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A Dvar Torah for Va'etchanan

Our Dvar Torah: The Treasury of Unearned Gifts

A Dvar Torah for Va'etchanan: Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © August 1, 2020

Our Dvar Torah: “The Treasury of Unearned Gifts

READ Likutey Moharan Book II # 78 2 sections)

Do we “deserve” anything? No! The opening verse of this week's parsha reads: "Va'Etchanan" - I [Moses] pleaded to G-d at that time. (Deuteronomy 3:23). Just think of Moshe's amazing merits! Never before or since has there been such a pious and humble human being. And yet like us, everything he has comes from G-d.

As Rav Chaim Kramer explains in his wonderful book “The Treasury of Unearned Gifts,” the Sages teach at Shemot Rabbah 45:6 that after receiving forgiveness from HaShem for the sin of the Golden Calf our sages teach that the Beloved “gave [Moshe] a 'grand tour' of the Heavens and revealed to him the concept of reward and punishment. G-d also showed him the rewards set aside for the righteous in the World to Come. Moses asked about each treasury, 'For whom is this? For whom is that?' G-d replied, This one is for those who give charity... that one is for those who raise orphans...” and so on.

“Moses then saw an immense treasury. He asked, 'For whom is this treasury?' G-d replied, 'Those who are deserving, I reward for their numerous good deeds from their own accumulated treasuries. But those who lack merit, I reward from this Treasury of Unearned Gifts. For, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and I will show compassion to whom I will show compassion.”

We just finished the Three Weeks of mourning with Tisha B’Av, wherein we commemorated the destruction of both Temples and many other catastrophes. These occurred because of our sins.

Now that Tisha B'Av is behind us should we just catch our breath with a sigh of relief, and go back to life as normal?

Would it not be more spiritually prudent to look forward, realizing that the month of Elul is right around the corner? Elul of course is the month for teshuvah in preparation for the universal judgment of Yom Kippur!

Rather than becoming complacent, let the Three Weeks of Mourning and Tisha B'Av serve as a motivator, as preparation for our work of teshuvah and soul correction during the holy month of Elul, as we prepare for the High Holy Days. They will be here before you know it! Are we ready for them?

Let us continue our work toward devekut (our efforts towards attaching ourselves ever more completely to the Holy Beloved One). Even as we breath our sighs of relief today, on Shabbat Nachamu (the Sabbath of consolation), let us not loose sight of our goal! On Shabbat Nachamu we read the first of seven haftarot of consolation. These readings prepare us for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish religious New Year. They console us that despite our intentional and unintentional sins, we are still and ever loved by our Creator and chosen by Him to serve Him and to assist the other nations in finding their ways. We remain 'the Nation of Priest, the Holy Nation' even when we lack the holiness we should possess!

Hopefully we have realized through our mourning period that we have nothing to offer HaShem! Everything we have and ever will have comes from Him. However, by His limitless Mercy He has allowed us to attain some slight merit, but we don't deserve these! We realize our deficiencies and so we cry out, as did our Teacher Moshe Rabbeinu with: “Va'Etchanan!” Which is the name of this week's parsha. Of this deeply revealing word and concept the great sage Rashi notes:

The term "Va'Etchanan" denotes that Moses pleaded with G-d to give him an unearned gift. Even though the righteous possess many merits of their own, they always plead with G-d to provide an answer to their prayers from His Treasury of Unearned Gifts.

And so as the Breslov Research Institute points out:

It was the time ordained for Moses' death. Denied entry into the Holy Land, he persisted in pleading and begging that G-d might annul His oath and allow him to enter the Land. Although Moses was a truly righteous man, rather than enumerating his many good deeds and his untiring self-sacrifice for the Jewish Nation, he pleaded with G-d to grant him an unearned gift from His Treasury. Moses thus opened his prayer with the word "Va'Etchanan" - indicating that he was seeking salvation from G-d's Treasury of Unearned Gifts.

If we are honest, we know that we have nothing to offer the Holy One! So why do we sometimes feel that we deserve some seemingly good thing? Likewise, why do we argue with G-d and say we do not deserve some seemingly bad thing that He has decreed for us? Are we questioning G-d's Righteousness? Is He not aware of our good deeds and pious endeavors? Of course He is.

But what He has in store for each us surpasses anything we might conceivable merit, or think we merit! Only an uninformed person would demand the Beloved give him what he deserves when there is so much more in store for those who Love HaShem, who honor His Name and who loves and stands with His people in the good times and the bad.

(To HaShem:)

We plead before You, our Beloved! By Your Mercy we beg, please do not give us what we deserve! Grant us Your Mercy and provide for us from Your Treasury of Unearned Gifts! You know us better than we know ourselves dear Beloved One. Care for us, the members and friends of Beit Emunah. Care for all the Jews and for all those love and stand with us, and enlighten the hearts of our enemies, those who hate us, so that they too might see and bathe in the Light of Your Limitless Love! May there be Shalom! Shalom! Shalom!

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