Beautiful Spiritual Art by Michelle Katz

This week’s music: You are The Kind

Oy do we need some comforting and consolation. We have all been through various challenges over at least the past 5 months, each of us responding in the way we best know how. One thing many of us have learned. No one can do it alone. We need each other and we need Hashem. We need to feel supported both by friends and by the supernal, “roeh tzoan,” shepherd, as He is described in this week’s “haftorah” reading (Yeshayahu 40.10-11).

So it seems to happen each week, every weekly Torah portion has a teaching that so clearly relates to and is alive in our present day lives. This week is certainly no exception, as Torah portion, “Va’etchanan,” is filled with positive ways to prepare to receive this much need consolation.

In this week’s Torah portion we find the most well-known of all of our prayers, “Sh’ma Yisrael Hashem Eloheinu Hashem Echad” (Devarim 6.4). He is One, we, Yisrael, are One and together we are all One. After this daily declaration of Jewish identity and nature, we are then commanded to “love Hashem your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with absolutely all of your being (as The Ramban and many others commentaries express “meodecha”). This is our formula for success. Be One!

The Slonimer Rebbe, Reb Shalom Noach Berezovsky, whose Yarzhiet was on 7 Av (1911-2000), points out that the first teachings of The Book of Devraim, Mishneh Torah as it is called, opens with Moshe Rabeinu motivating us to develop our, “yirat Hashem,” awe of God and His greatness. We have learned in the past from Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditshev that this means we need to learn how to receive the greatness of miracles and gifts that Hashem is sending us regularly. Each one of us needs to make of him/herself a vessel to receive. In order to rise to the place where I can receive the abundance of these gifts I need to first, as Reb Shlomo taught us, do some breaking of my vessels in order to rebuild myself into an even larger vessel to receive these miracles of daily life. This process, the Slonimer continues, comes with “yirat Hashem.” Once I have done so I can feel more prepared to say Shema, to declare God’s Oneness in our world and figure out how to receive His love and how to love Him.

Thinking about all that we have been experiencing throughout this universal plague, it seems to me that we have arrived! We are mamash there. Clearly we are being called to do a little, “shevirat kelim,” breaking of our vessels in order to receive the greatness that is on the way. We are so close to coming together. We are clearly at a crossroads of “et raztzon,” a time when the gates of prayer are wide open and Hashem is simply waiting for us to enter the gates together so He can answer our prayers and lift us up even closer to Him. In the words of this week’s special Haftorah, “Nachamu Nachamu Ami,” My nation surely feel comforted and consoled.

“Koh amar Hashem, be’et ratzon aniticha,” this is what Hashem said, in an acceptable time of will I have answered you. (Yeshayahu 49.8) It is a clear invitation for a flow of communication between ourselves and our Creator. As Reb Shlomo used to teach about the Neilah prayer at the end of Yom Ha’Kippurim, do not think of the scene of being locked out, but rather picture Hashem inviting us all to be “locked in” with Him. We can’t be afraid of being locked in with Hashem. “Yirah” does not mean “pachad,” simple fear, it means to be in such great awe of Hashem’s greatness, to know his capabilities and only want to be together with Him.

Many years ago a long time friend, Michael Shapiro and I were siting on a cliff overlooking Malibu beach. The sun was setting and I realized that it was time to pray “minchah,” the afternoon prayer. I asked Michael where he thought we should stand for the silent Amidah. He pointed to the edge of cliff. I turned to him and said, “what are you crazy? if I close my eyes in prayer I might fall right off.” “True,” he said. “In reality that is the way we should always stand in front of God every time we pray. I approach God with the trepidation and awe of knowing that theoretically He could push me off the end, but at the same time, knowing that He, as the supreme puppeteer, will surely save me from my fall. “Banim atem La’Hahsem Eloheicham,” you are children to Hashem your God (Devarim 14.1). The Gemara in Tractate Kedushin 36 a quotes Rebbi Meir who says that we should all know, “bein kach u’ben ach kru’im banim,” whether one acts this way or that way, regardless of his/her behavior, we are all still considered children of God. A parent always loves his/her children no matter how one feels about their child’s behavior.

We are mamash right there! As I was so often reminded by my great and humble teacher of blessed memory, Rav David Fox, the Prophet Zechariah writes, “koh amar Hashem, so says Hashem, tzom revi’I, v’tzom chamishi, v’tzom hashevi’I, v’tzom ha’asiri,” the fast of the fourth month, 17 Tammuz, and the fast of the fifth month, 9 Av, and the fast of the seventh month, Tzom Gedaliah and the fast of the tenth month, 10 Tevet, will be for the house of Judah days of joy and happiness, great holidays; and the truth and The peace will love each other (Zechariah 8.19) Opinions can sometimes give us confidence, but in the end our opinions are simply marginalized by the truth. Only the truth can be all accepting and embrace us all with the love of God and each other.

My we merit to receive an abundance of healing right now and use the light and clarity of this healing to bring us all to the one place whose name embodies our hope for the future. Yerushalem, as the prophet Yeshayhu calls it. The teacher of Peace. “Ki mitzion tetze Torah ud’var Hashem me’yerushalem” (Isiah 2.3). The time is now Let’s all commit!As Rebbe Nachman wrote, The main principle, a general rule is not to be afraid.

Shabbat Shalom,
Yehudah