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Weekly Message 09.08.2020 Parashat Ki Tavo

Parashat Ki Tavo (when you enter) Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8

Haftorah - Isaiah 60:1-22

Dear friends,

Thanks to all of you who tuned in to, and commented on last Saturday morning's Shabbat service hosted by our friends at Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen, NJ.

As we prepare for our High Holy Day services and the return to our Shabbat morning service, we can benefit from the synagogues who have been holding virtual morning services (both weekday and Shabbat). Neve Shalom has three people read the words of Torah from their Chumash rather than the Torah itself thereby foregoing the traditional aliyot. Their Zooming seems to work perfectly, but they have invested in movie camera-like equipment and have someone monitoring it constantly. In addition, only the Rabbi and Cantor are in the building, so background noise is limited. I think we are doing better and better on Friday evenings, so hopefully the addition of Saturday morning to begin on Rosh Hashanah morning will also go well.

So this Shabbat, we continue our transition into the High Holy Day season by reading Parashat Ki Tavo in the Book of Deuteronomy. It begins with the commandments to give charity and continues with perhaps the most difficult section of the Torah, that of the blessings and curses. Both are presented starkly and if taken literally, are quite scary. However, if we interpret them as warnings to what might happen if we ignore the mitzvot to help one another (especially the most vulnerable among us) and be good custodians of the earth we live in, we can see the positivity in the reading, and that the worst of the curses can be avoided.

At tonight's service beginning at 7:30 pm in person at the synagogue and on Zoom with the login instructions below, we will discuss the implications of this sometimes dreaded part of the Torah as interpreted by Rabbi Lauren Werber, spiritual leader of Temple B'nai Abraham in Elryia, Ohio.

JCC is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Shabbat Services

Time: Sep 4, 2020 07:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 497 903 0958

Passcode: 5QdVaA

To quote Rabbi Werner "One interpretation of Ki Tavo employs fear to compel religious observance and the other places a vengeful G-d behind the myriad tragedies we have faced. What if we have a third option, one that removes fear of G-d from the curses and distances G-d from injustice? What if these curses are not a warning from G-d, 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 many 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."

Please tune in or attend in person this evening and have a Shabbat Shalom!

Best wishes,

Ron Becker,

Spiritual Leader

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