Archives for September 2011

Torah Reflections: September 11 – 17, 2011

Parashah (portion) Ki Tavo – Let Your Heart Crack Open
Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8

This week’s Torah portion begins:

When you enter the land that the Eternal your God is giving your as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that the Eternal your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place that the Eternal your God chooses to have His name dwell… You shall then recite [a prayer] before the Eternal your God… You shall leave [the basket] before the Eternal your God and bow low in the Presence of the Eternal your God. [Deut.26:1-10]

With only days separating us from Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, Torah is laying out for us a threefold path to meet the moment in its fullness: bring a basket of your fruit, pray and bow. Though in our time we no longer come to moments of solemn convocation such as the High Holy Days with baskets of fruit from our land, today’s equivalent might be engaging in these awe-inspiring holidays by bringing to them the honest assessment of our personal work this past year, the true fruits of our personal harvest. [Read more…]

Torah Reflections: September 4 – 10, 2011

Parashah (portion) Ki Teitzei – To Walk Humbly with God
Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19

This week’s Torah portion is the last in Deuteronomy to present us with a collection of laws. With this kind of portion, we find ourselves struggling with some aspects of the text and truly moved by others. Among the more disquieting injunctions are the laws about stoning to death one’s “wayward and defiant son” [Deut. 21:18], or the disturbing “punishment” for a rapist who is not only mandated to marry his victim but also prohibited from ever divorcing her. Other laws are more inspiring. Torah commands one to pay employees’ wages on time, to defend the rights of the widow and the orphan, to engage in ethical business practices, and to sustain the destitute by donating one’s surplus.

We have been raised to be fiercely independent. We question authority and seek to carve our own path in life, to live out our own truth. There is real self-empowerment in living this way. It can be, however, an overly self-centered way of life where we are inclined to discard that which does not fit our ego’s worldview. We do this with Torah. We read a Torah portion like this week’s and are quick to point to the antiquated rulings of its laws, prone to throw away the baby with the bathwater.

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