Parshat Devarim: Looking In Words

hero image
Word Tree
07 Aug 2008
Arts & Media

Some of them can be seen, maybe

Even touched; the subtle pattern

Of their stroked bodies, sculpted.


Others cannot be seen; definitely

Not touched, but they can be heard;

Their music a song older than time.


Either way, it’s not so much whether

They can be touched or not, as much as:

Whether or not we allow them to touch us.




Cold words, heated words,

Forewords, backwards…


Wordsmiths twist and shout their

Materials into countless combinations,

Endless paragraphs and long-term



The written word, the spoken word,

The way word


But what is its soul; in a word,

What is its purpose?


Let us review; let us open the fifth book,

The book of explanation, and let us learn…


These are the words…


We have journeyed long, four books and

Infinite possibilities worth, from the creation

Of the universe to the realization of its purpose

And the threshold of fulfilling it – at the border of

The Promised Land.


Here we are, today, beginning a new book,

A new journey – a new definition.


But what is this book, titled Words?

What does it review; what does it explain?


How can the Torah, a piece of the Divine,

A reflection of peace, unity and truth, ever

Exist in a physical world of fragmentation,

False pretenses, and great divides?


How can two people, opposites, relate?


It is what we call communication, expression:

The ability to take words, simple, black curves

And lines, and form them into ideas and emotions,

Bridges that allow us to go from one reality to



But there are two ways to communicate:


1: Relating words in a 3rd person narrative,

As a messenger, relaying a message without

Actually becoming it: relaying profundity

Without necessarily becoming profound


2: Relating, and relating to, words in a 1st person

Experience, taking the message and making it a

Part of you so that you can make it a part of others.


These are the words

That Moshe spoke

To all Israel


The 5th book in the 1st person:


Before the fifth book, the Torah wasn’t reviewed,

Taught, it wasn’t articulated by man, it

Just was: divine, holy, pure. The first four

Books related and relate to a people who

Aren’t really challenged to be themselves

For they haven’t really experienced others:

They live in a desert where all’s given to them…


And when all is given without work or effort,

One mustn’t work too hard to make the Torah

Theirs, a part of their reality – after all,

It already is.


But now it’s time to enter a new reality, where

Man has to earn his dough and work for his bread…

And for this the Torah must be articulated in the

1st person, Moshe: the Torah must be made ours,

The words must come alive, alive not just in our minds

And hearts but also in our smallest and most subtle

Actions – the words must permeate our being like

The air we breathe and the flame we burn.


Looking in Words, not just viewing but also reviewing them,

Learning them, teaching them, becoming them –


May the Torah not be (only) a third-person narration

But (also) a first-person experience.


Looking In Words –

The ability to read, speak, live divine.

Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.