DEDICATION: : To those in need of a little bit of healing this week.
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It feels like forever since I typed out one of these. So much has happened and I am just now slowing down again. When I launched into this year, I knew time would be tight -- and I must admit that I had no idea how tight it would get this last semester. I had promised my mentors that the first thing I would drop when I felt squeezed was this published d'var, so I did have to let it lapse during the worst of things.
Bill is doing MUCH better -- basically back to 100% with a few new daily pills and some significant diet restrictions. He was impressed, by the way, with the outpouring of love and prayers from you folks who sent us prayers and wishes for his recovery, and both of us thank you.
Just a little more left on completing the Masters from Siegal College and shifting gears to completing the documentation for my rabbinic studies. Again, there is much here that requires me to thank those who have been big helps to me in these efforts.
Despite all that has happened this past year, I know that I am truly blessed by the One and by my friends -- and I DO thank all of you. I won't turn this into a soap opera by going over everything -- those of you who have been part of any of these activities know that it was indeed an intense year.
And indeed a year of much learning. Not only the stuff of Torah and prophets, but the rabbinic studies of history, halakhah udinim (guides, laws, etc), texts, liturgy and life cycle events. Also the work for the Masters -- more history, Talmud, Pesakh, Chasidic teachers, Maimonides, more prophets, Zohar, Shema, Hagaddah and Agaddah. And then the things I learned in order to teach wonderful groups of sixth and ninth graders about Torah and Hebrew and "Great Jewish Books". A very full year.
And last week was spent at Elat Chayyim studying Life Cycles with Rabbi Marcia Prager and others. What a place to spend Tisha b'Av -- again. Last year, this took me so deep, and again this year, so deep. However, the healing did go better this year thanks to the wonderful community at Elat Chayyim. It was also incredible to have my Va'ad mentor and two of my other mentors there.
I had the honor of leyning Torah on Tisha b'Av and I think that helped a lot, too. I cannot describe what it does to me when I leyn. And that makes me think of Reb Marcia's teaching she passed on to us about mysticism -- it is the heart knowing what the intellect cannot put into words. And that is the best part about resuming this practice -- I get to visit that place intensely as I write these. And what a parsha with which to resume. Deut 10: 11 "And now, Israel, what does YHVH your God ask of you, but to yira (respect, revere, recognize) YHVH your God, to walk on the One's paths, and to love and to work for YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13. And protect the mitzvot of YHVH, and the statutes, which I command you this day for your good?"
JOIN ME IN AUGUST!! I will be speaking at the Children of Abraham Journey Together Interfaith Chautauqua at Lakeside Ohio (Aug 17-24, 2002). It is a beautiful site and the conference was fantastic last year. Check out the website: http://childrenofabraham.homestead.com/index.html and join us!
1. Parsha details: Deut 7:12-11:25 [ Haftorah Isaiah 49:14-51:3 ]
2. Questions and a few observations
Summary: The immediate future and our readiness, the recent and not so recent past, the challenges before us, our stiff-neckedness and how we have demonstrated that, God's love, the second paragraph of the sh'ma.
V'akhalta, v'savata, uv'rachta.... (8:10) When you have eaten and are satisfied -- then you shall bless YHVH over the goodness and sustenance that you have been given. And just in case you didn't understand exactly why this sequence is so critical, Torah goes on to explain the very dangers if we DO NOT do this -- we will forget that all goodness and bounty of this earth come from the One -- we might start to think it is our own doing. We will forget that we were once lowly and poor. Torah instructs that we need to be mindful that our power, our wisdom, what we are, comes from God, not from us. Without the One, we are nothing.
Moshe is delivering some of the strongest words of the whole Torah in this Parsha
A traditional translation for 10:16 would be "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." -- it might be read as "Give voice to your natural (unpruned) heart and do not harden the rear of your neck any more." This might seem an unusual instruction until we recognize that vocalizing or giving voice to something is the first step in creating a new reality -- in this case, one that recognizes the love of God -- "For YHVH, is your God, the Power of the Powers, the Connection of Connections, the great God, powerful and awesome, who doesn't look at the face or take a bribe;" (10:17)
What an image -- and each of us -- all of us -- are created in that image. WOW!
Moshe -- how empowering you are! If we want to be God-like and that is the sincerest form of love -- then we are to ignore the outer "faces", reject bribes or personal gain and join to others in love. And if we do that, then we and those who join with us to do this work and open ourselves to that Love will experience it.
How do we do these things? Moshe is very specific in his advice (which sounds amazingly like later prophetic warnings.......) "10:18 The One executes the justice of the orphan and widow, and loves the stranger, giving food and garment. 19. Love you therefore the stranger; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20. You will yira (respect, revere, recognize) YHVH, your God; the One you will serve, and you will hold fast, and swear by The Name."
The first time I read this I thought, okay, so we do what the Holy One does and that is of course a good thing. And then I let these words really work on me and I recognized some of what was really in here. What does Torah really mean when Moshe says that the One "loves the stranger, giving food and garment"? These are among the things that a husband must guarantee his wife. They are the basics of daily life, they are the mainstays of self-worth and dignity. Supplying these prevents desperation and humiliation.
And God seldom "gifts" things to people, rather the One allows us the dignity of working for them, so that is implied here by the use of the word love -- for if you love someone, you cannot rob them of their self-image and self-worth.
And then -- we are charged with doing this same love to the ger, the stranger. Who? The ger, the person who lives among you, as you lived in Mitzrayim. Sometimes the word means convert, but not in this case since we had not converted and become Egyptians -- that is why Torah makes that point so clearly. So this is about people who live among us and how they are to be treated. Hmmm. What a painful thing to read, for we fail so miserably at this every day at every level. Not only in the Land where this Parsha is so involved, but throughout the world. Do we do enough to help the stranger have dignity and self-worth and see to it that he or she can have the basics of life? We don't even do it among ourselves, let alone with strangers.
How many times have we suffered in history and still not learned this 2-pasuk lesson? I knew when I was a teenager that it was wrong to respond to abuse by becoming an abuser, and yet this is a pattern we see all the time. Torah teaches that we are blessed with the ability to break that pattern. How many of us do?
3. Some Observations
The Haftorah comforts us with: Isaiah 50:11. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who gird yourselves with the spark connection; walk in the light of your fire, and by that spark connection you will be cleansed. By my hand is this for when you lie down in pain.
51:1 Listen to me, seekers of righteousness, YHVH seekers; look to the rock from where you have been cut, and to the hole of the pit from which you were plucked. 2. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who birthed you; because I called him as [just] one, and blessed him, and increased him."
Not surprisingly, Isaiah carries the theme of the Torah reading -- we can be a light, we can establish the fire that lights the way and connects others with the One.
Notice that God acknowledges the pain that we feel and does not promise to undo it or eliminate it, merely to be there for us when we experience it. It is even in this pain or perhaps through it that we can reach out and ignite the fire that feeds and elevates the spark that we are required to do as part of our own work. Isaiah acknowledges the masculine and the feminine, reminding us that even one person can and will make a difference and that God notices just one person.
None of us can hide in the majority or in the crowd -- we must all not only support the fire of the Divine spark, we must kindle it. And we can kindle it through many ways -- by finding in each other and in strangers and by helping them see it in themselves. When we see our own spark we must turn to that connection that is open to us and life will become precious, indeed. And that is in the message of Sarah, the vessel for both the creation of life and its destruction. It is not by accident that she is named along side her partner in love and life.
We are the product of both our father and our mother, and just as they could not function without each other, neither can we. Every day we decide whether we will indeed walk in the light of those sparks or not. We look both to the rock and to the pit and while we need to be mindful of both, we can decide which of the two will hold our focus and what we will do with that light.
4. Intimate Intimacy
Intimate Intimacy, the Foundation of the Foundation. Interesting that the paragraph of the Sh'ma that is in this week's parsha is part of the foundation, the source of intimacy. The paragraph that reminds us we are bound to the earth and that our actions do impact the world and the universe. Each one of us singularly and collectively impact the earth. The days are long gone when we can pretend that our own actions will not have an impact on the land which we are required to steward.
5. Rav Sholom (z'l) used to say.....
The bride is being reminded that she, too, has a key role to play. She is a welcome part of the joining, but not just because she is lovely and worthy. If fact, she is not worthy, but she is loved and does excite the groom and so the marriage is still on.
Her actions caused a rift between the lovers. He showered her with gifts and luxuries because of the love between them and instead of nurturing that love and acknowledging those gifts, she became haughty and spoiled and considered them as her due rather than as a gift. She allowed children to rebel and spoil some of the connection between her and the groom. And so he reminds her of that. There is a recounting of all of the things that have come between them and prevented their loving union as she wandered about in her own indulgences.
And yet he loves her and will save her from the dangers that surround her. This is for her and because of his love for her. And though her children will benefit, this love is for her and her elevation back to the position of beloved is because of her acknowledgement of the results of her actions and inactions and more so because he loves her.
The wedding is still on, but the conditions must be observed from now on. The past is past and both the groom and the bride have suffered and both still yearn for each other as only lovers can.
1. Sparks: Look around at the sparks everywhere. See them in the flowers and in the stars and in the clouds and in small children. See them in you significant other and in your companions. See them in the mirror when you see yourself.
2. Random acts: How do we supply food and garment to the stranger. Search to find an act that elevates a person's sense of worth. Tell them that they are special -- each of us is. There is a miracle that has created each one of us and that spark is within all. Help it shine from the inside of each person you see just a little brighter.
3. An unpruned, natural, heart. Visualize a better world and vocalize what you see. Describe it out loud to yourself in the mirror, to the trees and to the blades of grass and to other people. Create that reality in the visions you see and in the words you speak. Transform at least one thing from words into reality.
ADS: ALEPH -- the Alliance for Jewish renewal. www.aleph.org If you aren't a member yet, please give very serious consideration to joining. The magazine, New Menorah, alone, is worth whatever you give. (Plus it helps pay for the rabbinic program where I am studying!)
You can order the Torah Cards and my jewelry through Mercaz at (216)595-0707 -- ask for Larry)
There are many traditional interpretations of the parsha that I neither talk about nor mention. That is done from a position of space. I trust that the average reader is either familiar with these or can find many of them easily in other commentaries readily available.
Thanks for reading this. If I have offended you, please forgive me -- that was not my intention. If you found some joy or happiness in reading this, thank you for allowing me to be a part. If you found a reason to think about something more deeply - kol hakavod and thank you!
And to the people giving me feedback thank you so much! I enjoy all of it. (Including the typos) You have made this weekly practice wonderful.
(c) 2002 Candy Lobb All rights reserved