Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–V’et’chanan

Here is the real value of Torah: if you want to see how the real world works, look at what our ancestors wrote about daily living, and compare it to the “Torah” you are writing as you walk through life. The human experience has not changed a lot in thousands of years. We are hopefully changing the human condition to make life more livable and enjoyable for more people, but the experience of living … the psychology/sociology of living is relatively unchanged. I first began to understand scriptures role in helping us understand this reality as a Chaplain at was then Glen Manor Home For The Jewish Aged, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I was a rabbinical student, and, in study, as we got to the story of Sarah giving birth at 90. I looked around the library at all of our ladies there. Wryly, I smiled and asked, “Ok, which one of you will be like Sarah?” They blushed and giggled, but I went on, “No, I didn’t mean like that (I now had their attention). Which one of us is ready for the next adventure of living?” This was an odd question to ask in a nursing home, but it prompted a wonderful conversation and a new project. They thought it would be helpful to create a blessing for entering a nursing home. My first thought was, “Who wants to celebrate that?” The conversation convinced me. It is precisely because of that stigma that comes with this move that demands a blessing … a blessing to remind new residents and their families that each day is an opportunity to live anew. “Praised is God, Ruler of Eternity, who sanctifies us through life experience, loving relationships, the blessing of memory, and the opportunity to take each new breath, see each new experience, touch new hands, hold new hearts, and love as if brand newly … each day we wake.”

This week, Torah brings us the Command to listen (Shema), the instruction manual telling us how and when to pay attention (V’ahavta), and a version of the 10 Commandments. Before we get to any of these great texts, though, we read Moses’ prayer to God, “You, O God, have begun to show Your servant Your greatness. (3:24)” Wait, Moses is 120. What does he mean that God has just “begun” to show divine greatness to Moses? Moses was God’s faithful servant and the greatest of the prophets. God gave The Torah to Moses. Still, after 120 years, Moses sees that his relationship with God is brand new.

Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. This is an old somewhat campy colloquialism, but a most true one. People are not dying of cancer. They are living with cancer until they die. People are not abandoned, they are lonely … having every next day to find restored hope. Given the status of the world, I cannot escape the mantra of which I write and speak so often, “Your biography is not your destiny.” Nothing that happened controls the adventures yet to happen. There is however, one additional component necessary for us to take to heart: If a biography of loss is to change; if hope is to restore, then we have to believe in miracles. For Moses, that miracle was God letting him know that even while he was not going to enter the land of Israel, he would walk with God the rest of his days. For each of us, that miracle is the energy that we offer each other to help cure and restore; celebrate and commemorate the challenges and success in life. We were born to create and experience miracles … each other.

No matter what we have experienced, no matter where we are in life, each of us has the power to heal and bring healing. This constant renewal is the miracle of life; the miracle for which we were created. Shabbat shalom.