Friday, September 30 2016
From Rabbi Peter Stein
We have reached the final week of the Jewish year! This Shabbat will include all of the peaceful and beautiful elements of our weekly temple traditions...worship on Friday night and Saturday morning and TaNaKh and Torah study on Saturday as well. There is a wonderful feeling in the building on Shabbat, when we come together as one community.
The Torah portion for this Shabbat is very near the end of the cycle of reading, and actually is the portion that is read on Yom Kippur morning as well. The Israelites are at the end of their forty years of wandering in the desert. They are very close to crossing over into the Promised Land. They have received many different instructions from Moses, as well as a review of their history. The portion is among the most dramatic in all of Torah, proclaiming that "all of you stand this day before God..." All of you, emphasizing in several different ways that everyone is included. And then, "I make this covenant not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day and with those who are not here this day."
It is a powerful reminder that all of us left Egypt, stood at Sinai, and crossed over to the Promised Land. Even we who live today can claim the direct experience of the Torah. When we read our history, it is not telling us an old story of what happened to someone else. Rather, it is telling us our own story...and we are to be guided by those experiences.
And so, we fight for freedom because we were slaves. We fight for equality and justice, because we experienced oppression. We fight for all those who are vulnerable and struggling, because so much of our history found us facing grave challenges.
When we study this portion this week, in the final days of the old year, I pray we will find kernels of wisdom that we can carry into the new year, lighting the way to a sweet new year.
Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!