Rebecca Masinter

Vaeschanan - Love at the Root of All Relationships

Parshas Vaeschanan has a recurring theme which fits right in with these special days leading to Shabbos Nachamu, the love and connection between Bnai Yisrael and Hashem. וְתַ֗חַת כִּ֤י אָהַב֙ אֶת־אֲבֹתֶ֔יךָ וַיִּבְחַ֥ר בְּזַרְעֹ֖ו אַחֲרָ֑יו Hashem loved your fathers… וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת ה’ אֱלֹקיךָ And you shall love Hashem, your God… כִּי֩ מֵֽאַהֲבַ֨ת ה’ אֶתְכֶ֗ם It’s because of Hashem’s love of you… There are so many pesukim that talk about the love and close relationship between Hashem and Am Yisrael. What’s going on here? Sefer Devarim was Moshe Rabeinu’s last chance to bind Bnai Yisrael to Hashem with everlasting cords. His ultimate goal is the covenantal relationship between Bnai Yisrael and Hashem with a mesorah that perpetuates it through the generations. But why the focus on love? Simply because Torah is a relationship. Torah isn’t just a set of laws or lists of do’s and don’ts. It is the vehicle of connection between Hashem and Bnai Yisrael. The nevi’im leading up to the churban warned us over and over, Hashem doesn’t want korbanos empty of meaning, He doesn’t want us going to the Bais HaMikdash with empty gestures devoid of real thought. Hashem wants our hearts. He wants a relationship with us and then fulfillment of the Torah becomes the expression of that relationship and our path to deepen it even more. Moshe stressed ahava, love, in both directions, Hashem’s love for us, and our love for Hashem, because the loving relationship is absolutely essential for Torah. There’s a beautiful Gemara about Reb Chia who planted flax, harvested it, wove nets from it, caught deer with those nets, skinned them and prepared their hides into parchment on which he wrote the Torah and Mishna. He took the meat from the deer and fed it to 11 orphans. He then divided up the 11 pieces of parchment, 5 chumashim of the Torah and six sedarim of the Mishna, and taught each orphan one part of the Torah until he mastered it. Then he instructed each one to teach the other orphans his part until Rav Chia had 11 orphans who knew all of Torah. Why orphans? Why did R’ Chia pick 11 children who had no parents? Rabbi Leib Keleman answers - Rav Chia knew that whoever loves the child the most will be the best possible educator for that child. So in order to be the best Torah teacher he had to be the person who loved them most, and as long as his students had parents alive, there was no room for Rav Chia to be their best teacher. In order to teach them the most, he had to be the person who loved them the absolute most in the world. Connection precedes direction. In Parshas VaEschanan we have shma, words we know well, “v’shinantam l’vanecha” and you should teach them to your children. Rashi brings the Gemara that your children means your Talmidim, your students. So why not just say, “teach them to your students”? Why must talmidim be like children? Because in order to effectively teach students, you must love them as if they were your children. The more love there is in a relationship, the more teaching there can be. Therefore, it’s obvious that when Moshe was trying to connect us and all future generations to Hashem and His Torah, he needed to stress the love between us as well. This is a timely reminder for us as well. There is so much we want to pass on to our children. We have so much we want to teach them, and there are so many hopes we have for them. The way we’ll be able to do that is by first building a loving connection. The 40 years in the Midbar weren’t 40 years of lecturing, they were 40 years of love, “Ahavas Klulosayich”, and Moshe ended them by focusing on love, because it is through a connection that one is able to accept direction. When we want to influence our children, we would be wise to deepen our connection first. Ratchet up the love and connection before we direct them because when love is flowing between us, our children want to listen, they want to do what we ask. Just as the more we tap into the love between us and Hashem the more we want to connect, do mitzvos, and learn Torah, so too, the more the relationship between us and our children deepens, the more they too will want to follow our lead.