Parshat Devarim, 5770 –
“The Shabbat of Prophetic Vision”
This Shabbat is called the “Shabbat of Prophetic Vision” and comes just a few days before the 9th of Av. Generally the 9th of Av is associated with the worst, most devastating calamities that ever happened within the sacred Jewish mythos of the old paradigm. In particular, the destruction of the two previous Temples has been associated with this challenging and potentially dangerous time. Yet, just as we approach, what from one perspective may be considered the low point of the year, we reach an unprecedentedly high level of Shabbat-consciousness from which prophetic vision can be attained. How do these seemingly irreconcilable “opposites” coincide during the “Shabbat of Prophetic Vision”? They coincide precisely through the mysterious emergence of the new paradigm, just as the old paradigm loses its viability and credibility.
The midrash teaches us that the 9th of Av is both the low point of the destruction of the Temple and the birthday of Mashiach—it marks both the collapse of the construction and focus of all that was sacred until now and, ironically, also discloses the early stages of the emerging consciousness of the new paradigm. From this perspective, we can see how 9th of Av is emblematic of paradigm shift, the limbic intermediate state in which neither the old nor the new paradigm can be completely relied upon. It teaches us incredibly deep, if painful, lessons, if only we can be open enough to receive them. An exemplar of paradigm shift itself, the 9th of Av prepares us, perhaps more than any other sacred time in the Jewish calendar, for the present situation in which all that we hold dear may be challenged, and may indeed collapse. To be sure, as the haftarah from Isaiah suggests, the systems that define the old paradigm should, in fact, collapse because they don’t work, are unsustainable, and have brought us to the brink of mutual destruction (Isaiah 1:1-27). And yet, just as our ability to have faith in the old systems and ways dissipates, if we bring prophetic vision to this unique moment and collective opportunity, we may discern precisely those elements that can lead us to the new paradigm, to which Isaiah alludes in his second chapter, “they shall transform the energy of contention into means for supporting life, nations will cooperate with each other and war will become unthinkable” (Isaiah 2:4-5). However, the 9th of Av teaches us that the radical transformation that occurs when paradigms shift is bitter-sweet. It does entail a tremendous amount of suffering just as it clears the way for the next evolutionary level. Thus, while we consciously step into the process of transformation, with its related tests and trials, we become dynamic components in the process of lifting and renewing the sparks.
The lessons mentioned above are encoded in this week’s parashah in which Moshe begins his reflections on the entire history of his relationship to the Tribes of Israel, recognizing that neither he nor his contemporaries will survive the transition into the new paradigm. Not only does all the conditioning and assumptions that characterize the obsolescent construction of reality and meaning have to depart, but even the form of the guide has to give way to a new mode of what it means to lead as well as to be led. When we reflect on our history, we can easily see how the Moshe of the Pentateuch gave way to the Moshe of the rabbis, and, in turn, the Moshe of the rabbis was then superseded by the Moshe of the philosophers and kabbalists, who was renewed by the Ba’al Shem Tov, etc. This is but a model of how superior forms emerge through the “destruction” of transformation and evolution. But even that beloved construction, the “Moshe” renewed by the Ba’al Shem Tov, must be relinquished—freed in the form of transmutation—in order to make room to begin envisioning the Moshe of the emerging paradigm of the future.
So, in our parashah , YHVH, the Spirit of All Life, brings Moshe to the Mountain of Telling the Future, where he says, “See from here how YHVH is setting out a new paradigm before you, go forward and don’t be too afraid and terrified by the paradigm that is collapsing all around you” (Deut. 1:21). And, although Moshe recognized that it was wise to look clearly and soberly into the future, most of the people were too terrified by what they would have to face and were only able to conceive of a “God” that had failed them. And what was Moshe’s answer? “Your fear is simply based on inadequacies of the ‘God’ of the past—‘it is the emerging form of YHVH that is revealed in the new paradigm who can and will sustain you just as the form of YHVH in the old paradigm sustained you as long as it was viable’” (Deut. 1:29-30). But, by believing that “God” can only be the construction ofYHVH that now has to be transcended, we can only lose faith and fail to recognize and follow the “new” YHVH that is leading us ahead, lighting our way in the darkness of the present, while remaining mysterious in the cloud of the future (Deut. 1:33). The result is that anyone who is only looking backwards will never be able to see the emergence of the new paradigm. “Only a person like Caleb ben Yefuneh, a ‘heart-like being,’ who can empty herself of the comforts, constructions, and beliefs of the old paradigm, will see it, and I bestow it upon such a one who has already fearlessly stepped into the new paradigm and those that follow, they alone who are prepared to whole heartedly follow the YHVH of the emerging paradigm of the future” (Deut. 1:36).
May our encounter with the 9th of Av help us eliminate everything that binds us to a paradigm that is ending and prepare us for the birthing of a new and more evolved paradigm that will enable us to follow YHVH into the future—a future that is just being born…
Dedicated to the memory of my father, the Tzaddik and Ba’al Mitzvot, Yitzhak Aizik Dove Ber ben Shimon ha-Kohen, his memory is a blessing.