Va’etchanan: Brevity not Levity

BS”D By Rabbi Ronnie Cahana July 31, 2020

Song: Shalow ShalE, Shalo3 Shalom by Dvir

I always wondered why we say such spare words in our songs on Shabbat. How come Shalom Aleichem teaches us very little? We know the Angels enter our presence, but shouldn’t they be greeted with more flowery words; wouldn’t there be a poetic welcome to such lofty guests? In Shalom Aleichem, we only say a one-word verb to the Angels “Boachem”, “Barchuni” and “Tzetchem”. It seems like such a minimized request of the Heilige Shabbos

Why do we use such sparse language? And it’s the same in our Parasha this week. We hear G-d’s commands in from the prophets in the haftorah. “Be comforted” that’s it, “Nachamu Nachamu Ami”. Wouldn’t more love need to be expressed from the Holy One? The utterance of this staccato expression feels void of compassion. In our low points we beg for G-d’s consoling intimacy, but all we get are two callous “Nachamus”. Don’t read it as a suggestion, G-d speaks it as a commandment. “Be Comforted”, even, maybe, do the work to comfort yourselves. It doesn’t say, “I’ll comfort you”, or it doesn’t say “come my sweet, come my love, I’ll never leave you.” It seems like we have to do it all by ourselves. It is so minimal and so abundant, we have no choice, G-d says you must comfort. 

How can we bend? I want poetry and G-d wants action. The reason is, love is rare in our liturgy. G-d gave us an extraordinary gift: every human being has the riches of their imagination. Each experience in our lives approximates a unique answer that can inform us to what “Nachamu” means, as long as we actively hold this question before us. With this intention, we can revolve the answer and say to ourselves this is what G-d means. Here is G-d, and we have to grow our idea and ideals of comfort by expressly comforting others. We have to embody this commandment of the Torah, like our breathing. We have to be alive and say, “I can give G-d’s comfort to others.” We have to realize in our mind’s imaginings of G-d, we are constantly receiving signs of G-d’s miracles for us. We describe the holiness of G-d-presence within our own parameters of life, and so we live with an idillic nature being actualized. 

Holy language should be succinct and unembellished. We have a six worded essence of our religion in this week’s Parsha in the “Shma”. When we Daven, G-d approaches us, “Be’Ahava”, and then we sing out the “Shma Israel”. What do we emphasize when we say “Shma” as we call out “ listen to me”? What does it mean to hear? What does it mean more than realized? How can we say Shma and not “Re’eh”? Why don’t we say “Tedah”? Why don’t we say, ”Lingoa”? Why don’t we say “Tiyhieh”? All of those senses are subsumed in “Shma”. And “Shma” is an inner call from G-d. G-d is ever-calling to each of us to reach out and hear the Almighty’s ever-calling to holiness. (When we read Torah we listen to G-d, when we study, we hear and it’s a sharp affirmation, when we live, we live within every answer of G-d’s vocal creation of the world.) That’s brought from creation from on high, for all of life, G-d calls us into our being. 

Why do we say Shma Israel? Do we say it to our Father, “Israel”, or are we talking to our people, “Israel”? Are we saying “Listen to me, all of you Israelites throughout the ages; to our ancestors and to all of our progeny?” Are we re-enacting ourselves as G-d calling? Are we being G-d, calling to the Jewish people at this moment? Or shouldn’t we be saying “Shma, Roni, Hashem elokeinu Hashem Echad” Or could we call to our family, Mishpachti? Why don’t we talk to our own parents, who gave us our values? Why don’t we say “Avi, Mori, Imi, Morati” Why don’t we say to our grandparent, I live your ideals. I am reviving your future in my lifetime. Why do we say Israel? Shma Israel. Doesn’t it mean all of you “strugglers with the Almighty” All of you who are even “Yashar” with the Almighty?

 I always wanted to know why when we call G-d, when we write his name; We do so by representing the Eibishter with a Yud and a Yud. What’s the meaning of these Yuds in the word? With anchoring our attention around the Yud in Israel, the first letter of the word, we can see three dynamics emerge. Israel with Ytzchak, his relationship to his ancestors, Israel and Joseph, his relationship with his descendants and Israel and Yaakov, his own exalted rising.  But why are we defining the almighty with a double Yud? I think the Yud is already G-d when we write the first Yud (As Dvir told me in his Pinchas sermon last month). But also, we give our G-dliness back with the second Yud. Not giving back the Torah to continue, but in order to continue the Torah. When we say Hashem, Elokeinu, we call the name of the Holy one. G-d, Our G-d, Compassion and our Judge i.e. the compassionate judge. We call our G-d, the G-d  of inside and outside -Subjectivity and objectivity- and then we come back and say Hashem is whole. Always subjective: “Hashem Echad”. Why do we say Echad? The wholeness of everything? Why is Echad, life, in the flesh? What is the beauty of oneness? Oneness is the experience, the holiest experience, cleaving to the G-d form, the experience of completion, of inseparability, oneness is the spirit of being, of belonging. To belong is to be one with the world, and not separate from it. Oneness is the glimpse of perplexion, of our Gan Eden. It’s because we ate the Gan Eden that we have known the garden, that it never left us. And we return it back at the end of our lives to G-d when he judges us. Our judgement is at night. When we say the Shma as the day begins, we just are in G-d’s totality; indistinguishable from everyone else. “Nighttime” means Kabalat Ohl Malchut Shamayim. And “Daytime” means Kabalat Ohl Mitzvoth. With daytime we change the world. But at night we examine it. So that the original every day, could be the Shabbos Kodesh of eternity.

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