Do you remember a time when you tried to tell your child a story from memory that you remembered from childhood — and then, when you went to read the book to refresh your memory, you discovered to your amazement that you distorted the story. You forgot details, omitted important things, changed the order of events?
In fact, all the “forgetfulness” and distortions we make in the story are evidence of mental dynamics that occupy us, that we try to avoid dealing with, or that we feel we have the ability to deal with.
In the first portion of Deuteronomy that opens the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses begins by reviewing the history of the people, in the ears of the new generation born in the wilderness, before he parts from them.
Moshe chooses to tell about the affair of the apostles who were sent to tour the land (the story of the spies) but with a significant change of version:
While in the Book of Bamidbar (Book of Numbers), God commands Moses:
Send people to explore the Land of Canaan, which I am delivering to the Children of Israel (13,3).
Here, at the beginning of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses says that this dispatch of spies was an explicit request of the people, and he simply acceded to them:
“And you approached me and said, let us send people to explore the land, to bring back information about the road that lies ahead of us, and the cities to which we will approach”. (Deuteronomy, 1, 22).
It is interesting to examine the significance of the changes that Moshe makes to the story, regarding himself, his mental state, and the mental dynamics in which he is perceived.
But this time I want to focus on another topic, the meaning of the message it conveys to the people and what parts of it can be relevant for us today:
Moses actually accuses the children of Israel of listening to the debilitating words of the apostles.
According to the Book of Genesis, of the five senses, the sense that characterizes the month of Av (in which we read this portion) is the sense of hearing.
What are we listening to? Whom are we listening to?
Listening to the debilitating voices that came from outside, from the spies, caused them to diminish themselves — whoever sees the others as giants actually diminishes himself — instead of listening to the strengthening voices from within.
According to tradition, the “sin of the spies” took place on the 9th of Av, which occurred this week in the Jewish calendar.
On the 9th of Av, according to tradition, the (outer) Temple was destroyed, which is the reason for the custom of mourning.
But in fact, the “inner temple” of those who listened to the fading voices from outside was destroyed even then, in the desert generation. They lost touch with their inwardness.
And perhaps this is what is so important for Moses to convey to the people in his last speeches:
Strengthen the “inner temple”, avoid listening to weakening voices from the outside that cause you to diminish yourself, your faith, and in fact your God. Because he who feels small, helpless and weakened – does not make room for the deity within him and has no ability to enter the “Promised Land” both on the physical level and the metaphorical level.
And how can this be relevant to us?
If I refer to the Holy Temple also in a metaphorical sense (each of us is a little temple where the Goddess can dwell), then perhaps it is possible to understand that the Temple was destroyed not only in its physical meaning but also in its metaphorical meaning:
Is it possible that we too have reduced ourselves by listening to weakening voices from outside and therefore the Shechinah, the Holy Presence, has no place to dwell within us?
And perhaps the quality of love within us “dried up” because we were engaged in competition, accusations, divisions, and wars between brothers?
Perhaps the invitation of the month of Av is to listen and examine what can die and be destroyed, both inside and outside, and to assess the energy we need to continue down the road.
According to Rabbi Kook, if the world is destroyed because hatred, it will be built from selfless love.
And what does selfless love mean?
Perhaps — it is the ability to recognize the goodness in the inwardness of everything and every person, to judge every person and everything favorably, generously, including myself – to count what is present and not what is lacking.
Maybe, when difficult things happen to us in life, the challenge is to inspire us to listen inwardly to our heart so that we can discover the good that exists within all things.