July 19, 2018


7.20.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat D’Varim

This week’s Parashah is D’Varim.  This translates to “things/words.”  This is the beginning Parashah of the 5th Book of the Torah, D’Varim/Deuteronomy.  It is also the beginning of Moses’ last speech to the Israelite People.  Moses is still upset about not getting to enter the Land of Canaan, and he takes out his frustration on the Israelite people.  He also seems to be adding/subtracting from earlier events in the Torah.  He also adds seventy new laws to our Canon.

I find Moses’ memoir very interesting.  He is remembering events differently than the way they were portrayed at the time and, if you believe God wrote the Torah, differently from God’s portrayal.  This brings up questions about what really happened.  It also points out that both accounts could be true.  Maybe Moses is recounting the events as he experienced them and Torah is telling the events as God experienced them.  I wonder if we ever think about the experience of God and others as we take action on our beliefs and respond/react to events.  I know that for a long time, I did not.  In my addiction, I was only concerned with my experience and what was good for me.  I believe a lot of people have this experience, even if they deny it and don’t know it.  I know people who are on the “right” side of things (everyone thinks their position is the “right” side) and don’t take into account God’s experience nor the experience of others around them.

As I write this, I am reminded of Rabbi Heschel’s teaching that we have to live in accord with what is relevant to God.  Genesis Rabbah teaches that not a day goes by that God doesn’t make new law in the Heavenly Court.  Putting these two teachings together reminds me that I have to take God’s experience and what is relevant to God in this moment and in this experience in any and all responses I have to whatever is going on right now.  Moses is not doing this.

Moses is complaining and blaming the Israelite People for his fate.  He is not looking for his part in any of the negative interactions of the Israelite People with God.  He is taking credit for trying to get the people to not rebel when the twelve spies came back from scouting out the land.  The text in Numbers does not read this way.  Herein is the reason that memoirs are true to the perception of the person writing it and may not have the facts to back up these truths.  Moses is not lying, he is recounting his experience through his eyes and memory and being oblivious to the rest of the story.  The fact that he is unable to look at his part in these experiences is sad and proves his humanness.

We are living in a time where everyone is proclaiming the “rightness” of their positions and beliefs and smearing anyone who disagrees or provides facts that prove them incorrect, and declaring “fake news.”  When people who disagree with us become the enemy, we are foretelling the destruction of community and healthy debate.  When we have to be right and someone else wrong, we are living in Binary Thinking and enabling addictive thinking and behaviors.

We are community dedicated to, believing in, and living in Recovery Thinking.  This means that we cannot be “the smartest person in the room,” know everything and always be right.  We have to continually learn from each other, seek out the whole story, and see life through a prism allowing us to have the view of God in seeing each and every situation from all of the different angles.  We do this by staying in dialogue with our whole community, by refusing to name-call, and by being open to a different point of view so we can learn and grow.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mark