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Parashat Va'etchanan: Destiny

What does it mean to have a destiny? To be chosen for something? Do you ever think about your own? Do you believe that each and every one of us has a destiny to fulfill?

This week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, is truly one of my favorites. You may be wondering, why? It holds two verses that spoke to me from the moment I read them. The verses say, "When you look upon the sun, the moon, the stars, the whole heavenly host, you must, not be lured into worshipping them because G-d distributed them to all other peoples under heaven; but you the Lord took and brought out of Egypt, the iron furnace, to be His very own people (Deut. 4: 19-20)." So, what makes these verse so special? My answer is twofold. For one, G-d claims us as His very own people. An idea I know that tends to make people feel uncomfortable. The second point I want to emphasize is that G-d also states that He created other heavenly wonders for all other people to follow. There are meant to be differences. There are meant to be people who believe in other things. There are meant to be other Religions. We are all a part of something.

In the Hebrew, Moses uses the word chalak, which means distributed, to explain to the Israelites that other wonders in the heavens such as the sun, moon, and stars, were created for other peoples. The word chalak, also has the same root and is closely related to the word chelek, which means a portion or a part of. If you keep the relationship of these words in mind, I think it’s possible that G-d wanted the Israelites, the Jewish people, to understand that He gave each people a distinct portion to follow, in order to create a greater whole. I believe that each of the other peoples who span the world have been chosen to fulfill their own unique destinies. However, in order to fulfill that destiny each group needs the diversity of the other peoples’ beliefs for the world to stay in balance as a greater whole, and for the ability to fulfill the task that G-d bestowed upon each of them. Especially since in life I find that I learn more when someone who believes something different than I do challenges me to dig deeper into the root of my belief because they want to understand why, and even sometimes when they don’t. According to the Zohar (1: 216b) transforming from self to soul can’t happen in “an imperfect place,” meaning a place of fragmentation. The transformation can only take place when the fragmented/separate self becomes a part of the whole/integrated soul. When our portion becomes a part of the greater whole, we can see G-d more clearly because we no longer see G-d through our eyes alone.

However, the questions still remains, what is our, the Jewish People's’ unique destiny? And, how can we make a stronger whole? There is a famous midrash which says that G-d offered the Torah to every nation, but Israel was the only one who accepted it. Many believe that it was because of our willingness to follow G-d’s Torah that we became the Chosen People. The choice the Israelites made in accepting G-d’s Torah, and therefore becoming G-d’s Chosen People, doesn’t make us superior to any other people. Instead, like the Tanya (book of Hasidic philosophy) tells us, “Torah’s sole purpose is to remove the veils of diversity to reveal the unity, that you might then love the One by loving the many.” Here we learn that by unifying the many, each people, into part of a greater whole, we become closer to G-d.

Tonight at your Shabbat dinner table, think about Destiny. Think about your own. Think about the Jewish People’s. Think about other people around you. How are we all connected? How are we all a part of a greater whole? We all have the power to do. So, what will you do? What part will you play in creating a greater world?

Shabbat Shalom!