knowing the Unknowable: Parashat R’eh

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Parashat R’eh
Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” This is an old saying that describes how people avoid making changes for fear of failure and fear of the unknown. We tend to feel that it is better to hold on to the problems we know – and endure – than to possibly create new problems with which we will not know how to cope. The wisdom of such a view is certainly debatable and deeply questionable.

But what about “the God you know” rather than “the devil you know”?  In our Torah portion Moses repeatedly warns Israel not to stray “to go after other gods that you do not know.” (Deut. 11:28 – and see also Ch. 13, vv. 3, 7 and 14) The implication is clear. We should remain faithful to “the God we do know.”

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Not By Bread Alone: Parashat Eqev

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Parashat Eqev

Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25

Bread is one recurrent motif in our Torah portion. The manna – the “bread” that fell from heaven sustained the Israelites for 40 years. Moses explains that the message of this heavenly bread was “for it is not by bread alone that a person will live; rather, it is from all that issues from God’s mouth (motza pi YHVH) that a person shall live.” (Deut. 8:3)
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Using Summer’s Bounty

Wild Grey Squirrel On the Run with a Crab Apple in an English Garden

I had high hopes. The eggplant and zucchini plants looked healthy and were putting out flowers; the tomato leaves were sturdy. The basil and thyme were overflowing their pot. My mini garden on our deck looked like it would be a success as the pretty eggplant flowers  morphed into lots of baby eggplants. The zucchini was promising with big yellow flowers and the tomatoes were the size of baseballs.

Then came the squirrel. He first went for a green tomato, one that was almost ready to turn red. He took a big bite and he left the rest  on the deck railing as if to taunt us. Guess the taste wasn’t right. Then he came for the four inch long eggplant, the largest on the plant.

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More Things to Do

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There are so many things to do these days that there’s no excuse to be bored. Organizations, educational institutions at every level, entertainment venues and cultural groups have all risen to the occasion. They do not want to be forgotten.

Granted , most are not face to face. But in these days, we must rely on our imaginations. Perhaps get together with trusted family or friends to share some of these online experiences.

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This Good Mountain: Parashat Va’et’hanan/Shabbat Nahamu

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Parashat Va’et’hanan/Shabbat Nahamu 
Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

You took my hand in yours and you said to me:
“Come, let’s go down to the garden.”
You took my hand in yours and you said to me:
“What you see from there – you don’t see from here.”

(Words: Y. Rotblit; Music: Mati Caspi)

Moses begs God to reconsider God’s judgement against Moses and allow him to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. “Please, let me cross over and I will see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.” (Deut. 3:25)
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Pursue Peace First: Parashat D’varim/Shabbat Hazon

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Parashat D’varim/Shabbat Hazon 
Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22

Moses creates a new book of the Torah, this fifth volume, D’varim, Deuteronomy, which we now begin. This book is the radical result of a unique partnership between God and a human being that has played itself out in our story for over 40 years, a partnership sanctified by the Jewish people for thousands of years.

This stark fact colors every word of this book. It challenges us to make sense of the words spoken and the story told by this man, embraced and empowered by God. As Moses repeats the Torah’s previous teachings, all the while rephrasing, adding to and changing the text, we wonder just how far his agency extends. Here is but one example –
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Help Sound the Shofar!

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Sounding the shofar is a beloved feature of celebrating the Jewish New Year. Each year we enjoy gathering together in our building to hear the shofar’s piercing, mysterious sounds.

This year we need to be creative. While we will livestream the shofar service from Shomrei, we also want to “think out of the building.” So we are hoping to gather a group of volunteers who will be able to blow shofar at various designated spots in Montclair, so as to make it possible for as many people as possible to hear the real thing. Imagine – you, along with so many of your friends and neighbors – taking a few moments to walk to a spot close by, or to just open your window, and hear the traditional shofar blasts heralding the New Year!

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Things to Do

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The library can be a treasure trove of information and entertainment, whimsical and useful, frivolous and serious.

I’d like to share with you a variety of items to help you fill any extra time you or your family might have. Continue reading

Shelter: Parashat Mattot/Mas`ei

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Parashat Mattot/Mas`ei 
Numbers 30:2 – 36:13

They call it – “`ir miqlat – a city of shelter.”  (Num. 35:11) And yes, it is safe here. The avenger seeking my death cannot touch me here. The avenger will not listen to my story, will not listen to reason. I did not mean to kill their loved one. Of course, I wish it never happened! It was a tragic accident! Yet I feel a heavy burden of guilt. And the avenger will have it no other way. If not for my fleeing here faster than they could catch me, I would be just as dead as their beloved. So, this city keeps me safe. Here is security and forgiveness, as it keeps my unforgiving enemy at bay.
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