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Parashat Vaetchanan

July 28, 2023
10 Av 5783
Deuteronomy 3:3 - 7:11



Listen up Israel
wake up
the world is shaking
coming apart
stop hiding

Wake up
open your heart
see the majesty
creation, feel the awe

Let kindness
and love pour forth
lighting a path
through the darkness
reminding us
we are not alone
and together
standing together
yes standing together
so much is possible


“This is not a covenant with our ancestors, but with us, each of us that God commands:"
(Devarim/Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11)


Look out and see the moon -- full, beautiful, and radiant -- as she ducks in and out of the clouds. We are in the time of mid harvest, the summer is half over, and the time for introspection and shifting gears is soon to begin.

Our Torah reading for the week prepares the ground for this process to begin as Moses retells our story of leaving the land of Egypt, making a covenant with the Divine, and receiving the Ten Commandments. We are told that we are to tell our children the story to “make your experiences known to your children and your children’s children." We are forever telling and retelling our story; with each retelling, it receives a different gloss and a different nuance is highlighted. Rather than being told not to forget, we are told to remember, which is not an easy task. In order to remember, we need to listen, see, and be fully present as we hear the story and, as we tell it, always work to forge a connection.

It is in this Torah portion that we are given the Sh’ma and the Ve’ahavta. In the Sh’ma we are told to wake up, listen and to take in the unity of the Divine, In the Ve’ahavta, we are shown how to love, to open ourselves to possibility, and to tell the story.

This generational imperative resonates deeply within me. I remember my father telling stories, so many stories, none written down, but all embedded deep within me. Our family has grown larger and is growing larger still. How will we tell the story, our story, with the rough spots showing and the journey being as important as the destination? 

It is always about the journey. Moses knows that and he reminds the people of the journey. Yet, even Moses thinks that the destination will give him closure -- an end point. He cannot go into the land, because once there. there will be more work to be done and he is tired whether he knows it or not.

As we look at Moses and his journey, we can recount the highs and the lows, a process that is important for all of us. Even for our greatest leader, it wasn’t a straight line and when he retells the story it differs in places from what we remember from the first telling earlier in the Torah. So it is with us. Our experiences do not change, but as we grow we come to understand them differently. But most of all in the telling we learn more about who we are and what matters to us. My father’s stories leave me with a deep sense that people matter most of all and our job is to connect.  When I read the words of Moses to the people, it is with the overwhelming sense that he is trying to connect, to tell the story so that the people will have it embedded within for all time.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shrienr-Cahn

Tue, October 3 2023 18 Tishrei 5784