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Parashat Devarim 5778 — 07/21/2018

Parashat Devarim 5778 — 07/21/2018

An easy and meaningful fast to all.
Devarim 1:1 – 3:22

Parashat Devarim is always read on the Shabbat before the Tisha B’Av fast (this year Tisha B’Av falls on this Shabbat and the fast is on Sunday). Indeed, our parashah and much of Sefer Devarim reads like a tochachah / rebuke to the people for their continual kvetching and complaining and refusal to acknowledge Gd and act in accordance with his Will.

Abarbanel points out that Moshe makes it very clear to the Israelites that it was only an 11-day journey from Mt. Sinai to the border of the Land of Israel, and had the spies not given a demoralizing report about the Land and their ability to conquer it, and had the people not accepted the report, there would have been no 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. This scenario is one that is repeated time and again in the Rabbinic literature – if Israel/a leader of Israel had only done X, they would have been redeemed / never gone into exile / other wonderful things both physical and spiritual. “If Israel would observe two Sabbaths perfectly, it would be immediately redeemed” (Talmud, Shabbat 118b). If Hezekiah had only sung praises to Gd (after Gd had destroyed Sencheriv’s army at the gates of Jerusalem), he would have been the Messiah” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 94a). For that matter, had Adam and Eve waited a few hours, until Shabbat began (remember, they were first created in the afternoon of the 6th day) they could have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil with impunity, and all of history would have been vastly different! But none of these ideal scenarios played out, humans sinned, got chewed out and punished. Punishment implies that we could have, and should have, done better? Somehow, though, it seems that we were driven to sin. In the words of a famous preacher, “What kind of double-clutching is that?!”

Abarbanel goes on to state that the purpose of Moshe Rabbeinu’s discourses in Sefer Devarim is to open the nation’s eyes to Gd’s Hand operating in all of creation, and certainly most directly in their history, and even in their personal lives. He wants to make sure that when we get rich and powerful that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking “My power and the strength of my hand has made all these riches” (8:17). Here I think we have a clue to the nature of sin, and how it can be overcome. I would posit that sin is due to the inability to see the full structure of reality.

We have discussed what this structure of reality is on a number of occasions. Physics tells us that creation is structured in layers, with deeper layers being more powerful. At the basis of this layered structure is the unified field, the single, unbounded entity that exists everywhere in time and space and which vibrates in different modes, giving rise to all the particles of matter and their interactions. Thus, all the physical creation is simply a complex pattern of vibration of this one unified field.

The spiritual world is the same way. It has the same layered structure of grosser levels (the physical world is the grossest level) and a “unified field” at its basis. The entire creation is, as it were, a complex pattern of vibration of this fundamental, transcendental “field.” We alluded to this vibratory pattern in our discussion of the efficacy of Bil’am’s curses just a few weeks ago. The record of the fundamental vibrations of this “field” is Torah, and, as we pointed out, Torah is really Gd “talking to himself” – that is, it is Gd’s Self-referral nature, His coming into a relationship with Himself so to speak, that gives rise to Torah, and through Torah, to the ever-changing, kaleidoscopic creation.

The trouble is, we don’t see any of this. Physics has only recently discovered the unified field, and our understanding of it is still quite incomplete. And although Scripture both mirrors this reality, as we have mentioned, and also points to this reality via its intellectual meaning, we somehow miss the point. And when all we see is the surface crust of creation, it is no wonder that we have such trouble aligning our behavior with the fundamental laws that structure the entire creation. On the other hand, if we could open our perception and our experience to these deeper levels of creation, and actually act from the level of the unified field itself.

Such an opening cannot take place if we only project our awareness outward to the physical world. It is necessary to turn the awareness inward and allow it to move towards the transcendental field. In traditional Rabbinic thought these two opposing tendencies are conceived of not as intrinsically opposed to one another, as they are in some other religions, but as complementary. However our inward nature, the longing of the soul for transcendence, has to have priority over the body’s outward pull. The question is, since the outer world is “good for eating and a delight for the eyes…” (Gen 3:6), while our inner, unbounded nature is hidden inside us and not amenable to sense perception, how do we prioritize the latter over the former?

I would suggest that this is done by alternating having the awareness turn inward to experience the transcendent, with letting it outward into the world of activity. This alternation from inner silence to outer activity, over time will accustom the mind and body to be able to maintain awareness of the transcendent and the world of boundaries simultaneously. Our continuous connection with the transcendental basis of life will ensure that our thoughts, and therefore our actions, will themselves be pure expressions of the inner basis of life, and we can live a life free from sin. Seen from this perspective, Sefer Devarim almost appears to be Moshe’s lament that he was unable to teach the nation how to turn within and experience the fullness of life that he himself lived.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parsashat Devarim

Parashat Devarim begins with “and these are the words Moses spoke” and ends with “Do not fear them [other nations] for the Lord, your Gd, is fighting for you.”

It’s useful to think about “devarim,” words, the letters that make up the words, the grammar that connects the words, and the different levels at which words, letters, and grammar exist and their connection to a life without fear in which we experience, without needing to be told, that Gd is fighting for us — and transforming our world into a world in which we have no enemies, neither outside our self nor inside our self. Not people, not thoughts or feelings, not storms or droughts or other acts of Nature.

The mention of “40” often occurs in Torah and here it occurs 40 years spent in the desert between leaving Egypt (Mizraim) and preparing to enter Canaan, the Promised Land. This brings to mind the Kabbalastic view of the 10 Sefiroth (qualities of Gd) times the four worlds ( the world of Emanation: Atzilut; the world of Creation,: Beriah; the world of Formation Yetsirah; and the world ofAction, Asiyah.

“Forty” is used by Dr. Tony Nader, PH.D, MD, MARR, in showing the connection between the Veda and the Vedic Literature with human physiology, as a way of illustrating that our human body is not only flesh, bones, muscles and so on but in essence, it is Consciousness. “Consciousness” is a scientific way of referring to Totality, One without a Second, which from a religious point of view we refer to as Gd.

So by exploring, intellectually, emotionally, experientially, the words and letters of Gd, the grammar of Gd, the different qualities of Gd in the different stages of manifestation (within Gd), we become capable of entering a world in which we directly experience that Gd goes before us, makes our path safe, transforms any possible enemies into friends and we live a life very unafraid, very away that Gd is filling our life with Joy, Love, words and actions of truth.

Such a life is one in which we fulfill Gd’s command: Be thou holy, for I am holy” and in which we “love the Lord, thy Gd, with all our heart, all our soul, all our might” and we “Love our neighbor as our self” and are loved by our neighbor the same way.

Such a life is a fulfilled life.

Let it be today!
Let it be Now!

Baruch HaShem