Celebrating the Spiritual Levels of Torah

Torah is a teaching that continues to unfold, guiding us to appreciate the text more fully
as our awareness evolves.

Torah Portion for the Week of August 14 - 20, 2016: Va'etchanan

(Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11)

Hope is born from the ashes of our pain

This week begins with Tisha B'Av, the Ninth Day of the Hebrew month of Av, marking the destruction of both the first Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. This is the day we recall some of the greatest tragedies in our Jewish past, and remember that we are never as safe as we might like to be. As we continue to be painfully reminded, no one is. Violence can erupt at any moment.

But this week also brings Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of Comfort that always follows Tisha B'Av. The message of our tradition following destruction and loss is clear:

"Comfort, O Comfort My people, says your God. . ." (Isaiah 40:1)

Hope is born from the ashes of our pain.

How are we to comfort and be comforted?

But how shall this comfort find us when we are feeling the anguish of lost relationships, lost innocence, lost security? How are we to comfort and be comforted when confronting the pain of others who are grieving and who are hurting because of the ravages of hate and violence?

The ancient Psalmist must have been responding to these very same questions when singing,

"I lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where does my help come? My help comes from the One Eternal Being, the Creator of all that is. . . . The Eternal One guards you as you come and go, now and forever." (Psalm 121:1, 2, 8)

We cannot significantly reduce the impact of human hate and violence when we attempt solutions only from the same level as the problem. It is necessary to move beyond that level to seek a greater vision. We "look to the mountains," seeking a greater awareness; we meet our pain and fear, and then we look beyond them.

The consequences of forgetting

This week's Torah portion contains an abundance of timeless spiritual teaching, including the Sh'ma, the central affirmation of Oneness supporting the Jewish spiritual path: "Listen Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One" (6:4), as well as the repetition of the Ten Principles that form the basis of our Path (5:6 - 18). And this parashah contains one of the clearest reflections of the awakening we seek:

"It has been clearly demonstrated to you that the One Eternal Being alone is God; there is nothing else but God." (4:35)

All there is is God, there is nowhere else to be. The One contains everything that exists and infinitely more. That One awakens as the Life within all beings.

The anger and violence of our world are the consequences of forgetting the fuller nature of our Being. When we collapse into our separate selves, each of us striving to protect what is ours, each suspicious and watchful and fearful, we are vulnerable to prejudice, to programmed hatred, to demonizing and dehumanizing the other. When we fail to take responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, imagining that we are victims of another, we cement ourselves into our separateness.

What we need is greater vision. We need to remember Who we are. We need to reclaim all persons as unique expressions of One Life, One Awareness, One Being. Each precious vehicle for that One Life is sacred, and each of us is held in the embrace of the Eternal Presence, from Whom none can ever be lost.

Focus Phrases

I celebrate the Peace and Wholeness of my Being.
I am held in the compassionate embrace of Life.
Compassion flows through me now for healing.

Writing Prompts

When I explore my fears, my hurts, and my grief, I find. . .
Stepping into a more compassionate awareness, I realize. . .
When I dream of contributing more compassionately in my life, I imagine. . .

Photo: Mark Reden