V'aschanan: Jewish Renewal

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Jewish Renewal

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


“When you have children and grandchildren and will have been “noshantem” in the land, you will grow corrupt and make a carved image, and you will do evil in the eyes of G-d to anger Him” (Deut. Ch.4 v.25).

What does the word “noshantem” mean? Some commentators have it as “long”, to say that when you have been long in the land, this shall happen. But why would that be so?

Rabbi Moshe Shapira, one of the greatest scholars of this generation, defines the word as “bored”. When the Jewish people become bored in Israel, these things shall happen.

What is the message, according to Rabbi Shapira’s explanation, of this verse?

By nature as things age they lose their attraction. People are always looking for something new, something exciting. Something that is old is “so last year.” Interestingly, this is how Nachmanodies understands the desire for forbidden sexual practices: as people who have made the special (that is, relations between a husband and wife) into something mundane, they constantly need something more perverse in order to excite them. If we look into the contemporary culture, i.e., styles of dress, movies, television, etc., this idea certainly rings true.

  This is what happens to a society which bases itself on the superficiality and the importance of material things.  On the other hand, we know that things of worth have enduring value. In fact, these things often increase in value as they grow older. Love between a husband and wife, love between close friends and family members, and ideally love of one’s self, G-d, and the Torah.

The way we keep the love for these things vibrant is to find and appreciate different aspects about them. This does not necessarily have to mean something  new about the person; rather, it means that the original feelings do not feel stale, but, on the contrary, feel fresh. 

In our daily prayers we say, “And in His (G-d’s) goodness He renews and perpetuates creation daily.” Besides this renewal being a practical aspect of creation (in physics this is known as quantum uncertainty), this is true metaphysically, as G-d’s love for the Jewish people is undiminished from our original “marriage” (at Sinai). Not only that, but He created the commandments with such a multitude of expression within them, that there is always newness within the performance. And He created within us the ability to relate to the multifaceted aspect of these commandments.

By virtue of this reality, it is thus possible to avoid the staleness and inertia of our lives. This is evidenced by the Jews’ commitment to Torah, which 3300 years after it was given remains as special as the day it was handed down at Sinai. 

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