This week’s Torah Portion is Parashat Va’etchanan. It covers Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11. Here is a brief commentary from Baruch:
Earlier this week, we observed the fast of the 9th of Av. This day commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples. It is significant to note that there are exactly seven Shabbats between this day and Rosh HaShanah. On each of the Shabbats, we read a special prophetic passage dealing with the comfort of the L-rd. These seven prophetic passages are called Sheva d’nehchamata (the seven of consolation).
In the Torah reading, one encounters a verse that seems to be inconsistent with the promises of G-d. It is clear from the Scriptures that HaShem has made an eternal covenant with Israel. Therefore, how is it possible that He would say that if Israel follows after other gods, He will destroy them from the face of the earth? There is no difficulty in reconciling these two seemingly contradictive passages when one reads them exactly as they were written.
The actual text states,
“You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you. For a jealous G-d is HaShem your G-d in your midst, lest the anger of HaShem your G-d will flare up against you and He will destroy you from the face of the earth.”
In the first verse of this passage, verse 14, HaShem is commanding the people in a general manner. The “you” is plural, and therefore this prohibition is inclusive to all of Israel. However, in the second verse, verse 15, the “you” is singular, meaning that this verse must be applied to each individual, and not to Israel in a general sense. The implications of this are most significant. G-d’s covenantal promises to Israel that Israel will endure and be in the Kingdom will be, but only in a general manner. That is, not every Jewish individual will realize these promises, but there will be a remnant that will most certainly experience His faithfulness. In a similar manner, when HaShem states that He will destroy the idol worshipper, He is not speaking to Israel collectively, but individually. This means that each individual Jewish person who chooses to embrace a false deity will suffer the consequence of this action, i.e. eternal destruction. However, there will be a portion of Israel that will not act in this manner and it is these Jewish individuals who will be the recipients of His promises.
A good example that illustrates this principle is the Exodus from Egypt. HaShem promised to bring Israel into the Promise Land. Yet, all but two individuals died out in the wilderness. Yet, G-d did bring Israel (the new generation) into the Land. It is very important that one pays attention to the language of the text and notices the changes in the Scripture. When there is a change in the passage, even something as so seemingly insignificant as a change from the plural to the singular, it can have great implications.