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Rabbi Finkelstein

FIRST ALIYAH- Moshe engages the people of Israel in establishing the covenant of the Plains of Moab which emphasizes the need for Jews to be responsible for one another. Responsibility revolves not only around the need to help one another, but more poignantly, the need to understand that we are not innocent bystanders to evil perpetrated in our community. The last sentence of this Aliyah stresses the point that though we cannot bear responsibility for actions taken by some without our knowledge, we are not exempted from accountability, if we are aware that nefarious actions are taking place, and we remain silent.

This covenant is not simply applicable to one generation, but to future generations of the Jewish people. On the cusp of entering the land of Israel, the people of Israel have to ensure that the Torah remains their heritage, and that no Jew have the right that he will do whatever he wants regardless of community standards. This covenant is renewed with Israel at this point in conjunction with last week’s parsha that the people of Israel have finally come to the realization that their future lies with obedience to the Torah, and that they have no future if they ignore their covenant.

SECOND ALIYAH- The concept of teshuva, or return, is the motif of this Aliyah, as our choice to live a proper life in the eyes of G-d and the Torah is predicated on the belief that each of us has the power to improve our lives spiritually. The Seforno, in discussing the inevitable exile awaiting the Jews who refuse to follow their precepts, indicates we are to introspect and recognize that we are influenced by our exilic environment, and must return to our roots.

THIRD ALIYAH- This Aliyah speaks of the proximity of the Torah to our lives. We do not have to reach to the heavens, overseas or anywhere else to absorb the message of Torah. Parenthetically, the Talmud in Bava Metziah 59B, goes so far as to say that once the Torah has been given by G-d, G-d cannot change it. Not even a heavenly voice declaring that the law has changed has any validity when it comes to the preservation of Jewish law.

FOURTH ALIYAH- Free will becomes the focus of attention in this Aliyah, as the whole concept of reward and punishment is predicated on our ability to make choices. If we operate in a deterministic fashion, then we are prisoners of our genes, and our actions and thoughts are predictable and without choice. Determinism, or fated behaviour, is rejected as a Jewish concept, even though character traits while genetic can be monitored and improved by deliberate action and thought.

The Aliyah transitions to the next parsha of Vayelech, as Moshe declares to the people of Israel, that he has lived 120 years, and on this day, the seventh of Adar, he will die. Though the Torah at the end of Deuteronomy declares that Moshe on the day of his death possessed all of his faculties and qualities, Rashi mentions in his commentary on Vayelech that Moshe no longer remembered  on the day of his death,certain sources of wisdom to which he was privileged to have learned earlier. To resolve this difficulty, Rashi at the end of Vezot Habracha, states that Moshe retained all his physical attributes which did not age with the passage of time.

FIFTH ALIYAH- Public Jewish education for all is the main topic of this Aliyah, as we read about the mitzvah of Hakhel, where the people of Israel are summoned on Succot at the end of the seven year cycle of Shemittah to hear the king read the words of the Torah. Children are included in this mitzvah prompting the Ohr Hachaim to comment, that once a child is inculcated with the importance of Yirat Hashem, the fear of G-d, that feeling will remain with that person for a lifetime.

SIXTH ALIYAH- Hashem tells Moshe to summon Joshua to join him at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Hashem indicates that the people of Israel will invariably abandon Judaism, and adopt foreign creeds and practices.  As a result, G-d will hide His face from the people of Israel leaving Israel helpless and directionless. The greatest fear of the Jew is to feel abandoned by G-d. For example, King David in Psalms 22 asks Hashem why did He abandom him in his time of trouble?

SEVENTH ALIYAH- We read about the last mitzvah of the Torah, the writing of a sefer Torah earlier in this parsha, but we are made aware of a debate as to where the Torah written by Moshe should be located. Should it be placed in the Ark,or should it be placed on a platform that sticks out of the Ark? That is a debate in Talmud tractate, Bava Batra.