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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Toldot

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Hello Friend,

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

For the past fifteen years, Mrs. Sarah Karmely has served as the director of Sha’arei Tovah Talmud Torah. She is co-editor of Shalom Magazine, a bi-lingual outreach publication, and the author of Words to Hear with Your Heart. She was interviewed in June of 2012.

Click here for the story: 
http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/254.-Toldot-5778-Email.pdf

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

Does the Apple Fall Far From the Tree?

He was our Doctor. He delivered seven of our children. He was one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Seattle when we arrived in 1972. His name was Dr. Charles Fine, OBM. He was a true intellectual and was one of the only people I encountered at that time who had a clear grasp on what Chabad was all about. He had tremendous respect for our Holy Rebbe, OBM. When Chabad brought out the renowned, Elie Weisel, for a huge event downtown, Dr. Fine was honored in introducing him to the crowd. Mr. Weisel later commented how in all his travels he had never been so powerfully introduced as he was that evening. In addition to being my wife Chanie’s OB/GYN, he was a very dear friend, and we put on Tefillin every couple weeks.

Viewing me as a young, Chassidisher Rabbi, coming from a very insular environment in Brooklyn, New York, he made it his business to try and “broaden me” by providing me with various books and periodicals on contemporary Jewish topics. Once, sitting in his office, he looked at me and said, “Rabbi, remember - the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. On occasion, you can find those who rise above their upbringing and environment, but that is very rare.”

From Harlem to Harvard

In the late 1960’s, I remember reading about a young man by the name of Jack, who was born and raised in the then called “Ghetto” of Harlem. His parents were drug abusers and his surroundings reflected all that was the Ghetto reality. Somehow, he was able to leave that environment, make a success of himself, and he was accepted at Harvard University. He became one of the top students in his class. A lot was written about this young man. Folks tried to find what it was about him that catapulted him out of his environment and transcended him into an entirely different reality. 

The Couple

Their father/grandfather and mother/grandmother were idol worshipers. He trafficked in idols. The world was slowly descending into a state of total idolatry. They had no teacher, nor were there anyone to inform them. The environment they were raised in was morally bankrupt and spiritually desolate.

“Thus these practices spread throughout the world. People would serve images with strange practices – one more distorted than the other – offer sacrifices to them, and bow down to them. As the years passed, (G-d’s) glorious and awesome name was forgotten by the entire population. (It was no longer part of) their speech or thought, and they no longer knew Him. Thus, all the common people, the women, and the children would know only the image of wood or stone and the temples of stone to which they were trained from their childhood to bow down and serve, and in whose name they swore.

The wise men among them would think that there is no G-d other than the stars and spheres for whose sake, and in resemblance of which, they had made those images. The Eternal Rock was not recognized or known by anyone in the world, with the exception of a (few) individuals: for example, Chanoch, Metushelach, Noach, Shem, and Ever. The world continued in this fashion until the pillar of the world – the Patriarch Abraham – was born.”(Quote taken from Rambam (Maimonities), Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim, Chapter 1)

Yet, as the Rambam continues, Avraham Avinu (Father Abraham) came to recognize the one G-d and began to spread this message to all of mankind.

Bereishis/Genesis 12/5:

“Abram took his wife Sarai (as they were then called) and Lot, his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had amassed and the souls that that they made in Haran…”

Rashi – on the verse:

“That they made in Haran. They are said to have made the souls – for they took them in under the wings of the Divine Presence. Abraham would convert the men, and Sarah would convert the women. Scriptures considers them as if they made them.” (Talmud Sanhedrin 99b)

Avraham and Sarah began, and were effective, in a massive transformation of mankind’s recognition of the Creator.

The Revolution

Torah records:

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Hashem appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai; walk before Me and be perfect. I will set My covenant between Me and you, and I will increase you most exceedingly.” Abram fell upon his face, and G-d spoke with him saying, “As for Me, this is my Covemant with you: You shall be a father of a multitude of nations; your name shall no longer be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of amultitude of nations…” (Genesis 17/1-4)

Rashi – on verse two:

I will set my covenant – “A covenant of love – and a covenant of the land of Israel, to pass it on as an inheritance to you – through the fulfillment of this commandment.” (Right of circumcision)

Rashi – on verse five:

I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.  “- because he was a father to no other nation but Aram, which is his homeland, and now he is the father of the whole world.” (Talmud Berachos 13a)

Sarah

This week’s Parsha begins, “Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life”

Rashi – on the verse:

“This is why the word “years” was written to each category – to say to you that each one is expounded on its own; to teach you that when she was a hundred years old, she was like twenty years old with respect to sin; just as one who is twenty years old is considered as if she has not sinned, for she is not liable to punishment, so too, when Sarah was a hundred years old she was without sin. And when she was twenty years old she was like seven years old with regard to beauty.” (Bereishis Rabbah 58:1)

The powerful couple of Avraham Avinu and Sarah Emanu, the founders of our people, is a model for all of us.

So, yes, the apple does, on occasion, fall far from the tree. We all have the capability to rise above inbred limitations from within and from without if we so desire to harness the “energy” to do it.

Have a beautiful Shabbos,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayera

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Dear Friend, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Dr. Naftali (Tali) Loewenthal presently directs the Chabad Research Unit, while lecturing at the University College on the subject of Jewish spirituality. He resides in London and was interviewed in December of 2010.

Click here for the story:

http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/252.-Vayera-5778.pdf

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Lech-Lecha

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Dear Friend, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Since 1982, Rabbi Elchonon Lisbon has served as the spiritual leader of Chabad House of Park Heights, Baltimore. He was interviewed in June of 2016.
 
Click here for the story: 
http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/251.-Lech-Lecha-5778.pdf

Have a Good Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Noach

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Hello Friends,

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Mrs. Miriam Halpern is the daughter of Rabbi Charles (Yehoshua Mordechai) Batt. She presently resides in Israel and was interviewed in August of 2014.
 
Click here for the story: 
http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/250.-Noach-5778.pdf  

Warmly,
Rabbi S.B. Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Bereishis

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We are pleased to send this week’s edition of Here’s My Story.  

Rabbi Leibel Posner was one of the first students of the yeshivah in 770 and was involved in Jewish education for many decades. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where he was interviewed in November of 2006. 
 
Click here for the story: 
http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/249.-Bereishis-5778.pdf 

Wishing everyone a very joyous Yom Tov – Shemini Atzeret – Simchat Torah - and a good Shabbos. 

Yom Kippur Message From The Rebbe OBM RL

Gmar Chasima Tova - 5778
A Yom Kippur Message from The Lubavitcher Rebbe OBM 

Reverse Biology 

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In Your abounding compassion, You have given us this fast day of Yom Kippur… 
A day on which it was forbidden to eat, forbidden to drink….

From the Mussaf prayer for Yom Kippur

In the World to Come, there is neither eating nor drinking…

Talmud, Berachot 17a

Man consists of a body and a soul – a physical envelope of flesh, blood, sinew and bone, inhabited and vitalized by a spiritual force described by the Chassidic master as “literally apart from G-d above.”

Common wisdom has it that spirit is loftier than matter, and the soul holier (i.e., closer to the Divine) than the body. This conception seems to be borne out by the fact that Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year – the day on which we achieve the height of intimacy with G-d – is ordained by the Torah as a fast day, a day on which we seemingly abandon the body and its needs to devote ourselves exclusively to the spiritual activities of repentance and prayer.

In truth, however, a fast day brings about a deeper, rather than more distant, relationship with the body. When a person eats, he is nourished by the food and drink he ingests. On a fast day, vitality comes from the body itself, from energy stored in its cells. In other words, on less holy days, it is an outside force (the energy in one’s food and drink) that keeps body and soul together; on Yom Kippur, the union of body and soul derives from the body itself.

Yom Kippur thus offers a taste of the culminant state of creation known as the “World to Come.” The Talmud tells us that “in the World to Come, there is neither eating nor drinking” – a statement that is sometimes understood to imply that in its ultimate and most perfect state, creation is wholly spiritual, devoid of bodies and all things physical. Kabbalistic and Chassidic teaching, however, describe the World to Come as a world in which the physical dimension of existence is not abrogated, but is preserved and elevated. The fact that there is “neither eating or drinking” in the World to Come is not due to an absence of bodies and physical life, but to the fact that in this future world, “the soul will be nourished by the body” itself, and the symbiosis of matter and spirit that is man will not require any outside sources of nutrition to sustain it.

Two Vehicles

The physical and the spiritual are both creations of G-d. Both were brought into being by Him out of utter nothingness, and each bears the imprint of its Creator in the particular qualities that define it.

The spiritual, with its intangibility and its transcendence of time and space, reflects the infinity and sublimity of G-d. The spiritual is also naturally submissive, readily acknowledging its subservience to a higher truth. It is these qualities that make the spiritual “holy” and a vehicle of relationship with G-d.

The physical, on the other hand, is tactual, egocentric and immanent – qualities that brand it “mundane” rather than holy, that mark it as an obfuscation, rather than a revelation, of the divine truth that “there is none else besides Him” – that G-d is the sole source and end of all existence.

Ultimately, however, everything comes from G-d; every feature of His every creation has its source in Him and serves to reveal His truth. So on a deeper level, the very qualities that make the physical “unholy” are the qualities that make it the most sacred and g-dly of G-d’s creations. For what is the “I am” of the physical if not an echo of the unequivocal being of G-d? What is the tactility of the physical if not an intimation of the absoluteness of His reality? What is the “selfishness” of the physical if not an offshoot, however remote, of the exclusivity of the Divine expressed in the axiom “There is none else besides Him”?

Today, the physical world shows us only its most superficial face, in which the divine characteristics stamped in it are concealed, rather than a revelation, of G-dliness. Today, when the physical object conveys to us “I am,” it bespeaks not the reality of G-d but an independent, self-sufficient existence that challenges, rather than reiterates, the divine truth. But in the World to Come, the product of the labor of a hundred generations to sanctify the material world toward a G-dly end, the true face of the physical will come to light.

In the World to Come, the physical will be no less a vehicle of divinity than the spiritual. In fact, in many respects, it will surpass the spiritual as a conveyor of the G-dliness. For a while the spiritual expresses various divine characteristics – G-d’s infinity, transcendence, etc. – the physical expresses the being of G-d.

Today, the body must look to the soul as its moral guide, as its source of awareness and appreciation of all things divine. But in the World to Come, “the soul will be nourished by the body.” The physical body will be a source of divine awareness and identification that is loftier than the soul’s own spiritual vision.

Yom Kippur is a taste of this future world of reverse biology. It is thus a day on which we are “sustained by hunger,” deriving our sustenance from the body itself. On this holiest of days, the body becomes a source of life and nurture rather than its recipient.

Based on an address by the Rebbe, Erev Yom Kippur 5750 (1989)


In memory of Shmuel ben Nisan O.B.M.- Samuel Stroum - 
Yartzeit March 9, 2001/14 Adar 5761 


May We All Have An Easy And Meaningful Fast

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Nitzavim-Vayelech

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Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this week's article entitled, "FROM THE KITCHEN TO THE MISHNAH" published in Here's My Story for Parsha Nitzavim-Vayeilech.

Mrs. Alice Zlotnick is a professional artist presently living in Jerusalem, Israel. She was interviewed in her home in December of 2006.

To read the article, please click this link:  http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/245.-Nitzavim-Vayeilech-5777.pdf

Be well. 

Have a good Shabbos. 

Warmly,

Rabbi S.B. Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin for Parsha Ki Tavo

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Dear Friend,
I am pleased to share this week's article entitled, "THE REBBE ASKED FOR A FAVOR" published in Here's My Story for Parsha Ki Tavo. To read the article, please click http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/244.-Ki-Savo-57771.pdf

Be well. 
Have a good Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | “The Sun, the Moon…and Millions in Awe”

“The Sun, the Moon…and Millions in Awe”
{Excerpts from Wall Street Journal Aug 22, 2017} 

“Up and down the street, all through the eclipse, people spontaneously came together – Shop workers and neighborhood mothers, kids and bank employees, shoppers and tourists. They’d gather in groups and look up together. Usually one or two people would have the special glasses, and they’d be passed around. Everyone would put them on and look up and say “Wow!” or “Incredible!” and then laugh and hand the glasses on.
 
There was something about it (eclipse) that left me by the end quite moved. Witnessing spontaneous human graciousness and joy is stirring. And we were seeing something majestic, an assertion of nature and nature’s G-d, together. It was tenderly communal. And it was this: Everyone was normal. These were the regular Americans being nice to one another and to whoever walked by. They were all ages, conditions, races, sizes. They were generous and kindly. No one kept their pleasure to themselves.”
 

“For two minutes, all eyes were on the sky”
{Title quoted from Seattle Times, Tuesday, August 22, 2017}
 
It was 8:45 AM the day of the eclipse; I was walking into a local QFC grocery store. It was quite empty (I guess people were out finding the perfect place to view the eclipse). A couple walked up to me and I engaged them in conversation about the coming eclipse. I asked them, “So what is the bottom line?” They looked at me awkwardly, not fully understanding what I meant. I asked them how this was going to help the homeless in our community. Jane looked at me and quietly responded, “It’s not.”
 

Tropical Storm Harvey
“America to the Rescue”
{Quoted from the New York Times, August 30, 2017}
 
Americans’ response to disasters has always been extraordinary. When our neighbors are in need, we are the first to respond and do so in truly admirable ways. Watching the people in their private boats pull up to rescue fellow citizens – irrespective of race, color, religion, or political affiliation – during a flood, gives us hope and brings out the common denominator that we are all made in G-d’s image.  The challenge then, for us is how to sustain this level of commitment to each other. As the writer Danny Heitman writes in his article After a Hurricane, the Cameras Move on and the World Forgets:  “The tragedy of Harvey has reminded me that compassion for catastrophic suffering shouldn’t be a momentary impulse, but a commitment of months, maybe years.”
 
This brings to mind some important questions: How does one maintain focused, consistent efforts to truly make a difference? How are we able to sit in reflection about important events and what those events, be they eclipses or hurricanes, mean? How do we internalize these events to then make a positive and lasting impact on ourselves and then to our fellow man? How do we stay engaged with our internal and external worlds?
 

A Biblical Perspective: The Splitting of the Red Sea
{The following are quotes from Parshas Beshalach 13/17/18}
 
“It happened when Paraoh sent the people that G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, because it was near, for G-d said, ‘Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see a war, and they will return to Egypt.’ And G-d took the people around toward the way of the Wilderness to the Sea of Reeds.”
 
Parshas Beshalach continues: “Egypt pursued them and overtook them, encamped by the sea – all the horses and chariots of Paraoh, and his horsemen and army […] Pharaoh brought himself close; the Children of Israel raised their eyes and behold! – Egypt was journeying after them, and they were very frightened; the Children of Israel cried out to Hashem.
 
Hashem said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey! And you – lift up your staff and stretch out your arm over the sea and split it; and the Children of Israel shall come into the midst of the sea on dry land.
 
The children of Israel came within the sea on dry land; and the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left.
 
Then Moses and the Children of Israel sang this song to Hashem [and among the verses of this song is the following]: G-d’s strength and power to eradicate has been a salvation for me. This is my G-d and I will beautify Him; the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him.”
 
From Rashi: “This is my G-d. He revealed Himself to them in His glory, and they would point to Him with a finger. Even a mere slave-woman saw at the sea that which the prophets did not see.”
 

Revelation at Sinai
{The following are quotes from Parshas Yisro 19/1-3}
 
“In the third month from the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, on this day, they arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai. They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the Wilderness and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.” Rashi puts it: “And Israel encamped there, as one man, with one heart – but all the other encampments were with complaints and argumentation.”
 
So again, the question is: how do we maintain these lofty feelings of G-dly awareness, by witnessing miraculous events and retaining those powerful moments of awe or the feelings of love, unity and responsibility to others during a natural disaster?

The Month of Elul
 
We are now in the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish year. Elul is traditionally a time of introspection and stocktaking – a time to review one’s deeds and spiritual progress over the past year, and prepare for the upcoming “Days of Awe” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
 
Elul, the last month of the Jewish year, is a time of paradox – a time of what might be termed, “spiritual workdays.”
 
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains the paradox of Elul with the following metaphor: The king’s usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.
 
However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace.
 
The month of Elul, says Rabbi Schneur Zalman, is when the king is in the field.
The opportunity of Elul – where self-reflection and preparation for the New Year is an imperative – enables us to go deep into our spiritual DNA and in a focused, sustained manner, deal with our limitations and resolve to do better.
 
Appreciating in a very personal way, all that the good G-d provides us, launches us into a new reality – it offers the opportunity for real change. This can help us to maintain a sustained awareness of all the phenomena that we live through – whether an eclipse or G-d forbid, a hurricane – to bring out the best in us in our connection to G-d and sustained feelings of compassion and caring for our fellow human beings.
 
From our Holy Rebbe (obm), Ha Yom-Yom, Menachem Av 29: “There must be avoda (service) by one’s own efforts. Superior heights are attained when one is taken by the hand and led; it is more precious though, when it is by one’s own strength.”
 
Have a beautiful Shabbos. May Almighty G-d bless and provide for all the needs of our fellow citizens in Houston and beyond.
 
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin
 
{Quotes from Peggy Noonan were included in the first two paragraphs of this article.}

 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Shoftim

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Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this week's article entitled, "Better Than the Original" published in Here's My Story for Parsha Shoftim.

To read the article, please click this link: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/242.-Shoftim-5777.pdf.

Be well. 

Have a good Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Re'eh

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Dear Friend,

I am happy to share this article entitled, "No Need for Miracles" originally published in Here's My Story in 2016.

Lisette (Leah) Sayeg is a community social worker and shadchan who lives in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where she was interviewed in her home in June of 2010.

Check here to read the story: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/191.-Shoftim-5776.pdf.

Be well. Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Eikev

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Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this article for Parsha Eikev entitled "The Rebbe's Generals" originally published in Here's My Story.

Mr. David Mayer lives with his family in Los Angeles, California, where he worked as an executive in the toy industry for over three decades. He was interviewed in the My Encounter studio in January of 2016.

Please click on the link to read the article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/238.-Devarim-5777.pdf.

Be well. Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Va'etchanan

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Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this week's article entitled, "Temporarily Permanent" from Here's My Story for Parsha Va'etchanan.

Please click this link to read the article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/239.-Vaetchanan-5777.pdf.

Be well. Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin for Parsha Devarim "You Are Amazing"

While walking into my office earlier this week, I noticed several construction workers removing trees in front of our building. As I approached the front door, I greeted them in my usual manner and after a few minutes of banter, I shared with a couple of the men one of my favorite suggestions: “When you wake in the morning, say these three words to yourself: Thank You, G-d.” One young man seemed particularly struck by this and replied with a few words of his own: “You are amazing.” These simple, yet profound words took me aback, so I asked him what exactly he meant and he repeated: “You are amazing. You were made in the image of G-d.” I was floored. In all my years of interacting with people on the streets, no one has ever said these words to me.

Constructive Rebuke  

"The Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of the Torah, is devoted chiefly to Moses’ farewell addresses, which he delivered to the Jewish people shortly before his death and their entry into the Land of Israel. The first section of the book records his words (Devarim, in Hebrew) of rebuke to the Jewish people over various incidents that took place during their 40 years of wandering in the desert, and the lesson they must learn from their mistakes.

There are, in fact, two intertwined and overlapping strata of content in Moses’ farewell address. The first comprises his exhortations to the Jewish people to remain loyal to G-d; the second is a review of much of the legal subject matter contained in the preceding four books. Although we might expect from the first type of material to appear in the farewell address, why was it necessary to rephrase so much of the legal material that had apparently been clearly stated before?

Another striking feature of the Book of Deuteronomy is its literary form. Unlike the preceding books, Moses now speaks in the first person. The phrase we have heard continuously in the preceding books – 'And G-d spoke to Moses, saying . . .' – is almost entirely absent from Deuteronomy.

The sages tell us that although Moses transmitted the first four books from G-d verbatim and Deuteronomy 'in his own name', nevertheless, even in the latter case 'the Divine Presence spoke from his mouth.' In other words, the Book of Deuteronomy is no less Divine than the first four books of the Torah, but whereas the first four books are G-d’s words transmitted directly by Moses, Deuteronomy is G-d’s words transmitted through Moses. But if this is the case, why the sudden change in literary form between the first four books and the final one?

The answer to both these questions hinges on the fact that this book is addressed to the generation that will enter the Land of Israel. The abrupt change in lifestyle – from a nation of nomads sustained by G-d’s supernatural protection into a nation of farmers who must work the land – called for a practical restatement of G-d’s hitherto abstract teachings. The generation of the desert had been nourished with miracles, beginning with the ten plagues and the Exodus from Egypt, through the Splitting of the Sea, to the revelation at Mount Sinai, the manna, the [water] well of Miriam, and the protective Clouds of Glory. Their perspective on life had thus been elevated to a level quite above and beyond the ordinary; G-d’s normally invisible hand in nature had become a manifest reality for them. They were thus able to relate to the Torah in a concomitantly abstract, spiritual way, and that is how it was transmitted to them. All of this was about to change. G-d’s hand in the parameters of day-to-day life was about to become veiled in the garb of nature.

This transition was a natural and essential part of achieving G-d’s purpose on earth: to transform it into a holy place, in which not nature but G-d is understood to be the driving force. In order for the façade of nature to be removed, humanity, led by the Jewish people, had to now invest itself into the natural order and, in that context, retain consciousness of G-d, revealing the infinite within the finite.

This is why it was necessary for the Book of Deuteronomy to be transmitted in the first person. By communicating the message of Deuteronomy via the voice of Moses, G-d was telling us that even while remaining faithful to the Torah’s objective truth, we must see its subjective relevance to every individual and in every generation. In this sense, the first-person narrative of Deuteronomy indicates not a lesser Divinity than the other four books, but a greater one.

The Book of Deuteronomy is thus a lesson in keeping the Torah alive and relevant, the means by which we can recommence the study of the Torah on the new level of understanding. By ensuring that the Torah remain eternally relevant, we can read it from an always deeper, fresher, newer perspective, and thereby continually deepen, freshen, and renew our relationship with G-d."


In closing, Parsha Devarim is about bringing the purpose of Torah out into the world, by infusing the G-dly into the physical and mundane, to the extent that in the streets of Seattle in July 5777 (2017), a young man named Jason feels inspired to quote the bible to a Rabbi.

Be well. Have a good Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

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