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Parashat Devarim

July 23, 2009

Shabbat Hazon – Sabbath of Vision
By Jill Minkoff

Vision – This week’s Sabbath is Shabbat Hazon, the Sabbath of Vision. We read Isaiah 1:1-27. The selection of this Haftarah sets the stage for our observance and memories of Tisha B’Av (rather than for its connection to the Parashat HaShavuah). It begins with the word: Hazon, Vision. It includes three visions of inequities and sin that are the basis for God’s request that we come and mediate an understanding in order to be saved through judgment.

Vision – The Parashat HaShavuah is Devarim 1:1-3:22. Moses commences his final words to the community that has traveled from Egypt toward Israel. A friend recently shared with me how he was struck by the vision of the numerous places Moses recalls and names. They are the multitude of locations along the path from Egypt to Israel, from slavery to freedom, from one generation to the next.

Vision – About six months ago, I was flying over Texas. Looking out the window, I noticed the organic twists, bends, and curves of a river below. Later that day, I captured this meandering in a painting. Recently, I came upon it and was struck by the fractal and chaotic nature of the river’s path. It was especially noticeable in contrast to the straight lines of human-made roads.

Vision – This past week, my daughter and I joined nine other women on a dream retreat in the mountains of Vermont. We dreamt, shared images, and searched for insights. Poetry, music, movement, and art wove into our experiences to enhance the transformational impact. One woman dreamt of a ViewFinder. (Remember? Those plastic toys we would hold up to our eyes? The ones where an inserted
disc of slides would click from one scene to the next? In reality the images would be of distant places unknown or tourist spots we wanted to remember.) In her dream, the disc was empty. She had wanted to view something special, transformational, or insightful. However, her ViewFinder provided only windows into the reality in front of her.

Vision – A small group of people with whom I work have recently begun to read and study together Martin Buber’s I and Thou. His opening comments refer to the simplicity that people desire. Most people want a “yes” or “no,” a “turn left” or “turn right,” a process to follow that will ensure success. Life, in reality, is much more complex.

Vision – Over the past six years, my mother, father, and now a brother have taught me much about life visions as each departed this world. Mom’s visions were both visual and communal. Her eyes were windows to her numerous and exotic explorations of this world. She focused energies to keep family and friends together through distances both physical and emotional. Dad’s visions were shared in his story telling. I realize now that all of his stories were based on the construct of 1) we are here, 2) we want to be there, 3) it doesn’t appear that we have the means of getting from here to there, 4) if we look around, we realize that we do have what we need, and 5) we journey together. My younger brother, who passed away this past Shabbat, left his life with many desired visions unfulfilled except for his final desire to repair relationships with family members that had been abandoned. Their visions combine and parallel our knowledge of Moses’ life. Moses worked relentlessly to maintain the bonds of community and family and to move us from “here” to “there” with the resources needed to sustain us.

This collection of visions and thoughts may seem random and unrelated. They are like the organic, meandering, and fractal paths of wandering in the desert for forty years. They are like the sense of disconnect between times, locations, and generations that make up our history. They are perhaps grit in the eyes of us who would like a straight and formulaic process to follow for a life ensured of success and happiness. Perhaps they are like our relationships that may at times feel separate and distinct from us and from each other.

It is my prayer that we view the realities we face, that we view them without the glittery and distorted filters that promise ease and immediate gratification. With our human desire, which is so often for the straight path and the formulaic precision that will relentlessly achieve our desired results, this is not easy. May we find tears to weep for ourselves and for others during difficult journeys and challenging visions. And, may we be aware of and thankful for God’s blessings: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23, JPS translation)


Jill Minkoff is a rabbinical student at AJR.