Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-count of Sefer HaChinuch AND Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva comes.
[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha p’tucha or s’tuma respectively. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p'sukim in the parsha.
Kohen - First Aliya - 11 p'sukim - 3:23-4:4
SDT: The Baal Shem Tov commented that Moshe, who had learned the entire Torah, Written Word and Oral Law, from G-d Himself, used the term "You have begun to show me Your greatness..." The more one learns Torah, the more one learns about G-d, the more one will realize that he has just begun to understand Who G-d is.
G-d refused this request and forbade Moshe to ask again. Moshe ascended a mountain from where he saw the Land. G-d then told him to transfer the authority of leadership to Yehoshua.
According to the Vilna Gaon's analysis of D'varim, this ends the first section of Moshe's message to the People.
[P> 4:1 (24)] He (Moshe) proceeds to review the laws and statutes (Torah and mitzvot) by which the people are now to live... in Eretz Yisrael.
Another warning against idolatry follows. Then, "And you who cling to G-d are all alive today". (The Gemara teaches that this is one of the many references to T'CHIYAT HAMEITIM in the Torah.)
MitzvaWatch: The twin prohibitions of neither adding nor subtracting from the Torah, are mentioned in Va'etchanan and again in R'ei (where they are counted among the 613). The Vilna Gaon points out that the plural form is used one time and the singular form is used in the other case. This, he says, alludes to two different aspects of these prohibitions. It is forbidden to add to or subtract from a particular mitzva - for example, one may not take 5 species or 3 species on Sukkot for the fulfillment of the mitzva of "Lulav & Etrog". Nor may one add or subtract to the total of the mitzvot. To treat a Rabbinic mitzva as a Torah law, or vice versa, would be an example of the other aspect of these prohibitions. The spirit of these prohibitions (if not the actual definitions) would include treating (and/or teaching) a CHUMRA as if it were required, or vice versa (claiming that something that is prohibited is "only" a chumra). Aside from people who intentionally do this (very wrong), it is more common to find people doing it one way or the other inadvertently, either because of ignorance or because of a sincere (but slightly misguided) desire to enhance the observance of mitzvot. This is especially important for parents and teachers of young children.
Don’t say ASUR if you mean, strictly speaking it isn’t actually forbidden, but it is considered a proper thing to abstain for doing such and such. It sounds more complicated, but it is more “honest” and therefore it is the more proper way to transmit Torah to your children and students.
Levi - Second Aliya - 36 p'sukim - 4:5-40
There is repeated reference in the book of D'varim, and especially in Parshat Va'etchanan, to Eretz Yisrael being THE reason for our having been taken out of Egypt, formed into a Nation, and given the Torah and mitzvot.
Prolonged exile has taught us that the Torah can be kept, must be kept, no matter where a Jew finds himself. This was one of the reasons that the Torah was given at Sinai, prior to entry into the Land. On the other hand, one should not lose sight of the fact, repeated often by Moshe Rabeinu in D'varim, that G-d has always intended us to observe His mitzvot IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL. Are there more mitzvot to keep in Israel than outside? YES. But maybe more significantly, every mitzva - even those that are performed all over the world, can reach their full potential ONLY in Israel. This is a message that each of us has to realize, understand, and internalize. Then we must spread this message to family and friends abroad who feel that they "have everything we need to be fully Jewish" in their respective religious communities around the world. AND the vital significance of Torah AND Israel to our lives as Jews must be taught to those less committed Jews herein Israel and abroad.
On the other hand, we must not forget that Israel today is not the realization of The Dream, but rather a step on the road to the Complete Redemption, the restoration of Zion and Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, and the coming of Mashiach. This idea helps us refocus after the mourning period that ends with the 10th of Av, and is an appropriate theme to usher in the period of consolation and repentance.
Let’s put it like this: T’rumot and Maasrot - do not apply outside of Israel. They are observed in real but token fashion in Israel today. They will IY"H be able to be fully observed when Yovel comes back into active observance, when we will have a Sanhedrin, ability to become TAHOR from all forms of defilement, etc.
Shabbat: Observance in Chutz LaAretz required. Potential maximum fulfillment of the mitzva 70%. In Eretz Yisrael today: max. possible fulfillment is 80-85% (percentages are made up for illustrative purposes only. Maybe the real numbers are 40% and 80%. The point is that Eretz Yisrael is where G-d has always wanted us to be. That means something even in our time). IY”H in the time of the Mikdash, etc. Max. potential of fulfillment of Shabbat and all other mitzvot - 100%.
We must be careful to preserve and perform the mitzvot because (among other reasons) it is the mitzvot that project Judaism as an intelligent religion to the nations of the world. This in turn, sanctifies G-d's Name. We must be infinitely careful to remember and transmit to our children, the "Sinai Experience".
Moshe describes for the new generation the details of Matan Torah. He includes a specific warning against the potentially idolatrous thoughts caused by the combination of the magnificent, tangible universe in which we live and the invisible, intangible G-d.
A primary cause of idolatry is the natural human tendency to relate better with something concrete rather than something abstract. The Sun is in the sky. It's hot, full of energy, gives us light, and is responsible for life as we know it. People found Sun-worship easier to accept than the worship of He Who created the Sun and every- thing else, but cannot be seen. True worship of the One G-d was what Avraham and Sara taught many people. And, as OR LAGOYIM, a light unto the nations, it is what we are supposed to teach and show the world.
G-d had taken us out of Egypt in order to make us His Nation. He got angry at me, says Moshe, and forbade me to enter the Land. Again, Moshe warns the People against abandoning the covenant with G-d after his (Moshe's) passing.
[P> 4:25 (16)] The next portion is read on Tish'a b'Av morning... In spite of the many warnings against idolatry, Moshe prophesies (predicts) that there will come a time when the People will turn from G-d and be exiled from their Land. It will then come to pass that the People will seek out G-d and return to Him. Moshe emphasizes the uniqueness of the People of Israel and their special relationship with G-d and beseeches the People to remain faithful to Torah and mitzvot. One can hear a pleading in his voice, as if he is begging the people not to go in the direction of his prophecy.
This theme is oft-repeated in the Torah. Do what G-d asks of you. Don’t turn away from Him. If you remain faithful to Him, wonderful things will happen to and for you. If you turn away from Him, terrible things will happen. You will turn away from Him; terrible things will happen; and then you will turn back to Him...
The Torah keeps presenting this to us, many times. And we read through the entire Torah in a year and we read the Torah year after year, and we hear the prophecies and the challenges and the commandments. So...
Shlishi - Third Aliya - 9 p'sukim - 4:41-49
These (the mitzvot about to be presented) were taught by Moshe to the People following the Exodus in the lands on the East Bank of the Jordan.
(Note the detail in the description of the location of the people, the repetition of their successes in conquering the "east bank" lands. It seems meant to be encouraging to the people.)
V'zot HaTorah... said when the Torah is lifted, comes from D'varim 4:44. In the Siddur, the words AL PI HASHEM B'YAD MOSHE are added.
That phrase appears 4 times in Bamidbar, but 9:23 seems the one from which it is taken.
R'VI'I - Fourth Aliya - 18 p'sukim - 5:1-18
MitzvaWatch: The most well-known difference between the two presentations of the Aseret HaDidrot is "Shamor v'Zachor" of Shabbat. Generally, "Zachor" is interpreted as referring to the positive mitzvot and aspects of Shabbat, whereas "Shamor" is taken as warning against violation of the prohibitions. The traditional minimum of two Shabbat candles (although one candle satisfies the halacha), are said to represent these two facets of Shabbat. It is the intertwined nature of the positive aspects of Shabbat and its prohibitions that is "responsible" for Kiddush on Friday night being obligatory upon women. Rather than treat Kiddush as a pure "time-related positive mitzva" which would (probably) mean that women would be exempt, we view Kiddush as part of the whole Shabbat package, which means full and equal obligation for men and women. The two sides of Shabbat were commanded B'DIBUR ECHAD and are inseparable.
On a hashkafa level, we can see the prohibitions of Shabbat as more than a restrictive list of DON’Ts. Abstention from Melacha can be seen as Dayan Grunfeld puts it in The Sabbath — as laying G-d’s gifts of creative activity at His feet (so to speak) in homage to the Creator and Master of All. This, on a weekly basis, so that we will not take these gifts for granted nor assume that our abilities and talents are self-produced. There is a subtle difference between not doing Melacha and abstaining from Melacha. If we understand and appreciate the distinction, our Shabbat observance and enjoyment can be greatly enhanced.
MitzvaWatch: The Aseret HaDibrot in Yitro contains 14 of the 613 mitzvot. (The 2nd commandment has 4 prohibitions related to idolatry, the 4th has two mitzvot related to Shabbat, and one each from the other 8.) The first 9 commandments in Va'etchanan contain the same 13 mitzvot as their counterparts in Yitro. Those mitzvot are counted from Yitro. The 10th is worded differently here and is counted separately (in addition to "Thou shalt not covet") against "lust and unhealthy desire" [416,L266 5:18]. The mitzva here deals exclusively with thoughts and feelings; its counterpart in Yitro involves acting on those feelings. V'LO TIT'AVEH in a way, completes a set of prohibitions, that starts with obviously sinful acts - murder, stealing, etc. to a feeling in the heart (LO TACHMOD) which can, and often does, lead to acts which are "milder", but nonetheless "problematic". For example, if a person is jealous of a friend's sweater, and comments about it often enough, the friend might just feel uncomfortable enough to give it to the jealous friend. Nothing wrong, per se, in complimenting someone's sweater, but in this case it is part of the prohibition of LO TACHMOD. And V'LO TIT'AVEH is the feelings even without anything else.
The Aseret HaDibrot lay out in the following manner:
Chamishi - Fifth Aliya - 15 p'sukim - 5:19-6:3
This is a very crucial episode in under- standing our Chain of Tradition and the method of transmission of the Oral Law. It made not only Moshe Rabeinu vital to our hearing and understanding of G-d's Word, but so too the Moshe Rabeinus of every generation. This is so for prophets, during the period of prophecy, and also extends to this day in the way Tradition is passed from one generation to the next. We can say that we have a serious obligation to accept Torah from our parents and teachers, precisely because those that stood at Sinai did not want to hear G-d's voice directly beyond the first two commandments.
Moshe emphasizes that G-d agreed to the People's request.
And yet again, Moshe links observance of mitzvot with the only proper environment for Jewish life - Eretz Yisrael. (This idea is actually expressed in THREE different ways in the final p'sukim of this Aliya.)
Shishi - Sixth Aliya - 22 p'sukim - 6:4-25
Note that G-d's unity is also part of the mitzva to believe in Him [25,A1 Sh'mot 20:2], but warrants its own mitzva to emphasize this essential element of belief, in contrast to many religions.
"Love" G-d with your entire being [418,A3 6:5]. (Many mitzvot, Jewish practices and attitudes are considered manifestations of Love of G-d.) We must study and teach Torah [419,A11 6:7] (for practical purposes AND purely for the sake of learning). We are to recite the Sh'ma twice daily [420,A10 6:7], wear T'filin on the arm [421,A13 6:8] and front-center on the head [422,A12 6:8], and put a mezuza on our doorposts [423,A15 6:9].
SDT: The mitzva of learning and teaching Torah can be fulfilled with one's head, one's intellect. Tell someone a Dvar Torah and you both have fulfilled V'SHINANTAM L'VANECHA. But, tell that same Dvar Torah in an animated way that shows love of G-d and that ignites the emotion of the listener, so that he not only adds to his knowledge of Torah, but his excitement and enthusiasm for Torah and Mitzvot has increased, then you have fulfilled an additional mitzva, V'AHAVTA ET HASHEM ELOKECHA, to love G-d with all your heart (Sefer HaChareidim).
We can generalize this aspect of AHAVAT HASHEM to include all mitzvot. Shabbat, for example. Someone can go through all the motions and not violate the Shabbat; but do it with love and that fulfills V’AHAVTA.
[S> 6:16 (40)] Do not test G-d... Understood as the prohibition of overly challenging a true prophet and demanding signs from him (beyond what is reasonable to determine his claim as a true prophet) [424,L64 6:16]. Keep the mitzvot... be straight with G-d... so that things will be good for you in Eretz Yisrael...
[S> 6:20 (6)] When your child will ask you tomorrow... tell him “we were slaves to Par’o in Egypt and G-d took us out... and He commanded us... and it will do us good to listen...
Sh'vi'i - Seventh Aliya - 11 p'sukim - 7:1-11
Regardless of how secure one is in one's belief, intermarriage and other close contact with alien cultures will have an adverse effect upon the individual Jew and on the Jewish People. In addition to the Torah- prohibition against intermarriage, there are many Rabbinic prohibitions geared to restrict social contact.
We must destroy the idolatry in the Land. We must always keep in mind the basis upon which G-d has built His relationship with us.
Know that G-d is trustworthy to keep His promises and reward those who properly follow His ways, as well as punish those who do not.
Haftara - 26 p'sukim - Yeshayahu 40:1-26