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D’varim, Words

D’varim  at DLTI9 week 3 Margo Wolfson

There once was a little girl whose very first memory at age 2 was being held high so the ceiling and its light seemed close enough to touch. When she was three, she’d moved to a new neighborhood and without realizing, crossed the street where nothing seemed familiar. She started to panic, she was lost, but just then her handsome strong Dad came and scooped her up in her arms to save her. A few years later after a bitter divorce, her parents could not speak peaceably to another except for one time, when Father carried her feverish brother in his arms, her mother’s heart softened for that moment.  There’s a line in D’varim, chapter 1, :31 where we learn that God has always carried us, like a man carries his child.  This powerful, poignant image drew me to these verses, and then I learned that this part also has the retelling of the 12 scouts that scope out the promised land, bringing reports that scared the people from entering the promised land. This sin of fear is said to be the one which actually caused the fall of the Temple on the 9th of Av. Now my choice was set, these are the verses I wanted to study. Why this sin, and not, say the Golden Calf to be responsible for such tragedy?   After all can’t we all relate to struggling with fear of the unknown. I still hate getting lost, my very first reaction is panic, anything could happen, the unknown could contain anything… And struggling with low self esteem, I don’t think I’m the only one for that either.  Between a close look at the text and teachings from Reb Marcia this week, I offer a possible answer for why this sin. I propose that a close look at the verses from our new perspective is not just that the Israelites were fearful, but a rejection of light and life itself, a tear in the fabric of the space time of our people’s history.

These verses in the 3rd Aliya begin beautifully, like a horror movie that starts out on a sunny day.

The first word: Vatikr’voon – they drew close to God. All of them! And God thinks their idea of sending out spies is Good – Tov!  Go for it, and I will pick a person from each tribe. And they are to bring back D’varim (name of this parashah) D’varim are both words and things and the spies bring both good words: the land is Tov, and good things, fruit for the people. But at verse 26 the mood shifts The people rebel, and will not Go up.

Instead we go down into our bubbles and begin to weave our own d’varim, alternative facts.  Words conflict with what we’ve seen with our own eyes. And out of this gossip comes these alternative facts from the bubbles: Yes, Adonai freed us from Egypt, not to deliver us but it was out of Sinat, hatred, to toy with us, place us in the hand of the Ammorites to crush us!  Why should we rise up, they say when our brothers have melted our hearts with words! They said the people are greater than us, and (so far so good) their cities have walls which reach the sky, and the sons of Anakites, Giants live there! Unbelievable!  But Hashem is patient, and responds with poignant, parental words, Don’t be afraid.  I’m going with you and will fight for you, as I did before your eyes.  These words of vision will repeat and become a theme on this Shabbat Hazon, Shabbat of vision.  Text continues with vision and tenderness “ in the wilderness you SAW I carried you as a man carries his child, from the beginning until this time.

In spite of these inspiring loving words, and their vision, they reject both the loving words and the vision. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I imagine the light leaving their bodies, and the fear taking it’s place. Like a collective suicide, a rejection of their vision.  God has given us eyes to see, and we have been taught we are made of light, of bina, chochma and chesed, g’vurah. And to reject all of this and replace it with fear! This is the rift in light and time that caused Tisha B’av

It very much reminds me of Riley in the movie Inside Out, a favorite move of mine, who saddened by a move to a new city, but unable to honor that sadness, finds her “core memories” the ones that make her Riley, beings sucked down a tube into oblivion. Joy and Sadness go on a quest to regain them, leaving Anger, Fear and Disgust at the “soul controls”. The spies’ rejection of their core mission, banish light and love, leaving only fear and hatred. We must honor sadness, as we do on Tisha B’Av, or we too might think that God hates us, as some Holocaust survivors do. Riley nearly becomes a runaway, until she allows the tears to come. Only then can she return home.

Today we live in a time of unparalleled vision: we can peer into the atom and see the birth of stars in the Orion nebula. Super computers can predict the likely impact of increased greenhouse gases and we see and measure climate change happening before our eyes.  And still people that cluster in their information bubbles and reject the evidence of their senses as well as the ethical wisdom of their heritage, to maintain status quo.  Fomenting science denial, and fear of immigrants, Muslims, and Jews, as the cemetery desecrations show, ravaging of people and the earth that sustains them out of fear of change.  Hazon is the name of the program here at Isabella Friedman, as they embody a vision for the Jewish future, and we know we are made of light, To be oblivious to light and vision led to self loathing, and then God loathing, and a community where fear could reign over hope and longing.

What if all that was good and true were a vision before your eyes right now, what would you do? (Danny Maseng)    I still hate getting lost, but I breathe deeply and figure it out.  I have carried my own children in my arms and wish for them a future filled with hope and vision, but I do worry.  Hadlikah nah ner lavan b’ohel libi hash’chor! (Noa)    May the spark kindled in your heart shine, let it shine!


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