Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Haazinu

The sages teach us that, at any given point in time, the world stands firm because of the righteousness of 36 people. We call them “Lamed-vavniks” because the two Hebrew letters lamed (30)and vav (6) represent the number 36. 18 is the numerical representation of the Hebrew letters khet (8) and yod (10). It happens that the word Khet yod (Khai) is the Hebrew word for life. 36, then is a double blessing for life. The one truth, though, is that if you think you are one of those 36, then you are automatically disqualified. Pure goodness is also selfless.

We hope that knowing there are examples of righteousness out there; we will strive to be better and pay closer attention to each other’s needs. Our goal is to live in such a way that we bring heaven and earth into closer proximity.

I love the story about the Monastery that had fallen on hard times. The once vibrant retreat was near empty, and the demeanor of the monks had started trending acerbic. The monks were no longer even kind to each other.

The lead monk went to consult with the Rabbi, who lived in the woods. He sought help for his dilemma. Before he could get much out, the Rabbi exclaimed. “One of your brothers is the Messiah,” Shocked the monk asks him to repeat. He did. Bewildered, the monk left and went back to his brothers. He shares the news with his brothers.

As they contemplated this news, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

Because the forest surrounding it was beautiful, it happened that people still occasionally came to visit the monastery to picnic on its lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even now and then to go into the chapel to meditate. As they did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something newly compelling about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery more frequently, bring their friends to show them this special place. And their friends brought their friends.

Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while, one asked if he could join them. Then another, and another. Within a short time, the monastery came back to vibrancy.

Not only do we have an obligation to heaven and earth touch, we can make it happen just through mutual respect. This week’s Torah portion reminds us of both the responsibility and our ability. The Torah portion opens, “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!” When we speak, we have the opportunity to invoke the ears of both heaven and earth at the same time. Too often, though, we stay focused on one or the other that we never give ourselves credit for bringing the mundane and the sacred into concert.

Our tradition teaches us that we live in a miraculous world. Our sages teach that too many of us focus on walking in either the mundane or the sacred. We must learn that the miraculous becomes available to us when we walk with one foot in each. Heaven and earth only stay distant from each other when we keep them apart.

As we prepare to complete this cycle of Torah, as we embark on this new Jewish year, we need to remember to focus on keeping our hearts in both realms – as if they are one realm. In the realm of faith, there is only one world. Shabbat Shalom.