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    Body & soul – Va’et’channan

    The Torah portion begins with Moses speaking. He says Va’et’channan el HaShem – “I besought the Lord” (Deut. 3:28).

    The verb he uses is Hitpa’el, reflexive. The Hitpa’el is used in such phrases as “I wash myself”, “I dress myself”.

    In time of prayer, it suggests that the person (in this case Moses) does not stand or sit politely and quietly, and piously concentrate on his words and thoughts. It indicates that the whole person should be engaged in prayer, both body and soul.

    One of the best known Jewish prayer customs – shockling or swaying – is an illustration of this notion. It derives from the passage in the Psalms, kol atzmotai tomar’na, “All my bones speak out” (35:10).

    Samson Raphael Hirsch tells us that the words mean, “Every part of me shall speak”.

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