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Parshas Vaeschanan

Desire of the Fire Within

By Rabbi Label Lam

    And you who cling to HASHEM your G-d – you are all alive today! (Devarim 4:4)

    For HASHEM your G-d, He is a consuming fire, a jealous G-d! (Devarim 4:24)

How is one able to cleave- to cling to a G-d if He is described as a “consuming fire”? This question is asked by the Talmud (Kesubos 111B). A practical answer is given, that if one marries his children to Talmud scholars or assists them in business, it is considered as if they have attached themselves to the Divine Presence. How does being around Torah Scholars bring about this state of attachment? How else can one actualize, in a deep spiritual way, this action of cleaving to HASHEM?

The Zohar asks about a peculiar Jewish action or habit. Maybe you have noticed that when a Jew prays or learns his body will almost unconsciously begin to sway to and fro? What’s going on here? Have you ever seen someone reading the newspaper “shuckling”- shaking back and forth? Not likely!

Maybe there is one other group that also tends to shake like. It’s with so called “crazy people”. Peak into an asylum and you might witness that more than a few will be rocking back and forth. Why is that? We think they are crazy because they are missing certain information about reality or that they are just foolish. In fact many may lack certain social skills but the truth is that they are more debilitated because the filters in their minds are shattered and they know more and feel more than functional people. The Talmud understood that prophecy remains with “crazy people” and children. (Bava Basra 12B)

I remember finding myself in the emergency room of a city hospital on an all- night vigil a number of years back. People were being rushed in with gunshot and knife wounds. You can imagine the clientele I was surrounded by while trying to concentrate on my Tehillim as others were glued to the TV and flipping pages of People Magazine.

Seated right near me was one fellow strung out on drugs. His head was bobbin’ off to one side and his eyes were barely open. There were open seats on either side of him in the crowded waiting room as people kept a safe distance. At one moment he just started to ramble on. His little speech in a drone tone went like this, “Now the Jewish People are

G-d’s chosen people! G-d loves the Jewish People!” Everyone automatically moved even further away in horror and disgust as their vision remained affixed to the hypnotic blue light above. I surveyed the whole scene and said to my-self, “He’s the crazy one? He’s the only one that’s saying anything that makes any real sense! Everyone else here is more crazy!”

Many years ago I accompanied one of my teachers to a college campus where he gave a Torah-lecture to a mostly secular Jewish group. I was seated way in the back. It was a fascinating presentation but almost more interesting than the class was the phenomenon that I began to observe as the students themselves became more enthralled. A good number of them started to “shuckle” ever so subtly in their seats. I asked myself, “I wonder if they move like that during a political science or a math class?”

Why do Jews “shuckle”? The Zohar answers that everything has a tendency to strive back to its source. Earth is weighted and compelled by gravity to go down. Water rushes back to water where it will ultimately meet the ocean again. So it is with fire. It wants to rejoin the sun, even though it will be so overwhelmed as to be rendered absolutely nullified when it reaches there. Even still it struggles to go up, to get closer and is even frustrated by the tiny wicked thread that holds it in place. So the soul wishes to return to G-d. As King Solomon says in Mishlei, “The candle of G-d is the soul of man!” So there is a flame within us that knows and clamors to climb. When stimulated by a spiritually rich environment like Torah learning or while praying -the whole person animates the desire of the fire within.

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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