Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Ekev–Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 7:12–11:25

 “And it shall be, because you hear these judgments, and keep and do them, even YHVH your Elohim will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers” (italics added)), is the opening verse of Parashat Ekev. “Because” is “ekev,” from the root a.k.v (ayin, kof, bet/vet) whose primary meaning is “heel.” In other words, taking the right step (of hearing and obeying) will result in the desired consequences. Our forefather, Ya’acov, was so named because he was born holding his twin brother’s heel (Gen. 25:26).  He literally came in the footsteps of his brother, and thus his name, which means to “follow,” perfectly matched the birth condition. His, however, was not the kind of following of the faithful disciple, who walks in the footsteps of his master. The image of ‘heel-holding’ or ‘heel grabbing’ refers to hindering or trapping someone, such as we see in the following examples: “Dan shall be a serpent... that bites the horse’s heels” (Gen. 49:17 italics added); “The trap shall take him by the heel” (Job 18:9 italics added); “They mark my steps [heels]” (Ps. 56:6).  In the following words of Psalm 41:9, we find an allusion to Messiah’s destiny: “My own familiar friend... which did eat of my bread has lifted his heel against me” (italics added).  This type of follower will possibly steal quietly behind the one whom he follows, with a crafty intent (as was the case with Messiah’s “familiar friend”). Indeed, from the same root of “heel” and “follow,”(a.k.v.) stem words like “crafty, cunning, and deceptive,” as we see, for instance, in Yirmiyahu (Jeramiah) 9:4: “... surely every brother deals craftily [akov ya’akov]” (italics added).  When Esav (Esau) was startled by his younger brother’s cunning, in B’resheet (Genesis) 27:34, 36, “He cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry: ...’Is not he rightly named, Ya’acov? For he has supplanted (“akav”) me...?’” (italics added).  The prophet Hoshe’a (Hosea), many centuries later, traces the waywardness of the nation of Yisrael (who in this prophecy is called “Ya’acov”) to their progenitor: “In the womb he took his brother by the heel” (Hos. 12:3, italics added).  In the wake of this ‘birth mark,’ Ya’acov (the man and the nation) remained true to his (and their) nature.  “In the wake of” or “as a result of” - in short “because” - is “ekev,” such as is cited here. Quite often YHVH declares: “And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because (ekev) you have obeyed my voice“(Gen. 22:18 italics added). David answers the prophet Na’tan (Nathan), who told him a parable following his sin with Bat-Sheva (Bathsheba), and says: “He must make restitution for the lamb, because [ekev] he did this thing and had no compassion” (2nd Sam.12:6 italics added). Thus, this little “ekev,” - “because” - becomes the fulcrum on which the balance of justice depends, much like the heel in terms of the physical body. And just as this section of the Parasha started with “And it shall be, because [EKEV] you hear these judgments, and keep and do them…” it also ends with: “So you shall perish; because [EKEV] you would not listen to the voice of YHVH your Elohim…” (8:20).

Parashat Ekev features two major themes, which alternate throughout; the physical conditions of the Land and the connectedness of these conditions to Yisrael’s obedience to YHVH. The second topic is in the form of reflections on Yisrael’s rebelliousness during their wilderness journey. The recounting of the latter is for the purpose of illustrating sin and rebellion, and issuing warnings in face of the new circumstances that Yisrael is about to face.

In 7:12-13, “keeping the judgments,” as we saw above, guarantees a promise of love, blessing, and multiplication, a promise which is built into the two-sided covenant (the other side being the curse incurred by disobedience to the “judgments,” as we shall see next week).  “Covenant” is “b’reet,” of the root b.r.t (bet, resh, tav), leading to the verb “barot” whose primary meaning is “separate out the parts” [1], thus rendering the covenant as a special agreement with a special and set apart people. “Blessings” – “bracha” is primarily “growth, or unhindered prosperity.” Its root, (bet, resh, kaf) is also the root for “berech,” which is “knee.”  This all-important word, to “bless, or blessing," is surprisingly not attached to the imagery of the more regal hand-stretching posture, or to the mouth which is  an instrument of blessing, but rather to the humble action of kneeling.  Neither is there a special word assigned to Elohim's blessings (so as to distinguish it from blessings conferred by men).

The words uttered in 7:12, 13 are echoed in 8:13 in a manner that confirms the above-definition of “blessing”: “And your herds and your flocks will multiply, and your silver and your gold will have multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied…”  Moreover, the land YHVH promises to Yisrael is a land “in which you shall eat bread without poverty – miskenot” (8:9). “Misken” (of the same root, is a “poor person, one to be pitied (e.g. Ecc. 9:16). In Shmot (Exodus) 1:11, we are told that the storage cities that Yisrael built for Par’oh were “arey miskenot.”  Ironically, the Hebrews themselves were very “miskenim” (plural of “misken” - poor and to be pitied) when they built those “miskenot cities.”  Now, not only will they be exempt from poverty and want, they will also not have to labor for someone else.  In fact, last week we read in 6:10,11 about their future dwelling places: “…to give to you great and good cities, which you have not built, and houses full of every good thing which you have not filled…” There will be so much provision that they will not even need to erect for themselves “arey miskenot,” cities of storage, as storing up for the future will not be called for.  However, this plenty will require “watchfulness” lest they forget YHVH (ref. 8:11), who “took you out of Egypt… who led you through the wilderness,” and “who fed you” (vv. 14, 15, 16).  There is always the danger of saying in one’s heart: “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (v. 17), while it is YHVH “who gives to you power to get wealth” (v. 18). Wealth is a translation of “cha’yil.” Remember “not by might, not by power… (Zech.4:6)? “Might,” in Z’chariah there is also “cha’yil,” while “power” is “ko’ach”.  Thus, it is only YHVH’s spiritual might – cha’yil - which is able to grant all this wealth. It is therefore paramount that you should “remember YHVH your Elohim, for He gives to you power – “ko’ach” - to get wealth.”

Thus, the very blessing may turn into a temptation leading to sin which will, in turn, lead to destruction (ref. 8:19, 20). The wilderness, therefore, was to serve as a place of refinement, humbling and trial (ref. 8:2,3,16) in order to obviate just this kind of outcome.  Some of the blessings (in 7:13) will entail “the increase of your oxen and the wealth of your flock.”  Here “increase” is “sh’gar”- “cast or throw” in Aramaic, hence “that which comes forth from the womb.” [2] “Oxen” in this context is “alafim,” which also means “thousands” (“elef” singular).  We already encountered this term in Parashat Chayey Sarah (Gen. 24:59), where we found that its root, a.l.f, is also shared with “aluf” which means “prince or chief” and with “alef,” the name of the first letter of the alphabet. The prominence of “alef” makes it, by implication, also of great numerical value – hence “elef” - a “thousand.”  Thus, the oxen mentioned here allude to great wealth. The “wealth of the flock” is the rare “a’shtarot” (used in this way only in Dvarim) of the root (ayin, shin, resh), related to “osher” – “wealth” and to “eser,” which is the figure “ten” (and is also connected to Ashtaroth, the goddess of fertility).

In Shmot (Exodus) 23:27, 28 (Parashat Mishpatim), we read the following promise: “…and I will confound all the people among whom you come. And I will give the neck of your enemies to you. And I will send hornets before you which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite before you” (italics added). Here, in 7:20 we read again: “And YHVH your Elohim shall send the hornets among them, until the ones who are left perish, even those who hide themselves from your face” (italics added), and in verse 23: “And YHVH your Elohim shall…. confuse them into great confusion until they are destroyed” (literal translation). Both “confound” in Shmot 23:28 and “confusion” here in 7:23 are of the root h.m.m (hey, mem, mem) meaning to “make noise, confuse or discomfort” (and is an onomatopoeic word, just like the English “hum”). This, then, in not only a promise for the future; but also, looking back, the Israelites could recall that YHVH had “confused – “va’yaham” - the camp of the Egyptians” (Ex. 14:24), during their exodus out of the “house of bondage.”

In spite of all the material wealth and the increase promised, in the beginning of the Parasha and later (in 8:7-10), sandwiched in between these two passages, in 8:3, is the following passage: “And He has humbled you, and caused you to hunger, and caused you to eat the manna, which you had not known, and your fathers had not known, in order to cause you to know that man shall not live by bread alone, but man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of YHVH” (italics added). All material goods, whether plentifully or scantily supplied, are the outcome of a “word that proceeds from the mouth of YHVH.”  One way or another He ‘calls the shots’.  Moreover, it is not these provisions, again whether in great or small quantities, which determine life or the quality thereof but “every word that proceeds from the mouth of YHVH.”  When Yeshua cited this very scripture, in a situation somewhat similar to that of Yisrael which was (according to 8:2,3,16) “tried,” like Him, in the wilderness, He passed the test and overcame his trial. The word “bread” - “lechem” - is many times translated “food,” as indeed it is a generic term for man’s sustenance. The root of “lechem” is (lamed, chet, mem), with the last two consonants - ch.m - making up the word “cha-m,” meaning “hot” or “warm.”  Only by baking the dough in a hot oven will it turn into the desired edible substance.  Hence, heat, energy and effort are all part of the bread-making process. Another noun that shares the root is “milchama,” which is “war,” as does the verb tofight, or struggle for one’s existence or survival” – “lachom.”  The closeness of these two terms is well illustrated by two verses in Mishley (Proverbs) 23. Verse 1 says: “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, look carefully at what is before you.”  The Hebrew for “eat” reads here “lilchom,” which literally means “to fight,” but because of’s dual meaning it is possible to read the verb as “eat” or more literally “to partake of bread.”  Verse 6 of the same chapter, says: “Do not eat the bread of one who has an evil eye, and do not desire his delicacies.” Here “eat” is “tilcham,” which again could be read as “fight.”  Thus, we may infer that man cannot live solely by the bread of his own fighting and striving neither “by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says YHVH of Hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

The circumstances awaiting the Israelites in the land will differ vastly from those that prevailed in the desert, yet just as until now every detail pertaining to their lives and needs was determined by “every word proceeding out of the mouth of YHVH,” so will it continue to be the case in their new home. But for this principle to stay afloat, the people must keep and guard His every word and live in accordingly. The section of 8:7-10 is regarded “as the classic description of the fertility and other wonderful qualities of the holy land. But we must not ignore its other implication. The Torah sings the praises of the land to emphasize too the moral dangers and pitfalls that such gifts might bring with them. Although the life of the Israelites in the Promised Land would no longer be dependent on water being extracted from the rock or on manna dropping from heaven, nevertheless even the normal rainfall and all the natural gifts of the land were similarly derived from the Creator and not in virtue of their own power and might of their hand.”[3]

Chapter 9 continues to center on YHVH’s promises of “consuming the enemies” in the land, and also recounts Yisrael’s golden calf rebellion and the need that arose then to inscribe anew the two tablets of the Torah.  It opens with the famous words: “Hear oh Yisrael…” implying that Yisrael is to hear and obey, as “hearing the voice…” is a Hebrew idiom for obeying, which is evident from the previous verse (the last one in chapter 8): “…You shall perish; because [EKEV] you did not listen to the voice of YHVH your Elohim” (8:20, emphasis added). In 9:6,13 reference is made to Yisrael’s “stiff neck,” or literally “hard nape.” Having a “stiff neck” implies a literal inflexibility, which does not allow one to turn one’s face (panim - “face” - from the root p.n.h which is also the root for the verb “turn,” while “pina” is “corner”).  Thus, the proverbial stiffness of the neck speaks of a head that is facing in one direction only, and of a person who is headstrong and unable to turn (from his old ways).  We have already noted in the past that “panim” - “face” - stemming from the verb “to turn,” exposes the essential nature of YHVH’s approach toward us, and that is His relational nature to which we are to respond. Yisrael’s “stiffness” and “hardness” of neck and uncircumcised heart are addressed in the following: “And you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and you shall not harden your neck any more” (10:16).  “Such an exhortation is made to bring men to a sense of their need of it [that is, of the exhortation], and of the importance of it, and to show how agreeable it is to the Lord, and so to stir them up to seek unto him for it”. [4]  In chapter 30:6 there is a promise that YHVH will circumcise their heart, so that they may love Him, thus laying the foundations for the new covenant of the heart, in the course of which the latter becomes the ‘parchment’ on which the Torah is inscribed (ref. Jer. 31:33).

The Parasha ends with another look at the land; “a land which YHVH your Elohim cares for; the eyes of YHVH your Elohim are constantly on it, from the beginning of the year to its end” [5] (11:12). “Care for” is “doresh,” whose literal meaning is to “seek.” YHVH is very intent in His constant surveillance of the land, “from the beginning of the year to the end…” meaning that He is involved in every part of the natural cycle to which this land is subject.  And as pointed above, Yisrael’s conduct toward Him will also have its ramifications on the land (e.g. 11:13 – 17).  These words of YHVH were to be inscribed on the hearts and are also to be for a sign on frontlets – “totafot” – between the eyes and on the hand (ref. 11:18).  One of the explanations for “totafot” is that it is a derivative of the Egyptian word for a hair ornament called “tataf.” [6]

Above we noted that multiplication (of the root “rav”) of both people and livestock is mentioned several times in our Parasha.  In summation of the Parasha we read: “And you shall teach them [YHVH’s commands] to your sons by speaking of them as you sit in your house, and as you go in the way, and as you lie down, and as you rise up. And you shall write them on the side posts of your house, and on your gates, that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied [“yirbu”, again of the root “rav”], and the days of your sons in the land which YHVH has sworn to your fathers, to give to them, as the days of the heavens over the earth” (11:19-21). These “heaven and earth,” according to last week’s Parashat Va’etchanan (4:26), are YHVH’s witnesses to His dealings with the people of His choice, both here and also when He proclaims a new covenant in Yimiyahu (Jeremiah, 31:32).

1 Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, Rabbi Matityahu Clark, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem. New York.
2 The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, Francis Brown Hendrickson. Publishers, PeabodyMass. 1979.
3 New Studies in Devarim, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.
4 Online Bible, Gill Commentary.
5 The spelling of the word used here for “beginning,” “reshit”, is irregular.  This spelling of  “reshit” possibly hints at “ree’sh,” which is poverty (ref. Parashot Matot/ Masa’ey), since the beginning of the year in the month of Aviv occurs at the end of the winter dormancy.
6 Chumash Dvarim with Daat Mikrah comentary, Pub. Mossad Harav Kook, Jm. 2001.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Va’etchanan – D’varim (Deuteronomy) 3:23 – 7:11

If there is one term that typifies D'varim, it is "transition" - or "avor" in Hebrew, stemming from the root. e.v.r, (ayin, vet/bet, resh) meaning to "traverse, cross over, pass by or through, transgress, get angry/cross, side, for the sake of and fords, or passageway," being also the root for the word “Hebrew.”  This term, with some of those derivatives, shows up many times in Parashat Va’etchanan, which is why we will follow it not only there, but also throughout the book of Dvarim (Deuteronomy). This excursion will also provide an opportunity to observe, once again, patterns of the Hebrew mindset and the compactness of the language, as well as the mutual effect of thought and language (on each other). We will see how “avor” lends D’varim its special character, and in turn how it expresses the calling of the People of Yisrael.

In Sh'mot (Exodus) the Hebrews 'passed over’ from one state of existence (slavery) to another (freedom and redemption) as well as to a new geographical location, by "crossing" the Sea of Reeds. Here, in Dvarim, they are about to experience another "crossing." This time it is the Yarden, which is to become the passageway that will lead them into the land promised them by YHVH. They will, once again, go through a change of status, ceasing to be nomads. In the past we have noted that "Hebrews"- "Ivrim" - are those who are destined for transitions of one form or another. This group of people is seen here (and throughout Scripture) fulfilling this very destiny, already alluded to by the name of their progenitor Ever (Eber) who is mentioned in B’resheet (Genesis) 11:14,15, five generations before Avraham.  However, nowhere is the "passing" or "crossing" – designated by e.v.r - more evident than in D'varim, where the term is used in several connotations, forming, as it were, a series of milestones that enable us to follow the Israelites through their journeys and transitions as depicted in this book.

Already in Dvarim’s opening verse, we see Moshe addressing "all Israel on the side of the JordanEver ha'Yarden" (1:1 italics added). Ever is one of the words for "side," thus rendering the Yarden's eastern bank, or shore, "Ever haYarden."  It was also at "Ever ha'Yarden" where Moshe "began to explain the Torah" (1:5). Sometime later Yehoshua (Joshua) reminds the Israelites of another "ever" -  the place where their forefathers came from, saying: "Thus says YHVH the Elohim of Israel: `Your fathers Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side [ever] of the River in old times; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side [ever] of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac'" (Josh. 24:2,3 italics and emphasis added).

In recounting the wilderness journey and its adventures, Moshe says, "We came through [a'va'rnu] the nations which you passed by [a'va'rtem]… " (29:16 italics added). About these nations, he made earlier comments, recalling YHVH’s words to him: "You are passing [ovrim] by the border of your brothers, the sons of Esau" (2:4).  And as to the actual event: "And we passed [va'na'vor] and turned beyond our brother the sons of Esau… and we passed [va'na'vor] by way of the Wilderness of Moab" (2:8). “ And the time we took to come from Kadesh Barnea until we crossed over [avarnu] the Valley of the Zered was thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war was consumed from the midst of the camp, just as YHVH had sworn to them" (2:14). Although the wording here appears to be a mere technical detail, it captures the tragedy that the Israelites brought upon themselves - the passing on of an entire generation. Preceding the crossing of this river, YHVH exhorted the Israelites: “Now rise up, and go over [ee’vru] the river Zered! And we went over [va’na’avor] the river Zered” (2:13, italics added).

The next “crossing over" [o-ver in Hebrew] (2:18) was through Moav and Ammon who, according to YHVH's word, were not to be disturbed. But the command to "cross [e’e’vru]" the River Arnon, was different! The land of Sichon, the Amorite king, was to come under Yisrael's dominion. The Amorites ignored the message, "Let me pass through [e'ebra] your land; I will keep strictly to the road, and I will turn neither to the right nor to the left. You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink; only let me pass through [e'ebra] on foot, just as the descendants of Esau who dwell in Seir and the Moabites who dwell in Ar did for me, until I cross [e'evor] the Jordan to the land which YHVH our Elohim is giving us" (2:27,28 italics added). Instead, we are told that, "Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through [ha'a'virenu]" (v. 30 italics added). Thus, the land of the Amorites was conquered. A similar fate awaited Og the king of Bashan, whose land was also conquered by the Israelites. Moshe recalls: "We took the land from the hand of the two kings of the Amorites who were on this side of the Jordan [Ever haYarden], from the River Arnon to Mount Hermon" (3:8 italics added).

This was also the land requested by the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe, who had to meet one condition: "All you men of valor shall cross over [ta'avru] armed before your brethren, the children of Israel" (3:18 italics added), in order to help them take control of the Promised Land. Moshe continues, promising to Yehoshua: "YHVH will do to all the kingdoms through which you pass [over]" (v. 21), what He had done to the former kingdoms.

In addition to the above promise, there is an even greater one, (preceded by the words "Sh'ma Yisrael - Hear O Israel" in 9:1): "Therefore understand today that YHVH your Elohim is He who goes over [ha'over] before you as a consuming fire" (9:3 italics added). And moreover, "YHVH your Elohim Himself crosses over [over] before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over [over] before you, just as YHVH has said" (31:3 italic added). The "crossing over [ovrim] to possess" or "inherit" the land, is also an inseparable part of the description of the Land itself, as everything about its conditions constitutes a major change-over and transition from the setting of the desert (for details see 11:10 -12).

And while Moshe was thus preparing the nation, which he has so greatly nurtured and for whom he had been willing to give up his life, he did not conceal from them and from posterity the sad fact that he had "pleaded with YHVH at that time, saying: “O my Adonai YHVH, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand… I pray, let me cross over [e'ebra] and see the good land beyond [ever] the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon. But YHVH was angry [va'yita'ber] with me on your account, and would not listen to me" (3: 23-26 italics added). Yes, "angry" in this context is also made up of the root ayin, vet/bet, resh! Thus, there is more than one way to 'cross over'. ‘Crossing over' to the 'wrong side' and 'crossing' YHVH's will, will incur His anger (“evrah”).

Moshe continues to relate his plight, as pronounced by YHVH: "Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; Behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over [ta'avor] this Jordan. But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over [ya'avor] before this people…" (3: 27,28 italics added). Just before Moshe's death on Mount Nevo (Nebo), called here “Avarim” (32:49) - the Mount of Crossing - he is once again reminded by his Elohim, "I have caused you to see it [the land] with your eyes, but you shall not cross over [ta'avor] there" (34:4 italics added). In Psalm 106:32 this story is repeated: “They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes [ba’a’vu’ram]” (italics added). The singular form “ba’avu’r” comes from “a’vur,” which literally is “one who has been caused to pass over.”  Thus, even a common preposition such as “for” is rooted in e.v.r, - “crossing or passing over” - pointing to the centrality of this term and to an active force, or agent, greater than one’s self, who in this case acts as the Prime Cause.

In our text, the covenant and the commandments are not 'passed over' either.  In his discourse, Moshe elaborates extensively on these issues. YHVH made another covenant with the Children of Yisrael "in the land of Moab besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb… that you may enter [le'ov'recha] into covenant with YHVH your Elohim" (29:1,12 italics added). Thus, in “entering” this covenant they were literally "crossing" into it. "Transgressing" YHVH's commandments, according to 26:13, is also referred to as "crossing." Some of these commandments are: "When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged [ya'avor] with any business…" (24:5 italics added), and, "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through [ma'avir] the fire…" (18:10 italics added). "For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, `Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Nor is it beyond [meh’ever] the sea, that you should say, `Who will go over [ya'avor] the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it" (30:11-14 italics added). According to these words, it appears that fulfilling Elohim's Word does not necessarily require a physical crossing or passing over; it is simply a matter of turning inwardly, to that which had already been deposited there by the Almighty (see Rom. 8:11).

Finally, "And it shall be, on the day when you [plural] cross over [ta'avru] the Jordan to the land which YHVH your Elohim is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime. You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over [be'ovre'cha], that you may enter the land which YHVH your Elohim is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as YHVH the Elohim of your fathers promised you. Therefore it shall be, when you [plural] have crossed over [be'ovre'chem] the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today…" (27:2-4 italics added). Thus, the "crossing over" is to be marked by stones that were to be a testimony of a genuine "crossing over" and a “change over” undertaken by the Hebrews, the 'People of Transition'!

The root e.v.r, however, does not escape the enemies of the Hebrew people. Prior to the actual crossing, Yehoshua sent two spies to Yericho (Jericho). These two were pursued by men who themselves had to cross the Yarden’s "fords.” These “fords” are “ma’a’barot,” literally, “that which enables passage” (ref. Josh. 2:7).

In closing, let us pause briefly on “va’etchanan,” the name of our Parasha, which takes us back to its opening verse (3:23) where Moshe pleads with YHVH to let him cross the Yarden. “And I pleaded or implored…” – etchanan – is of the root ch.n.n (chet, noon, noon), which means to “show favor or be gracious”; while “chen” (chet, noon) is “grace” (e.g. Zech. 4:7, 12:10). Thus, he who pleads with, and implores YHVH, knows he is invoking His grace, cognizant of the fact that even the pleading itself is linked to YHVH’s compassion and favor active in the one who is pleading with expectancy.

Note: In the synagogue, the Torah scrolls are placed in an ark called “teiva.”  When the representative of the congregation who prays on behalf of the community stands before the ark, he too is said to be “passing [over] before the teiva.”