MidrESHET Hayil

Friday, August 12, 2011

Parashat VaEt'hanan

Parashat VaEt'hanan

Parashat VaEt'hanan derives it names from the word Hinun (pronounced by some as 'Chinun'), which translates as 'a gratuitous gift'. Zalman Watman explains that Moshe Rabbenu pleaded with Hashem to enter the Land of Israel and he pleaded not in the manner of entitlement but in earnest supplication. Moshe did not cite his many good deeds in his appeal; he humbly asked for Hashem's grace. We can learn much about prayer from Moshe Rabbeinu. We need to appeal to the Master of the Universe humbly and as his true servants. We cannot demand things because we think we may deserve them, we must humbly ask for them just as Moshe Rabbenu did. If we feel that our tefillot were not answered, we must continue to humbly and properly ask HaKadosh Barukh Hu for what it is we are praying for. We also must understand that sometimes, the answer can be No. Further along, our Parsha reviews the Ten Commandments, Shema, prohibition of intermarriage and other foundations for living a Jewish life. The first pasuk of the Shema commands us to love HaKadosh Barukh Hu; 've'Ahavta et HaShem Elokekha'. What exactly is Ahavat HaShem? HaRambam explains to us that we must first learn about HaShem Yitbarakh so deeply until we truly grasp His essence, not just learning ABOUT Him, but learning HIM, until all we do is literally think and breathe HaShem every moment, until HaShem is on our mind and integrated into our actions. Perhaps this is why the missva of Tefillin is mentioned in this Parasha. Men place a crown on their heads and are bound at their arms to signify that we must encompass our thoughts (tefillin of the head) and our actions (tefillin shel yad; tefillin of the hand) around HaShem Yitbarakh.
This is where being a Biology nerd comes in. Interestingly, where men place their tefillin, it is over a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC) which is associated with judgment and making decisions. Studies show that women and men's prefrontal cortex operate differently. While the male PFC operates on a more simple basis (calculations/cost- benefit) the womans PFC processes protential reward, regulating worry and error-detection, which is one step forward (no offense guys). When men place their tefillin on each morning, they are placing emphasis on the nucleus of judgement and decision making so that each decision they make that day should be leshem shamayim. Furthermore, according to the kabbalah, the midsection of the head reflects din (judgement) and the sides are symbolic of rahamim (mercy). This further demonstrates the correlation between the prefrontal section of the head and the attribute of judgement.
May HaKadosh Barukh Hu always judge us with Mercy and not Judgement and may we come to truly love Him and understand Him to do His Will, Amen!
Wishing you a lovely Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh!!
Ariella Samimi

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