Va’Ethanan

Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Reading Torah is a unique experience.  We begin on the earth, grounded as it were with the simple understanding of the words.  Then we flow mentally and mystically through the roots of the words. If we are very fortunate, we find ourselves playing in the branches of our sacred tree (“It is a tree of life to all who hold fast to it”עץ חיים”  “למחזיקים בו).

Many have struggled with the question of why Moshe Rabbeinu, the Holiest of humans was not allowed to cross over into the promised land.  Here is yet another interpretation.

כג  וָאֶתְחַנַּן, אֶל-יְהוָה, בָּעֵת הַהִוא, לֵאמֹר.

23 And I besought the LORD at that time, saying:

My Translation/Interpretation: At that time, I needed G to cover, comfort, wrap me in G’s grace. I gave expression to my need:

כד  אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, אַתָּה הַחִלּוֹתָ לְהַרְאוֹת אֶת-עַבְדְּךָ, אֶת-גָּדְלְךָ, וְאֶת-יָדְךָ הַחֲזָקָה–אֲשֶׁר מִי-אֵל בַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲשֶׂה כְמַעֲשֶׂיךָ וְכִגְבוּרֹתֶךָ.

24 ‘O Lord GOD, Thou hast begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness, and Thy strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth, that can do according to Thy works, and according to Thy mighty acts?

My Translation/Interpretation: “Oh Wholly One of Being, My Council, You have begun the process of showing me, teaching your follower, how You thread everything together and Your strong direction. Who else can do as You have done so splendidly with heaven and earth?

כה  אֶעְבְּרָה-נָּא, וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, אֲשֶׁר, בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן:  הָהָר הַטּוֹב הַזֶּה, וְהַלְּבָנֹן.

25 Let me go over, I pray Thee, and see the good land that is beyond the Jordan, that goodly hill-country, and Lebanon.’

My Translation/Interpretation: Let me cross over, or let me at least see that good land that is across the Jordan: This good mountain and Lebanon.”

כו  וַיִּתְעַבֵּר יְהוָה בִּי לְמַעַנְכֶם, וְלֹא שָׁמַע אֵלָי; וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלַי, רַב-לָךְ–אַל-תּוֹסֶף דַּבֵּר אֵלַי עוֹד, בַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה.

26 But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and hearkened not unto me; and the LORD said unto me: ‘Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this matter.

My Translation/Interpretation: And G crossed over with me (in my soul), but for your sake did not focus on me.  And G emanated to me: “It is already a great thing (that you have done); do not try to add to this matter with more word/things.”

כז  עֲלֵה רֹאשׁ הַפִּסְגָּה, וְשָׂא עֵינֶיךָ יָמָּה וְצָפֹנָה וְתֵימָנָה וּמִזְרָחָה–וּרְאֵה בְעֵינֶיךָ:  כִּי-לֹא תַעֲבֹר, אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה.

27 Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold with thine eyes; for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.

My Translation/Interpretation: “Go up to the top of Pisgah and turn your eyes to the sea, to the south and the east. Let your eyes see, because you will not cross this Jordan.”

There is so much to unpack in this Parasha.  In it we find the first paragraph of the Shema.  This paragraph councils us, with compassion and humor, to focus and to love and even offers deep teachings on the ‘how’. It begins with the challenge to believe in the Oneness that is the source of all creation.  And immediately guides us to a path of love.  We are commanded to love. We ask in our hearts: “How?” The answer comes; “heartfully, soulfully, fully!” Again we ask how. And the answer wafts from the black fire on white fire: “Keep these teachings close to your heart.” And like a young child, we ask again: “How?” And HaShem with patience and compassion answers us. The key to remembering is to share these teachings with our children.  And because HaShem is such a good teacher of us, G’s children, there is humor added to the mix. We are to speak of this powerful teaching only two times in a day, when we are standing up and when we are not standing up.  And for those of us who still don’t get the joke it is repeated. We only have to focus on the power of love when we are at home and when we are not at home. And to help us remember the sacred power of love, the power of holy focusing on the source of love, we are to wrap these words on our arm and wear them as jewels on our heads.  They are our strength and our crown.  And more, we are to write them as reminders on our doors and gates. And even when we are doing well, we must remember the power and purpose of love and the source from whence it and all things flow.

Parashat Va’Etchanan is always read on the Shabbat after Tasha B’Av, the day of great sadness, and is known as Shabbat Nahamu, taking its name from the opening words of comfort in its special haftarah.

The concept of binding love on our arms and wearing the love as a crown on our heads has come down to us as a memory device called Tfillin.  So powerful is Tfillin that the Sages of the Talmud teach that the Wholly one of blessing, dons Tfillin every day (BT Brachot 6a); they suggest that in the boxes of G’s Tfillin are verses paralleling the boxes worn by Jews.  In G’s Tfillin are the teachings of love for all humanity, for our planet and for out process.

There is ‘Nahamu’/comfort in the spiritual image of laying Tfillin with the Wholly One of Being, the Source of all being, our Holy Council

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