CSH WEEKLY UPDATE
July 25, 2013
High Holy Days
Information and Schedule
Rosh Hashanah starts Wednesday night, September 4th.
Make your reservations NOW.
This Week’s Shabbat Schedule
Friday Evening, July 26 6:30 pm
Shabbat Morning 9:30 am
Kiddush is sponsored by Sheila and Norman Bleckner in celebration of Norman’s Birthday
Friday night Dinner and Study, “Searching for God in Judaism Part I”
(No charge for members / $35 pp non-members)
CHAIM SEIDLER-FELLER has been working with students and faculty as the Executive Director of the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA for thirty-eight years. He is also the director of the Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals.
Thank you Millie Wallace, Lorraine Schottenfeld and Miriam Brous for sponsoring Kiddish in honor or Rabbi Chaim Seidler Feller
This week’s Torah reading: Ekev
Annual: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 (Etz Hayim p. 1037)
Summary: In this week’s parasha, Moses continues his review of the exodus experience, reminding the Israelites of how God has cared for them in the wilderness. He reiterates the covenant and continues to review the general rewards that will benefit the Israelites if they are faithful to God and follow God’s commandments. It is simple: if the Israelites follow the Torah, God will bless them in the land, and drive out their enemies. If they do not obey God, then….
Yearning for God requires us to maintain a delicate balance–allowing our emotions to flow, while allowing our intellects to maintain integrity.
This week’s Torah portion informs us of a serious obstacle to spiritual health: thinking that “my strength, and the power of my hands, have achieved this victory”. The human ego can be its own worst enemy. People accomplish things, but may forget to be grateful to God for these accomplishments. The more they succeed in worldly matters, the more they attribute their success to their own talents; the more highly they think of themselves, the less they may think of God. They lose the sense of spiritual yearning. They become self-satisfied and content. They luxuriate in their material success, not realizing that in the process they undermine their own souls. They set the wrong values for themselves and for their families. Spiritual rot sets in. Nothing is more antithetical to genuine religious experience than complacency and self-satisfaction.
Yearning: the power to love God with all our hearts and all our souls; the power to overcome our egotism; the power to maintain spiritual focus; the humility to live our lives in constant striving to experience God’s presence. It is not easy to attain the highest levels of spiritual growth: this requires a deep and abiding sense of yearning.
The book of Deuteronomy, which we began to read a few weeks ago, is a retelling by Moshe of earlier parts of the Torah. The name Deuteronomy, like the rabbinic name for the book, Mishneh Torah, means “the second law.” Why do we need a “second” Torah?
…Its very existence tells us something about the Torah’s attitude toward life and learning — that repetition is essential. Human beings don’t generally understand things the first time they hear them. We are slow learners. Hence in the first paragraph of the Shma, read in last week’s parsha, we say, Veshinantam levanekha – “you should repeat them [these words] to your children.”
We were slow learners back in the days of the desert, too, Moshe tells us, or as he says, am keshei oref, a people with a hard neck, a stubborn people who need to be shown and taught multiple times the same lesson.
Even the giving of the Torah happened twice. The first time, we were too busy with other things, too busy worshipping our gold idol to really listen, so Moshe went back up for another 40 days and brought back down a second set of tablets. Sometimes people can’t do things right the first time round. God doesn’t give up on us but merely tries again.
The same thing happens when it comes to entering the land of Israel. The first time we screw it up. We are scared and unbelieving. We need to practice our faith skills so that the second time, this time, we can really enter.
Getting the Torah and entering the land are two of the most important things that happen to us as a nation. And they both happen twice. The message is that these things are not really one-time events at all, but works in progress. We are strivers, learners, always receiving the Torah and always on the cusp of entering the land.
In this week’s parsha, we read the second paragraph of the Shma, another instance of doubling, as is the command to recite the Shma “when one goes to sleep and when one awakes,” twice a day. The second paragraph of the Shma begins with its own linguistic doubling, Vehaya im shamo’a tishme’u, “If, then, you surely hear [or obey].” Rashi comments that the first shamo’a refers to old Torah, and the second tishme’u to new Torah. “If you listen to the old, you will be able to hear the new.” If on the other hand, you forget part of the Torah, says Rashi, interpreting another doubled verb, then you will end up forgetting the entire Torah. Each repeated action reinforces itself and creates a path for the future.
The Torah is continually unfolding, says the Sefat Emet about Rashi’s comment here. That is part of what it means to have a “second Torah.” The implication is that we are never finished receiving, never finished learning the Torah. We are to take the stance toward Torah which the book of Deuteronomy takes, a stance of shamo’a tishme’u, of repetition and novelty, understanding that we are part of the process of continued revelation through our repetition or retelling of the Torah.
THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE OF EKEV
IT IS POSSIBLE to eat everything in sight and to say 100 blessings a day in perfect Hebrew, and yet remain unsatisfied. The spiritual challenge of Ekev is to break the spell of consumerism whose power rests in our continual dissatisfaction.
Yom Huledat Sameach
Saturday Afternoon Request
By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Help me to silence
Open me to long slow conversations
You’re waiting for me
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