This week portion, R’eih, spans a wide path of issues. We begin with a recitation of blessings and curses (11) and move on in chapter 12 to issues involving the centralization of the cult. This is reflective of the time when Deuteronomy was “written”, which emerged from the so-called revolution of King Josiah, which sought to purge the Temple and the cult from the corruption of foreign gods . We also deal with the issue of false prophets (13) food laws (14) and the portion concludes with chapters dealing with religious and social laws. However, we are always reminded of what really is THE major theme of Torah, do not worship other gods. Indeed, the repetition of the blessing/curse motif is central within Deuteronomy and takes on even greater importance at this time of our year.
The Hebrew month of Elul begins this coming weekend. With it, the tradition calls us to begin to turn our souls to the upcoming holidays. Rosh Hoshonna, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are now on the horizon. The “pace” and feel of the community begins to change. There are special readings in synagogue. We begin to focus on our own reflective self. The shofar will call us to that contemplative level of self and soul and for many of us, we will be asked to ask ourselves, what do we worship? Yes, this is the time when we examine again what we call God and seek, perhaps, to redefine what that relationship may be. This is especially meaningful in our society where we seem to worship so much of what is temporal. I am always reminded of a paragraph in the “Gates of Prayer” prayer book which spoke to the challenges of contemporary worship. The prayer was called “The Gods We Worship”. The prayer reminded us that we WILL worship something and “That which dominates our imagination and our thoughts will determine our life and character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful what we are worshipping, for what we are worshipping we are becoming”. (p.240)
I think these words mean much to us as we get older. We can ask now, with the benefit of a life of experience, what do we consider “holy”? What do we “worship”? Is the accumulation of more material things really that important? Or, have we moved to a more spiritual aspect of life, where the sacred is wrapped up in relationships and legacy? Is that god we worship (each in our own way) that Being beyong our own reality or that “still small voice” that speaks to us in quiet moments of contemplation? Do we put aside the worship of self and accomplishment and beging to replace it with a worship of love and compassion? We do become what we worship. As we enter the season of reflection, it is a good time to consider what it is that we make a priotity in life?
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.