ALL IN ONE – Va-et-khanan – Deut. 3:23-7:11 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon
Of all the weekly readings, this one ranks with the most memorable. Here Moses reminds his people of the Ten Commandments and enunciates the Sh’ma, the outstanding basic message of the Torah.
Hear, Israel, the L-rd is our G-d; the L-rd is One. No others. No patron saints. No intermediaries. Each human being can relate directly.
Both here and introducing the Big Ten, we should note that Moses gives the order to HEAR, and he addresses the people by the name ISRAEL. Not “Y’hudim – Jews,” for that would imply one tribe, Judah. Not the patronymic “b’ney Yaakov – children of Jacob,” for that would recall the personality of one rather conflicted patriarch. But “Israel,” the name Jacob earned by wrestling with the angel. Besides, Kabalah sages point out, G-d called him Israel even before the angel grappled with him. Because the letters in this name are all-inclusive:
Yud – Y – stands for Yitzhak and Yaakov, Isaac and Jacob.
Seen – S – for Sarah.
Resh – R – for Rebekah and Rachel.
Alelph – A – for Abraham.
Lamed – L – for Leah.
All seven patriarchs and matriarchs, all their combined strength and labor, all their inspiration – all joins in the identity that is the people Israel. All in one.
On this Shabat Nakh’mu, when we read the great Haftorah of consolation – “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” – after the sad memorial of Tisha b’Av – let us pray for more than comfort. Let us pray for a renewal of the strength and the will to come together in unity to fulfill the name – ISRAEL!