Topic: Well Being | Posted:August 20, 2014
Literally translated, the beginning of this portion says, "See that I am putting before you today blessings and curses," and usually the understanding of this verse is that the Creator is speaking through Moses. However, in the Midrash, it says that the "I" who is being referred to in the first verse is not the Creator, but rather Moses. Moses is telling the Israelites, essentially, "Look at my life, look at what I have accomplished, look at the great level of connection, the great level of wisdom that I've achieved." When you initially hear this, it's a little strange because one thing we know about Moses is that he was the most humble of all people. Why then, before he leaves this world, is he telling the Israelites "Look at me, pay attention to the greatness that I've achieved..."?
The answer is that one of the biggest problems the Israelites had at that time in the desert – and that we all have today - is not having enough strength and conviction in their own abilities. Therefore, to awaken an appreciation for both who they are and what they can accomplish, Moses says to them, "Even though I spent my entire life hiding, not wanting people to see my greatness, I have to let you know the greatness that I have achieved, and let you know that you can achieve that too." There is an importance, Moses is telling them, in looking at the path that we've chosen and the Light and blessings that have come to us from it.
There are times when a person has to let go of some of their humility and take strength in the blessings that he or she has received from the path they’ve chosen. The kabbalists speak about one of the righteous kings, one of the tzadikim whose name was Yehoshafat, and it says, "His heart rose and became strong in the path of the Creator." Meaning that because he chose that path, he became strengthened by it. And what we really are learning here from Moses is a fundamental teaching that if you are not strong in your sense of the blessings that are coming to you because of the path you’ve chosen, then you're really unable to completely receive all the Light and blessings that path has to offer.
So, when Moses says to the Israelites, "Look what has become of my life because of the choices I've made," what he really is saying is that all of us have to take the time to look at the blessings, wisdom, and connection that have come to us from the choice of the path we’ve chosen and to strengthen our understanding of who we already have become.
Because Yehoshafat had achieved that level of true understanding, which is referred to as the elevation of his heart, he took the time to realize, "Because of the choices that I've made, this is who I've already become." Therefore, it says that because he took the time to realize the great blessings, wisdom, and growth that he had achieved, Yehoshafat, by choosing this path, was then able to push himself further and do more. And that's how we know, the kabbalists teach, whether our strengthening of our heart or certainty in ourselves is coming from the right place. Because what we do learn from Moses on this Shabbat is that it is not always good to be diminishing ourselves; there are times when a person has to look at his path once he's chosen it and look at all the Light and miracles that have come to him - and continue to come to him - because of that choice.
Further, it says about Yehoshafat that because he became strengthened when he looked at the path that he had chosen and the Light and the miracles and wisdom that had come to him from it, he went out to do more and help others. The Gaon of Vilna said you know if the strength you take upon yourself is coming from the right place if that strength is pushing you to do more, because what the negative side wants us to do is not realize what we've already accomplished, and as such, not go out and do more, not go out and try to help more people and push them to stop doing negative things.
So, this is one of the teachings Moses gives us on this Shabbat. When he says, "Look at me," he means that every single one of us should look at ourselves and take strength in, become stronger in, what we’re doing and how we’re doing… to take the time to say, "Look what I've become. Look at all the wisdom. None of us are perfect. We all have a long way to go, but look at all that I've received, look at all the miracles that have occurred in my life, look at all the joy that has come into my life because I chose this path." And what is the purpose of that elevation of our heart, with the choice of this path that we've taken? It means we know that this thought, that this awakening of our strength, is coming from the right place if it then pushes us, as the Gaon of Vilna says, to do more. In our spirituality, we know it's important sometimes to diminish the ego. However, we don't often appreciate the necessity every once in a while, especially on this Shabbat, to stop and take stock of everything that has changed in our lives since we've been on this path.
As we know, we have just finished the three weeks of destruction and are in the seven weeks of building. And there is a story that the kabbalists used to speak about regarding why that destruction occurred. It says there was a great sage during the time of the destruction whose name was Zachariah, the son of Rav Arush, who did not achieve this level of strength in his path, even though he was very humble. In fact, it says that because of the humility of Zachariah ben Rav Arush, the destruction occurred. He did not have that inner strength to be able to go in front of people who maybe he thought he was less than, and give his opinion and stand strong for it. And therefore, because of his humility, the destruction occurred. What we have to realize from this is that we must not shy away from pushing other people, helping other people, speaking to other people because we think, "I'm not there yet, it’s not right for me to be talking in this way. It's not right for me to stand up in this way."
On this Shabbat, take the time to look at the path you’ve chosen. Take the time to look at the Light, miracles, and blessings it's already brought you. And from that, draw strength, elevate your heart, elevate your certainty in yourself. Don’t fall to those thoughts that come to mind, like, "Not now, not me, maybe if I were smarter or wiser." There's no question that every single one of us has Light, blessings, and miracles we can awaken which we don’t because we lack this certainty in ourselves and don't take enough time to look back at all the Light that already has come. Take the time to look at all the miracles that you’ve already created and all the wisdom that you’ve already accomplished by your commitment to the path you’ve chosen.