In Parshas Va’eschanan we find the very famous portions of the Torah that are imbedded in the soul of the nation: The Ten Commandments and the Shema Yisrael.
Although every word of the Omnipotent carries equal force, these commanding portions are better known, if not better observed, by the nation.
But powerful as they are, they were not given in a vacuum. Moshe forewarns the nation not to forget the message of Sinai and to impart its message and its relevance to future generations.
“Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life, and make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
In order to comprehend the posuk, it must separated into two distinct parts. “Beware not to forget the things that your eyes have beheld from your heart all your days.” In addition, the Torah adds, “you shall teach the Torah to your children and children’s children.”
Nevertheless, the grammar is surely questionable, “lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life, and make them known to your children.” In its simplest form, the verse seems at best contradictory. Look at the words. Beware that you do not remove the teachings from your heart and make them known to your children. How is that possible? If one removes the teaching from his own heart, how can he pass it to his children? The Torah should have overtly inserted some phrase or word clarifying the transition.
The perplexing composition in its simplest form surely leaves for a creative interpretation, perhaps the omission of the transitional word lends itself to a drash that deviates from the obvious meaning.
Thousands of people receive this weekly D’var Torah. In return, I receive many stories for possible use as anecdotal parables. Here is one from the archives.
Junior came home from day camp one day without towel.
“Where is your towel?” asked his mom.
“I don’t know,” he sighed. “I could not find it after swimming. Maybe someone took it.”
The mother was irate. “Who could have taken your towel? It was a great towel! Junior you would never take someone else’s towel. You know I raised you differently than that. Right?”
A few moments later, she was on the phone with the day camp director.
“Hello. There is a young thief in your camp!”
“How so?” “My son had a towel stolen from camp! He brought it in today and it was nowhere”
“Calm down,” came the voice on the line. “I am sure that no one stole it. Please describe the towel to me.”
“Sure I can! It was white and big. You could not miss it. It had the words Holiday Inn emblazoned on it!”
The Leket Amarim interprets the verse in its purest and most simplistic form, revealing a deeper meaning that belies the simplicity of the verse.
“Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life, and make them known to your children and your children’s children.”
Often when it comes to our actions, we forget the principles that we were taught as youngsters, but we remember them when chiding our children and pontificating.
We may give our children a speech about honesty and integrity, and only minutes later command them to tell a caller on the telephone that, “my father is not home.”
We may give speeches about integrity and corporate greed only to have pushed our own portfolios in a certain direction through creative manipulation.
And so, the Torah warns us not to forget its principles for ourselves yet to teach them to our children. Consistency is the message of the moment. For yourself. For your children. For eternity
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.
Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation