Ki Tavo continues the discourses of Moses as the time for his own death draws near. The portion recounts standard blessing-curse patterns and begins with the ceremony of the first fruits which includes the famous passage “My father was a fugitive Aramean..” (26:5ff) This week, however, I wanted to have us look at the very beginning of the passage when we read “When you enter the land God is giving you as a heritage/inheritance…” (26:1). It struck me as I read this about what we see, now at our age and maybe even in light of the pandemic, as our heritage, our inheritance, our legacy. This also seems relevant as we are now in Elul, and thoughts of our own place in the world and what that means become more present as we prepare for the Holy Days.
What have we “inherited” from our past? What do we wish to leave to the next generation? I do not speak of material things, but soulful things. The resurgence of the importnace of teaching about our Ethical Will is part of this issue. What of us do we wish to leave behind? I suggest that this idea of heritage is also connected to a passage further on in the portion. Moses in 27, with the elders (how meaningful is that?) instruct the people that when they get to the land they are to set up large stones “and on these stones you shall inscribe every word of this Teaching” (27:8). This reflects, I think, the idea that our work, our life carries on. We often speak of memory and the fact that what we do and how we act does carry on past our life. The teachings of our tradition are part of this legacy, part of what the future inherits. The accumulted experience of our lives become our Torah. Rabbi Naomi Levy writes of the mystical idea of Rishima. “It means the imprint of a life experience leaves on you” (“Einstein and the Rabbi”. p. 244)
This is idea fits perfectly with this time of year. We begin to reflect on the experiences of our life and of the past year. Like it or not, these help shape who we are and how we emerge into 5781. They are part of us and thus, become part of the heritage we leave behind. What is it of us that we wish to share with the future? What is that story of our life that we wish to write on the symbolic stones of tomorrow? These are the very real questions that we shall confront in these next few weeks. We cannot erase what has shaped us. Those experiences are part of who we are. What our challange is may be to figure out how to understand that past so as to shape a future of love, peace, faith and joy.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.