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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 18 Aug 2017 05:28 PM and ends Sat 19 Aug 2017 06:29 PM
י"ז אלול ה' אלפים תשע"א
Word of Torah for Parshat Ki Tavo: (Deuteronomy 26-29:8) Our Parasha this week lays out the key points of the raison d’être of the Jewish People and the consequences should we ever shrink from our mission. It is like a trap. We have the world on our shoulders because their very conscience rests with us. When we will fail to be that conscience, we lose our unique perspective as the artists in society. We blur the lines of good versus evil then we collectively lose our job and therefore our value to the world. If we disappear, however, the voice of God will go mute. On Rosh HaShana we reenact the coronation of God over the universe. But a king without subjects is no king at all. Therefore, the Rosh HaShana Service, specifically the Shofar Service, is our pledge taken on again anew, to carry out the will of our Creator by following the destiny of the Jewish People. The Haftara, the additional and accompanying reading from the Prophets (Isaiah Chapter 60 in its entirety), is brought by the sages to juxtapose the curses given in the Torah Portion. The Torah lists catastrophic consequences that are a chilling forecast of Jewish History. The Haftarah is a thoroughly utopian vision of the glorious impact our success would bring about for the world were we to shine forth with our full light on the nations.
According to the Torah, as descendents of Abraham, signatories to the Sinaitic Covenant and in the final covenant of testimony given at the edge of the Jordan, just as we were about to cross over, to chose between life or death, blessing or curse, we as Jews have no choice but to play the role we were given in bringing humanity to the summit of morality and harmony. However uncomfortable we may be with the notion that we are a chosen people, it is clear from the following statement in the Torah:
“The word that Hashem has spoken to you today is meant to impress upon you that you are to be a treasured nation as you were told [at Sinai] and to keep the commandments. You have been given a heightened role above all nations that He made. You are to be given to the peoples as a bearer of the “praise”, in representation of the Holy and glorious Name, so that you will be a holy nation unto the Lord, your God, as He has stated.” Deuteronomy 26:18-19
This statement means that in order to bring about a safe, caring and harmonious world, an identifiable group of people would be given a unique and burdensome role of protecting and speaking out for the values taught in the Torah. Each of us needs to have impeccably high moral standards and personal integrity. No matter what our numbers are or how we feel about playing this role, like Jonah, we cannot run from it. There is nowhere to go…but up.
We must be lenient and gracious with others and be exacting on our own conduct. We must only get angry because of true injustice, not because of a false sense of pride. We have to act in a way that shows others their own true intrinsic value to us and lead them to believe in themselves and what they can bring to the table. This is our only way forward. As a group who understands the importance of each life, we cannot still our voices from speaking truth to power. Someone has to do these things. We have to stop ourselves from thinking, “why me?” Who else? If we who were given a consciousness that humanity is our project - and it is a long term project - are seen as those who compromise, people will lose faith in the project of humanity. Humanity as a whole will stop believing and stop fighting. An individual’s life is not the ultimate value, but all life.
There are second chances and third chances to turn around and face ourselves. We are crucial to the success of the world. Why did our ancestors resist assimilation into the nations? They took this directive to be a blessing to the world very seriously. It wasn’t a fight for survival as such. It was because we have a special mission that has not come to fruition. As history got worse for Jews, they were simultaneously needed all the more. It is no less true today!
Shabbat Shalom, Tzipi