Sedra of the Week: Va’etchanan

Sedra of the Week: Va’etchanan

Rabbi Naftali Schiff takes a look at the forthcoming week's portion of the Torah

In a dramatic opening line, Moses pleads with God to be allowed to realise the goal of leading the Promised Land. According to tradition, he begs, pleads and implores 515 times before being commanded to stop.

Rashi says the first word of our sedra, Va’etchanan, “and I implored” is one of 13 words used to describe the act of prayer. As is well known, when a culture has a number of words to describe something, it means the concept occupies a central role in their lives. When there are limited descriptive words, the concept is of minimal relevance.

These 13 words are not synonyms. Each one is a unique and distinct technique for approaching the Almighty in conversation. These are described in detail in Rav Shimshon Pincus’ classic words, Shaarim be Tefillah or Gateways to Prayer. A shaar, or gate, is a point of entry into another person’s world.

Relationships live or die on successful communication. Each type of prayer represents a unique pathway to developing a real relationship with the Almighty.

Sincere prayer is so much more than attending services, standing up and sitting down at the appropriate times and even reciting the correct words at the right time.

We know there are many ways to communicate with each other. As Jews we have an opportunity to learn how to do so with God and in so doing, developing our own personal relationship with Him.

ω Rabbi Naftali Schiff is the founder and CEO of Jewish Futures Trust 

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