Rabbi Michael Barclay
V’zot Ha’Berakhah: The Deeper Blessing of the Torah
“Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses, that God knew face to face, for all of the signs and portents that God sent him to make in the land of Egypt, for Pharaoh, and for all of his servants and for his land, and for all the strength and for all of his great awesomeness that Moses made for the eyes of all Israel.”
There is a story that a tribe in Peru was experiencing a drought, and the tribal shaman said that the drought could only be stopped through the actions of a shaman from a different tribe. So the second tribe’s shaman came to bring healing. Upon arriving in the village, he immediately asked that a hut be built for him in the center of the village. He went into the hut, and three days later the drought ended and it rained. When asked how he made this miracle occur, he answered. “Upon entering your village, I was immediately struck with how out of balance everyone’s spirits were. Your entire culture was out of balance, and the land and the weather were simply a reflection of that imbalance. When the hut was built in the middle of your village, I went inside and meditated and prayed so that I would no longer be affected by your imbalance. As I became more balanced internally with a deepened awareness of God and God’s infinite love, my spiritual balance spread throughout the village. As you all became more conscious and aware, nature reflected back to you your own balance. And since the natural harmony of the world includes the right amount of rain, as you brought balance into yourselves, nature did as well and the rain came. The drought and the rain were both external expressions of your cultural journey in nature. Balance yourselves and the land will always reflect back that harmony.”
As in the story above, in this parsha we once again notice in the verse that the “land” has a consciousness unto itself. In this last parsha of the Torah, we are taught that the miracles and signs that God had Moses make were not only for Pharaoh and his servants but for the land. Through this we learn that even the land of Egypt, like the people, had become spiritually deficient. As the Egyptians, their servants, and the Hebrews had adopted the idolatry of the Egyptian polytheism, including worshipping Pharaoh as a deity, the land sunk into depletion with the people. But this verse reminds us that not only people can be redeemed, but all of nature as well.
But the redemption of everything, including ourselves, depends upon us and our personal actions.
We also read in these last verses about the intimate relationship of Moses and God. They knew each other. “face to face”. Theirs was not a relationship from the distance, but one of intimacy. We are taught that Moses was so close with God that his face had a supernal glow: the physical glow of the Shechinah (God’s Presence). From the moment he came down from Sinai with the tablets, Moses was forced to wear a veil and live outside the camp so as not to overwhelm the people with God’s overwhelming light that shone through his face. Theirs truly was an intimate relationship of face to face.
But possibly the greatest teaching for all of us as we read these completing verses of the Torah is found in the last letter of both the verse and the Torah. The letter lamed completes the Torah, and has been said before, when this last letter is paired with the vet that we find as the very first letter of the Torah, the two compose the Hebrew word “lev”, which means “heart”. This lesson about the heart is the teaching that is at the root of all the Torah.
There are two parts of understanding this teaching of the heart and Torah. Our hearts are what connects the entire Torah together, and brings meaning and action to the words we learn. We also recognize that the Torah, and all she contains, keep our hearts connected with each other, with our own souls, with all of life and nature, and with God.
The Torah is not an albatross that holds us down through its laws, teachings, and dictates. These last verses remind us that she is the exact opposite. The Torah is a love sonnet from God that opens our hearts and souls to a deeper awareness of the special and blessed relationship that we have with God both as individuals and as a nation.
I invite you to come celebrate our special relationship with the Torah this Monday night, Oct. 17 at 7:30pm in our sanctuary as we celebrate our special relationship with the Torah for the holiday of Sinchat Torah. We will dance and sing and feel the love that comes with hearing the words and living the teachings found in the Torah, and it is always a special night of joy.
May we all always be aware of that Divine love that God blesses us with in every moment; appreciate both the gentle and tough love that God gives us; and always respond by loving God, ourselves, and all the world with passion, joy, and integrity.
Kavannah: Take some time each morning when you get up, and again right before going to sleep, and really feel how much God loves you. Go outside during the day and open yourself to the experience of God’s love through all of nature. Breathe in God’s eternal and omnipresent love, and receive the blessings of Torah at their deepest levels.
Rabbi Michael Barclay
October 14th, 2022
19th of Tishrei, 5783