Thursday Candle Lighting: 7:42 PM
Shavuot/ Shabbat Ends: 8:41 PM
Walk, Don’t Run
“These are the words…” (1:1)
After years of inactivity, my trusty Martin Acoustic Guitar emerged from its not-so-plush-anymore, lined case, its vintage attested to by the fading stickers saying “Pan Am Airways” and the like on the outside of the case. Decades of inactivity had rendered my finger-picking into finger-plodding, but I plowed on. Someone sent me a video of a world-renowned Australian guitar teacher, and one of his ideas resounded with me as a lesson for life. He was absolutely insistent that when you begin to learn a tune, you should play it at an absurdly slow pace — but you couldn’t makeeven one mistake. If you made a mistake, you had to go back and play the piece even slower, until you reached a tempo at which your brain was playing faster than your fingers and your performance was flawless. Only then were you allowed to speed up ever-so-slowly.
The message I took from this was that in life — specifically, in our spiritual lives — it’s all too easy to try to run before we can walk, and we end up being able to do neither. Practice make perfect, but if you practice your mistakes, you will also make them “perfect.” You will inculcate your mistakes to the point where you will have to unlearn vast misplayed sonatas of your life. And un-learning is much, much harder than learning.
This week we begin the reading of the Book of Devarim, which literally means “words.”
The captivity of the Jewish People in Egypt was more than just physical bondage. On a deeper level, Egypt represents the enslavement of the power of speech, the music of the soul. Egypt not only enslaved the bodies of the Jewish People, it put in chains the major weapon of the Jewish People — speech. Thus, the Torah writes that the Jewish People “cried out” to G-d. It doesn’t write that they“prayed.” For in Egypt, speech itself was bound. In Hebrew, the word for desert is midbar, which is from the root-word mi’dibur — “from speech.” The emptiness of the desert is the ideal place for the rebuilding of the power of speech. Every year, as we emerge from the reading of the Book of Bamidbar to the Book of Devarim, we have the ability to relearn the “notes” of our “song” to Hashem, our relationship with Him, our emuna and trust in Him — by learning to play that tune again very slowly. But learning to play it right.