Elul is upon us. The sound of the shofar reminds us that this silent epidemic must be addressed. Its cries echo those left in the depths of sorrow, feeling alone, believing that those who love them most would be better off without them. Our fear of mental illness must be replaced with a resolve to educate ourselves and others.
The beginning of the program year is always an exciting time at the RAC, as we begin a new cycle of tikkun olam work.
This week's Torah portion is called Ki Teitzei — meaning literally, "When you go out." It is a reference to violence and war. "When you take the field [literally, "When you go out"] against your enemies, and the Eternal your God delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive ... " (Deuteronomy 21:10).
This sentence is but a tiny portion of more than a thousand verses in the Tanach that deal with war. Our Holy Scriptures came into history in a world in which fighting was a normal and often necessary activity. The ancient communities of the Middle East were governed according to tribal custom and law, and each ethnic community was in a combative relationship with its neighbor. There was no United Nations in those days, no European Union designed to administer diverse people according to collective rules and laws. Some tribal federations such as the twelve tribes of Israel pooled their resources, but that was for protection rather than for advancing peaceful relations with the rest of the world. The harsh social-economic and political reality of the ancient world often triggered violent and deadly conflicts between communities and peoples, and it is rare that we read a comment such as is found in Judges 3:11: " ... and the land had peace for forty years."
With 65 million people displaced worldwide, the current global refugee has now surpassed World War II’s record of displaced people.
For many years, I felt inhibited to knock on the door of a synagogue. Simultaneously, my heart and gut knew where I belonged. There is in fact Jewish ancestry on my father’s side – contested by some relatives; strong enough to reinforce my feelings of visceral kinship.
After the recent passing of Israeli President Shimon Peres, z"l, I'm remembering the time I sat down with him in a Manhattan midtown hotel in 1994 at the beginning of the Oslo process to discuss the peace process.
"And Moses went (Vayeilech) and spoke these words to all Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:1). This opening marks the beginning, not only of the parashah, but also of the long death scene for Moses that will not be completed until the very end of the Torah two portions hence. Traditional commentators noticed an unusual locution. Usually the Torah reads "And Moses spoke … " Only here does it say "And Moses went and spoke … "