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July 16, 2024

VaEtchanan (And I Besought) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion


Deuteronomy, 3:23-7:11
This Week’s Torah Portion | July 14-20, 2013 – Av 7-13, 5773

In A Nutshell

The portion, VaEtchanan (And I Besought), repeats the prohibition that Moses was prohibited—to enter the land of Israel—and that Joshua is to succeed him and lead the people to the land of Israel. The portion deals with the commandment to keep the Torah and remember the standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, as well as with the concept of repentance, which appears here for the first time. Here appears the known text of Shema Ysrael (Here, O Israel).

Moses makes another speech, where he repeats the Ten Commandments. He also distinguishes three cities of refuge on the Eastern side of the Jordan River, warns of idol worship in the land of Israel, and instructs the destruction of the statues. He also reminds the people that the Creator is the one who led them into the land of Israel, the good land that they are destined to inherit.

Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman

The portion, VaEtchanan (And I Besought), contains all the conditions for the dwelling of the people of Israel in the land of Israel. The people of Israel began its history with Abraham, who established in Babylon a group. That group distinguished itself from the rest of the Babylonians, who did not wish to unite “as one man with one heart,” meaning to be in the quality of Hesed (mercy), which is Abraham’s quality.

That group of people agreed to live in Arvut (mutual guarantee), and actually began the formation process of the people of Israel. Following the exodus from Egypt, the group took upon itself the commitment to be as one nation despite the problems and the egos of its people.

The formation of a single nation was conditioned upon a successful “passage” of the ordeal at the foot of Mount Sinai, which is a mountain of Sinaa (hate). On Mount Sinai, the people assumed the preparatory stipulation for climbing over that mountain—being “as one man with one heart.” Only by adhering to this condition is it possible to receive the Torah, the upper force that can unite everyone. That condition is met through the point in the heart of each person, a point named Moses, which draws the people onward into the desert and subsequently to the land of Israel. This is the point where everyone must unite.

The stipulation that held the people together was Arvut (mutual guarantee). Even today, to be a nation we must meet the condition of caring for one another on the material level, too. This is the scrutiny that we are facing in Israel today—having everyone see that no one lacks basic sustenance on the material level.

When we come together, we enter the land of Israel through the correction called “forty years in the desert.” This is a state in which all become a nation and are willing to live together in a global and integral manner, as is appearing in the world today, and as Nature requires.

Today, some have much more than they need, while others barely meet their most basic needs. The only way we can acquire what we need is by being responsible for one another. Only through unity will we be able to create a special force that will help us overcome the difficulties and properly divide our produce and profits, just like a family.

“As one man with one heart” really means “as a family.” In a family we divide what we have to each one based on each one’s needs. We sit at a round table and talk. We take every argument and problem into consideration, weigh each one’s priorities, and decide how to divide what we have gained among us. We reinforce the weak and support them.

If we manage the people and the country in this way, we will find that the nation is connected, and that the Creator—the force of bestowal and love—is among us. We will feel how we resolve all the problems and rise above all the obstructions. When we take upon ourselves the good, we immediately produce new powers among us, and then, “This day you have become a people” (Deuteronomy, 27:9).

The condition of unity between us allows us to resolve all the problems, as it is written toward the end of the portion, that adhering to that condition leads us to being as one, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy, 6:4). When the force of love is between us—the force of unity, the necessity to be together, the Arvut—we sustain and keep one another. That force is leading us, the people of Israel, to the land of Israel—to the desire Yashar El (straight to God), straight toward the quality of love and bestowal.

Only if one produces the force called Elokim (God), which is the overall love, the Arvut, does the force, “The Lord your God,” which one has created, walks ahead when one enters the land of Israel. That force helps us cope with the difficulties there, and fight the seven nations there, which are stronger than us.

In many ways, it is similar to Israel’s current situation, being surrounded by nations that wish to destroy it. It is only by that force that we truly “defeat” everyone. In the end, we bring not only ourselves into unity and connection, but the entire world. We become “a light for the nations” by showing how we can all be united in our world, which requires a global-integral connection among everyone. It is just as Nature, the Creator,[1] appears to us as one, and closes us in such a way that compels us to be like it, as one, in Dvekut (adhesion) with it.

When we produce the force of love between us by bonding, we become similar to the Creator, to the overall force in Nature. In that state we are in harmony with Nature, and we balance the ecology, technology, economy, and everything else. Everything falls into place only by the force of unity, albeit it may not seem that way, and it may not be clear what the force of unity has to do with resolving any of these problems.

We have yet to understand that we are part of Nature, that we are in it. The network we are in is integrally managed, with all its parts interconnected. If we, too, connect in synchrony with Nature, we will be rewarded with the fruits of the land of Israel, as the spies saw them but thought they would not be able to enjoy them because the fruits were so great, and the people that dwelled in the land were so mighty. Here lies the solution: if we unite, that force will march before us and will shatter all the enemies.

As long as we produce between us the force of Arvut, it will resolve everything. Whatever happens, through the force of unity we can all be under the umbrella of Arvut, the umbrella of love, through which the world will truly be corrected.

Following Moses, Joshua had to lead the nation into the next stage, the next degree. How does one lead the people while keeping everyone united despite the challenges?

The Torah does not tell us what happened after the entrance to the land of Israel, or how to break the idols, which are our evil inclination. When idol worshipping, we place before us statues such as money, power, respect, envy, and hatred. The Torah does not tell us precisely how to break them down within us. Nothing is said about the construction of the Temple and the conduct within it.

We basically have two ways to go. We can take the short, and good way, where we achieve our own correction and the correction of the world, or we can take the hard way, if we do not keep the condition of Arvut.

Now we are going through difficult times, through troubles …

We need not regard it as trouble, but as an opportunity. The conditions we are in are an opportunity, and in them we must become corrected. Without difficult times, how will we overcome the evil inclination, how will we know it?

Assume we all establish Arvut, we all take care of each other and people go along with it because it solves their problems. What is the next step?

There is nothing but maintaining the Arvut.

What about the love we have to reach?

It is Arvut. The first stage in Arvut is “that which you hate, do not do to your friend,” meaning at the very least avoid harming others. The next stage is “love your neighbor as yourself,” which is the overall rule of the Torah. There is nothing more than that. There are two conditions we must follow: avoid harming others, and then, above it, treat them with love.

Lately, we have seen many people openly admitting that what they really need is love.

People need to understand the true meaning of Arvut. We need to sit together at a round table and discuss things, explain the definitions of each word until we actually feel what we are talking about.

Arvut means that we are all responsible for one another, in everything in life. When one has the right relationship with others, there is no need to think of oneself. While you think about the others, the others think about you.

It is just like a family. In a family, the care is not for oneself, but rather for the entire family: the children, the elders, the sick, and the weak. We divide the family income and everything else we have according to everyone’s needs.

How do we make decisions in a round table format in a country of seven million people?

Imagine what it will be like when we need to make this type of decisions with seven billion people! We need to aspire to have all factions around the table. We need to find factions whose representatives have not come to the table, perhaps because they are too weak or have despaired. We need to help them raise their questions.

Also, the round table must be an ongoing thing. We must set an example of a nation that is discussing with love, with everyone seated together around the same table: left, right, and middle, even enemies and foes. The common point that connects us is that we all belong to one nation, as it is written, “love covers all transgressions” (Proverbs, 10:12). The transgression is the hate that we feel for each other. In other words, it is fine that we are hateful, but there is one rule: we must all live like a family.

Will that make the hatred subside?

No, it will not subside. The principle in the wisdom of Kabbalah is that “love covers all transgressions.” In other words, the transgression of hate remains. It points to disagreements and to the difference in qualities that we all have. Disagreements between us are good because above them we build a Masach (screen), an umbrella that covers over those transgressions.

We unite despite our disputes because the principle of love must be above everything else. That principle “uses” those disputes as a lever to raise us above Mount Sinai, above the mountain of hate. We all sit around the table and build above us the concept of “Moses on Mount Sinai,” and Moses pulls us up. When we achieve the quality of love that connects us, we become a nation. Before that, we are not considered a nation.

Is this true for the rest of the world, as well?

First, about us here, in Israel: We have had the spiritual gene since the time we were a nation. Today we are not a nation but a collection of exiles. If we implement the principle of Arvut and use the differences between us to add to the concept of Arvut, we will truly feel that we are in the land of Israel.

If we are united, no one will be able to harm us. It will not be because we will be strong, but because the force of Nature will be in us, in synch with the global, integral Nature, as it was written that the Creator walks before us and fights all our wars,[2] just as He shatters man’s hatred toward others.

There is no doubt that our neighbors will gladly join us, and then we will see that the hatred was there only in order to unite us. No other country in the world is in a similar situation. Our unity calms our neighbors because there is only one force that operates in Nature, and its purpose is to lead us all to unity, connection, harmony, and balance with the global Nature.

Do the Ten Commandments detail how to achieve Arvut or do they detail what we find once we achieve it?

The Ten Commandments are a condition. The system of unity between us consists of ten parts, called “Ten Sefirot.” We should interpret each of them. We need to set those ten parts—our connections to others—in order. If a person puts his relation toward others in order, in ten distinct approaches, he puts in order his entire attitude toward others.

Do these ten Sefirot appear once we achieve Arvut?

It is also about how to achieve Arvut because this is the goal. In discovering the Arvut, you discover your own higher state where you have risen above troubles. All of a sudden you discover that Nature is already producing everything you need. You discover the sources of energy, vitality, health, and love that exist in the world, and the close relations that exist between all parts of Nature, and which we suppress.

This sounds like a miracle.

If you speak to people who live in the wild, such as in the woods, they often say that Nature actually radiates love to them. The unity, the holism in it radiate an attitude of love.

Will we enter a new realm of reality through our desire to achieve Arvut?

Yes, we will discover internal forces that are currently hidden from us because we constantly view others through our egos. When we begin to give as Nature gives, we begin to perceive a completely different wavelength, much like a radio receiver.

How do we begin? What is the first step toward Arvut?

We have to sit at the round table and scrutinize those concepts and how we can achieve unity. Arvut is the condition that made us a nation in the past. Afterward, we lost it with the ruin of the Temple. We have been in exile, and now we need to recreate ourselves as a nation.

A nation is like a family. We must see ourselves as one big family. We need to relate to all the problems, and we will find that it is good that they are appearing now. The problems give us something to talk about, a need to feel each other. These days, people’s primary need is connection with others; they even riot and go on protests just to feel connected.

You Have Begun to Show

“Come and see, the Creator has given all the nations in the world to appointed ministers who rule over them,” meaning the different forces of Nature. “But Israel, the Creator holds them as His lot and His share, to actually unite with them.” We see what is happening with us throughout history. We are a special people and there is no way to avoid it. “And He gave them the holy Torah to unite in His name. Therefore, ‘You who cling to the Lord,’ and not to any other appointee, such as the rest of the nations.”

(Quotes in the above paragraph are from Zohar for All, VaEtchanan, item 17.)

What is the holy Torah? It is “love your neighbor as yourself, this is a great rule in the Torah.” There is nothing but the love between man and man; this is the whole Torah, and there is nothing else. We think that these are different actions and means, but these are customs, superficial actions whose purpose is to sustain the people as long as they do not understand what is required of them, meaning while they are still in exile. It is only until we come to the global situation when Nature demands of us, when Elokim demands that we unite.

What Nature are we talking about? What is this law? What do you mean by “Nature”?

“Nature” is the common force that runs the entire universe according to a purpose and a plan. We see that all of Nature’s parts are connected. That connection includes us, except we are detached from the rest of Nature. This is why we must first unite in a manner of “love your friend as yourself,” become global, integral, connected like the rest of Nature.

When we achieve that, we will begin to feel the common force that operates and that has operated throughout evolution. We will unite with that force and we will be aware of the path that we have taken. In that state we will discover the reasons for everything that happened along the way, the reason and the meaning of life, and the goal to which we are drawn.


[1] In Gematria (Hebrew numbering of letters), Hateva (The Nature) is tantamount to Elokim (God)

[2] “The Lord your God who goes before you, He shall fight for you” (Deuteronomy, 30:1).

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