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Rabbi's Weekly Message

Rabbi Wexler - Thursday, September 10

This week’s double parasha of Nitzavim-Vayeilekh contains what I believe to be one of the most important mandates of the Torah. In Deuteronomy 30:19 we read:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. U’vacharta bachayim- Choose life, that you and your descendants may live!

When the Torah states that God puts life and death before us, our tradition is not telling us to decide whether to live or die, but rather that every choice we make from birth to death matters. These choices range from how we treat our loved ones, to what causes we choose to stand up for, to how we spend our time, and more. In each of these choices we must choose life.

An important message every day, but especially on this the final Shabbat of the year 5780 as we will turn to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah beginning next Friday night. Moses, speaking to the entire Israelite community, and also speaking to each of us today, informs us that our job in the coming year is to choose life by making good choices and by making our choices count. Through choice, each of us is empowered to be a conduit for love, righteousness, courage, and transformation.

I think about this verse from Torah a lot and I was reminded of what it means to choose life through a teaching I recently heard by Rabbi Sharon Brous of Ikar. She began by teaching the foundational principle of Judaism found in Genesis 1:27, that each person is created in the image of God. She then shared a beautiful midrash (rabbinic story) which states:

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said: A procession of angels walk before a person wherever he goes, blowing the shofar and announcing, “Make way for the image of the Holy One.”

Think about that image. What would the world look like if everyone took this idea seriously; if each human life was considered worthy of a troop of angels, blowing shofars and announcing that each is created in God’s image? Certainly our world would look quite different especially regarding issues of justice, equality, respect for the health and safety of others, generosity and kindness.

But let’s take this midrash one step further—when it comes to safe social distancing, could this midrash help us understand the six feet of distance we are supposed to put between ourselves and others? The six feet could be envisioned as making room for the invisible angels which surround each of us. When we keep our physical distance, we are not trying to get away from each other, but rather leave space for our angels.

As we prepare to enter the New Year of 5781, let us ask: how can we leave space for our angels and how can we make way for the image of God in each person? In doing so, may we choose life and may we feel blessed to be surrounded by both celestial and terrestrial angels each and every day.

Shabbat Shalom.

A Guide for Zooming Shabbat and Holiday Services

“The Shabbat services that we offer over Zoom help keep us spiritually connected while we are physically distant. Though we normally do not use electronic devices on Shabbat, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement considers this to be a hora’at sha’ah, an extraordinary time, which allows us to make an exception to our normal observance. You can read the halakahic ruling (teshuvah) that comprehensively addresses our situation here. Even though we are using technology to gather for services on Shabbat and holidays, we still try to minimize the use of our devices in honor of Shabbat. Click here to see our guide to help with this.

Download an abridged PDF of the Siddur here for our Shabbat morning Zoom services.

TBS@Home

While our physical building is closed, we are excited to share with you many ways to connect and engage with our TBS family in the upcoming week through our Zoom programs. Check the TBS calendar for listings.

To join a Zoom session, click on the link at the designated time. You can also call into the number provided below and enter in the meeting ID number.

Tue, September 22 2020 4 Tishrei 5781