We are now towards the end of the three-week mourning period related to the destruction of the two holy Temples in Jerusalem. One of the themes of these days is to do teshuvah, to examine our deeds and try our best to correct them. The custom not to bathe, do laundry, cut hair, eat meat, drink wine, or to go swimming is certainly intended in part to help us focus on change and personal growth.

...there are always Heavenly voices coming from Mt. Sinai telling us to do teshuvah...

There is a very interesting related idea in this week's parasha. In speaking about organizing a system of judges to answer the questions of the people, Moshe says, "The matter — davar — that is hard for you, bring to me and I will hear it". The Baal Shem Tov asks, why does the verse add the words, "for you"? It would have been enough to say, "the matter that is hard, bring to me". Further, why does it say, "bring to me and I will hear"? It should say, "bring to me, and I will answer it". The Baal Shem Tov based his explanation on the idea that is discussed in the Talmud that there are always Heavenly voices coming from Mt. Sinai telling us to do teshuvah, warning us of Heaven's impatience, cajoling us to get moving. Jewish tradition says that the inspiration for self-change originates from these Heavenly voices.

The word in the verse that I translated as 'matter', based on the Hebrew word "davar", can also be translated as 'word'. Changing the reading according to the Baal Shem Tov's explanation would make the verse read, "That word that is hard for you (to hear), come to me and I will (help) YOU hear!" Is it possible to hear the Heavenly voices? Yes! But only when we realize that WE are an obstacle to them. Our obstinate attachment to the world and its physicality become like a screen that prevents us from hearing. This is the inner dimension of the verse that says, "And the deaf people heard". (Isaiah 42) If you can not hear, know it is our own physicality that blocks us. If you do not succeed in removing the obstacle, find a teacher like Moshe to help you.

This Monday evening and Tuesday is the anniversary of the passing of the Ari, Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, the greatest Kabbalist of Safed. The custom here in Israel is to visit his grave and pray to G‑d that in the merit of the tzadik in whose presence we stand (because a small part of the soul stays in the grave until Mashiach will come) may we be helped with our difficulties. The yahrzeit is the most propitious day to do this because on this day of the tzaddik's passing all of his life accomplishments come to their pinnacle again, together with all of the added fruits/results of those accomplishments over the last year which came as a result of his teachings and deeds. Whoever would like to send a note for us to read at the grave site is welcome. See Send-A-Prayer.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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