Dear WJC Family,
There is an intriguing verse in this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo. At the beginning of Deuteronomy chapter 27, it says, “Moses and the elders of Israel charged the people, saying: Observe all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you today.” It is that last word, “today,” that catches the commentators’ eye. What does the Torah mean, “today?” After forty years wandering in the desert, Moshe has been giving this great speech on the Plains of Moab before the people will enter the Promised Land. The Torah was given at the beginning of that journey when the Jewish people camped at Mt. Sinai after leaving Egypt. So, the “instruction” mentioned in the verse was not enjoined upon them “today,” it was enjoined upon them 40 years ago!
As Dr. Ben Somers of the Jewish Theological Seminary points out in his book, “Revelation and Authority,” the Torah seems to hold the view that Revelation of Torah did not only happen at Sinai but is rather a continual process that happens in the present tense for every generation and every person, or at least it can. Just as parents still teach and inspire their children long after they are gone, giving the children access to new aspects of their parents’ lives, personalities, and values, so too in giving us the gift of Torah God continues to inspire us and gives us access to be in relationship with God.
How do we access this relationship in our own lives? How do we make our relationship with God and Torah a “present-tense” relationship rather than simply something that happened to our ancestors long ago? We engage in Torah and with God through study, ritual practice, and prayer. As we turn the calendar to September all of those are again available here at WJC.
Our regular learning schedule has started again. Rabbi Dalton is teaching on Tuesday mornings and I am teaching on Thursday nights – both classes themed for the High Holidays for these next few weeks as we prepare for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. After the holidays they will return to their regular Torah themes. Links to these classes can be found on the featured events page.
Additionally, this week I am going to try something new and if people participate, I will continue it – on Saturday morning I will be teaching a class from the sanctuary over the live stream. To access the source sheet for the class, which you can print out before Shabbat, click here. The teaching will be about the parsha and will last from 8:30-9:00am. At 9:00am I will start the Introductory and Morning Services solo in the sanctuary and our regular Saturday morning service with a minyan will start at 10:00am with the Torah service, led by the cantor who we happily welcome back after his family leave.
In addition, you have hopefully received the special “Connected by the Call” High Holiday Programming Catalogue with your September Review. As you can see in the booklet, there are literally dozens of events and opportunities to learn, meditate, cook and connect over the next few weeks. I hope you will join us as we get ourselves prepared to have a meaningful, if unusual, High Holiday period.
Also, prayer services are back (since June actually) on Saturday mornings and weekday mornings in-person and accessible online. After the holidays we will hopefully be adding evening services, in-person, and streaming, as well. Of course, hosting services in-person is complicated these days and we need your help. Please sign-up in advance for weekday mornings (currently at 8:00am but maybe moving earlier next week so stay tuned on that) and Saturday mornings. We require sign-ups to ensure we have a minyan (10 participants) present in the room and that everyone who is coming has an assigned seat and has received the special instructions and protocols. As the world slowly opens up and people’s schedules change, we are looking for some new recruits to come to services in-person. If you can help out or would just like to be back in shul on a Saturday morning or for a yortzeit, please let us know by emailing Rosie or me.
One last request – hopefully you have seen the information about the Kol Nidre Appeal, which is happening over the course of the whole Hebrew month of Elul preceding the High Holidays. Because of the situation with the pandemic and its repercussions, along with our commitment to address the needs of our members and staff as best we can, it is crucial that we get as many of these pledges as possible in advance of the holidays themselves. Partaking in the mitzvah of tzedakah is not only a central part of the High Holiday experience; it is yet another way to be in relationship with God in the “present tense.” If you have not already, would you please take a moment to click here and fill out the pledge form?
Shabbat services are tonight at 6:00pm online and led by the cantor and havdalah this week will be 8:10.
See you in shul or online,
Westchester Jewish Center welcomes your contribution to any of our listed funds.