KETIVAH V’CHATIMAH TOVAH
From PSALM 27 (Robert Alter translation)
- Though a camp is marshaled against me,
my heart shall not fear.
Though battle is roused against me,
nonetheless do I trust.
- One thing do I ask of the [Eternal One]
it is this that I seek –
that I dwell in the house of the [Eternal One]
all the days of my life,
to behold the [Eternal One’s] sweetness
and to gaze on [God’s] palace.
ְPARSHA – Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Ki Tëtzë’ (כִּי־תֵצֵא — Hebrew for “when you go out (to battle)”)
[According to the triennial cycle, Deut. 21:10-23:7 is read in 2020.]
- Moses reviews a wide variety of laws regarding family, animals, and property. (21:10–22:12)
- Various civil and criminal laws are delineated, including those regarding sexual relationships, interaction with non-Israelites, loans, vows, and divorce. (22:13–24:5)
- Laws of commerce pertaining to loans, fair wages, and proper weights and measures are given. (24:10–25:16)
- The parashah concludes with the commandment to remember for all time the most heinous act committed against the Israelites—Amalek’s killing of the old, weak, and infirm after the Israelites left Egypt. (25:17–19)
Isaiah 54:1-10 is the fifth haftarah in the cycle of seven haftarot of consolation after Tisha B’Av, leading up to Rosh Hashanah. This year Rosh Hashanah begins in three weeks on the evening of Friday, September 18, 2020.
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
Ki-Tëtzë’ – when you go
We are still in the oldest part of Devarim, Chapters 12–26, containing the Deuteronomic Code (sometimes abbreviated Dtn).
The parashah sets out a series of miscellaneous laws, mostly governing civil and domestic life, including ordinances regarding a beautiful captive of war, inheritance among the sons of two wives, a wayward son, the corpse of an executed person, found property, coming upon another in distress, rooftop safety, prohibited mixtures, sexual offenses, membership in the congregation, camp hygiene, runaway slaves, prostitution, usury, vows, gleaning, kidnapping, repossession, prompt payment of wages, vicarious liability, flogging, treatment of domestic animals, levirate marriage (יִבּוּם, yibbum), weights and measures, and wiping out the memory of Amalek.
Professor Tamara Cohn Eskenazi of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion cited Deuteronomy 21:10–14, which describes a process by which a woman captured in war could become the wife of an Israelite man, as an example of intermarriage in the Torah, for although the text does not specify the woman’s ethnic identity, the context implies that she was non-Israelite.
Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple [in Los Angeles, California] said that although the law of the beautiful captive is barbaric by the ethical standards of the 21st century, it was ahead of its time by the ethical standards of antiquity. The law, according to Wolpe, indicates that the Torah distrusts people to control their sexual urges towards people over whom they hold power.
Rabbi Donniel Hartman, an Israeli Modern Orthodox rabbi and educator, argued that Deuteronomy 22:1–3 contains one of Judaism’s central answers to the question of what is just and right, what he called “the religious ethic of nonindifference.”
Earlier this week, during the Temple Sinai Tuesday Morning Minyan the “darshan” (Heb. דַּרְשָׁן – deliverer of the d’rash), speaking on this week’s Parsha, provided some statistics on the mitzvot (commandments) it contains. He calculated this Portion alone has 74 mitzvot or slightly more than 12% of the 613 mitzvot found in all of Torah – more about what the purported 613 mitzvot represent at some other time. Along with those found in the last two Portions, Re’ëh and Shof’tim, the three Parashot, account for 170 mitzvot or about 28% of the commandments in Torah.
The darshan focused on a few mitzvot in particular. One had to do with the “wayward and rebellious son” in Deut. 21:18-21. In his opinion, it had less to do with the teenage boy and more with the parents and their parenting and communication skills, failing to speak with one voice in disciplining the son. To support this idea, he referred to Chapter 8 of tractate Sanhedrin in the Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud which interpreted the laws of the “wayward and rebellious son.” (This tractate has some interesting takes and graphic details related to the age and requirements for the son to qualify as such.)
Another had to do with the commandment to build a “parapet” found in Deut. 22:8. This one sentence simply says that when you build a new house you have to make a parapet for your roof so as not bring blood upon it lest anyone fall from the roof. The darshan saw this as an example of an early safety law – a pre-OSHA regulation, if you will.
The reading of the Parsha in the triennial cycle ends with the commandments not to let Moabite and Ammonite men marry into the Jewish people and not to ever offer peace to Moab or Ammon (Deut. 23:7). Note that King David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, was a Moabite. Scholars say Deuteronomy was written mostly during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BCE).
Based on estimates of David’s reign (1010-970 BCE), this would be about 400 to 500 years after her. The rabbis, believing it was written long before Ruth, go to great lengths to explain her in light of these mitzvot. Given the “transformation and self-refinement” asked of us during the High Holy Days per the Associate Rabbi of Temple Sinai in Oakland, Yoni Regev, for me these commandments raise other questions related to remembrance and forgiveness.
This last Tuesday evening the Senior Rabbi of Temple Sinai in Oakland, Jacqueline Mates-Muchin, held a Zoom session titled “Why Be Jewish?” Over 36 individuals participated in the 90-minute presentation and discussion. She started with a brief survey covering various traditional, religious, and cultural aspects of Judaism meant to encourage discussion on our personal reasons for being Jewish. While most present agreed that being Jewish had little to no causal relation to the statements in the survey, it was clear that one’s background, age and gender played a major role in how the individuals responded.
The purpose was to start thinking about what the High Holy Days mean to us both on an individual level (particularist) and a communal level (universalist). These terms used regarding religion mean something a bit different than they mean in other contexts. As part of these days of “introspection and reflection” leading up to the High Holy Days, and current issues and events seemingly “marshaled against” us, being aware of and understanding these concepts in our own lives seem apropos.
“Universalism and Particularism: Judaism in an Age of Science” By William Grassie on May 7, 2009. A review of Norbert M. Samuelson, Jewish Faith and Modern Science: On the Death and Rebirth of Jewish Philosophy (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.)
[Grassie writes:] “Modern Jews are torn between the particularist teachings of their religious tradition and the universalist aspirations of science (or maybe they should be more so). Of course, other religious traditions face similar challenges. Science undermines the foundational myths and theological commitments of all three of the Abrahamic faiths, as well as their Eastern cousins. However, Judaism’s emphasis on family of descent in the marriage of biology and religious identity accentuates this conflict.”
In my own experience, Reform Judaism has generally leaned toward science and informed choice more so than other traditional forms of Judaism. Yet, during the High Holy Days we say words and do things that we might usually eschew. The experiences of these days speak to us in ways that go beyond their surface and literal meanings – and may provide an answer to the question “Why be Jewish?”
HIGH HOLY DAYS
As explained before, Temple Kol Hamidbar has decided this year to forego providing either in person or online Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Services.
However, we will have a Shazoom Service for Shabbat Shuvah on Friday, September 25, 2020, and a special Zoom gathering after Yom Kippur to Break-the-Fast at 6 PM on Monday, September 28, 2020. The Break-the-Fast online event will include sounding a Shofar recently donated in memory of Samuel Klein, a Havdalah service, and a chance to schmooze and nosh virtually with members of our community.
To help make the High Holy Days as meaningful as possible, the Union for Reform Judaism and various congregations within the Reform Movement are providing free online services and resources during the month of Elul and the High Holy Days to anyone interested in participating. As a result, Temple Kol Hamidbar is providing the following websites for individuals to access. You may need to visit their websites more than once for their latest information.
Temple Emanu-El in Tucson, AZ https://www.tetucson.org/
Temple Sinai in Oakland, CA https://www.oaklandsinai.org/
The Union for Reform Judaism https://urj.org/
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence, and war; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, natural disasters, war and violence. We remember, too, those victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year and have us to say “Kaddish” for them. “Zichronam liv’rachah” – May their memories be for blessing.
SHAZOOM: ONLINE SERVICES – 7 PM
All are greatly encouraged to have on hand Shabbat candles, wine/grape juice for Kiddush, and Challah for Motzi for the blessings during the Service, hence bringing Shabbat into your presence a bit more tangibly. During Elul we will continue to hear the Shofar sounded at the beginning of the Service to welcome Shabbat.
Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Aug 28, 2020 07:00 PM Arizona
To join Zoom Meeting click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]:
Or from Zoom go to join meeting and enter the following information:
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Or, you may also access Erev Shabbat Services directly through the Temple Kol Hamidbar website at https://templekol.com/
Ketivah Vechatima Tovah,
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!