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Parashat Vayelech 5779 — 09/15/2018

Parashat Vayelech 5779 — 09/15/2018

Shabbat Shuvah
Devarim 31:1 – 31:30

My anger will flare against them on that day, and I will forsake them and I will conceal My Face from them and they will become prey, and many evils and distresses will befall them. (31:17)

Gd’s “hiding His Face” is reckoned as the worst consequence of not “listening to Gd’s Voice” on the part of the people. Abarbanel seems to indicate that Gd is describing the loss of Divine Providence, guiding and protecting the nation from outside forces, most notably from the other nations of the world. He delineates several mechanisms by which this might work. It might be that we are simply left to the forces of nature and of history, under whose rule we would not fare so well. Having grown used to Gd’s miraculous care, we are unlearned in Realpolitik and military strategy, which of course is not the case with the other nations, who have had many centuries to hone their skills in the ways of the world.

On a more severe level, Abarbanel suggests that Gd not only does not provide providential protection for the nation, but actively creates situations that lead to suffering and distress, by giving the nations of the world a free pass to persecute us. The Holocaust would be an obvious example – not only did the Nazis have their way with us, but the rest of the world didn’t lift a finger to help. The hypocrisy of the so-called “liberal” West in the face of the attacks on Israel by the Arabs is another example, albeit less severe because the IDF is standing between us and disaster.

I would like to take a slightly different approach. First, what is the nature of Gd’s “Voice” that we are supposed to be heeding? We know from the experience of Elijah the prophet that Gd is in the “still, small voice” (I Kings 19:12) that actually resides within each one of us. If that is the Voice we’re supposed to be listening to, it’s absolutely no wonder that nobody hears it! Everyone has way too much chatter and clatter going on inside to hear much of anything – not our loved ones, nor our conscience, nor Gd. If we want to hear Gd’s Voice, then the first thing we have to do is reach a state of silence where we can begin to listen for it.

What is the nature of this “still, small voice”? Perhaps we can understand it this way. We know that Gd is transcendental to all of creation. This must be so, for Gd created the entire creation, so He can’t be part of creation. When the Torah speaks of Gd’s Hand or Arm or Voice, it is not speaking of Gd’s essence, but of the way He interacts with creation. Here I think we can take an analogy from physics. Physics tells us that all the particles that make up creation, and their interactions, are all vibrations of a single unified field. More complex particles, like atoms and molecules, are more complex patterns of vibration of this unified field. In fact, the entire universe is a hugely complex pattern of vibration of this one field, which in itself just is. All the laws that guide the evolution of the universe are contained within the unified field, governing the way it interacts with itself to produce everything we see.

I would like to suggest that the “still, small voice” is made up of the very finest vibrations at the basis of creation; it is actually Gd “speaking” creation. Moshe Rabbeinu heard that voice loud and clear as Torah, and I think that this is why he exhorts us over and over to listen to Gd’s voice. Understanding Torah (and this includes the Oral Torah as well as the written Torah text) on an intellectual level is fine, and hearing the vibratory quality as it is read out may even be better, but directly cognizing Gd’s word is the best of all.

When we study Torah as a text, we are limited in what we learn by the power of our intellect, which even at its sharpest leaves something to be desired. Such study is certainly valuable, and we learn the rules for living that Gd has prescribed for us this way. Nevertheless, as long as the knowledge remains at the surface level of behavior, it does not necessarily change us in a deep way. When we hear the Torah read properly, the sounds enter our system and reverberate with the innate structures of our consciousness. This refines our consciousness and brings it into attunement with the deep structure of Gd’s law for the cosmos. Unfortunately, we only hear the Torah read on occasion, and it is not absolutely clear that we know the correct pronunciation of Hebrew. In addition, the sounds are filtered through the nervous system of the Torah reader, and if he is not perfectly refined, that may also introduce distortions. The effect of this technique may therefore also be somewhat limited.

I think this is why Moshe is telling us to listen to Gd’s Voice. What we need to do is allow the mind to settle down to its own state of least excitation, so that it can pick up directly those same subtle vibrations that are Torah. We can access the whole of Torah in seed form within our own consciousness, and, acting from that level, our thoughts and actions will be in perfect accord with Gd’s Will. Then the universe will not have to react upon us in a way that brings suffering and distress. Rather we can enjoy all the blessings of this world – abundance of material goods, a sound mind in a sound body – and all the blessings of closeness to Gd in the world to come.

L’Shanah Tovah and an easy fast!


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parsashat Vayelech
(“And he went”)

Although Vayalech means “and he went”, Moses says to the people “I am 120 years old today and I can no longer go out or in.” The symbolism of 120 as 3 x 40 is strongly suggestive: 40 days of the flood, 40 days twice to receive Torah, 40 the age at which Isaac and Esau married… “Forty” seems to be symbolic of Fulfillment. Three times forty seems to be symbolic of three levels of Fulfillment, the surface, the depth and the Wholeness.

To not be able to go in and out is symbolic of being established in Wholeness, in God, so that every motion is within and there is never any going out or coming back.

Very inspiring to have a leader who is so established, very promising to us that we can also achieve this state.

In Parshat Vayelech, Moses told our ancestors (and us) to have courage as they pass over the Jordan into the Promised Land: Gd is with you, and will destroy your enemies. But Moses also said that they will turn from Torah, and Gd will hide His Face from us, but that Torah shall not be forgotten from the mouths of our descendants.

This means that though we close our heart and turn away from Torah, yet at any time, we can open our heart and Torah will be seen there as It Always Is (Torah is the Word of Gd, the Liveliness of Gd, never separate, always there).

When we open our heart, we are new people, descendants of the old people that we no longer are but our descendants, new people, people in whom Torah and Gd are alive in our hearts, our words, our actions and in the response of Gd to us.

As Rosh HaShanah passes and Yom Kippur nears, this is a reminder that the New Year is not only a New Year in calendar time but an opportunity for a new year in our hearts, souls, thoughts, speech, action and in the response Gd gives us — a time when we open to Gd and Gd opens to us so no part of Gd’s Face is hidden and we remember and live the Oneness which we always are (though we may have hidden from it), and not only remember and live but enjoy everywhere, all around us, Gd/Torah singing to us, dancing to us, in the sky, earth, pebbles, streams and leaves — everywhere.

It is a reminder that the Day of Atonement really is the Day of At-One-ment, a day in which all our vows to Gd are annulled because the separation between Gd and us is annulled.

This is a preview of the opportunity for the celebration of Purity, A Clean Slate. Fulfilled Year, Fulfilled Us, Fulfilled World

A great time!

Baruch HaShem


Recitation of Vayelech:

Given the reality of Torah as the Vibration of G-d, the sound is closer to the reality than the meaning, although the meaning is very useful to us to remind us of the importance of worshipping The One, not getting lost in details of the material world to the extent that we think the material world is the only reality.

The following link gives a recitation in Hebrew of a few verses of Parshat Vayalech and a few tips for study of parsha recitation of Torah with trope.

Listening has deep value: so does acting in accord with the Harmony of Torah.

In this parshah, Moses tells the people and Joshua, the new leader, to be of courage for the Lord is with them.

What can we make of this today?

One thing is to read Torah, listen to Torah, so we are attuned to it: it is in heart to spontaneously be in harmony with it.

We can also study Torah to discover its plain meanings, its hidden meanings, and especially its application to the details of our life. As an example, we can prioritize Wholeness and whatever activities we do that connect us to it: in this way, we grow in our ability to Love Gd with all our heart and soul.

We can behave kindly towards others, especially strangers, for in this way we love everyone outside ourselves as we love our self/Self and we grow in the ability to experience that the world outside us is the same One that is within us. We gain Teshuvah and we live our life in Love and Joy. All our failings, limits, and past wrong behaviors are melted in Oneness.

So let us listen to Gd speaking through Moses: Be of good courage for Gd is with us.

Baruch HaShem