Rabbi Finkelstein



FIRST ALIYAH- Moshe reminds the people of Israel that G-d has denied him entry into the land because of his sin at the waters of Meribah. He relates that on a number of occasions, he pleads with G-d to reverse that decision to allow him entry into Canaan, only to be told by G-d to cease and desist from asking anymore. Instead, Moshe merits seeing the land from the eastern side of the Jordan River

Moshe admonishes the population to observe the mitzvot as a sign and symbol of loyalty to G-d and as a declaration to the nations of the world of that allegiance to G-d they display on fulfillment of the Mitzvot. The nations of the world admire the Jew who is loyal to his faith, and despise the one who is not. \

The Kli Yakar addresses Rashi’s contention that Moshe in entreating G-d to allow him to enter the land of Canaan could have referred to his demonstration of loyalty to G-d all of these years. Instead, as Rashi contends, Moshe approaches G-d in a manner indicating that Moshe does not deserve G-d’s acquiescence to allow him entry, but is asking for compassion. The Kli Yakar disputes Rashi’s contention that Moshe could have relied on his past record of obedience to G-d. This type of approach is looked askance by our tradition. Instead, the Kli Yakar states that Moshe could easily have appealed to G-d on the basis that many of the laws of the Torah are land based and cannot be fulfilled outside of the boundaries of Canaan. Therefore , Moshe could have asked for the opportunity to fulfill more Mitzvot, but chooses to go the route of asking for something he does not deserve to receive.

The Aliyah concludes with the laws forbidding the adding or deleting of Torah law. The Kli Yakar comments that this law is mentioned in conjunction with Moshe’s recalling his sin at the waters of Meribah, where he adds to word of G-d by hitting the rock rather than speaking to it.

SECOND ALIYAH- The second Aliyah reviews the preparations the people of Israel undertake to receive the commandments at Sinai. Moshe emphasizes the point the people have the opportunity to have personal communication with G-d at that momentous event.  However, Moshe warns the people about reverting back to idolatrous ways which could lead to their destruction. Therefore, they are given the opportunity to repent and return to G-d.

The Ramban emphasizes the importance of the Divine communication between G-d and the people of Israel as something that has to be emphasized generation to generation. It is not enough to simply teach our descendants that we received the law from Moshe. Without the awareness that G-d and not Moshe gave us the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, it would be very easy to fall prey to a false prophet who could perform some type of magic act to convince the people that his religion is the true one and not ours. Later in the parsha of Shoftim, the Torah will speak more in depth about false prophets and their negative effects on the people and their faith.

This Aliyah also emphasizes the importance of preserving one’s physical, mental, spiritual and emotional strength as a Divine commandment.

THIRD ALIYAH- Moshe fulfills the mitzvah of establishing cities of refuge on the eastern side of the Jordan River for inadvertent killers. The Ramban, Rashi and the Seforno all comment on the initiative Moshe takes to fulfill this commandment. The Ramban states that Moshe is impressing on the Israelites the importance of not allowing an opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah to go to waste. If the people see their leader performing the mitzvah at hand, they will follow suit in their own lives.

FOURTH ALIYAH- Moshe repeats the Ten Commandments to the people with some emendations specifically in regard to the mitzvah to remember and observe the Shabbat. While the rabbis of the Talmud tell us that the words, ‘Zachor’ remember and ‘Shamor’ ‘observe’  are said at the same time, the Ohr Hachaim comments that there is a message we have to remember to observe. Remembering the Shabbat is related to the period of time prior to the onset of Shabbat, while the mitzvah of observing the Shabbat relates to the period of time after the Shabbat. We have to have Shabbat in our mindsets in terms of preparation and in the aftermath of Shabbat as we anticipate the next coming of Shabbat. In other words, we are not simply looking at the day itself of Shabbat, but at the days before and after as connected. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik used to comment that there are plenty of Jews who are Sabbath observant, but how many Jews invest their time and effort in Erev Shabbat? Is Shabbat part of our daily activity and thoughts?

FIFTH ALIYAH- Moshe reminds the people that they asked him to tell them the commandments because of their fear that if they were to hear them from G-d, they would die. Rashi’s comment that Moshe expresses disappointment that the people of Israel have not reached the level of loving G-d explains the people’s reluctance to hear the law from G-d. They have reached a level of fearing G-d, but have not had the experience in enhancing their faith. Divine revelation at Sinai is a one time event, and the people are not prepared to experience it properly. G-d orders Moshe to tell the people to return home to their families and resume normal married lives. Moshe is told to stay with G-d, and not to return to his marital home.

SIXTH ALIYAH- The Aliyah of the Shema Yisrael delves into the following statements of Jewish life 1) The belief in one G-d. 2) We are witnesses to Divine Revelation and of our selection as the Chosen People of G-d. 3) Love of G-d 4) The dedication of one’s heart, soul and might to serve G-d. 5) The preservation of these words of the Shema in one’s heart and soul. 6) Torah education 7) The recitation of the Shema morning and evening.8) the mitzvah of wearing tefillin .9) the attaching of a mezuzah to one’s doorpost.

Rashi makes the following observations about the content of the Shema.1) The oneness of G-d will be recognized by the nations of the world, and as a result will reject idolatry and adopt monotheism. 2) One who observes Jewish law out of love of  G-d is superior to one who observes the law out of fear of G-d who at the first opportunity will reject his heritage. 3) One is to observe the law with his inclinations, both good and evil. The latter refers to one’s energy drive which one should use to positive purpose. 4) One should be prepared to give up one’s resources or even life for the sake of G-d. In addition, one must show faith in G-d with the hand he has been dealt in life. 5) The words of Torah should be treated as if they were brand new commands from G-d, so that a person will not become stale in the observance of these laws.6) One should be diligent in the learning and in the teaching of Torah. 7) The Shema is said twice daily, on arising and on going to bed. 8) Rashi briefly describes the mitzvot of tefillin and mezuzah.

The Torah again describes the wondrous treasure of the land promised to the Israelites. In addition, this Aliyah speaks of the mitzvah of doing that which is right and that which is just speaking to the notion of going beyond the letter of the law to assist people in need. The Talmud primarily in Bava Metzia describes instances where employers are ordered by the courts to pay negligent workers their salary as an example of doing that which is right and that which is proper. Legally, these employers would not have been obligated to pay workers who were negligent in their tasks.

SEVENTH ALIYAH- Moshe warns the people in regard to their upcoming conquering of Canaan that they not spare the local population, not intermarry with them and not to make any covenant of peace with them. Moshe speaks to the importance of preserving the religious integrity of the people of Israel, warning that assimilation can destroy the very spiritual fabric of the Jewish people.

The Aliyah relates that G-d’s love for the Jews is not due to their large population. To the contrary, they are the smallest of the nations. However, as the Kli Yakar states, G-d recognizes the merit of the ancestors of the Jews that enables them to have that special status of G-d’s chosen nation.