Parshas Vaeschanan

Words in bold represent changes to the traditional translation based on the Aramaic translation/commentary attributed to Onkelos the Ger.

Parshas Vaeschanan

Rishon

23. I prayed before[1] Hashem at that time, saying,

24. ‘Hashem God,[2] You have started to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand, that You are God, Whose Presence is in heaven above and who rules on earth. There is no one who can do like Your deeds and Your strengths.[3]

25. I would now cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Temple.’[4]

26. But there was anger from before Hashem towards me because of you and He didn’t accept (it) from me. Hashem said to me, ‘That’s enough for you! Do not continue to speak before Me further of this matter!

27. Go up to the top of the peak and raise your eyes to the west, and to the north, and to the south, and to the east. See with your eyes because you will not cross this Jordan.

28. Command Yehoshua, strengthen him and encourage him, because he will before this people, and he will bestow to them the land that you will see.’

29. We remained in the valley opposite Beis Peor.

Chapter 4

1. And now, Israel, listen to the statutes and to the laws that I am teaching you to do, in order that you will live and come in and inherit the land that Hashem, the God of your fathers, gives to you.

2. Do not add to the matter that I command you and do not detract from it, to observe the commandments of Hashem your God that I command you.

3. Your eyes saw that which Hashem did to those who worship Baal Peor, because Hashem your God destroyed from among you every man who walked after Baal Peor.

4. And you, the ones who clung to reverence of Hashem your God, are all alive today.

Sheini

5. See that I have taught you statutes and laws as Hashem my God commanded me, to do so in the midst of the land to which you come in there to inherit.

6. Observe and perform (them) because it is your wisdom and your intelligence in the eyes of the peoples who will hear of all these statutes, and they will say, ‘That great nation is only a wise and intelligent people.’

7. Because who is a great nation that has a God[5] close to it, to accept its prayer in its times of trouble like Hashem our God in every time that we pray before Him?[6]

8. And who is a great nation that has true[7] statutes like all this Torah that I give before you today?

9. Only guard yourselves and guard your souls much, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw and lest they leave from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and to your children’s children.

10. The day that you stood before Hashem your God at Choreiv, when Hashem said to me, ‘Gather the people before Me; I will cause them to hear My words, that they may learn to revere before Me all the days they are alive on the earth, and they shall teach their children.’

11. You drew near and stood at the base of the mountain,[8] and the mountain burned with fire towards the heavens,[9] darkness, cloud and fog.[10]

12. Hashem spoke with you from among the fire; you heard the sound of words and a form you didn’t see – (nothing) except a voice.

13. He told to you His covenant that He commanded you to do – the ten statements[11] – and He wrote them on two stone tablets.

14. And Hashem commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and laws to perform them in the land that you cross there to inherit.

15. Carefully guard your souls because you didn’t see any (literally, all) form on the day Hashem spoke to you at Choreiv from among the fire,

16. lest you become corrupt and make for yourselves an image[12] the likeness of any form: the likeness of a male or a female,

17. the likeness of any animal that is on earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air (of) the firmament of the heavens,

18. the likeness of anything that crawls that is on the ground, the likeness of any fish that are[13] in the waters under the earth.

19. And lest you raise your eyes towards the heavens and see the sun and the moon and the stars – the entire host of the heavens – and you will stray[14] and bow down to them and serve them, that Hashem your God prepared[15] them for all the (other) peoples under all the heavens.

20. And Hashem drew you close to reverence for Him and brought out from the iron crucible, from Egypt, to be to Him a people, an inheritance, as this very day.

21. And from before Hashem there was anger towards me because of you[16] and He swore that I wouldn’t cross the Jordan and I wouldn’t come to the good land that Hashem your God gives to you as an inheritance.

22. Because I die in this land; I will not cross the Jordan, and you will cross and inherit this good land.

23. Guard yourselves lest you forget the covenant of Hashem your God that He carved with you and make for yourselves an image in the form of anything, that Hashem your God has commanded you.

24. Because Hashem your God – His word is a consuming fire, He is a zealous[17] God.

25. When you have children and children’s children and have grown old[18] in the land, and you become corrupt and make an image in the likeness of anything, and you do this evil before Hashem[19] your God to anger before Him,

26. I appoint heaven and earth today as witnesses against you that you will surely perish quickly from upon the land that you cross the Jordan there to inherit, because your days will not be long upon it, for you will be surely be destroyed.

27. Hashem will scatter you among the peoples, and you shall remain a people few in number in the nations to which Hashem will drive you.

28. There you will serve people who serve ‘errors,’[20] the work of human hands, wood and stone that don’t see, and don’t hear, and don’t eat and don’t smell.

29. You will search from there for the reverence of Hashem your God, and you will find (it) because you plead before Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

30. When you are in trouble and all these things find you in the end of days, you will return to reverence for Hashem your God and accept His word.[21]

31. Because Hashem your God is a merciful God; He will not forsake you[22] and He will not destroy you, and He won’t forget the covenant of your fathers that He swore to them.

32. Because ask now of the first days that were before you, to from the day when Hashem created man on the earth, from the end of the heavens until (the other) end of the heavens: has there been like this great thing, or has its like been heard?

33. Has any people heard the sound of Hashem’s word[23] speaking from among the fire, as you heard, and lived?

34. Or the miracles that Hashem made to be revealed, to redeem to himself a nation from among (another) nation, with miracles, with signs and with wonders, and with war, and with a strong hand and with an upraised arm, and with great visions like all that Hashem your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?[24]

35. You have been shown (in order) to know that Hashem – He is the God; there is no other besides Him.

36. From the heavens He caused you to hear the sound of His word to instruct you, and on the earth He showed you His great fire, and His words you heard from among the fire.

37. And because He loved your ancestors, he desired their descendants[25] after them, and He brought you out through His word, in His great strength, from Egypt,

38. to drive nations greater and more numerous than you from before you, to bring you in to give to you their land (as) an inheritance, like this day.

39. Know today and keep to your heart(s) that Hashem – He is the God Whose presence is in the heavens above and Who rules on the earth below; there is no other.

40. Observe His statutes and His laws that I command you today, that it will be good for you and for your children after you, and in order that you will lengthen your days on the land that Hashem your God gives to you (for) all the days.

Shlishi

41. Then Moshe separated three cities on the other side of the Jordan, to the east,[26]

42. to flee there a manslaughterer who killed his neighbor without intention, and he didn’t hate him yesterday or beforehand.[27] He will flee to one of these cities and live:

43. Betzer in the wilderness, in the land of the plain, of the tribe of Reuven; Ramos in Gilad, of the tribe of Gad; and Golan in Masnan,[28] of the tribe of Menashe.[29]

44. And this is the Torah that Moshe arranged before the children of Israel;

45. these are the testimonies, and the statutes and the laws that Moshe spoke with the children of Israel in their exodus from Egypt,

46. on the other side of the Jordan, in the valley opposite Beis Peor, in the land of Sichon, king of the Amorite(s), who dwelled in Cheshbon, whom Moshe and the children of Israel struck in their exodus from Egypt.

47. They inherited his land and the land of Og, king of Masnan – the two kings of the Amorite(s) who were on the other side of the Jordan to the east:[30]

48. from Aroeir that is on the side of the Arnon valley and until Mount Sion, which is Chermon,

49. and all the plain on the other side of the Jordan to the east and until the sea of the plain, under the waterfall of the peak.

Chapter 5

Revii

1. Moshe called all Israel and he said to them, “Listen, Israel, to the statutes and the laws that I speak before you[31] today. Study them and observe them to perform them.

2. Hashem our God carved a covenant with us at Choreiv.

3. It was not with our fathers that Hashem carved this covenant but with us – we, these here today, all of us alive.

4. Speech with speech[32] Hashem spoke with you on the mountain, from among the fire.

5. I stood between the word of Hashem and between you at that time to tell you the word of Hashem, because you were afraid from before the fire and you did not ascend the mountain, saying:

6. I am Hashem your God, Who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.[33]

7. There shall not be for you another ‘god’ aside from Me.

8. Do not make for yourself an image, any likeness that is in the heavens above, and that is on the earth below, and that is in the waters under the earth.

9. Do not bow down to them or and do not serve them because I, Hashem your God, am a zealous God, revisiting the sins of the parents on rebellious children, and on the third generation[34] and on the fourth generation of those who hate Me when the children continue to sin emulating their fathers,

10. and performing kindness to the thousands of generations of those who love Me and observe My commandments.

11. Do not swear in the name of Hashem your God in vain[35] because Hashem will not acquit one who swears falsely in His name.

12. Observe the sabbath day to sanctify it, as Hashem your God commanded you.

13. (For) six days you shall work and perform all your labor,

14. and the seventh day is a sabbath before Hashem your God; you shall not perform any labor – you, and your son and your daughter, and your male servant and your female servant, and your ox and your donkey, and all your cattle, and your convert who is in your cities,[36] in order that your male servant and your female servant may rest like you.

15. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and Hashem your God took you out from there with a strong hand and with an upraised arm; therefore Hashem your God commanded you to make the sabbath day.

16. Honor your father and your mother as Hashem your God commanded you, in order that you may lengthen your days, and so [37]that it will be good for you on the land that Hashem your God gives to you.

17. Do not murder a soul, and do not commit adultery, and do not steal, and do not testify a false testimony against your fellow.

18. And do not covet your fellow’s wife, and do not desire your fellow’s house, his field, and his male servant and his female servant, his ox and his donkey, and everything that is your fellow’s.

Chamishi

19. Hashem spoke these words with your entire congregation on the mountain, from among the fire, the darkness and the fog[38] – a great voice, and He didn’t stop.[39] He wrote them on two stone tablets and He gave them to me.

20. It happened, when you heard the voice from among the darkness, and the mountain was burning with fire, you drew near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders,

21. and you said, “Behold, Hashem our God has shown us His glory and His Greatness, and the sound of His word we have heard from among the fire. This very day we saw that God will speak to a person and he will live.

22. And now, why should we die, because this great fire will consume us! If we continue to hear the sound of the word of Hashem our God further, we shall die.

23. Because who of all flesh – who heard the sound of the word of Hashem the living[40] speaking from among the fire like us – lived?

24. You draw near and hear all that Hashem our God will say, and you speak with us all that Hashem our God will speak with you, and we will accept (it)[41] and we will do (it).”

25. The sound of your words in your speaking with me was heard before Hashem. Hashem said to me, ‘The sound of this people’s words that they spoke with you is heard before Me; they were correct[42] (in) all that they spoke.

26. Would that[43] this heart would (always) be to them, to revere before Me and to observe all My commandments all the days in order that it will be good for them and for their children forever!

27. Go, say to them, ‘Return yourselves to your tents,’

28. and you stand here before Me, and I will speak with you all the commandment, and the statutes and the laws that you shall teach them, and they shall perform in the land that I give them to inherit it.’

29. Guard (yourselves) to do as Hashem your God commanded you; do not turn aside right or left.

30. You shall go in all the way that Hashem your God has commanded you, in order that you will live and that it will be good for you, and you will lengthen (your) days in the land you will inherit.

Chapter 6

Shishi

1. This is the commandment, the statutes and the laws that Hashem your God commanded (me) to teach you, to perform in the land that you cross there to inherit,

2. so that you will revere before Hashem your God to observe all His statutes and His commandments that I command you, and your son, and your son’s son, all the days of your life, and in order to lengthen your days.

3. Accept, Israel, and observe to perform, that it will be good for you and that you will increase much, as Hashem the God of your fathers said to you, (in) a land that generates milk and honey.

4. Listen, Israel: Hashem is our God, Hashem is One.

5. You shall love Hashem your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your wealth.

6. These words that I command you today shall be upon your heart.

7. Teach them to your children; speak in them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, and when you lie down and when you get up.

8. Tie them as a sign on your hand and they shall be tefillin[44] between your eyes.

9. Write them on mezuzahs[45] and attach them to the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10. It will be when Hashem your God brings you to the land that He swore to your fathers – to Avraham, and to Yitzchak and to Yaakov – to give to you, great and good cities that you didn’t build,

11. and houses full of all good that you didn’t fill, and wells dug that you didn’t dig,[46] vineyards and olives that you didn’t plant, and you will eat and be satisfied.

12. Guard yourself lest you forget the reverence of Hashem, Who took you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.

13. You shall revere Hashem your God and before Him you shall serve, and in His name you shall swear.

14. Do not go after the ‘errors’ of the nations, from the ‘errors’ of the peoples who are all around you,

15. because Hashem your God is a zealous God – His presence is among you – lest the anger of Hashem your God intensify against you, and destroy you from upon the face of the earth.

16. Do not test before Hashem your God, as you tested (Him) in the test.[47]

17. Surely observe the commandments of Hashem your God, and His testimonies and His statutes that He commanded you.

18. Do what is fit and what is correct before Hashem[48] in order that it will be good for you, and you will come and inherit the good land that Hashem your God swore to your fathers,

19. to break[49] all your enemies from before you, as Hashem said.

20. When your son will ask you in the future[50] saying, ‘What are the testimonies, and the statutes and the laws that Hashem our God has commanded you?’

21. you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and Hashem brought us out from Egypt with a strong hand.

22. Hashem gave signs and wonders – great and terrible – in Egypt, against Pharaoh and against all his household members before our eyes.

23. and He brought us out from there, in order to bring us in to give us the land that He swore to our fathers.

24. Hashem commanded us to perform all these statutes, to revere before Hashem our God, for good for us all the days, to cause us to live, as this very day.

25. It will be a merit[51] for us that we observe to perform all this commandment before Hashem our God, as He commanded us.’

Chapter 7

Shevii

1. When Hashem your God brings you to the land to which you coming to inherit, and He drives out many nations from before you – the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the P’rizites, and the Chivites and Jebusites[52] – seven nations more numerous and mightier than you,

2. and Hashem your God gives them before you and you strike them, you shall surely destroy them; do not carve a covenant with them and do not have mercy on them.[53]

3. And do not marry with them; your daughter do not give to his son, and his daughter do not take for your son.

4. Because they will make your sons stray from following My service and they will serve the ‘errors’ of the nations, and Hashem’s anger will intensify against you, and He will quickly destroy you.

5. Rather, so shall you do to them: you shall tear down their mounds,[54] and smash their pillars, and cut down their asheiras, and burn their images in fire.

6. For you are a holy people before Hashem your God; Hashem your God desired in you to be a precious[55] people to Him from all the peoples that are on the face of the earth

7. Not because you are most numerous of all peoples did Hashem want you and desire you, because you are the smallest of all the peoples;

8. rather, because Hashem loves you, and because He keeps the oath[56] that He swore to your fathers, Hashem took you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.

9. Know that Hashem your God, He is the God, the faithful God Who keeps the covenant and the kindness to those who love Him and to those who keep His commandments – to thousands of generations

10. and He repays those who hate Him: the good that they perform before him in their life, to destroy them. He doesn’t delay (repaying) a good act to those who hate Him; the good that they do before Him he repays to them in their life.

11. Observe the commandment, and the statutes and the laws that I command you today to perform them.

[1] Rather than “pleaded with.”

[2] Chumash: “My Master Hashem.” (The word “Hashem” in this instance, following the word “Adonai,” is pronounced “Elohim.”

[3] Onkelos changes the Chumash’s question (“who is…?”) to a statement.

[4] As opposed to “the Lebanon,” which is another name for the Temple.

[5] Proper noun, rather than “gods.”

[6] Rather than “whenever we call to Him.”

[7] As opposed to “righteous.”

[8] Rather than “under the mountain.”

[9] Chumash: “until the heart of the heavens.”

[10] The Aramaic word amit’sa can also refer to darkness or to a thick cloud. We have selected the translation “fog” to avoid redundancies in the English, though that selection doesn’t deviate from the Chumash as Onkelos appears to have intended.

[11] More commonly known as the Ten Commandments, though those ten statements actually contain 14 commandments.

[12] Rather than “a graven image.”

[13] Onkelos’ change of “fish” to plural is evident from the noun in Aramaic but from the verb in English.

[14] Rather than “be lured.”

[15] Rather than “separated.”

[16] See Rashi.

[17] Rather than jealous; see Rashi.

[18] As opposed to “have become established.”

[19] Chumash: “in the eyes of Hashem.”

[20] A euphemism for idols.

[21] Rather than “heed His voice.”

[22] Chumash: “let go of you.”

[23] As opposed to “voice of God.”

[24] This verse, familiar from the Passover Haggadah, reads, “Or has any god performed miracles to come to take to himself a nation from among (another) nation, with trials, with signs and with wonders, and with war, and with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesome (acts) like all that Hashem your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?”

[25] Chumash: “chose his seed.”

[26] Literally, “to the rising of the sun.”

[27] Rather than “yesterday or the day before.”

[28] Bashan.

[29] Chumash: “Reubenite(s)… Gadite(s)… Menashite(s).

[30] See note on verse 41.

[31] Chumash: “in your ears.”

[32] Rather than “face to face.”

[33] As opposed to “slaves.” As noted in parshas Yisro, Onkelos aligns more closely than the Chumash with the standard English translation “house of bondage.”

[34] Understood in the Hebrew.

[35] The Hebrew lashav can mean “in vain” or “falsely.” Of the two instances of the word in this verse, Onkelos translates one instance each way.

[36] Rather than “your stranger who is within your gates.”

[37] i.e., a human being.

[38] See note on chapter 4 verse 11.

[39] Rather than “that did not add” or “that did not increase.”

[40] As opposed to “the living God.”

[41] Rather than “hear (it).”

[42] Rather than “did well.”

[43] Chumash: “Who would give that…?” (An idiomatic expression.)

[44] Hebrew: totafos, an example of a hapax legomenon (a unique word with no contextual basis). See Rashi.

[45] The word mezuzah in Hebrew literally means a doorpost. Onkelos uses it as we do: to refer to the small scrolls that we attach to our doorposts.

[46] More literally, “hewn cisterns that you didn’t hew.”

[47] Chumash: “in Massah.”

[48] Rather than “the upright and the good in Hashem’s eyes.”

[49] Rather than “push.”

[50] Literally, “tomorrow.”

[51] Rather than “righteousness.”

[52] Onkelos pluralizes the names of all these peoples.

[53] Chumash: “Do not show them grace.”

[54] As opposed to “altars.”

[55] Rather than “treasured.”

[56] Chumash: “from Hashem’s love for you, and from His keeping the oath.”

© Copyright 2022 Rabbi Jack Abramowitz