1. The apex of the Torah
We are now at the apex of the Torah, and what we are told
here is what is at the heart of the Torah. We shall also
be given Moshe's last message, and Rashi has taught us,
in respect of Yaakov's last words, that when one approaches
death one has the obligation to pass on important moral
lessons (whether they are pleasing or not). Thus, what
Moshe is about to tell us is extremely important.
With Moshe, our Master, the parasha takes us to the highest
spheres of the Torah and life. This would seem to above
our level, but to think like this is a sign of false humility,
for only God decides and knows what we are capable of.
And if He decides that we are capable of reaching these
spheres, we must accept them and study this parasha.
Listening as a couple
At first glance, it seems surprising to see that Moshe
addresses himself here, not to man but to the heavens
and the earth. The reason for this is that the essence
of man is in the image of the heavens and the earth and
only the truth, and the whole truth, must be told. Let
us read the first verse of the Torah which describes the
entire divine plan, for it is this to which Moshe is referring:
"In the beginning, Elokim created the heavens and
the earth, bereshit bara Elokim et hashamayim ve et haaretz."
Thus Moshe is asking us to listen, like the heavens and
"Give ear, ye heavens, and I will speak (haazinu
And let the earth hear the words of my mouth (vetishma
This means that man should listen in twosome and the Torah
itself is written here in two columns. Man's life and
thought is based on the couple for this is in the image
of the Creator, as is written in Midrash Devarim Rabba
"Everything have I created in couples (hakhol barati
the heavens and the earth: couples (shamayim vaaretz:
the sun and the moon: couples (hama va levana: zugot)
man-Adam and woman-Hava: couples (adam ve hava: zugot)
this world and the world to come: couples (ha olam haze
ve ha olam habba: zugot)
but My honor is one (aval kevodi ehad) as it is said:
hear Israel, Hashen our God, Hashem is ONE."
Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokenu hashem Ehad
Moshe describes the perfection of God and the story of
Israel's birth as a nation. But men always have the urge
to dissociate themselves from the truth and be destructive;
creation to them is no more than "nature," and
the history of the Jewish people is to them like the history
of any other people, for they view the land of Israel
as a land that can be forgotten, profaned and given to
others. This has been so ever since the time of the meraglim,
the spies. Thus "Hashem saw and spurned because of
the provoking of His sons and His daughters" (vayineatz
mikaas banav u venotav, Devarim 32, 19).
Moshe does not mince words: he will no accept any distortion
of the history of the Jews which aims to avoid upholding
the covenant between God and His people, which is a covenant
of love. He makes each generation responsible for their
sins and accuses them of corruption and betrayal (crooked
and perverse generation, dor ikesh uftaltol, Devarim 32,
5). Only one was faithful: Hashem, but the people scorned
the Rock that begat them (32, 18).
Union between Hashem-adam-adama (Hashem-man-land)
The last words of Moshe's song end with the union between
God, his land and his people (admato amo). Hashem made
the land and the people so eternally united and indivisible,
that he never abandons his people despite their betrayals
which make him lose all his strength and resources (32,
36). They are a people who have lost their intelligence
(goy oved etzot) and have no understanding (vein bahem
tevuna, 32, 27).
The prophets have told us repeatedly that in every generation,
the people believed they found salvation by abandoning
their heritage in favor of false alliances. Moshe describes
God's anger at this: "They have roused Me to jealousy
with a no-god (hem kineuni be lo el). The prophets consistently
warned that alliances which scorned the Torah, the holy
land and the holy people, were illusions and that the
abandonment of the covenant with Hashem would never bring
peace, and only disaster. Those who attribute man's betrayals
to the "silence of God" are mistaken. This is
like a lover abandoning the nest and accusing his partner
of betraying him. In the face of man's weakness and infidelity,
Hashem will repair the world Himself and the renewal will
be based on a relationship of holiness with the people-land,
as in the last words of Moshe's song, vekhiper admato
The issue today
This interpretation of the Torah is that of the Shla Hakadosh
This is not a political doctrine, that can be discussed
with other theories and then rejected: this is the Torah.
We can never deceive ourselves by believing that:
- these laws apply only to a minority of the Jewish people,
- the problem is different in every generation,
- today conditions are different and we no longer need
to adhere to these rules (the Jewish sects who adhered
in the past to the dominant Greek culture put forward
the same argument).
In his last words, Moshe Rabbenu tells us firmly that
in each generation we are actors in "this" same
story. And he asks us to listen (haazinu) and to hear
(shema) his words.
The explanation of the Shla
All men are included in the divine plan of His creation.
But only one people are placed at the heart of the divine
plan . This is seen in the fact that Israel is called
adam, like the world above which is called adama as in
Ezekiel 34, 31 (adam atem) and in Isaiah 14, 14 ("I
will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be
like the most High: eele al bamote-av edame leelion: the
word av here is a metaphor for the name of God). The word
edame (I will be like) is made up of the same letters
as adama, ground, in order to emphasize the chain and
interconnection of entities and concepts - an interconnection
which can only be fully understood in Hebrew.
Why this chain of concepts? Because the divine presence
rests on the merkava, the chariot; we also say that the
throne of His glory rests on this adama, ground, which
means that it rests on this people who are called adama-adam.
This is why it is written in Bereshit 1, 26: "naase
let us make man in our image, after our likeness,"
and this is inscribed in the name given to the land of
Israel, eretz hakodesh (the holy land).
This land, therefore, cannot be given to any other people,
on any pretext, no more than the Jewish people can discard
any part of the Torah.
The Shla notes that in verses 32, 4-5 it is written that
if harm is done to the Torah in this world, terrible consequences
It is now clear that Moshe is speaking simultaneously
to his people, the heavens and the earth, for he faces
the ultimate truth and the essence of things. Everything
risks falling apart again through the sins of men who
do not believe in the love given in the Torah, or in the
source that begat it, the good earth, and the union with
Hashem. Moshe trembles at the thought, everything is fragile,
but the Rock is firm. Moshe does not flinch and he knows
that Hashem will deliver His people and will punish all
those who wish to destroy it. Moshe shows that, in every
generation, Israel will try to cooperate with the enemies
who seek to destroy it. And ultimately, after waste and
carnage, God Himself will have to repair the world.
When people do not want to listen, one has to resort to
song, for even if they do not want to listen to it, they
will not oppose it. So Moshe puts his teaching in a lyrical
song. In the same way, the Song of Songs is protected
from any criticism.
Is there another people whose fundamental texts are poems
and songs and whose leader addresses the people with a
poem, a shira? Moshe spoke it "with Yehoshua"
in intimacy, he spoke it "in the ears" of the
people (beozne haam 32, 44) and to their hearts: "Set
your heart unto all the words" (simu levavekhem 32,
46). Understand that "it is no vain thing for you"
(lo davar rek hu mikem 32, 47).
After having shown the people
the beauty of the union between Hashem-the Torah-the people-and
the land, paradoxically Moshe is then told by God that
he will not enter THE land for which he pleaded so fervently;
he will only see it "from afar."
PHOTO of the land of Israel
taken by the author from the site where Moshe stood, overlooking
the river Jordan.
What a shock for the man who
believed so greatly in the divine role of this land.
The reason for this refusal
is that Moshe belongs to a higher level of being than
that of this world and only the perfect kingdom of the
world On High is at his level. God tells him, according
to Rashi: "I know how much this land which you see
is dear to you."
Because all this is presented
as a poem and song, it needs to be understood and felt
with our hearts and ears. Try to "feel" what
is being said: "Give ear, Israel!"
We are one entity (Hashem-Man-Land)
The Shla's commentary centers on Moshe's sensibility and
what he was trying to transmit to us in his song: (Devarim
32, 2: "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, My speech
shall distill as the dew, tizal kattal imrati).
The Shla focuses on Devarim
32, 9: "ki helek Hashem amo, for the portion of Hashem
is his people," for this clearly shows that Moshe
understood the unity of creation to the end (ad tumam
There is, of course, the simple
explanation of this phrase which means that Hashem reserved
Israel for himself and not for others, but there is also
another explanation noted by the commentators: Israel
(and every member of the nation) is a part of Hashem in
the fullest sense of the word.
Moshe says in the name of
Israel and in the name of Hashem: we are one entity. The
Shla opens his commentary on this parasha by citing Sanhedrin
90a: "kol yisrael yesh lahem helek leolam habba,
all Israel has a part in the world to come."
Listen to the resonance of
- while still not knowing their full meaning,
- we know that, from hence on, we have the same unique
- we also have the same source,
- and we are united like the different parts of water
in Miriam's well, like drops in the same torrent, like
particles in the same light, and like the same love that
unites two people.
- And, in this, we are part of this world which will one
day be entirely good.
Many commentaries stress this
quality, that we are a part of Hashem and that we form
1. Commenting on Psalm 84, ashrei yosheve veitekha, commentators
such as the Hida note that it is not written beveiteka
"blessed are they that dwell in thy house" but
veitekha "blessed are the dwellers of your house
and who are your house." We are His sanctuary, His
house and not just "in" his house, as is written
asu li mikdash veshakhaneti vetokham "make me a sanctuary
that I may dwell in them."
2. Zohar III 130b (Parasha
Emor) develops this concept in relation to the festival
of Succot. It notes that the Torah does not say "and
you shall dwell seven days in the succa" but "sit
thee down seven days" tashevu shivat yamim, which
means that we must be in a state called "seven days."
The Zohar talks of 7 important guests, the ushpezin, who
will live be there with us.
It follows, says the Zohar,
that he who enters into this state of existence of "succa"
(which means to be totally in the presence of Hashem)
must realize who he is, where he lives and with whom.
Rav Hamemuna Saba said on entering the succa " let
us invite the ushpezin, come guests of On High, guests
of the emuna and he raised his hands and rejoiced, saying
"blessed is our part, blessed is the part of Israel,
for it is said helek Hashem amo." This tells us that,
although we cannot hear or see these presences with whom
we form one entity, Israel, which is a part of Hashem,
we must remind ourselves of this and repeat it and rejoice
in our true source and our true being.
Thus it is for two lovers
when separated; in a state of vulnerability and longing
for each other, they say: "come back my beloved,
you who are so present and fill my life, that I may be
one with you and together we will be one with Hashem,
in one neshama." This is the Lekha dodi, the Shir
Hashirim between Hashem and Israel.
How to sharpen our awareness
of this union
In his commentary on Tractate Succa, the Shla notes the
importance of internal and external acts in order to sharpen
our awareness of the union with our supreme partner and
the need to remind ourselves of it and to rejoice in it.
He points to the fact that
the Tur, the Beit Yosef, and his own father in Emek Berakha,
say that we must rejoice aloud when we bless the succa,
just as we do for the kiddush.
This passage of the Zohar
notes that there is the same image at the beginning of
Bereshit, which does not say ki "be" sheshet
yamim asa Hashm et hashamyim ve et haaretz ("for
`during'6 days Hashem created the heavens and the earth")
but sheshet yamim ("six days"). This means that
all things have the quality of being and of developing
from the third zone of bima to the ninth zone of yesod
before attaining that of Shabbat (9-3=6). This is the
text which we read before the kiddush on the first Shabbat
In Massekhet Pessahim 176,
the Shla cites the same verse ki helek Hashem amo and
notes that, in our neshama (soul), we are linked to Hashem,
just like a cord which has one end in the world above
and one in the world below. He writes that even that part
of us which is destructive is not entirely negative for
it also has its source in the world above, and even part
of Samael, the destructive angel who attacks Yaakov and
who represents the "drug (sam) of death" is
divine (el), and that all things will one day become pure
and holiness, and keddusha will reign supreme.
The same goes for everything
that is negative and harmful in our lives, in us and in
our people. The Shla points out that Avraham came out
of the negative source represented by Terah. It is also
well known that the children of the abominable and perfidious
Urah were great Sages who are often quoted in the Psalms.
This union has different forms
This union in one entity expresses itself in different
- first of all "the heavens
and the earth" as in the text of the kiddush and
at the beginning of Bereshit (bara elokim et ha shamayim
ve et haaretz). Despite the complete difference between
the two entities (as between two beings), they are linked
by the word et which indicates the presence in both of
the shekhina. And their apparent difference is actually
the sole condition for fecundity and the pleasure gained
from opposites. The difference is the condition which
allows for distance and freedom and for the pleasure of
being re-united, as is clearly shown by the cherubs who
are separated from each other but always present, one
for the other.
- all the sons of Yaakov form
one entity when they arrive in Egypt and they number 70
like the 70 faces of the Torah and like the letters of
the supreme name of God.
- Yaakov perfectly expresses
the union of man and woman and of the world above with
the world below, in the union Yaakov-Leah and Yaakov-Rahel,
as is described by the Shla in his commentary on parasha
Vayetze. The union Yaakov-Leah represents the invisible,
hidden union between two beings that belongs to the world
above, while the union Yaakov-Rahel is the most perfect
union possible in this world. It is that of Israel-Rahel
in which Yaakov loved Rahel and she was loved.
While keddusha belongs to
the invisible world, love is the union of the visible
and of that which brings joy (ahava hu sod hagilui hasameah).
The Shla notes that Leah belongs to what is hidden and
unattainable and because it is distant, it is called different
and opposite to love. This is why it is said that Leah
was not loved (in this world).
The power of the invisible
Because we, in this world, have difficulty with separation,
and with what is invisible and silent, for it makes us
feel vulnerable and fearful (as David describes so often
in the Psalms), it is important to understand that this
state of invisibility is extremely fecund, as shown by
Leah who gave birth to 6 sons and one daughter, Dinah.
Rahel, for her part, gave birth to two sons. I note this
in order to show that the divine plan is always fulfilled
in stages, and through differences. However, at God's
level there is only one plan and one life, which we discover
when we get close to Him in trust, emuna, and when everything
is bemahashava tehila (in his thought from the beginning).
Fruits develop by stages
Everyone must experience the following stages: to know
that helek Hashem amo, to feel the emotion in the union
of two beings, and to understand that Hashem desires our
love in order to attain complete fructification.
The commentaries stress the
following paradox: the more there are difficulties in
life, the more one approaches the fruit season. They demonstrate
this through these characteristics: different beings and
periods of waiting as in the case of Yaakov and Rahel,
who achieved a level of union unique among the patriarchs.
Trials are necessary for the process of purification.
Are we reaching too high?
No because the Torah was given to us to study and as a
guide for life, within the divine plan.
No because the Shla tells
us in regard to the third sanctuary:
bekhol et hadavar beyadenu she heshiv imatai ben david
ba? Hayom im tishmeu.
"Everything is in our hands, today even
we wish it, if we listen."
It is important to listen
to the inner voice of emuna that is within us, as shown
in the Song of Songs. Re-read the Song of Songs in this
perspective, which is that of Rahel.
At the beginning of parasha
Hayei Sarah, which talks of the union between "two"
levels of live (hayim, is the plural for life), the Shla
shows that this refers to those who are as in: veatem
hadevakim baHashem Elokekhem, hayim kulekhem hayom (you,
who adhere to hashem your God, are all alive today). Thus
those who are joined together and with Hashem (they are
tied to Hashem), are "hayim, lives" in the plural.
The Shla adds: vehem mukhanim lehayei ad, they are ready
for this double life which is both concrete and eternal.
Exercise for personal development
This is not literary, philosophical
or political study. It simply shows that, in each generation,
Moshe questions and advises the whole people and each
individual. It is up to us what we do with what we hear
and feel. Moshe reminds us, in this parasha, of the story
of the people of Israel in order to warn us of our tendency
to forget and discard what is essential.
Refer to the poem: Listen
to the buds
Re-read this study and:
1. Identify the different
themes and sections in Moshe's discourse: the story, exhortation,
warning, reproach, the parts that relate to Hashem and
those that center on Moshe.
2. What themes moved you most? Re-read the parasha and
identify them in the text and in Rashi.
3. Reflect on how all these teachings apply to your own
4. Discuss your thoughts with those close to you.
5. Study and learn the Hebrew vocabulary used in this
An appeal, at the suggestion of readers.
We have just been studying the Torah together and I sincerely
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I am sure that you are aware
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thousands of people who are ignorant of the teachings
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It also seems appropriate that the person who is devoting
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A modest and helpful contribution
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May you and your families be blessed and may you reap
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Amen, ken yehi ratzon.