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V'Zot HaBracha(Deuteronomy 33-34)

Harmonious Cycle

The final section of the Torah contains a list of blessings. Blessings also come at the beginning. From beginning to end, the Torah is for our benefit and for all mankind.

The Almighty is Infinite and needs nothing. He is perfect in every conceivable way and has no lack. So by definition, creation is not for God in any way - but for us.

TORAH = PLEASURE

The ways of Torah are ways of pleasantness ("Darcheyha darchey noam"). Everything that the Torah instructs us -- how to be good, how to be holy -- is pleasant. Our physical nature leads us to imagine that Torah's principles are difficult to achieve. How could I hold myself back from all the negative commandments? Why does it seem so strict?

But the principles that cause us to control ourselves are merely extensions of our own conscience. After all, most enlightened societies have rules of law. It's only a matter of degree -- how far do you take stealing, lying, etc. And the kosher laws are much less strict than any of the thousands of diets that millions of Americans go on each year.

Who's calling the shots?

The main difficulty in living according to Torah's principles is the feeling of being told what to do. We are rebellious by nature and don't want to be told what to do by any authority. But God isn't forcing us, He's obligating us in a set of behaviors that are tremendously good for us. Yet God gave us free will, which preserves our independence.

If we would realize just how much God loves us and only wants what's good for us, we would run to fulfill His will at every moment. It's as if He is saying, "I command you to take the most pleasure out of this world and the next."

One command is to love humanity. The more love you have for others, the more pleasure you'll get out of the world. There are billions of people out there to love!

Love is one of life's greatest emotional pleasures. We love to love, but we find it difficult to do.

HARMONY IS THE GOAL

All the ways of Torah are peace ("V'kol nesivo'sayha shalom"). When we disobey the laws, we find ourselves out of harmony with the world, with each other and within ourselves. Harmony and balance are sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle. Extreme overeating leads to obesity. A hugely overweight person is obviously out of balance. And with that comes a number of health problems that obesity is likely to cause.

When Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, even though many geologists predicted a hurricane, dam burst and flood scenario, it was a subtle imbalance in nature that happened over years, with most people being totally unaware.

An unhealthy diet and lack of exercise may produce more subtle health problems like high cholesterol or anemia.

So too, we need to be aware of our soul on all levels, the obvious levels and the ones more subtle.

To be truly in harmony with our soul, we need the principles of Torah. Otherwise, we can be mistaken about many things.

Ask the average person: "Are you good?
"Yes," this person will undoubtedly say.
"How do you know?"
"I try to be decent. I don't hurt anyone intentionally. I am an upstanding citizen."
"Do you know there are countries all over the world with evil dictators, and that one-third of world's population is suffering from wars and famine? What are you doing about these problems?"
"Well, if I could do something I would, but I'm not in a position to help."
"Do you at least pray for them every day?"

If we aren't at least praying for all those people suffering throughout the world, we are out of harmony with the world. People are suffering and we are just going about our business.

SYMBOL OF HARMONY

Jacob, in many ways, epitomized harmony. He was able to bridge the gap between Abraham and Isaac. He was able to struggle with opposing forces like Laban and Esau and come out whole. His entire life was conflict resolution. And it was his wisdom that pulled him through.

Jacob, the one who "dwelled in tents," was dedicated to the study of the Almighty's will. He went to the study house of Shem and Ever, and he studied with Abraham and Isaac.

Wisdom brings everything back into harmony. Wisdom gives us hope and understanding for how to deal with life's problems. Wisdom teaches us how to bring ourselves back into harmony with the world, and back in touch with our spiritual side.

From the beginning to the end, the Torah is all blessing. And the end only turns us back to the beginning to read it all over again. The last letter of the Torah is a lamed, and the first a bet. Together they spell Lev - heart. We can't use the Torah to its greatest benefit unless it's in our heart, as part of us. And since the last letter is connected to the first letter, we see that the Torah is not a book to read just once; it's meant to be read over and over. It doesn't end, but rather is a cycle to be repeated.

Spiritual Exercise:

Identify one of the main conflicts in your life. Ask yourself if there is any event or teaching from the Torah that relates to this challenge. Ask a rabbi. Study the lesson.

Published: September 17, 2009

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