VaEtchanan – “And I Pleaded”

The Torah portion for this Shabbat is called Va’etchanan, meaning “and I pleaded”. It covers Deuteronomy chapters 3:23 through 7:11. As the parasha opens, Moses was pleading with Adonai to reconsider allowing him to cross over into the Land of Promise. God’s answer was a firm “No” but He did allow Moses to ascend Mt. Pisgah and get a bird’s eye view of the expanse of the land from a distance. God also directed Moses to commission Joshua as his successor.

Do you recall why Moses was forbidden to enter the Land? As a young boy in Hebrew school, our teacher told us it was because Moses smashed the first set of tablets containing the Ten Commandments. That was incorrect! Some think it’s because Moses struck the rock, instead of speaking to it. That, too, is incorrect. In Exodus 17:6, God instructed him to strike the rock. Moses’ sin wasn’t in striking the rock, but in taking credit for providing the water. When he did that, he failed to treat Adonai as holy and glorify Him. Of course, Moses eventually did make it into the Land; for when Messiah Yeshua was transfigured on one of the high mountains in Israel, it was Moses, along with Elijah, that appeared together with Him.

In Chapter four, Moses reminded our people that nothing like what occurred in Egypt had ever happened in the history of the world. Imagine an entire nation being set free from within another nation! This demonstration of the power and love of God, means that Israel ought always to reverence Adonai, and Him alone!

In chapter five the Ten Commandments are restated. Moses reminds Israel that when we encountered the Living God at Sinai, we were terrified, and begged Moses to mediate for us. We dared not continue to look upon God’s fiery presence or hear His voice, or we would perish. God commended us for having that proper sense of His holiness, and Moses did, in fact, serve as our mediator.

So, when someone tells you they don’t need a ‘middleman’ and claims they can go directly to God, you have to wonder which ‘god’ they’re talking about; because it certainly isn’t the One we’re reading about here in the Torah. No, the Jewish people have always needed mediators to approach Adonai. Moses was our mediator, as were the High Priests. Our prophets were mediators. And the only way to the Father today is through the Ultimate Mediator, Messiah Yeshua.

Chapter six contains the Shema, Israel’s central declaration of faith in the one true and living God. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. For centuries, our people have recited this passage, sometimes less as an affirmation of faith and more as a repudiation of the doctrine of the Trinity. But the word echad, meaning “one” is the same word we find in Genesis 2:24 to describe a man and his wife cleaving to each other and becoming “one flesh”. I am one person, my wife is another person, and yet we are echad.

Adonai echad doesn’t mean that God is an ontological unity. It means that He is unique. He is the only One! The Lord God of Israel is incomparable! That is the message of the accompanying haftarah, Isaiah 40:1-26! And while the Shema is a statement of fact, the actual commandment is what follows it: v’ahavta… you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. So, how are you doing with that first and greatest commandment?

Chapter seven contains a strong warning not to make alliances, nor intermarry with the various people groups who were already in Canaan, once we entered the Land. It had nothing to do with ethnicity. It was to keep Israel from idolatry. There is also a reminder that God didn’t choose us because we were better or mightier, but simply because He loved us, and keeps His promises.

Let me conclude with this thought:


At the beginning of the parasha, when Moses pleaded with God to be allowed to go into Canaan, some of our translations read that God said, “Enough!”. But the word there in Hebrew isn’t *$ (dai – “enough/stop it”); rather it’s the words +- “9 (rav l’cha) meaning, “ample/sufficient for you”. And it brings to mind another instance where someone besought God and again the answer was “No”. It was Rabbi Paul. He tells us in 2 Corinthians 12 that three times he pleaded with God to remove the physical malady with which he was afflicted. And what was God’s answer to him? It wasn’t just “No,” but rather He said to Paul (and through him He’s saying to us), arci  soi h cariV mou – “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Those who have been in the Lord a long time will tell you that, in retrospect, when God’s answer was “No” and He had different plans for us, it was good that we didn’t get what we wanted. Often, we don’t know what’s good for us. God’s “No” doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you. It may, in fact, be proof that He does!

In other situations, perhaps what we want is good, but we don’t know the end from the beginning, and He does. Since what we do know is that He cares for us, it is wise to submit to God’s will and rest contentedly in it.

God’s grace really is rav – ample, sufficient. Simply to know that in Messiah Yeshua we are forgiven and reconciled to God, and that we will be with Him forever in eternal joy and wonder – isn’t that great? So, when other good things do come your way, consider it icing on the cake. And when His answer to us is “No” or “Not now” – let’s embrace that with patience and trust. Amen?