Parashat VaEtchanan

“You shall not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it” (Deuteronomy 4:2) At first glance, Moses’ instruction to Bnai Yisrael seems a bit extreme, given that the written Torah could not possibly cover every law that would ever govern society. In its context however, it is clear that Moshe is referring to the issue of pagan worship, as he makes reference to the fact that God wiped out the 24,000 members of Bnai Yisrael who worshiped Baal Peor. This Pasuk serves as a clear reminder that the laws against idolatry are not up for negotiation. The final Pasuk regarding the law against idol worship states, “While you, who held fast to Hashem, your God, are all alive today.” (Deuteronomy 4:4).

Why do we recite this line at the start of every Torah service? This line serves to remind us that Judaism is more than just believing in God; Judaism is “hands on” as we physically cling to the Torah, God’s teachings. We work to extend the laws of the Torah in ways that will enrich our lives, ways that cannot be measured on a calculator.

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