish people.   Then again, I am slightly reticent to decipher these 2 central texts.

I love looking at the siddur and wondering why we say the words we say each day.  In that spirit, I would like to focus on a different verse, found early in the Parsha, Deuteronomy 4:4.

וְאַתֶּם֙ הַדְּבֵקִ֔ים בַּה’ אֱלֹֽהֵי-כֶ֑ם חַיִּ֥ים כֻּלְּכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם

  “. . . While you who held fast to the Lord your God, are all alive today.” (Etz Hayim, p. 1007), or “You who cling to the Lord your God have been sustained to this day.” (Siddur Sim Shalom, p. 141)  This verse from the Parsha is recited each time we begin to read the Torah, and the First Aliyah is about to be called.  What does clinging to the Lord have to do with reading from the Torah?   We need a way of expressing our attachment to the Almighty, a physical bond that brings us to a spiritual bond with God.  Torah is the means of clinging to God – through reading it, studying it, living by the Mitzvot and laws within, sometimes simply by holding the Torah.  We are sustained, we are joyful, and ultimately we are connected to the Kodesh Boruch Hu, through our ongoing relationship with the Torah. Here, at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, we each have the opportunity to strengthen our connection to God every day; by holding fast to the values and teachings of the Torah, we grow as individuals, as Jews, as a community, and as a part of the greater K’lal Yisrael.