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V'etchanan 5766

V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! I was brought up in Reform Judaism in Portland, Oregon. Though I saw very few Orthodox Jews, I grew up with certain perceptions and perhaps even misconceptions. As I went off to college (University of Washington) and later traveled, I found that many people shared my perceptions of Orthodox Judaism.

While I and others carried these beliefs about Orthodox Judaism, there was also a certain fascination about them - the closeness of family life, low divorce rate, happy kids, integrated lifestyle. When I was 22 I started learning about my heritage while visiting Jerusalem. I found it fascinating to finally find someone Orthodox to discuss my understanding (or misunderstanding) about the Orthodox and the Torah way of life. I thought it might possibly be of interest to share with you what I found out:

(1) "The Orthodox judge me. They look down upon me. They don't consider me to be Jewish."

The truth: There will always be individuals who are judgmental and negative; however, the Torah teaches that God is the One Who judges, not us.

Ultimately, at the end of one's life, it is between the individual and his Maker to determine how he led his life. This is what Orthodox Jews believe.

There is widespread confusion that Orthodox Jews look upon anyone who is not Orthodox as not being Jewish. Untrue! If one is born of a Jewish mother or converted according to the Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law, one is Jewish - even if he espouses Hinduism, Atheism, Christianity or any other 'ism.'

(2) "It's all or nothing. I either have to do all the commandments or none."

The truth: No one, no matter how observant, is able to fulfill all of the mitzvot. Fulfilling all of the commandments is a goal and a means to perfecting oneself and this world. If one finds a diamond mine, he may want every last diamond in it, but he won't refuse to dig because he cannot have them all.

(3) "Orthodoxy takes away all joy in life. One's life is restricted as to
what he can do, eat and enjoy."

The truth: Just like parents want us to have everything that is good, the Almighty, our Father in Heaven, wants the same for us - to get as much pleasure as possible. It takes wisdom to know true pleasure and to understand the value of restrictions. The Torah is the instruction book for life. It teaches how to obtain real pleasure from life!

(4) "Being Orthodox is an escape from the real world. You don't have to
think anymore."

The truth: It is interesting that one can make that statement and in the same breath lambaste Orthodox for their "Talmudic point of view" -turning over a point 100 different ways. The Almighty made us personally responsible to seek truth and know truth. That is why a Jew is always answering a question with a question. We are taught not to blindly accept assumptions. (To answer a question in the manner it is asked, means that you accept the assumptions it is predicated upon.) The Almighty also commands us in the Torah to take responsibility for the whole world - Tikun Olam -to take care of it, improve it and to care for our fellow human beings. This is what the Torah teaches, the Orthodox believe and what they have given to the world.

Orthodoxy is the wellspring of our 3,300 year tradition. It is worth knowing our roots and the wisdom of our heritage. After all, so many other religions have drawn from it to form their own, it must have something of value to add to our own lives!

For more on "The 4 Misconceptions
People Have About Judaism"
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Torah Portion of the Week

Moshe pleads with God to enter the Holy Land, but is turned down. (Remember, God always answers your prayers - sometimes with a "yes," sometimes with a "no" ... and sometimes with a "not yet.") Moshe commands the Children of Israel not to add or subtract from the words of the Torah and to keep all of the Commandments. He then reminds them that God has no shape or form and that we should not make or worship idols of any kind.

The cities of Bezer, Ramot and Golan are designated as Cities of Refuge east of the Jordan river. Accidental murderers can escape there to avoid revengeful relatives. They then await there until tried.

The Ten Commandments are repeated to the whole Jewish people. Moshe then expounds the "Shema," affirming the unity of God, Whom all should love and transmit His commandments to the next generation. A man should wear Tefillin upon the arm and head. All Jews should put a Mezuzah (the scroll is the essential part) upon each doorpost of their home (except the bathroom).

Moshe then relays the Almighty's command not to intermarry "for they will lead your children away from Me." (Deut. 7:3-4)

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "And you shall know this day, and you shall take this to your heart, that the Almighty is God in the Heavens above and upon the earth below, there is no other" (Deuteronomy 4:39). What is the essence of this verse?

The Chofetz Chaim, Rav Yisroel Meir Kagan, used to stress that this verse tells us that all that happens in our lives is from the Almighty. All the profits and losses in a person's life are from the decree of the Almighty. Similarly, any pain that a person suffers, such as when someone curses or insults him, is from Heaven to atone for one's transgressions. The person doing the cursing and insulting is guilty of committing a transgression, but the recipient is receiving something that is ultimately beneficial for him.

A person who internalizes this attitude will have the strength and courage not to reply to the insults thrown at him. When one washes with hot water to remove something that is very sticky, during the cleansing process the hot water hurts; however, in the end the person becomes clean.

There are two factors: (1) Having the intellectual knowledge that all that happens in our lives is from the Almighty. (2) having the emotional reality of the concept - internalizing it so that it becomes a part of us and has a practical effect on our emotions. It is our job to work on internalizing this important concept - "Everything is from the Almighty" -by repeating it to ourselves. With each repetition it becomes more and more a part of our inner reality.

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