Devarim: The Power of Words

A Kavannah for Parshat Devarim and Tisha B'av (observed this coming Sunday) from Rebecca Minkus-Lieberman provided by Orot Center for Jewish Learning

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אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים 

 Eleh Ha’dvarim

These are the words. 
The words that brought us here
The words that shaped this hard place
we have come to know and yet, in this place 
words escape us. 

בְּעֵבֶר, הַיַּרְדֵּן: בַּמִּדְבָּר בָּעֲרָבָה מוֹל סוּף בֵּין-פָּארָן 
וּבֵין-תֹּפֶל, וְלָבָן וַחֲצֵרֹת--וְדִי זָהָב.  אַחַד עָשָׂר יוֹם מֵחֹרֵב, דֶּרֶךְ הַר-שֵׂעִיר, עַד, קָדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ.
[Through the wilderness, in the Aravah near Suf, between Paran and Tofel, Lavan, Hatzerot, and Di-Zahav, it is eleven days from Horev to Kadesh-barnea…] 

Place names.
Thumbtacks on the map.
Moments of sojourning. 
Encounters with struggle 
and redemption. 

Where are we standing?
here have we traveled? 
Where are we heading? 
And what will carry us there?

רַב-לָכֶם שֶׁבֶת, בָּהָר הַזֶּה 
פְּנוּ וּסְעוּ לָכֶם 
[You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Start out and make your way…]

You see you are stuck
quicksand holding you, rooting you
n a place familiar and 
Yet you are too long in this same terrain.
The weight of this place, this mountain
Is growing far too heavy to bear.
The mountain’s shadow is
Keeping you in the dark.

Pull your feet from their habitual treads
And step
Forward on a new path
leave the broken places
Behind you.

The walls came down and left our temple bare
Vulnerable and open to assault
We return to those ruins
And look again at what the walls protected
And what is now exposed
We step into the places of destruction
search for the shafts
Of light and

"What is the recurring disaster in our life?
What is the unresolved element that keeps bringing us back to this same moment, 
over and over again?
What is it that we keep getting wrong?
What is it that we precisely refuse to look at, fail to see?
The walls come down and suddenly we can see, 
suddenly we recognize the nature of our estrangement from God, 
and this recognition is the beginning of reconciliation…”
~ Alan Lew


The map in your pocket
marks the routes you have traveled, the ones
You know
But the way ahead may stray from the course
that feels familiar.
It may demand that you
hack your way through
the thorns and brambles.

Eleh Ha’dvarim. 
These are the words.

We die.
That may be the meaning of life.
But we do language.
That may be the measure of our lives. 
~ Toni Morrison


Return to the words. 
For words sculpt the world 
We wish to build. 
The contours of 
The letters
of compassionate words
 Will pave our way 
towards righteousness
And will 
Please God
Extinguish the flames of this burning palace with
The soothing water of love.

 מָוֶת וְחַיִּים, בְּיַד-לָשׁוֹן
Life and death are in the hands of the tongue
~ Proverbs 18:21



May we return to the primal power of the devarim - the words - that can birth worlds and kill them, and may we renew our dogged dedication to use them as holy instruments of giving life.

Shabbat Shalom and Wishing You 
a Meaningful Fast on Sunday.


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