The speeches convey the glory and beauty in the path G-d bequeathed to His nation, and the love and affection in this connection between the Jewish people and G-d. This week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, continues the series of speeches from the previous parasha, Devarim, and focuses on faith in one G-d and the prohibition of creating anything in His image.
The significance of G-d’s revelation at Mount Sinai, an event described in this parasha, far surpasses the creation of a new religion or the cohesiveness of a new nation around its G-d. The idea that appeared in the world was far-reaching; an idea that had been forgotten since G-d created His world. As people became further distanced from the concept around which the world was created, they created spiritual and historical significance through idol worship, believing that there were different gods in the world, each with its own power. The gods created humans and therefore they must be worshipped. They are the source of power and they determine fate. Idolatry typically did not view the gods as particularly good. With a few exceptions, the gods were not seen as having a specific stance on how reality should appear. On the contrary, the gods were often haphazard in their decisions. Despite this, having a close connection with them, through sacrifices and statues, brought them satisfaction and could lead to beneficial reciprocal treatment.
When G-d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, a fundamentally different theological concept revealed itself as well:
“I am the Lord your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall not have the gods of others in My presence. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness which is in the heavens above, which is on the earth below, or which is in the water beneath the earth. You shall not prostrate yourself before them, nor worship them…”
(Deuteronomy 5, 6-9)
And Moses warns again:
And you shall watch yourselves very well, for you did not see any image on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire. Lest you become corrupt and make for yourselves a graven image, the representation of any form…
(Deuteronomy 4, 15-16)
There is only one G-d, and He does not want us to create images or likenesses of Him. So, the question is, what does He want? What is the significance of worshipping one G-d? If He does not want us to worship His image, what does He want from us?
We read this in the parasha repeatedly. The significance of worshipping G-d is embodied in the laws of justice given in the Torah. G-d’s will is for us to worship Him through keeping these laws and regulations. These laws strive to bring the world and man toward absolute, divine justice, and make life better and more honest.
This idea, that appeared in G-d’s revelation on Mount Sinai, carries within it tremendous meaning: G-d does not require anything of us on His own behalf, just for our own, since these laws do not cause Him any satisfaction or fulfill any of His needs. They were written for one purpose only:
“And the Lord commanded us to perform all these statutes, to fear the Lord, our G-d, for our good all the days, to keep us alive, as of this day. And it will be for our merit that we keep to observe all these commandments before the Lord, our G-d, as He has commanded us.”
(Deuteronomy 6, 24-25)
Rabbi Shmuel David Luzzatto (Biblical commentator, Italy, 19th century) explained these verses charmingly:
The commandments are for our own good because through them social issues will be repaired peacefully and honestly, and besides this, we will have charity and merit if we keep them, and G-d will give us rewards for this.
In conclusion, the significance of faith in one G-d is that G-d is beneficent, that the world was created out of goodness, and that the relationship between man and G-d goes through His laws of justice whose purpose is to fill the world with goodness.