Deuteronomy, 29:9-30:20; 31:1-31:30
This Week’s Torah Portion | August 25 – August 31, 2013 – Elul 19 – Elul 25, 5773
In A Nutshell
The portion, Nitzavim (Standing), deals with Moses’ speech regarding the covenant between Israel and the Creator. Moses makes it clear that the Torah applies to the whole of the people of Israel, to every single one, and was given to posterity. Moses stresses the principle of choice: should a person worship other gods, he will be exiled from the land. But if he wishes to be reformed, the path is through repentance. The Creator allows the people to choose between life and death, but commands them, “Therefore choose life” (Deuteronomy, 30:19).
In the portion, VaYelech (Moses Went), Moses gives his final speech before the people’s entrance to the land of Israel. He reinforces the people so they will not fear fighting for the land because the Creator is with them, and he officially hands over the leadership to Joshua, son of Nun. Moses writes the Torah and instructs the people of Israel to assemble once every seven years to read the Torah. The Creator reveals to Moses that in the future, the people of Israel will sin, and commands him to write a song through which the people will remember the Creator.
Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman
It may seem as though portions repeat themselves, but any repetition is at a new degree. The whole Torah deals only with the correction of the soul. It is as if the soul is cut into slices according to the degrees of the great will to receive, which is why it appears to be the same.
Similarly, each day in our lives seems to resemble the next, yet each day feels different, and life consists of many days joined together. The special thing about this process is that it is not about the people of Israel or the desert, but about an individual going through the stages of one’s spiritual development.
The spiritual development is done in two stages. The first is the preparation in Babylon, in the Bilbul (confusion). The second stage is in Egypt. In this world, a person tries to do as one sees fit, but gives up because this world is leading us into a state where we are not achieving good results in life. The result is a crisis, similar to the one the world is in today.
And yet, we do not seek the meaning of life, but money, power, respect, pleasures, freedom, vacations, and we are beginning to understand that it is impossible to have them. Whether due to personal crises or because of the global crisis, we finally come to the fundamental question, “What is the meaning of my life?” We seek satisfaction in life but we cannot find it anywhere, and without satisfaction we feel like Prophet Jonah, who said, “It is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah, 4:3).
We seek fulfillment, but we arrive at a situation where there is only one way, as we are discovering these days. Gradually, the whole world is approaching the stage of the question about the meaning of life. Due to the crisis, we are all facing a state of bankruptcy. Although it currently seems that only banks and large corporations are moving toward it, in truth, the whole world is faced with the questions, “What are we doing with ourselves, with our lives?” “What is it all for?” “What is going on here?” These questions lead us to the answer that everything is happening only so we may rise above the satisfaction in our own short lives.
While we are beginning to search for the real fulfillment, the eternal and complete one, above this transient life, we go through stages of inner corrections that lead us toward another life, to the spiritual life, the life of the soul. It is as though we acquire another body, an internal one, which is not made of flesh, but which is all desire. Our corporeal body, the flesh, is where that desire dresses, and it is called a “soul,” which we must reveal and nurture.
There are two stages in the development of that body: the first is called Moses, and the second is called Joshua. Moses is called the “faithful shepherd.” In that stage we rise to the degree of Bina, to bestow with the aim to bestow. It is a degree that is all bestowal, faith. The degrees where we acquire the quality of Moses, the revealing of the spiritual body, are called the “forty years in the desert.”
Following the revealing of the spiritual body—the Kli (vessel) of the soul—we work on filling it with light. We acquire the Kli, conquer the land of Israel, expel from there what is unfitting and undesirable, and fill our Kli with the upper light. This is the degree of receiving with the aim to bestow, the degree of Joshua. It is a higher degree than Moses, or in fact, an “improved” degree of Moses.
We advance in conquering the land (desire) by working on our egotistical will to receive, which opposes us and tries to fail us each step of the way. We get stranded, err, and constantly have troubles with the covenant. We must connect with the will to bestow and constantly choose life, as it is written (Deuteronomy 30:19), “Therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your descendants.”
We can acquire the additional, spiritual life, while we are living in our physiological bodies. It depends solely on our correction, on the extent to which we are immersed in the intention to bestow, on how filled we are with the upper light. When we obtain the upper light we are rewarded with eternal life. This is really our goal; it is the purpose of our lives here in this world, in our physical bodies. The knowledge of that used to be in the hands of a chosen few, unique individuals in each generation, but today the whole world is awakening toward it, and we will all need to reveal our souls.
The portions that speak of the entrance to the land of Israel mention Joshua’s new leadership, and new laws. Today the world is also moving into a new stage, new laws. Will explanations about it help or is it impossible to understand anything until we are actually in the new world?
First we need to recognize our helplessness, that deficiency, similar to the way it happened in the desert when we faced the entrance to the land of Israel but did not know what to do and feared entering it. Even prior to that, at the foot of Mount Sinai, there was a problem of great hatred, similar to the one that is threatening to burst throughout the world today, and pull us into a third world war, a nuclear one.
And prior to Mount Sinai we had to jump into the Red Sea and cross it despite the very real fear of death. Today we are feeling the same great obstacles, standing before us like impassable walls. And yet, the Torah always opens a door before us.
Baal HaSulam writes about it beautifully in a story about a man who sees a wall with a door. He approaches the door, opens it, and enters. In spirituality there is a wall, if you can put it this way because we currently do not see anything at all. We still cannot see what is separating us from spirituality. First, we discover the wall. When we want to break in, seemingly jump into it head first, we discover the door, we attempt to enter, and the door immediately opens.
We see this many times in the Torah: By the Red Sea, Nahshon jumped and the sea opened, by Mount Sinai, and in other cases. The thing is that we are required to “go for it,” to choose life, where for us, this is life, while the current life is death.
Moses Is the Dominion of the Sun; Joshua Is the Dominion of the Moon
“The Creator said to Moses: ‘Moses, do you wish for the world to change? Have you ever seen the sun worshiping the moon? Have you ever seen the moon governing while the sun is still present? Rather, your dying days have come; summon Joshua. Let the sun be taken and let the moon govern. Moreover, if you enter the land, the moon will be taken because of you and will not be able to govern. Indeed, the governance of the moon, Joshua, has arrived, and it cannot rule as long as you are in the world.’”
Zohar for All, VaYelech (Moses Went), item 12
These are two degrees. It is impossible to move from one degree to the next without completing the first. First, one must complete the degree of Moses, degree of Bina—bestowing with the aim to bestow. From it, one advances to the degree of Joshua, to receive in order to bestow. This is the conquest of the land, the entrance to the land of Israel—a desire that is aimed entirely toward bestowal.
In other words, the degree of Moses is “that which you hate, do not do to your friend.” The degree of Joshua is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is a higher degree, an extension of the degree of Moses. The next degree is always another step closer to the end of correction compared to the previous one, and Moses is the fundamental level of all the degrees.
What does it mean that the Creator informs Moses that the people will sin?
There is no other way. We advance only through sins, through the wicked that appear to a person. The Creator says to us in advance, “I have created the evil inclination.”
The whole of creation is the evil inclination. The evil inclination is ill-will, an egotistical desire, the opposite of the Creator. It is a desire to receive with the aim to receive, to be contemptuous of everyone, to exploit, steal from, and deceive everyone. The Creator does not hide what He has done, but explains that He did all that so we would correct ourselves and rise above that ill-will.
The wisdom of Kabbalah is the only one that explains to us how to correct ourselves. One who feels truly deserving of correction must do something with the ego, with oneself, one’s life, and find the fulfillment in life. This is when one comes to the wisdom of Kabbalah. Everything else we do in life is merely customs, but they do not correct us, or even reveal to us that we are bad.
Before Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew New Year’s Eve) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), a time of introspection and reflection, we say, “We have betrayed.” We say that we are wicked indeed, both toward each other and toward the Creator. But were it not written in the prayer-books, who would think that it was so? In fact, even when we read it in the prayer-books we do not really sympathize with it or feel that it is really so.
Why does the Creator have to command us to choose life? Who would choose death?
Our physiological life and death are completely out of our control. Once we are born, there is no question that we will also die. But even the choice whether to be born is not in our hands. From the moment we emerge from the womb, we are beginning our march toward death. It follows that the command to choose life has nothing to do with the physical life.
Does the Creator pave a good path and a bad one, and then says, “Choose,” recommending that we choose the good?
Choosing the good indicates that a person is acquiring the spiritual life while still in this life. “Therefore choose life” refers to the spiritual life. The choice is whether to end life as an ordinary person would—at the end of the physical existence, having lived in order to serve the body, putting it to bed, bathing it, and satisfying its other needs—or to rise to another level while still being in the physical body. The Torah is for those who wish to ascend to another degree, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination, I have created the Torah as a spice.” In that case, “the light in it reforms them.”
When a person comes to that Torah (law) of life, to eternity and perfection, that person acquires the additional life during this life. When that happens, that person does not die even when the body does.
These days we are beginning to feel a little bit like one people. We empathize, and we are beginning to deliberate. Are we faced with a very big move we will have to take?
Now is the first time in history that people do not know what to do with the world. We are discovering that everything we have developed over the years is gradually halting, becoming dysfunctional. We do not know what will work and what will not. Suddenly, everything “slips through our fingers,” and leaders do not know how to run the business, for all their knowledge and advisors.
Is this the wall we spoke of earlier, which we keep encountering in every direction?
Yes, we are discovering that the Godly system is beginning to appear. It is called, “the revelation of the Creator to the creatures.” When the Godly force—Godly quality (of bestowal)—appears, it is a system that we do not know how to handle.
Man is the evil inclination. Yet, all of a sudden the good inclination is appearing before us. However, we do not recognize it as good. We see that the world is global, integral, and everyone is interconnected and interdependent, but we do not want to live in it. This is the point where we discover that we are made of the opposite material. After all, the Creator says, “I have created the evil inclination” in you, and here a system appears before us that creates the good, where everyone is connected. If you try to adapt yourself to that system you will find life, “therefore choose life.”
Which Joshua do we need now?
These forces, Moses and Joshua, exist in all of us.
Is there a difference between how people searched thirty years ago, when each was searching personally, and how they search today?
Even when everything was fine, people still need to answer the question about life’s purpose.
But there is a huge difference because today people are not asking what we are living for; the crisis is coming to their doorsteps.
Even today there are people who come to study Kabbalah because they are asking about the meaning of life, the purpose of life, even though they are generally happy. They do not come because of suffering in their everyday life, but because of the emotional pain, since they are empty nonetheless. However, those who come to study Kabbalah are about one percent of the global population. The rest come because of the problems in their daily lives.
Assuming a person is from Japan, and has experienced the earthquake and tsunami, and then the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, would that person not ask, “What is going on here?” “Am I missing something?” Or, would that person simply be lost and would not know how to cope with the world, and anyone who sympathizes with him or her would feel the same?
Every nation, person, and every part in the world is treated differently. We do not know in what way because it has to do with “soul sentences,” but we will all feel the immense pressures that are pushing us toward the entrance to the network of connections between us, the global and integral network that is now slowly appearing, and to which we are not adapted.
Now is the first time in history that we must change and adapt ourselves to the ties that are appearing between us. Previously, we built egotistical connections between us however we wanted. But now we must work to the contrary. The emerging network is “telling us”: “You have to adjust yourselves to me, or you will not succeed.”
Moses encouraged the people to be brave because the Creator is with them. From where can such confidence come? Is it because we are marching toward a very bad situation?
It is the confidence. It is not a bad situation; it depends on how you look at it. Looking at what is appearing before us, we can see that it is salvation. We are being presented with a beautiful example, an opportunity to connect with everyone. The negative reactions we all feel, the suffering, mayhem, problems, and confusions are all so we will try to direct ourselves correctly through them, so we will try to adapt ourselves to our newly formed connections.
These new connections are the Creator Himself; it is the quality of bestowal appearing between us. Of course we hate it and reject it. We do not understand it, but it is Him. This is called “the revelation of the Creator to the creatures. These are really the days of the Messiah, when that light is gradually appearing, a light of bestowal drawing us from our egos upward.
But if a person has no point in the heart, you cannot talk to him before he suffers.
What confidence can we promise? Can we say to him, “Wait, suffer a little more and then we will talk”?
No. Of course he must suffer, but here is where the wisdom of Kabbalah appears in order to explain the reason for the suffering. A person needs to suffer very little, like a clever child who understand and walks in the right direction after the first hint.
Our calendar guarantees that we will achieve all the corrections and abundance by the end of the six thousand years. The question is, “How much will we suffer along the way?” We can shorten these times by ourselves, and not wait another 220 years or so, but rather accomplish it in our current lives.
The end of the portion speaks about Moses being commanded to write a song, to prepare for Israel something that will remind them of the goal. What is so special about song?
The song is for the future, should Israel sin. It is not like the songs we know today, but a special connection between a person and the correcting upper force. It is a system of connections by which one evokes upon oneself the power of correction.
Even when one sins, one can be certain that the mechanism that Moses built in us will help. Moses is the force of bestowal within us. It is absolutely clear of reception, and we return to it when we sin, so it will help us reform ourselves.
Is there no connection whatsoever between this song and songs we speak of today, with rhymes and melodies?
Of course there is no connection between this song and the ones with rhymes and melodies. The song we are speaking of is like a book. A book is disclosure, a Megillah (scroll, from the word Gilui, disclosure).
So it is a spiritual mechanism, like The Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is not a song you sing. A musical piece truly has something about it, and a song evokes emotions.
Clearly, we have emotional expressions on different levels. However, here we are speaking of a special mechanism, such as King David, who wrote Psalms, Solomon, who wrote The Song of Songs, or Moses, who wrote the song. It concerns writing about a special mechanism of connection, which helps the next degrees that fall into sin rise again.
We read in Psalms, or The Song of Songs, or Moses’ song whenever we can take something in our hands, rely on something and thus advance.
The Creator commanded Israel to read it every seven years once they entered the land of Israel.
Seven years marks a complete degree: Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, Yesod, Malchut.
Once we are in the land of Israel and unite, will we still sin?
Yes, no doubt. It was said in advance. From the beginning of the portion we are told, “Do not be afraid to come in; there will be wars there, but you will be saved.”
Israel’s wars are only wars with our desires. It is not the land of Israel, where we must conquer seven nations, but our own seven Klipot (shells), opposite the seven pure spiritual qualities. The war is with our own will to receive, which is egotistical and is called a Klipa (shell). It is the evil inclination that we correct, and thus achieve the conquest of the land, as the desire turns into bestowal, into love of others.
The whole Torah is “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is what we must achieve. Therefore, the system that is appearing before us will eventually compel us, whether we like it or not. Unless we achieve unity with the whole world, to the point of loving every single person in the world, we will not be able to continue, we will have no bread.