As the Torah Turns
Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah
Va’etchanan – Deut. 3:23-7:11 (Jul. 23/24)
Our Torah portion this week is Va’etchanan – Deut. 3:23-7:11 and calls us to “Listen, Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One.” Deut. 6:4) The first word to follow this “watchword of our faith” is love – “You shall love the Eternal your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all that you have.” (Deut. 6:5)Listen and love. Rabbi Yakov Nagen in his book Be, Become, Bless: Jewish Spirituality between East and West (2019) comments that “Listening is the absolute sign of love, and an inability to listen is a sign (and a cause) of a lack of true love. When we love someone, we care about them and are interested to hear what they have to say, so we are able and want to listen to them… Listening is not a passive activity. It is an art and it entails great effort. It is: being present. When we listen and allow the words we hear to penetrate us deeply, we make space for the other (for the Other…) and receive them. This is the meaning of love.” (p. 281) Many people cover their eyes while reciting the “Shema,” enabling them to focus on what it is that they are saying. Yet, another way of understanding this is taught in The Little Prince: “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Closing one’s eyes enables one to focus deeply, and when one truly listens, one sees with the heart. Rabbi Nagen teaches us that we are told to listen… and to affirm the Oneness, the singularity, of God. And then we are told to love God… Wherever we are, that place, that time, is where (and when) God is as well. There is a sense of unity in this; a unity of God and a unity with God. The gematria (numerical value) of the word “one” (Echad – אחד – 1+8+4) and the word “love” (ahava – אהבה – 1+5+2+5) is the same = 13. Love means becoming one with another, just like in the archetypal story in the Garden of Eden, “And they shall cleave to their beloved, and they will be one flesh” (Bereshit 2:24). The power of love is in the feeling that the other is not a stranger to me, but becomes “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Bereshit 2:23), and together we become “one flesh” (Ibid 24). The strength of our connection to God stems from the acknowledgment that we are created in God’s image, that God is not strange or external to us. Attaching ourselves to God does not blur our individual identity, it sharpens it. Attaching ourselves to our beloved does not blur our individual identity, it sharpens it. Close your eyes… and listen… with your heart… and love.
From Previous Weeks
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We walk in the footsteps of the Rabbis who understood the damage done by extremism.
What makes the unseen seen? What makes the unknown known?
Can you spot the difference?