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31 JULY/1 AUGUST: PARSHA VAETCHANAN

Shabbat comes in at 8:36 pm and goes out at 9:45 pm _____________________________________________________________________________

Until this point in Moses’s first speech, he has described how the Israelites reached the border of Canaan.  Now, he addresses the people’s future life inside Israel, and the laws they must obey in order to merit entry and residence in the Promised Land.

First and foremost, Moses warns the people:  ”You shall not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it” (Deut. 4:2), in several different ways.  Some commentators explain it as a blanket prohibition against breaking any of the laws taught by Moses or adding new ones.

The medieval French commentator known as Chizkuni applies this prohibition,  to add or subtract, to one specific issue:  the exclusive worship of God.   According to this interpretation, Moses is warning the people not to repeat a mistake that had been made earlier when the Israelites were seduced into following pagan practices.

Chizkuni teaches that “Do not add . . . or take anything away” means that one may not nullify one’s singular loyalty to God by worshipping additional gods.  Therefore there may be cases where we can add to, or subtract from the law – but we must always believe that God is not just the most powerful deity, but the only God.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Arberman

July 28, 2015