Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Leave the Do-Gooders Alone
Some lessons in the Torah are transmitted in the form of laws; others are conveyed through stories, or even an extra or missing word or letter. Some lessons require a teacher or sage to unlock the message and the relevance to the 21st century; other messages scream out to even the amateurish eye.
Take this one for example:
In this week's Torah reading, we learn about certain individuals who were exempt from participating in battle: He who recently built a home, planted a vineyard, or was fortunate enough to marry his soul-mate.
The Politics of Freedom
Having set out the broad principles of the covenant, Moses now turns to the details, which extend over many chapters and several portions. The long review of the laws that will govern Israel in its land begin and end with Moses posing a momentous choice. Here is how he frames it in this week’s Parshah:
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse -- the blessing if you obey the commands of the L‑rd your G‑d that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the L‑rd your G‑d and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
And here is how he puts it at the end:
Uniformity: The Key to Uniqueness
The Biblical commandment of prayer is worded as an enjoinder to serve G‑d with "all our hearts" -- which the Sages understood to be a commandment to pray. Originally, everyone offered personalized prayers, employing words which expressed their unique feelings. And as feelings fluctuate, so did every individual's personal prayers fluctuate on a daily basis. Eventually, the Men of the Great Assembly instituted uniform prayer for all Jews, creating the basic text of the prayer book which is used to this very day.
But can a person's relationship with his Creator be scripted? Is it possible to dictate the feelings one should be expressing to G‑d?