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Archive for the ‘Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech’ Category

Second take on Parasha Nitzavim/Vayelech

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 7, 2007


Torah Portion, Nitzavim Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30:20

My first focal point:
Chapter 30:1-6

1. And it will be, when all these things come upon you the blessing and the curse which I have set before you that you will consider in your heart, among all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you, 2. and you will return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day you and your children, 3. then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you. 4. Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there, and He will take you from there. 5. And the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you [too] will take possession of it, and He will do good to you, and He will make you more numerous than your forefathers. 6. And the Lord, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, [so that you may] love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, for the sake of your life.

And Hashem your G-d will return your captives: Rashi: It should have said “v’haishiv (meaning: will cause to return) your captives” Our Rabbis learned from this that the Holy Spirit, so to speak, dwells with Israel in their distress in exile and when they are redeemed, He writes redemption for Himself! – that He will return (from exile) with them. Another interpretation (of the use of “v’shav” – He will return): It can be said that the day of the Ingathering of the Diaspora is great and very difficult. It is as if He Himself will have to take the hand of each individual from his place (and bring him back from exile). As it says (Isaiah 27:12) “And you will be gathered one by one, you Children of Israel” And even by the other nations we find similarly (Jeremiah 48:47) “And I have retuned (Hebrew: “v’shavti”) the captives of Moav”.

It is very interesting to note that v. 3 implies that G-d Himself goes with Israel into exile, and is the One who brings them back as well – it is even more interesting to note that v.1 takes for granted that the pendulum of blessings and curses will indeed happen, and that this in itself will cause Israel to return, it leads the thoughts to ponder if this cause and effect back and forth is not something that is intended, and if read on a global individual scale it also implies that in fact, G-d cannot be found without trial and error? That we have to encounter both the blessings and the curses in order to be able to make a healthy choice? In that case v. 3 makes even more sense – in order to be found, G-d has to be right there, so He can return with us? We have to need Him in order for Him to be found? That would explain why G-d needs redemption as well – it’s a two way street. We need G-d, or we can’t keep going with the Program, but G-d has to be redeemed within us, to be of any use to us – so when we finally find what is our understanding of G-d, what has happened is G-d’s redemption and we are, together with G-d ready to return to sanity… I like that idea, the idea of us having to explore spirituality and ridding ourselves of false images of G-d and unearth within us OUR individual understanding of G-d and redeem G-d before trusting and turning our lives over to Him.

My second Focal Point:

Haftarah Isaiah 56:1-8

1 Thus said the Lord:
Observe what is right and do what is just;
For soon My salvation shall come,
And my deliverance be revealed.

2 Happy is the man who does this,
The man who holds fast to it:
Who keeps the sabbath and does not profane it,
And stays his hand from doing any evil.

3 Let not the foreigner say,
Who has attached himself to the Lord,
“The Lord will keep me apart from His people”;
And let not the eunuch say,
“I am a withered tree.”

4.For thus said the Lord:
“As for the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths,
Who have chosen what I desire
And hold fast to My covenant —

5 I will give them, in My House
And within My walls,
A monument and a name
Better than sons or daughters.
I will give them an everlasting name
Which shall not perish.

6 As for the foreigners
Who attach themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him,
And to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants —
All who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,
And who hold fast to My covenant —

7 I will bring them to My sacred mount
And let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
Shall be welcome on My altar;
For My House shall be called
A house of prayer for all peoples.”

8 Thus declares the Lord God,
Who gathers the dispersed of Israel:
“I will gather still more to those already gathered.”

I love this passage, because it speaks in very simple terms about the simplicity of how G-d regards both His Torah and the human condition. No-one is excluded, and the demands are very simple – not necessarily easy, but simple:

1 Thus said the Lord:
Observe what is right and do what is just;
For soon My salvation shall come,
And my deliverance be revealed.

2 Happy is the man who does this,
The man who holds fast to it:
Who keeps the sabbath and does not profane it,
And stays his hand from doing any evil.

This is echoed in Micah 6:6-8:

6. With what shall I come before the Lord, bow before the Most High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? 7. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8. He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God.

That’s it. Nothing we cannot do. In fact this is what the 12 Steps lead to – a close relationship with G-d, where it really doesn’t matter where we come from or what is our prior experience – what matters is that we walk with G-d one day at a time, and in the end we will all be ok. Really, we will all be ok.

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Posted in Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30, Dvar Torah, Haftarah, Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Parasha Nitzavim, Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Torah | 4 Comments »

Nitzavim-Vayelech – Teshuvah – A New Beginning

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 4, 2007


Torah Portion: Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 31:30 Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8

I have decided to try an weave two of my most precious life-lines together – Torah and the 12 Step Program of Recovery – there really is no better place to start that challenge than on the second Last Shabbat before Roshashana and Yom Kippur.

So this weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to my friends in Recovery – you all know just who you are 🙂

Focal Point Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:6-14

Then the L-rd your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your G-d will inflict all those curses upon the enemies and foes who persecuted you. You, however, will again heed the L-rd and obey all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day. And the L-rd your G-d will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For the L-rd will again delight in your well-being, as He did in that of your fathers, since you will be heeding the L-rd your G-d and keeping His commandments and laws that are recorded in this book of the Teaching — once you return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.

Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert your drug, process of choice here], that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d.

Did you know that in the original “order” of the 12 Steps [which were actually 6], steps 1, 2 and 3 were baked into one?

Why was that? Because realizing that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable can be very overwhelming, and more often than not there are behaviors we need to stop right away if we are to save our very lives, so we need to move from powerless and unmanageable without anywhere to go, to powerless and unmanageable with not only hope of a place to go, but to a place where we can actually be restored to some resemblance of sanity – and that my friends happens in step 3.

See, step 1 won’t tell you anything but that your are powerless and unmanageable, step 2 will only tell you that sanity is possible – but neither of them will actually provide sanity so being confronted with steps 1 and 2 is rather harsh – that’s why, originally, people were asked to take the 3 first steps as one, because step 3 will restore sanity on a daily basis, because step 3 is where we give up trying to control ourselves and the world around us and let G-d (as we understand G-d)take control of us one day at a time.

“But I don’t believe G-d loves me, that He cares about me or that He even exists!”.

One of my sponsors once told me that it doesn’t matter what I believe – it matters what I do. So my beliefs is immaterial, because if I tell G-d every morning that I turn my life over to Him (whoever or what ever He is) He will do the work as long as I do my footwork – go to meetings and check in with my sponsor. Did I believe it would work? No. But I did it because it was my last way out of a life that had brought me to the abyss where I was seriously staring suicide in the eyes. I was in so much pain that I would probably have done acrobatics if my sponsor had told me it would work.

But the simple wisdoms “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it!” is actually in Torah: “And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot/Exodus 24:7)

Children learn through mimicking what adults do – they do before they understand what they are doing. Torah tells us that, in regards to a functional life (because that is what living according to Torah leads to) this is the attitude we need to take – learning/understanding through doing what we need to learn/understand.

So, I can work Step 3 even if I don’t believe it, just because I need to, and eventually it will be something I believe, something I do with faith and hope and trust that G-d as I understand Him, is restoring me to sanity on day at a time.

So how is this all connected to Torah and being Jewish?

Well, for one working step 1 is a natural part of the Jewish Path – every year, with the start of Elul, Jews all over the World begin a process of self-reflection, self- examination that will eventually lead them to identification of areas in their lives where they are out of control and need to do Teshuvah (return to Torah and G-d). Hope is also built into the Jewish Path – that G-d will restore that which was broken and bring sanity, because when the Gate closes on Yom Kippur all of Israel has been forgiven and a new beginning is declared.

“In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9)

Step 3 is just a natural sequel to all of this in Judaism – Teshuvah – Forgiveness – Renewed Observance. All in the manner that fit each of us and our recovery.

Here’s a Jewish Prayer that fit perfectly to say at the end of any 12 Step Meeting:

Adon Olam

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs dominion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in 12 Step Program, Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30, Faith, Haftarah, Hope, Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Isaiah 61:10 - 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Recovery, Seeking G-d, Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Teshuvah, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Leave a Comment »

 
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