Head, not Tail (Ki Tavo)
Think like a man of action, and act like a man of thought. -Henri Bergson
Moses blesses the Nation of Israel with detailed, flowing, prophetic blessings that includes the following verse:
“And you shall be for a head and not for a tail, and you shall be up and not be down.” – Deuteronomy 28:13
The Berdichever calls our attention to the extraneousness of the phrases “not for a tail” and “not be down.” If you’ll be a “head,” it would seem obvious that you won’t be a “tail.” Likewise, if you’re “up,” you won’t be “down.” So why the redundancy?
The Berdichever explains that there is a deeper meaning to the repetitiousness of “head” versus “not tail” and “up” versus “not down.” It has to do with the three different worlds that we inhabit: the world of thought, the world of speech and the world of action.
The world of action is the most physical, the one we perceive with our senses, the one we interact with most. We are present in the world of action. We act on people and things and they likewise act upon us.
The world of speech is a bit more sublime. There may not be strict physical interaction, but speech is the medium whereby we convey our needs, desires and ideas to one another.
The world of thought is the most sublime of all. It is dominated by our internal thoughts, ideas, musings. It is our internal dialogue, our mental landscape, and it is only limited by our imagination.
According to Kabbalah, the “lowest” of all worlds is the world of action. The world of action is the furthest away from our true essence, from our spiritual reality. “Above” the world of action is the world of speech. Speech does start to capture the uniqueness of being an articulate human spirit, but it is often a clumsy tool, not always able to encapsulate or convey our true thoughts and feelings. The highest world is the world of thought. Our unadulterated thoughts have the closest contact with our spiritual selves.
The Berdichever details that the “head” of the world of action is equivalent to the “tail” of the world of speech. Similarly, the “head” of the world of speech is the same as the “tail” of the world of thought. However, there is nothing “above” the “head” of the world of thought.
Hence, the blessing is that we should be a “head”, the very “head” of the world of thought, with nothing “above” us. That is when we are closest to infinity.
To Israeli democracy.