2016-08-17 / Religion Column

Moses reminds us of our covenant with the Divine

RABBI ABBY MICHALESKI
Temple Beth El of Hammonton & Haddonfield

Parashat Va’etchanan
Deut. 3:23-7:11

During these summer months, many of us slow down and lean towards nature; the ocean, the mountains, time spent outdoors. Time itself seems to slow down and we embrace the easy flow of summer, connecting with the rhythmic pulse of the earth and nature. The Kabbalists teach that the Jewish festivals and sacred seasons throughout the year, intimately connected to the lunar and solar cycles, have an underlying energetic flow that open pathways towards divine connection. When we attune ourselves to these energies, when we slow down and pay attention, these sacred times provide opportunities for self-awareness and transformation.

While still deep in the heat of summer, our calendar cycle is aligned with the subtle organic shifts occurring as we move towards fall. The minor festivals of Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av, both observed this week in the Jewish world, seem to have powerful energies that provide us with opportunities for personal and communal growth. Tisha B’Av, observed this past Saturday night and Sunday, is a day commemorating the historical tragedies that have befallen the Jews through history on the 9th of Av. For some, it is not only an opportunity to remember our losses of the distant past, most particularly the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, but it is also a day to acknowledge our present brokenness. We feel the pain from the senseless violence and tragedies in our world today, seemingly more intense than ever in these past few months. Judaism has never shied away from reality and the need to feel and share our loss and pain in order to heal and move forward.

Just as we get up from Shiva and re-integrate into life, our holiday cycle moves us out of grief into Tu B’Av. Under a bright full moon, this day is a time focused on love and joy and future possibilities. There seems to be no greater need in our modern world than to heal and move from the heat of anger and hostility towards others and embrace the energies of love and unity. While knowing this transition is not easy, our tradition offers comfort as we enter this week’s special Shabbat, Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of comfort. Seven Shabbatot, seven haftorahs of consolation, guide us as we open up and prepare for the spiritual work of the High Holy Days.

When we see the Jewish festivals as part of a whole, we can be even more enriched by the cycle and stories of our sacred texts. We entered the final book of Torah this past Shabbat and join with the Israelites as they complete their journey outside the land of Canaan. In this week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, we hear Moses’ final plea to God to let him enter the Promised Land. One can only imagine his heart sickness as his plea is denied with the final “Rav Lach— Enough!” Once a man of few words and a sometimes-volatile temper, we can see the transformation in Moses as he accepts his loss and shifts towards the future.

As the cycle of his life nears its end, Moshe reminds us of our people’s journey from Miztrayim to freedom, as well as our own. He reminds us of our covenant with the Divine, re-iterating the Ten Commandments and the path we have committed to walk. He speaks and calls us to pay attention, “Shema Yisrael,” to love with all our heart and soul and to remember that the Holy One of Blessing is forever present in our challenges and our sacred journeys.

B’Shalom. s

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