Parshat Vaetchanan is the 2nd parsha in Sefer Devarim (also known as Deuteronomy).
This parsha is verses Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11, or a total of 118 verses.
Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.
Aliyah 1: Deuteronomy 3:23 – 4:4, 11 verses
Moses pleaded with God that he would be permitted to enter the Land of Israel. God refused his request and also commanded him to stop asking.
God will permit Moses to see the entire land, but Joshua will lead the people into it.
Moses reminds them that they need to perform God’s commandments to merit possessing the Land. He also warns them not to add or subtract from them.
Aliyah 2: Deuteronomy 4:5 – 4:40, 36 verses
Moses set before the Jewish people God’s laws. When Israel follows God’s laws then they and the law will be praised by the rest of the world.
The people stood at the base of Mount Sinai when God gave them the 10 Commandments and the rest of the law. Moses reminds them that they heard God speak, but did not see any physical being.
Moses warns them to be careful to avoid making images to worship. Worshiping any images after they enter the Land will only anger God.
Even though God may eventually drive them out of the Land of Israel, He will never abandon or destroy the Jewish people. God made a covenant with our forefathers that is still in effect.
It is only by obeying God and His commandments that the Jewish people will merit to prolong their time in the Land of Israel.
Aliyah 3: Deuteronomy 4:41 – 4:49, 9 verses
In Parshat Masei there is the commandment to designate six cities of refuge.
The cities of refuge will only come into effect once all six are designated. Even so, Moses now designates the 3 cities of refuge on the east side of the Jordan River.
He designated Bezer in the territory of Reuben, Ramoth Gilead in the territory of Gad, and Golan in the territory of Manansseh.
Aliyah 4: Deuteronomy 5:1 – 5:18, 18 verses
Moses calls out to the entire nation that is encamped near the Jordan River. God made a covenant with the Jewish people at Horeb (Mount Sinai).
Moses emphasizes the importance and everlasting nature of that covenant. The covenant was not just with the generation that stood at Mount Sinai. That covenant applies to all future generations.
Moses then restates the 10 Commandments. See Parshat Yitro for the narration of the event when it happened.
Moses is speaking to the people who will enter the Land of Israel. Many of them did not hear God speak, but now they are hearing the 10 Commandments from Moses.
Aliyah 5: Deuteronomy 5:19 – 6:3, 15 verses
Moses recounts what happened after the people heard the 10 Commandments from God.
The people acknowledged what they heard and that they had heard it from God. They were afraid to remain in direct communication with God.
They asked Moses to speak to God and then tell them God’s message.
God agreed that this would be a good approach to adopt. The important thing is that the people should do everything that God commands them.
Aliyah 6: Deuteronomy 6:4 – 6:25, 22 verses
A central part of a Jew’s morning and evening prayers is the Shema. As arranged in our prayer books, the Shema is three paragraphs from the Torah.
Verse 6:4 – 9 are the first paragraph of the Shema. These verses are probably the most fundamental statement of Jewish belief. The paragraph contains these ideas:
- God is One
- the commandment to love God
- teach the Torah
- engage in Torah study
- the commandment of tefillin
- the commandment of mezzuah
Moses tells the people that they are coming into the Land of Israel, a land filled with all good things. It contains houses, cisterns, and orchards that they did not build nor plant.
He warns them not to forget God and not to test Him.
Aliyah 7: Deuteronomy 7:1 – 7:11, 11 verses
God is bringing the Jewish people into the Land. They will come face-to-face with these 7 nations:
These nations were stronger than the Jewish people. But God promised to deliver them to the Jewish nation to destroy them.
The people are warned not make a covenant with these nations. They should not allow their sons or daughters to marry them.
They are commanded to destroy those nations and all of their idols.
Note – How Many Verses?
According to Jewish tradition, there are 118 verses in Parshat Vaetchanan. However, according to the numbering in our printed books, there are 122 verses.
We’ve seen this issue before. I wrote a short explanation about it in Parshat Yitro.
Isaiah 40:1 – 26
This haftarah does not relate directly to the parsha. Rather it is the first of the seven haftarahs of consolation that are read after Tisha B’Av. All of these haftarahs are taken from Isaiah.
The prophet begins with the words, “Comfort, comfort My people…”
The prophet assures the Jewish people that their exile will end. God, the One who created the world, will bring this to pass.