SOB’s Grins & Grumps

Everything Between Heaven and Earth and Beyond

  • Copyrights, Feeds and Contact

  • July 2007
    S M T W T F S
    « Jun   Aug »
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  
  • Visitors Count

    • 64,361 hits
  • Categories

  • Meta

Parasha Va’etchanan – Devarim 3:23-7:11

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 27, 2007


tzitziot.jpg

The Shema – What is it?

Devarim 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Bamidbar 15:37-41

Devarim 6:4-9

HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE Adonai OUR GOD, THE Adonai IS ONE.

And thou shalt love Adonai thy G-d with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates.”

Devarim 11:13-21

“And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love Adonai your G-d, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will give grass in thy fields for thy cattle, and thou shalt eat and be satisfied. Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and the anger of Adonai be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, so that there shall be no rain, and the ground shall not yield her fruit; and ye perish quickly from off the good land which Adonai giveth you. Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul; and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, talking of them, when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates; that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, upon the land which Adonai swore unto your fathers to give them, as the days of the heavens above the earth.”

Bamidbar 15:37-41

“And Adonai spoke unto Moses, saying: ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of Adonai, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray; that ye may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your G-d. I am Adonai your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your G-d: I am Adonai your G-d.'”

What does it mean…

Thou shalt love Adonai thy G-d

“You shall love the Lord your God”: means that because of you the Name of Heaven will become beloved. That is, when a person studies Bible and Mishnah and ministers to the needs of the teachers of Torah, and speaks gently with other people, and deals properly with others in the marketplace, and conducts his business honestly, what do people say about him? “Happy is the one who studied Torah; happy is the teacher who taught this one Torah…”

Abaye, in the Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 86a.

Rashi: And you shall love [the Lord] Perform His commandments out of love. The one who acts out of love cannot be compared to the one who acts out of fear. If one serves his master out of fear, when the master sets a great burden upon him, this servant will leave him and go away [whereas if out of love he will serve him even under great burden] (Sifrei 6:5).

With all thy heart – my spiritual/emotional being

This is a command to love G-d with that which is innermost in me, my essence, my person, my passion, my driving force. I suspect this command is tied to the command to cleave to G-d. Devarim 10:20 Adonai, your G-d, shall you fear, Him shall you serve, to Him shall you cleave, and in His Name shall you swear. Devarim 11:22 For if you will observe this entire mitzvah that I command you, to perform it, to love Adonai, your G-d, to walk in His ways and to cleave to Him.

“The Sages explain that the way to cleave to G-d is by attaching oneself to Torah scholars (Rashi). By this injunction we are commanded to mix and associate with wise men, to be always in their company, and to join with them in every possible manner of fellowship: in eating, drinking, and business affairs, to the end that we may succeed in becoming like them in respect of their actions and in acquiring true opinions from their words. The wise man, or as he is called in Hebrew talmid chacham, ‘the disciple of a wise man’, interpreting and exemplifying as he does the word of G-d, is regarded in Jewish thought as being nearest to Him. To cleave to the wise man is thus to cleave to Adonai (Berachot 10b; Pesachim 22b)”

RaMBaN interprets “cleaving” as the duty to avoid the temptation of idol worship by always remembering G-d and inspiring oneself to love Him.

My spiritual being is that which connects with G-d on an immediate level. Loving G-d, and cleaving to Him through prayer and meditation – through spiritual exercise is what will keep me centered and grounded when all else fails. So my love for G-d, the command to love G-d with my innermost being is a command to stay connected to G-d.

With all thy soul – my mind/intellectual being

The human mind is very flighty – it’s easily distracted, so loving G-d with all my soul/mind/intellectual being might not be as easy as directing my spiritual being, because my mind will pick up this and that from what is around me. So in order to direct my mind towards loving G-d, I need to occupy my mind with things that keeps it focused on G-d. Here Torah Study is a very good Task Master. I need both my own thoughts and others to accomplish this. Asking questions, getting answers and exercising my mind around matters of Torah not only focuses my mind on G-d, it increases my knowledge, and my sense of clarity.

“She is more precious than rubies; and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, and happy is every one that holdest her fast. HaShem by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the depths were broken up, and the skies drop down the dew. My son, let not them depart from thine eyes; keep sound wisdom and discretion; So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.” (Mishlei/Prov. 3:15-22)

The Rabbis taught: Once the evil kingdom [of Rome] decreed that the Jews may not engage in Torah study. Pappus ben Yehudah found R. Akiva teaching Torah in public to large groups. He said to him, “Akiva, are you not afraid of the authorities?”… When the Romans took R. Akiva to execute him, it was time for the reading of the shema. They were tearing his flesh with iron combs, and he was reciting the shema. His students said to him, “Master, must one go so far?” He said to them, “All my life I was troubled by the verse ‘With all your soul,’ which I understood as ‘even if God takes your soul,’ and I wondered about when I would have the opportunity to fulfill it? Now that I have the opportunity, shall I not fulfill it?

(Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 61b)

With all thy might – my physical/social being

How do I love G-d with my physical being? My immediate response is “through the rituals”. From washing hands in the morning to reciting the Evening Shema, the Jewish daily life is full of physical expressions. And then of course there is the ‘shockling’ while praying…

There is something profoundly comforting in wrapping oneself in Tallit Gadol every morning, but it is also a profound reminder of being a person who directs oneself towards G-d, seeking G-d’s Presence through both physical and spiritual means.

But it doesn’t stop at me. Loving G-d physically will eventually reflect a deeper level of commitment, in a sense ‘kavanah’ through how I conduct myself among my friends as well as among strangers – eating kosher, reciting Motzi before meals, saying grace after meals, is in a sense a pure physical way of worshipping and loving G-d, who commanded us to do those things.

Rashi: and with all your means Heb. וּבְכָל- מְאֹד‏ֶ, uvechol me’odecha, with all your possessions. There are people whose possessions are more precious to them than their own bodies. Therefore, it says,”and with all your means.” (Sifrei) Another explanation of וּבְכָל- מְאֹד‏ֶ is: You shall love God with whatever measure (מִדָּה, mi’dah) He metes out to you, whether it be the measure of good or the measure of retribution. Thus also did David say: “I will lift up the cup of salvations [and I will call upon the name of the Lord]” (Ps. 116:12-13); “I found trouble and grief [and I called out in the name of the Lord]” (Ps. 116:3-4).

This calls for loving G-d through my financial self and with what I own. To be willing to share what I have with those who have not – even if what I have is little.

“Justice, Justice, shall you pursue…” – “The double emphasis means: Justice (Tzedek) under any circumstances, whether to you profit or loss, whether in word or action, whether Jew or non-Jew. It also means: Do not use unjust means to secure justice(Bachya ben Asher’s Commentary on Parashas Shoftim 16:20)

“Tzedakah” is the Hebrew word for the acts that we call “charity” in English: giving aid, assistance, and money to the poor and needy or to other worthy causes. But the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word “charity” suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The word “tzedakah” is derived from the Hebrew root Tzade-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice, or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due, achieving just distribution of what this world and G-d has to offer.

Bind them for a sign upon thy handAction.

Torah, G-d’s Commandments, all 613 of them are all opportunities to speak the language of Torah and G-d’s love in a physical manner. Every time I put a coin or a bill in my tzeddaka box, I am loving G-d with my physical resources, and if I have nothing to put in my tzedakah box, maybe I can pledge an hour of Torah study or kindness to a stranger in need? Through my actions I either show the presence of Torah or I don’t, which it is is completely up to me.

Which ever I choose – I am commanded by G-d to let my Actions be guided/controlled by Torah. But there is also the actual physical binding of Tefillin on my hand. Which in itself carries a commitment to G-d through the prayer said as the Tefillin shel yad is strapped around the middle finger and hand:

“I will betroth you to me forever, and I will betroth you to me with righteousness, justice, kindness, and mercy. I will betroth you to me with fidelity, and you shall know Hashem” (Hos 2:19)

And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine arm.

Rashi: And you shall bind them for a sign [ot] upon your hand These are the tefillin of the arm.

Devarim 10:19 – “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt

Some times refraining from physical action is the fulfilment of this mitzvah – Devarim 24:19;

“When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.”

They shall be for frontlets between thine eyesMy Views/My Perceptions of the World

New Age speak of the ‘Third Eye’, as placed right in the middle of one’s forehead – it is that whith which we see that which cannot be seen, only sensed. I imagine G-d’s Torah as being placed right there, between my eyes, to let me ‘see’ the World through the eyes of G-d. This commandment also speaks of what is supposed to be at the foremost front of my mind. G-d’s Commandments. Every day I am commanded to let that which happens around me be ‘filtered’ through the Eye of Torah, so I can judge Right from Wrong and be aware of the world from a perspective of G-d’s Torah. I have some times wondered if the ‘mark’ G-d put on Kayin to protect him from those who would kill him for his murder of Hevel, in some way resembled the Tefillin shel rosh…

Rashi: and they shall be for ornaments between your eyes לְטֹטָפֹת. (le’totafot)These are the tefillin of the head, and because of the number of the Scriptural sections contained in them [namely four], they are טֹטָפֹתtotafoth, for טַטtat in Coptic means”two,” פַּתpat in Afriki (Phrygian) [also] means”two.” (San. 4b)

Then there is off course the actual putting on of Tefillin shel Rosh – to dedicate myself every morning to Torah and to G-d.

““You have a brain. It is in one world. Your heart is in another. And your hands often end up involved in something completely foreign to both of them. Three diverse machines.

“So you put on tefillin. First thing in the day, you connect your head, your heart and your hand with these leather cables — all to work as one with one intent. And then when you go out to meet the world, all your actions find harmony in a single coordinated purpose…”

How to lay tefillin

Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul;

Torah, as a cloak, enclosing my innermost person. Note however that this requires action on my part – I have to lay Torah in my heart and in my soul – Torah will not protect my spirit or my mind unless I actively put it there! Active continuos Torah study and practice of Mitzvot, both alone and with others will not only eventually saturate/permeate my inner being, it will also teach me more about what G-d requires and what G-d has promised me as His Child.

Here is the last paragraph of the Shema

“And Adonai spoke unto Moses, saying: ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of Adonai, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray; that ye may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your G-d. I am Adonai your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your G-d: I am Adonai your G-d.'”

This is the command to don tzitzit – usually the tzitzit (the corner fringes) are carried on a Tallit Gadol (large prayer shawl) during morning prayers – but they can also be carried by a Tallit Katan (smaller tallit worn as an extra garment under regular clothes) all day.

Tradition has it that one of the various ways to tie the tzitzit makes up the number 613 – the number of Mitzvot commanded us by G-d in Torah.

To me, this is the Torah Cloak – I see the tzitzit and I am reminded of who I am, Who commanded me and why.

So each morning, I accept the Yoke of Heaven both physically, by actually putting on the Tallit and the Tefillin, and emotionally/spiritually by devoting myself to the practice of Torah.

Shabbat Shalom!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: