Parashat Devarim- Make a YOU-Turn
א. אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל....
I have absolutely no sense of direction, everyone knows this. I feel bad for the people I gives rides to (consider this a public apology). If my life depended on it, I probably wouldn’t be able to get to my destination without circling the place three times-even if I’ve been there fifty times before (sadly I’m not exaggerating). GPS is my best friend. But for most normal people, directions are simple ‘Oh, I’ve been there before! I know how to get there, it’s easy!’
Sefer Devarim is referred to as Mishneh Torah- the Second Torah. In a basic understanding, it is a repetition of many Missvot and experiences that have been recorded in the previous Four Sefarim of the Torah HaKedoshah. One must ask, if we heard it all before, why does HaKadosh Barukh Hu see it as imperative to include an entire Sefer in the Torah as mere repetition?
Before we answer any questions, you should know, repetition is a good thing- it’s really a gift.
During the nine months that a fetus spends in its mother’s womb, there is a Malakh, an angel, that teaches this child the Torah in its entirety. When the child is born, an angel touches the top of the child’s lip, and he forgets everything he learned in the past nine months. (This is why we have that indent on top of our upper lip- it’s called the ‘philtrum’). Wait a second, what was the point of teaching this child the entire Torah in the first place if he was going to have it forgotten anyways? How does this make sense? And what is this whole business with indenting my upper lip with his finger?
HaShem does such a thing so that when during our lives we learn a piece of Torah, it will seem familiar to us because we technically already learned it once before. This second time that we learn it is now just a repetition, and so, Torah learning (and implementing what we learn) is made more feasible for us to do.
One of my favorite Pesukim (it’s in Sefer Hoshea) is ‘Kehu Imakhem Devarim, ve’Shuvu el HaShem’- Take with you ‘Devarim’ and return to HaShem. ‘Devarim’ can mean a few things here- ‘Things’ and ‘Words’. Take your ‘actions’ and do Teshuvah with them, return to HaShem! With our actions, we are capable of doing full Teshuvah- doing Missvot, giving Sedaka. At the same time, we could also take our ‘words’ and do Teshuvah with them- Tefillah, Shirah, Shemirat haLashon. Everyone has a different way of connecting to HaKadosh Barukh Hu, and everyone has something different that they must work on, so whether it’s your actions or your words, use them as a way of returning to HaShem. (This is maybe why an angel’s finger touches our lips- the hand representing actions and lips resembling words).
With the framework we have just set, we could understand this Pasuk yet another way. ‘Kehu Imakhem Devarim’- Take with you Sefer Devarim, ‘ve’Shuvu el HaShem’- and return to HaShem. Take with you everything that Sefer Devarim stands for, take everything it encapsulates, and do Teshuvah this way.
Sefer Devarim represents repetition, right? Let’s apply this.
What does ‘Teshuvah’ mean literally? It means to ‘Return’; not ‘visit’, not ‘approach’, not ‘direct ourselves’, and not ‘walk towards’. It means ‘Return’. If we are returning somewhere, it means we have been there before. If we have been somewhere before, going back there should be easier for us. Like with directions, this path should seem familiar to us already. Doing Teshuvah isn’t as hard as we think it to be. As far away as we may be, we’ve been way closer to HaShem before, all we have to do is retrace our steps back.
Some people however, like me, could sometimes find retracing steps to be difficult and confusing still, even if they have been there before. For that there is GPS- G-d’s Personalized Solution. HaShem helps you each step along the way, along your own personal path.
-Like the satellite GPS that we are familiar with, it knows exactly where you are located now, and directs you exactly towards your destination. HaShem does the same with us.
-The GPS gives us step by step directions how to get to our destination, simplifying it for us and guides us every step if the way, ‘In one mile, make a right’, ‘Continue straight for 2.8 miles’, ‘Take Exit 36’. This is exactly how HaShem guides us as well, step by step.
-Should we ever make a mistake, should we ever come off the path we’re meant to be going along, the GPS reads ‘Recalculating’ and puts us back on the correct direction. It does this every time we make a mistake. The GPS never gives up. Doesn’t HaKadosh Barukh Hu do the same?
-Most of all, the GPS is patient and kind with us. When it feeds us directions, it doesn’t yell at us or criticize us. Just imagine, ‘I told you fifty times to make a right here! Are you blind?? I had enough of you today! Go ask someone else for directions, I’m done. You could walk for all I care!’ and then under its breath, ‘Gosh, somebody give me an Advil… or three…’ HaShem Yerahem. In the most soothing and calm voice, the GPS directs us where we need to go. It is our best companion.
Understandably, we each have different ways to get to the same destination- some of us better with words and some of us with actions. The GPS that accompanies all of us is specifically geared for each user, as we all tend to take different streets to get to the same place. But nevertheless, we all have one thing in common. We take ‘Devarim’ to return to HaKadosh Barukh Hu- we use what Devarim represents in order to do Teshuvah- we us the gift of repetition.
Teshuvah isn’t a one way path. It is a giant U-turn. We start at the top, and inevitably, in life we can experience moving downward at times, but we use this momentum to move upward again using the same path we were once on and end up where we once stood- right besides HaKadosh Barukh Hu.
As confusing as this may sound, these are the only directions I know I will never mess up on.
Be’Ezrat HaShem Yitbarakh, may we be zokhim to internalize the precepts of Sefer Devarim and what it represents. In the next few months, we will be preparing ourselves for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The Teshuvah process begins now. We should all be zokhim to do Teshuvah Shelemah in front of HaShem and in this merit, may we personally experience the building of the Beit HaMikdash beKarov, making this Tisha’a be’Av a joyous day for all of Kelal Yisrael!
Wishing every special Yid a Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!
Make Your Neshamah Fly!