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Weekly Parshah Study 9.6.19

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

D'var Torah, September 6/7, 2019 - Parashat Shoftim


We are now a full week into the month of Elul. Last Sunday, we heard the Shofar blown for the first time. The Shofar is blasted every weekday morning between now and Rosh Hashanah to awaken us to prepare our minds for the High Holy Days which are now just three weeks away. This Shabbat marks the mid-point between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah (now just 3 weeks away!) and as such we read the 4th of the 7 Haftorot of Consolation authored by the prophet Isaiah. And as a bonus, next week, in addition to the 5th Haftorah of Consolation, we also read the 3rd Haftorah of Consolation which we skipped last week since it was Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Elul and as such, we read the special Haftorah for that occasion. Thus we are spending the month being comforted by Isaiah's words while thinking about making the coming year a better one for all of us, our families, our community, and the earth we live in. 

And to help us prepare further for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we read from the Book of Deuteronomy in the Torah. This week's portion is particularly important as it provides the basis of legal systems that form the foundation of societal laws still adhered to until this day! 

Laws regarding both sacred and secular legislation are addressed. Most importantly, we are taught that in every dealing, we must pursue justice and not discriminate in any way. Laws to be followed during times of peace and times of war are set forth as are the designation of sanctuary cities. In war, for example, God decrees that an enemy town must first be approached with a peace offer (Deuteronomy 20:10), and scorched-earth battle plans that would destroy vegetation are forbidden, 

The Reform movement took these words especially to heart and in their "statement of purpose" say that we as Jews are obligated to pursue tzedek, justice and righteousness, and to narrow the gap between the affluent and the poor, to act against discrimination and oppression, to pursue. peace, to welcome the stranger, to protect the earth's biodiversity and natural resources, and to redeem those in physical, economic and spiritual bondage. In so doing, we reaffirm social action and social justice as a central prophetic focus of traditional Jewish belief and practice. These ideals, and the instructions on how to implement them, reflect the very heart of our Jewish self understanding and are therefore appropriately placed at the center of Deuteronomy's narrative. 

So lets read these words with a new understanding based on how we would like to see ourselves and the world improve for the year 5780! Shabbat Shalom

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