Monday, August 07, 2006

The Best Dvar Torah I've Heard Yet

This past Shabbat I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, which I spent with my sister's to-be fiance's family. I was sitting in the back of the shul across the street from their house (I always like to sit in the back for some reason) when one of the Rabbi's step-father gave an amazing dvar Torah, which with his permission I will try to recapture here. This is the summary:

Every week Jews read a section of the Torah in chronological order. The section comes from the first five books of the Torah and each section is assigned a parallel section from the Writings and Prophets (the latter two sections of the Tanakh, Jewish Bible), which are called "Haftarah." The assignment is based on a similar ideological subject matter. The rabbi touched on many political issues applying to us today and it is rare that I hear political issues being brought up in a dvar, at least not this openly.

One of the verses in the Haftarah of the past Shabbat very relevantly reads, with the words of G-d, "U'levanon ein day ba'er," which means "The Lebanon is insufficient kindling" and can also be read "Lebanon is not burning enough." (Isaiah 40:16) Lebanon is full of cedars, of which the Torah speaks about sporadically. In King David's Psalm 29, it says, "The voice of Hashem is majesty! The voice of Hashem breaks the cedars of Lebanon! He makes them prance about like a calf; Lebanon and Siryon (Syria) like young 're'eimim (probably a one-horned animal, but maybe a type of other animal)! The voice of Hashem cleaves with shafts of fire!"

We look at what's going on in Lebanon right now, but in the Haftarah that corresponds exactly with this point in time reads "The Lebanon is insufficient kindling." In the words of the Rabbi whom gave the dvar, if we do not understand that this is blatantly related to what's occuring now in Lebanon, we are "spiritually hearing impaired." Mind you, every week we read from the next section in the Torah and this was just happened to be this week's section.

Hezba-llah wants a ceasefire, they want the fire to cease. But not just the external fire, they want the internal fire, the fire inside that the Jews possess, to cease, they want our fire to cease.

He then mentioned that in the upcoming sections, we see that Moshe (Moses) is punished and is not allowed to step foot into Israel. He pleads with G-d to be let in but G-d still says no. The rabbi asked the question, "Why would Moshe, who's had the closest relationship to G-d that any human has, want even more and to be let into Israel, the land to which he brought the Jews? What more spirituality could he want than that of the relationship he has with G-d, which was "face to Face?" In the Parsha (section) it says that he wants to see "Levanon." The Midrash (commentary) says that "Levanon," sharing a root with "lavan," (white) here refers to the site of the Temple, which whitens our sins. Why did he want to see that site? Because he knows that the Temple is the bridge, the connecting point, between Heaven and Earth. Moses was the representation of the bridge between Heaven and Earth through the close contact he had with G-d, Whom told him the Torah directly. Moses wanted to see the essence of that connecting place, which was the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, but was not allowed to.

Moses knew, and Israel's current neighbors know, that Jerusalem stands for the connection between Heaven and Earth, and it is this, not a Palestinian state, which they want. In 1995 Israel, under Ehud Barak, wanted to give Yasser Arafat 90% of the land he wanted to make a Palestinian state, from which Arafat walked away. The Palestinians said that they wanted a united Jerusalem as their capital. So Barak offered East Jerusalem, which Arafat refused because he wanted all of Jerusalem. So Barak offered the upper section of the site of the Temple and Israel could have the lower section, but Arafat refused because he wanted the entire section, so the deal was called off. This was "Oslo." Arafat turned down a Palestinian state, which would have given the Palestinians a state (and alleviated their suffering) but he refused because of the issue of Jerusalem. He rather have no state for his people than to have a state without the entirety of Jerusalem as it's capital, and that's the truth.

Why? Because the Muslims are very similar to the Jews religiously. We both know that our actions and our soul are connected. One religion (and this is how the Rabbi put it, not naming the religion) believes that the soul and the body are totally unconnected, or should be unconnected. The joys of the body are deemed evil and from Satan and the joys of the soul are deemed from G-d, therefore they must refrain from the joys of the body. The Muslims however are like the Jews in this sense, they understand that the joys of the body and of the soul are related and connected. That is why they want Jerusalem, because they understand that the Temple is the site of the connection where Heaven meets Earth.

So what is the difference between us and them if that's how similarly we view things? The answer is that Muslims want to bring the Earth up to Heaven, which explains the seventy two virgins, but Jews want to bring Heaven down to Earth, which explains the rebuilding of the Temple.

This is why Jews are at the front line of a battle, and not necessarily a physical battle. It is the battle to bring Heaven down to Earth and therefore Israel, and Jerusalem, is at the center of our battle. This is why we are ecstatic and rejoice when good and holy things occur in Israel and why we are hurt and grieve when tragedy occurs there, because we are Jews and are connected to Jerusalem in this way, here in America and everywhere.

The Rabbi also mentioned that he went on a trip one time but deliberately didn't know where he was going. He bought a ticket and only found out the destination once he was on the plane. He went with no money and no food and had to find out, once he got there, how to obtain kosher food and where to stay, etc... The point is that he was trying to remove himself from his sphere of comfort because one grows an incredible amount when they are removed from that sphere. Everybody has a different sphere of comfort, but the battle of the Jewish people is to step out of that sphere of comfort, which for many Jews means mitzvahs, the commandments in the Torah, and to grow from stepping out of it. That is the front line of the battle of the Jewish people.

Mind you, the Muslims have this fire inside them; they understand that that line is the front line of the battle, and like I told my friend, Rotem, that same Shabbat, it is not like we have to be like the Muslims with their fire, it is actually that we did have that fire before them and we just forgot how to have it. The Israelites whom fought for Israel when the Temple was standing, they had that fire. It is not uniquely and solely a Muslim thing, and we say that we do not want to be like our enemies, but it is par excellence a Jewish thing to have that fire! We do not need to learn it from them, they need to learn it from us! The only difference between our fire and their fire is that, excellently put by the Rabbi, we have the fire to bring Heaven down to Earth, while Muslims want to bring Earth up to Heaven. The fire can burn strong and bright but not be murderous; that is our type of fire, a holy fire.

G-d says that "Lebanon is not sufficient kindling," and the fire will continue to burn until G-d decides that it is enough. We are in our Father's Hands now, thank G-d.

** My aside; a year ago, almost to the day (if not the day) occurred the Gaza Pullout where Israel pulled out settlements from Israeli territory in the Gaza Strip - the punishment is terrorism, for it was from the Gaza Strip where the three Jewish soldiers were captured. Had Israel not given them that land it would have not become the security risk that it did, and had it not become the security risk that it did, the terrorists from the Gaza Strip would have not kidnapped the Jewish soldiers, and had they not kidnapped the Jewish soldiers, Israel would not have asked for them back, and had not Israel asked for them back, Hezba-llah would have not said "no," and had not Hezba-llah said "no," Israel would have not attacked Lebanon and the situation that we are seeing today would have not have happened. But "dayeinu," that would have been sufficient for us! This is how the Gaza Pullout was the indirect/direct cause of Israel's bombing of Lebanon. G-d does what He wants and obviously this is G-d's will.

That date (the Pullout and the Kidnapping a year later) was also Tisha B'Av, the date of the destruction of both the first and second Temple, which Jews commemorate by fasting and reading Eicha, or Lamentations; the Prophet Jeremiah's account of the destruction. How is this related to Lebanon? Hezba-llah won't release the Jewish prisoners until Israel trades thousands of terrorists from Israeli prisons. Hashem's voice speaking? Absolutely. We give G-d's Holy Land to the people who want to dominate Israel and they rise up against us. The pullout was also global in scope, for Katrina hit right after the pullout, and just like innocent Jews in Israel were left homeless (and some are still living in refugee tents), thousands of innocent Americans were left homeless (and still are) in Louisianna. When G-d wants something to happen, it happens, as it says in Psalm 29, "The voice of Hashem frightens the hinds, and strips the forests bare; while in His Temple all proclaim, 'Glory!' Hashem sat enthroned at the Deluge; Hashem sits enthroned as King forever. Hashem will give might to His people, Hashem will bless His people with peace." Note: peace is the product of Israel's might; what is the product of Islam's might?

**I used to be a big-time Bob Marley fan. Marley says something amazing in his song "Ride Natty Ride." He says, "No judgement can ever be with water. No water can put out this fire." Years ago in high school before I became observant, this statement rang to me as being "Jewish."

1 comment:

Rina said...

Hi Yaniv its Sister Sebag,

I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful re-cap of the Rabbies speech. I was very sad to have missed it so it was very nice of you to write it out and it is very well written might I add-I definately learned a lot from it. These rabbies are just amazing! Thanks again, see ya!