THE TORAH PORTION FOR THIS SHABBAT 20 ELUL 5781 August 27, 2021
KETIVAH V’CHATIMAH TOVAH
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/ki-tavo
Ki Tavo (כִּי-תָבוֹא — Hebrew for “when you enter” [the Land])
When you enter the land that the Eternal your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that the Eternal your God is giving to you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the Eternal your God will choose to establish the divine name. – Deuteronomy 26:1-2
- The Israelites are instructed to express their gratitude to God for their bountiful harvests and freedom from slavery by tithing ten percent of their crops for the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. (26)
- The people are told to display on large stones God’s commandments for all to see. (27:1-8)
- The Levites are to proclaim curses upon those who violate God’s commandments. (27:15-26)
- The Israelites are told that if they obey God’s mitzvot faithfully, they will receive every blessing imaginable. They are also told that if do not fulfill their brit with God, many curses will descend upon them. (28:1-69)
- Moses reminds the Israelites of the miracles they witnessed in the wilderness and commands them to observe the terms of the covenant so that they may succeed in all that they undertake. (29:1-8)
Isaiah 60:1-22 is the sixth haftarah in the cycle of seven haftarot of consolation after Tisha B’Av, leading up to Rosh Hashanah. A connection to the parashah appears in Deuteronomy 26:16-19, where God says that the Israelites are God’s special treasure, while in Isaiah 60, we read about the light of the people. This year Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of Monday, September 6, 2021 – about a week away!
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
Ki-Tavo – when you enter
Edited/abridged from Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ki_Tavo
The parashah tells of the ceremony of the first fruits (Hebrew: בִּכּוּרִים, bikkurim), tithes, and the blessings from observance and curses (Hebrew: תוֹכֵחָה, tocheichah) from violation of the law.
Some scholars who follow the Documentary Hypothesis find evidence of three separate sources in the parashah. Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, of the University of Georgia, attributed Deuteronomy 26:1–15 to the original Deuteronomistic law code (Dtn). He attributed Deuteronomy 26:16–28:35, 28:38–62, and 28:69–29:8 to the first, Josianic edition of the Deuteronomistic history. And he attributed Deuteronomy 28:36–37 and 28:63–68 to the second, exilic edition of the Deuteronomistic history.
According to the triennial cycle, Deuteronomy 26:12-28:6 is read in 2021. The reading ends with a promise. Specifically, if God is obeyed and all the commandments observed faithfully the Israelites would be set high above all the nations. They would be blessed in the city and the country, as would the issue of their wombs, the produce of their soil, the fertility of their herds and flocks, their basket and kneading bowl, and their comings and goings. (Deut. 28:1-6). Curses would follow failure to do so.
About the curses, at this week’s Temple Sinai Tuesday Morning Minyan the Darshanit (דַּרְשָׁן or דַּרְשָׁנִית – Hebrew for “deliverer of the d’rash”) shared the following view by Rabbi Lauren Werber on the D’var Torah by Rabbi Marc Saperstein on the curses in Ki Tavo. See https://reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/torah-commentary/gods-punishments-or-are-they
Rabbi Saperstein offers two understandings of the lengthy list of curses in Ki Tavo: One employs fear to compel religious observance and the other places a vengeful God behind the myriad tragedies we have faced. What if we have a third option, one that removes fear of God from the curses and distances God from injustice? What if these curses are not a warning from God, but rather an account of the plagues we create for ourselves when we act immorally?
The first category of curses is a devastated environment, including heat, drought, lack of rain, and damaged skies and earth. Is this not exactly the curse we are placing upon ourselves as we pollute our earth and face the disasters associated with global warming?
The second category is a lack of prosperity, including failed enterprises and hunger. Is this not a curse we place upon ourselves as we fail to train, employ, and pay living wages to many among us and as 14% of US households face food insecurity?
The third category is a hopeless future, including a lack of offspring. While average family size has decreased over time, we can also understand this curse to encompass ethnic and religious decline. When we fail to pass our values and practices on to future generations, do we not create the curse of a hopeless future?
The fourth category is illness, including epidemics, itch, and mental health crises. When cultural norms encourage obesity, stress, and a lack of self-care and when we fail to provide affordable medical care to those in need, do we not create the curse of increased illness?
Finally, the fifth category is political defeat, including conquest, exile, and captivity. Is this not a curse we place upon ourselves when we fail to protect and fight for democracy?
Too often, we are cursing ourselves and people throughout the world. We are, in many ways, creating the world about which Ki Tavo warns us. But there is hope. If we can create curses, we can also produce blessings. We can look to the 14 verses preceding the curses and create a world of blessing for all. This is the challenge of Ki Tavo. May we accept the task and build a better world.
REFLECTION – SHMITAH or SABBATICAL YEAR
There are various online resources that explain the Shmitah including a comprehensive article at Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmita
From Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati, California https://www.nershalom.org/
As we enter these High Holy Days, we also enter a “shmitah” or “sabbatical” year – the biblical seventh year in which we are instructed to leave our fields to grow on their own, cancel debts, and release all forms of bondage.
The Days of Awe are already a time of release and healing. We look at our relationships and at the state of our souls and ask what needs to be let go of. What repair needs to happen?
In this shmitah year,… deeply explore the idea of letting go of patterns that bind us. What of our investments must be questioned? What sense of permanence released? What has come of over-working, over-harvesting the planet and our own lives? What debts need to be forgiven; what obligations do we still owe? The shmitah laws of Torah remind us that the land does not belong to us. How might we be better stewards of the Earth and of our own lives if we let go of our need to control?
SELICHOT – nightfall Saturday, August 28, 2021
In Sephardic tradition Selichot (penitential prayers) are recited every morning starting the second day of Elul. In Ashkenazi tradition Selichot are recited starting with a special service beginning the Saturday night immediately before Rosh Hashanah. If the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on a Monday or Tuesday, as it does this year, then the service is held the Saturday night one week prior. This ensures that Selichot are said at least four times. In the Reform Movement generally, the Saturday Selichot Service begins at nightfall. Sadly, we are unable to provide this beautiful service which highlights the 13 attributes of mercy, please check the internet for any online services.
HIGH HOLY DAYS – 5782
As clearly explained in Dr. Sam Caron’s email of 8/16/21, due to new issues with the pandemic Temple Kol Hamidbar has decided to forego providing either in person or online Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Services. The wellbeing of our members and friends is of utmost importance. However, we will have 6 PM online Torah Study and a 7:30 PM Shazoom Service for Shabbat Shuvah on Friday, September 10, 2021.
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 resources to anyone interested in participating in services. As a result, in addition to those listed in Dr. Caron’s email, you may want to visit the following websites for their latest information on the High Holy Days and how to access them.
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/
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence especially against all minority communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; 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, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, the 20th through the 26th of Elul, we lovingly remember:
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
Al sh’loshah d’varim ha’olam omëd – The world is sustained by three things: Torah, worship and loving deeds. We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, August 27, 2021.
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. Although traditionally four blasts are sounded only on weekdays after morning services, during Elul we will continue to hear a blast of the Shofar before the Shazoom Service to welcome Shabbat.
Zoom continues updating its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Torah Study – Triennial Reading Deut. 26:12-28:6
Time: August 27, 2021 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: August 27, 2021 07:30 PM Arizona
To join the Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Ketivah v’Chatimah Tovah – “a good writing and sealing (in the Book of Life)”
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!