What a Torah portion this week!Ki Tavo, which begins in Deuteronomy 26, is filled with a series of blessings and curses. Just a glance at chapters 27 and 28 is enough to get anyone’s attention. The God of the Wilderness leaves no room for doubt as to what His requirements are. However, I would l ike to point out a passage, very familiar to all of us, from 26.
The portion begins with this call by Moses to the assembled people a set of instructions as to the first thing they must do when they enter Canaan. There is an oath to the priests brought with the “first fruits of the soil” (26:2). Giving this offering to the priest, one then says “My father was a fugitive Aramean.”
From 26:5 through 26:9 is a passage that we read at every seder. It comes from this portion. As important as this is, there is something else that came to me when looking again at the passage.
As we have mentioned in some current blogs, we are in the month of Elul. It is the time when we begin to turn our souls to focus on the upcoming Holidays and all that this season means. The season of introspection, transition and, we hope, transformation is at hand. Now in Ki Tavo, Moses instructs his people reminding them when they enter Canaan they are to acknowledge their relationship to God and equally, they are to remind themselves of their journey. In other words, be grateful for the present by not forgetting the past. I think this has particular meaning for us this season. We are often very quick to celebrate the present without recognizing the past. As we get older we develop, in many ways, a greater appreciation for the people who paved the way for us and for the life lessons that we now, we hope, have come to understand and appreciate.
Often in our society we forget this past. Part of tat we still see in the agism that still exists in today’s world. Too many organizations and congregations fail to see the value in the decades of life experience that may still reside within their memberships. his experience has great value and, if tapped, can aid and support younger people and provide a needed sense of history to an entire enterprise. Judaism is a religious civilization that exists because of history. We appreciate and revere, through ritual and prayer, a sense that we are, each of us, a product of what and who has come before us. This sense that we are part of an unfolding chain of life experience is especially powerful at this time of year. By remembering where we have come from we can better understand how to move into our own future. The power of history and memory supports us as a culture and individuals.
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.