By Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro
If not for coronavirus, synagogues across the world would begin reading the book of Deuteronomy this week. Many would call this the most beautiful book of the Torah. It shares ideas of morality, of a caring society and proclaims the loving relationship we all have with God. The first four books of the Torah were dictated to Moses directly from God. The fifth book, the book of Devarim, was no less divine, but was written in Moshe’s own words.
The book starts with the statement, “These are the words that Moses spoke to all of Israel.” From this line, you would imagine that Moses is about to share a few words. That would be an understatement. Moses proceeds to give a series of the greatest speeches of his life. His swan song is the entire book of Deuteronomy.
It’s astonishing that Moses was able to share so many words. Going back to the book of Exodus, when God first calls upon Moses to free the slaves, what does Moses answer? “Lo ish devarim anochi” — “Please my Lord, I am not a man of words.”
Moses had a speech problem yet gave the greatest speech of the Torah. The person who was not a man of words — Devarim in Hebrew — ended up giving the speech that was Devarim.
How did Moses find his voice?
Moses didn’t need to find his voice, his own voice never would have been sufficient. Rather, Moses found the voice of God, which spoke through his soul. God’s response to Moses’ initial uncertainty was “Go, for I shall teach you what to say.” God was his teacher.
The voice of God is present in all of us. If we listen intently, God will teach us what to say. I call this the Torah of the kishkes — the Jewish word for guts (and one of my favorite foods, by the way. Let’s not talk about what it’s made of).
Deep in our gut, we know right from wrong. We are connected to Godly truth. This Torah of the kishkas is also known as our conscience, but it is more than just the conscience. God’s voice is constantly broadcasting all around us and sustaining the whole universe. Our neshama, our holy soul, is like a radio receiver for that Divine voice.
Though our ego and our chattering minds can effectively cover it up, if we quiet these external voices, we can tune into the quiet, peaceful sound of our soul voice. It is a beautiful voice that reflects the best version of ourselves. Some tune in through meditation or prayer, some through character refinement and Torah study, some even use cannabis as an aid. There are many paths to awaken the soul.
During this time of uncertainty and upheaval, it is so important to listen and be guided by the voice of our souls. If we do, God will guide and teach us just as he guided and taught Moses.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro is the spiritual leader of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah.