Upon Your Heart

Under the new covenant, God will actually change our nature, circumcising our hearts as it were, to remove from us the waywardness of our evil inclinations.

Visual concept of the transformation into a new creation through the word. (Images: © Bigstock/FFOZ)

Va'etchanan

Special Shabbat Reading

Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat Nachamu (שבת נחמו | Sabbath of comforting)
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26

Shabbat Nachamu ("Sabbath of comfort/ing) takes its name from the haftarah from Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah 40:1-26 that speaks of "comforting" the Jewish people for their suffering. It the first of seven haftarahs of consolation leading up to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Va'etchanan (ואתחנן | I pleaded)
  • Torah: Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26
  • Gospel: Luke 3:2-15

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Deuteronomy 3:23 | Moses Views Canaan from Pisgah
    • Deuteronomy 4:1 | Moses Commands Obedience
    • Deuteronomy 4:41 | Cities of Refuge East of the Jordan
    • Deuteronomy 4:44 | Transition to the Second Address
    • Deuteronomy 5:1 | The Ten Commandments
    • Deuteronomy 5:22 | Moses the Mediator of God's Will
    • Deuteronomy 6:1 | The Great Commandment
    • Deuteronomy 6:10 | Caution against Disobedience
    • Deuteronomy 7:1 | A Chosen People
  • Prophets
    • Isaiah 40:1 | God's People Are Comforted

Portion Summary

The forty-fifth reading from the Torah and the second reading from the book of Deuteronomy is named Va'etchanan (ואתחנן), which means "and I besought." The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, "I also pleaded (va'etchanan) with the LORD at that time" (Deuteronomy 3:23). The portion completes the historical prologue of the Deuteronomy covenant document and begins a rehearsal of the stipulations. Part of that rehearsal is a repetition of the Ten Commandments and the famous first passage of the Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4-9.


In the recitation of the daily Shema lies a promise of the new covenant. Deuteronomy 6:6 speaks in the future tense when it says, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6).

This means that we are to endeavor to keep the commandments by placing them on our hearts, but it could also be read to imply an assurance of the future. Jeremiah 31:33 promises that in the new covenant, God will write his Torah upon our hearts. He says, “I will put My Torah within them and on their heart I will write it” (Jeremiah 31:33). This means that God will actually change our nature, circumcising our hearts as it were, to remove from us the waywardness of our evil inclinations. Paul speaks of this transformation as “the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

In another passage, Paul says, “Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul points to the lives of believers as evidence of the new covenant when he says, “You are a letter of Messiah, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3). All of this happens to believers as a fulfillment of the promise of the new covenant. The Holy Spirit is responsible for writing the commandments of God upon our hearts:

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

But as of yet, we have not experienced this regeneration in its fullness. The completion of the promises of the new covenant awaits the coming of Messiah who is the “guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22). Paul tells us that God “gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (2 Corinthians 1:22). A pledge implies a down payment on a sum which will be paid in full in the future. The down payment is the Holy Spirit within us now. The amount to be paid in full in the future is the Torah written on our hearts.

Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. (2 Corinthians 5:5)

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

In that day, the words of Deuteronomy 6:6 will be true. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6).

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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