This Week In Torah
Our Torah portion this week is Va’etchanan, Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11. It contains two of the most well-known passages in the entire the Torah: the first paragraph of the Shema and the repetition of the Ten Commandments. Although there is so much to comment upon in this portion, I would like to focus on Moses’ poignant plea to God, more specifically on the phrase “rav lach” that God uses in answering Moses.
At the beginning of Va’etchanan, Moses makes a final plea to God to let him enter the land of Israel; God angrily shuts Moses down, saying, “Rav lach, enough, never speak to me about this again.” The phrase “rav lach” can be translated different ways which can affect our interpretation of the text. In his book, The Five Books of Moses, scholar Robert Alter interprets the phrase as “Enough for you!” Alternatively, in the book Ma’ayaneh shel Torah (Wellsprings of Torah), this phrase is translated as “You have much.” By altering the translation, rav lach is transformed from terse scolding, or as Robert Alter calls it, “an impatient phrase,” to God opening Moses’ eyes to the fullness of his life.
Rabbi Shefa Gold takes it one step further and reads rav lach as a reflection of God’s blessing: “You have so much!” Stop fixating on your idea of what you want! And then God instructs Moses to climb to the top of the mountain and get a clear view in all directions so that he might see and know that he has already arrived, he is already home. The promise has already been fulfilled.” (Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land [Teaneck, NJ: Ben Yehuda Press, 2006], p. 177).
Too often, we feel that there is something missing in our lives, be it the right partner, enough money, the perfect job, the right place to live; you name it. The times we live in affect our goals and drive us on our journeys to search for something more, keeping us from realizing all that is in front of and deep within us. Nowhere is this more beautifully illustrated than in the film The Wizard of Oz and in the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The protagonists, Dorothy and Santiago, both travel far to realize that they already possessed their heart’s desire, they have so much, and there is no place like home.
Rabbi Shefa Gold believes that we take journeys such as these so that we can be strengthened, refined, purified and transformed. We journey so that our eyes may be opened.
So, let us journey like Moses and climb the proverbial mountain so that we, too, can realize and be grateful for all the blessings that we possess in our own lives.
Cantor Diane Yomtov