Lost Property and Relationships

Parashat Ki Tetze

What can lost property teach us about relationships?

Parashat Ki Tetze contains seventy-two different mitzvot, the largest number in any Torah portion. From the outset, it seems to be just a condensed list of random instructions. However, the format of this portion encourages us to take a wider view so as not to miss the forest for the trees. After looking through the entirety of the mitzvot listed in the parasha, we find a common thread – the relationship between our physical possessions and our human relationships.

In this portion, the Torah clarifies our obligation to look out for the interests of others and to return to others what they have lost:

“You are not to watch your brother’s ox or sheep go astray and behave as if you hadn’t seen it; you must bring them back to your brother. If your brother is not close by, or you don’t know who the owner is, you are to bring it home to your house; and it will remain with you until your brother asks for it. Then you are to give it back to him. You are to do the same with his donkey, his coat or anything else of your brother’s that he loses. If you find something he lost, you must not ignore it.” (Deuteronomy 22:1-3)

According to Nehama Leibowitz, this commandment is one of commission, not omission:

“The mitzvah of returning lost property … involves, not only the passive taking charge of the article until the owner claims it, but also an active concern with safeguarding a neighbor’s possessions (Studies in Devarim, p. 214).”

An “active concern” includes doing everything possible to locate the owner of the lost property. The finder must not only care for the property, but may not profit from it. And if it was invested, the finder must also return all the earnings. The Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman) makes it clear that the mitzva of returning lost property supersedes any inconvenience to the finder.

So why is this so important? What does lost property have to do with relationships? Rabbi Harvey J. Fields explains that:

“Property is an extension of each individual. It is like the limb of one’s body. Loving one’s neighbor means taking care of all that is important to them as you would want them to safeguard all that is important to you. Returning lost property is a demonstration of love and concern for one’s neighbors.”

Bachya ben Joseph ibn Pakuda agrees, explaining that the act of restoring lost property fulfills the Torah’s instruction to “love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18).”

Yeshua further clarified the importance of our relationships, and that nothing is greater than our relationship with G-d, and with each other. May we, with G-d’s help, demonstrate love and concern for those around us, seeing within our fellow human beings a reflection of the Divine Image.

“L’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu – May you be inscribed for a sweet New Year!”

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Elul: A Month of Love and Preparation

This past Saturday was the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul. Elul is very special because it is the month preceding Tishrei – the month the High Holidays fall in. Traditionally it is known as a month of preparation. This preparation, called Cheshbon HaNefesh, is a time we begin to take an accounting of our soul. We recall our thoughts and actions over the past year and begin to seek t’shuvah (repentance) for those things and with those we may have wronged.

In recognition of this special month, and in anticipation for the upcoming High Holidays, a few additions are added to our daily prayers. One of the most noticeable is the sounding of the Shofar every morning. Traditionally, we Jews only blow the Shofar once a year – every morning of the month of Elul leading up to, and on, Rosh HaShanah and Neilah (the concluding service) of Yom Kippur. The reason is because of the specialness of the blowing of the Shofar. Jewish tradition teaches that there is something spiritual and mystical about the blowing of the Shofar. According to the Talmud (b. Rosh Hashana 16b):

Rabbi Abahu asks, “Why do we sound the horn of a ram [on Rosh HaShanah]? Because the Holy One, Blessed be He, said, ‘Blow Me a ram’s horn that I may remember unto you the binding of Isaac the son of Abraham, and I shall account it unto you for a binding of yourselves before me.’”

For us Jews, the sounding of the shofar is not meant to be a quaint traditional practice, but a spiritual wake-up call! As the Rambam points out, it is meant to “Rouse the slumbers’ from their sleep!”

Another familiar addition is Psalm 27 – the Psalm associated with the High Holidays. Psalm 27 is added to all of the services beginning with the first day of Elul and continuing through Hoshanah Rabbah at the end of Sukkot (in some congregations, only through Yom Kippur).

How are we to understand this preparation period of Elul?

The rabbis teach us that Elul is actually an acronym. Each of the Hebrew letters – אלול – alef, lamed, vav, lamed – stand for the beginning letter of each word in the phrase “אני לדודי ודודי לי – ani l’dodi v’dodi li – I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” A familiar phrase taken from Song of Songs 6:3.

The illustration of Elul in Jewish thought is the preparation before a wedding. The holidays in Hebrew are called mo’edim, set appointed times when God chooses to meet with us. The High Holidays are the pinnacle of these appointed times. HaShem desires that we should be caught up in a love affair with Him. As Abraham Joshua Heschel points out, God is in pursuit of a relationship with us. God desires communion with creation and the High Holidays are set times which God “clears away His calendar” so to speak, and chooses to spend an even greater amount of time with us. Although we can meet with God anytime, the mo’edim are specific and special times.

The High Holidays are also when many believe the Mashiach will return – at the final blast of the Shofar. As such, the High Holidays will inaugurate the final consummation at the end of the age when the Groom returns for His Bride, and ushers in the Messianic Age.

That love of HaShem for us, and us for HaShem is the picture of Elul. It is preparation not just for “some holiday.” It is our preparation time to meet with God. Elul is also our preparation for the coming of Mashiach, and preparation for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (see Rev. 19). I hope we’re ready for the month of Elul and all that it brings.

L’Shana tova tikateivu – May you be inscribed for a sweet New Year!

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Food of Complacency

Parashat Eikev

Food: Something many of us enjoy … and maybe often a little too much. Reading through our Torah portion, Eikev, I thought about the great holiday dinners of Pesach, Rosh HaShanah, Thanksgiving and others. There is nothing like that satiated feeling after an excellent meal, where you feel like curling up on the floor and drifting off into a “food coma.”

When we are without food, we cry out to God like our ancestors did in the wilderness, wondering why God has abandoned us. We kvetch and complain without faith in God’s provision. And yet, when God does bring nourishment into our lives, whether physically or spiritually, we often momentarily thank HaShem before wolfing down our food, and again fall quickly back into complacency.

Judaism teaches that in all things we must bless HaShem. And how much more so in those difficult times, like when we are happy, full, and content after a wonderful meal? Torah teaches us that although we are commanded to enjoy the finer things in life, we should remember there are finer spiritual delicacies as well:

A person does not live by bread alone but on everything that comes from the mouth of HaShem. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Many faith traditions have a custom to bless God before we eat. We do this in Judaism as well. However, the Torah emphasizes that our greatest blessing should come AFTER we eat:

You will eat and be satisfied, and you will bless HaShem your God for the good land He has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:10)

Hence, the mitzvah for Birkat HaMazon. When our natural tendency is to slip into a food coma, Torah instructs us to acknowledge God after we have eaten so that even in our satisfaction, we give thanks to our Provider. This reminds us that our true life source is not physical food alone, but HaShem, the Creator of all things.

Moshe links the command to bless God after we have eaten to God’s provision of manna from heaven. The manna was a spiritual sustenance that the rabbis recognized nourished the soul as well as the body. According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

In truth however, Moshe’s words are applicable now as well, because it is not the physical efforts of working the land alone that causes the land to yield produce. Rather, man’s efforts merely create a ‘vehicle’ into which God places His blessings, and it is the Divine blessing which provides us with sustenance. Therefore, even the food which grows from the ground is in fact ‘food from heaven.’ (Likutei Sichos 16)

As we daily eat and are satisfied, let us not forget that it is not by bread alone that we live. When those times in our lives arise when it is easier to just slip into a food coma, let us overcome those moments and use them as a vehicle for blessing God. This was the lesson of our Mashiach when he too encountered temptation in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-4). Instead of giving-in to simple satisfaction, he countered the Adversary with the exact words from our Torah portion.

May we also remember that we do not live by bread alone. As followers of our Mashiach, we are continually nourished spiritually as well. As we eat, let us give thanks to our Creator and for His daily provision in our lives.

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Pleading Before HaShem

Parashat Ve’etchanan

This week’s Torah portion is called Ve’etchanan – “I pleaded.” It is Moshe pleading with the people to observe G-d’s mitzvot and live as the holy community G-d has purposed Israel to be.

Last week we discussed how Deuteronomy is an interesting book. It is actually a repetition of the entire Torah. The other peculiar aspect of the book is that it involves a different generation than the rest of the Torah. Meaning, the whole reason Moshe is pleading with the people at the beginning of this parasha is because it is the generation about to go into the Promised Land after wandering in the dessert for forty years. This is not the generation that left Egypt and was involved in the sin of the golden calf. Nor were they probably old enough to fully comprehend the impact of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. This was a new generation.

It is called Ve’etchanan because Moshe is pleading with this new generation to not be like the previous generation. Moshe is pleading with them to be faithful to HaShem’s covenant, to observe the mitzvot and be a holy people. He recounts the giving of the Torah, and explains the purpose of G-d’s Torah. Moshe instructs the people that if they will be faithful to HaShem, then He will be faithful to them and provide for them.

Yet, what is so powerful and mysterious about this parasha is that it is also not about a different generation. That this current generation (and every generation to follow) is actually also the previous generation which left Egypt, wandered in the dessert, and stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

For HaShem did not just make this covenant with our ancestors, but with us – with us who are alive today. HaShem spoke with you face to face from the fire on the mountain. (Deuteronomy 5:3-4)

This mystical idea is so central to the Jewish people that when we observe the commandments and festivals, we are not just remembering something that happened in the past – but we are reliving it. Every opportunity, and every chag, every holiday is a reliving of the events. When we remove a Torah scroll from an ark, it is not just a Torah service; it is reliving the experience at Sinai – with the fire, thunder, and all. When we celebrate Sukkot, we are back in the dessert homeless, hungry, tired and cold. When we observe Pesach, we are actually being redeemed from Egypt. As this week’s parasha also states:

Someday your child will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of the instructions, laws and rulings which HaShem our G-d has laid down for you?’ Then you will tell your child, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and HaShem brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand…’ (Deuteronomy 6:20-21)

Every one of us was once a slave (and in many ways, we still are). We all stood at Mt. Sinai, and all share the responsibility to follow in G-d’s ways and be faithful to His Torah. The next time you pick up a Siddur, light Shabbat candles, or put on a tallit – may you be enveloped in the idea that we are not just observing something that happened in the past; we are reliving it in the here and now. Each action is an opportunity to reengage G-d, and to relive the events surrounding each mitzvah.

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Rebellion and Selfishness … or a Message of Hope?

Parashat Korach

This week’s parasha begins with an outright rebellion against Moses and Aaron. So what do we learn from this?

Korach, a first cousin of Moses (and also a Levite), and those with him are presented in the parasha as having selfish motivations for their rebellion, as exemplified in their accusation:

“You take too much upon yourselves! After all, the entire community is holy … So why do you exalt yourselves above HaShem’s community?” (Numbers 16:3)

It seems Korach felt he could do a better job leading the people of Israel than Moses and Aaron. So he set out to overthrow them, and usurp their authority by assembling a group of people to follow him.

Pirkei Avot teaches:

“Any dispute that is for the sake of heaven will have a constructive outcome; but one that is not for the sake of heaven will not have a constructive outcome … And what sort of dispute was not for the sake of heaven? – The dispute of Korach and his entire community (Avot 5:20).”

In the end, Korach and his family were swallowed up by the earth, and the 250 people with him were consumed by fire. What is even more unbelievable is that the very next day the people started grumbling against Moses again – after just having witnessed the fate of Korach and those with him. So G-d sent a plague that ended up killing another 14,700 people in addition to those who died along with Korach.

We learn from Parashat Korach that G-d takes selfishness very seriously. Because whenever we think we can “do it better,” we need to be careful. There are times when it is true – maybe we can do it better. But the real question is our motivation. Is our motivation to do a great job? Or, is it a matter of a selfish ambition based on jealousy, insecurity, or rebelliousness?

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that G-d has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)

We are supposed to be confident in our abilities. But a mature confidence is not arrogance. Paul warns that we should never take ourselves too seriously. For if we do, and begin grumbling against those around us, we risk the fate of Korach.

To be clear, the message of Korach is not one of utter hopelessness. For interwoven in the story is also a message of redemption. Although Korach himself chose to rebel against G-d, Moses, and Aaron; his descendants chose to follow in the ways of HaShem. How do we know this? There are eleven Psalms all written by “the Sons of Korach.” As G-d so often does, He took a negative experience and turned it into a story of hope.

The descendants of Korach deliberately chose not to walk in the ways of their ancestor. Rather, they took upon themselves the burden to walk in the ways of HaShem. We are instructed elsewhere in the Torah to be holy just as G-d is holy. Holiness is a choice. We can either choose our own selfish ambitions, or we can be like the sons of Korach, and (despite any negative reputation and associations) choose righteousness, holiness, and the way of our Messiah. I hope we choose wisely.

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Happy Independence Day!

We wish you and your family a very happy 4th of July, and leave you with a couple of inspiring thoughts on this Independence Day.

“Of all the disposition and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports … Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”

-President George Washington (Farewell Address)

“Our G-d and G-d of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings for our country, for its government, for its leaders and advisor, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority. Teach them insights from Your Torah, that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst … May this land under Your providence be an influence for good throughout the world, uniting all people in peace and freedom and helping them to fulfill the vision of Your prophet: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they experience war anymore.” And let us say: Amen.

-“A Prayer for our Country,” Siddur Sim Shalom

 

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Lift Up Your Head

Parashat Bamidbar

What is the purpose of the census at the beginning of the book of Numbers, and why is so much detail placed on the encampment of the tribes of Israel around the Tabernacle?

This week’s Torah portion begins the biblical book of Numbers, named after the census taken at the beginning of the parasha.  The act of counting individuals seems quite trivial and without meaning.  In addition, the census seems to appear out of nowhere.  As such, what is the purpose of the census?  The Hebrew of the text provides an answer.  The literal translation of the phrase, “take a census – se’u et rosh” is “lift up the head.”  According to Chasidic thought, the purpose of the census was to reach out to the core of the Jewish soul.  When each person is counted, everyone is equal.  Each person counts as only one count.  No one is counted twice and nobody is skipped.  The census was meant to even the playing field and show equality and value of every single individual.  One life is not worth more than another.  Each person has purpose.

This idea of holiness is emphasized in the encampment of Israel around the Tabernacle.  The 13th Century Jewish sage, Ramban (Nachmanides), noticed clear parallels between the mitzvot surrounding the Tabernacle and the Revelation at Sinai.  As Sinai represented the place of God’s manifest presence, so too the Tabernacle represented God’s presence on earth.  And just as the people camped around the base of Mt. Sinai, so too did the tribes camp around the Tabernacle, symbolizing the centrality of God’s presence among the people of Israel.  During the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, the Jewish people entered into a profound covenant with God.  The symbolism between a Jewish wedding and the giving of the Torah further solidifies this understanding.

By making the Tabernacle central to the people of Israel, geographically and conceptually, it solidified the Jewish commitment to the centrality of Torah.  The centrality of Torah underscored the emphasis for the need of the Living Torah, dwelling in, through, and among the nation of Israel.  May we too recognize that same obligation to make God’s presence central to our lives, and may each of us never lose sight of our ultimate purpose.

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Consequences of a Violated Relationship

Nadab-and-Abihu-killed-by-God-for-making-an-unLawAcharei Mot

Traditionally, Leviticus 16, which deals with the proper protocol for the High Priest during the special Yom Kippur service, is read in the synagogue on the morning of Yom Kippur. The Torah introduces the Yom Kippur service immediately following the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu. This demonstrates that there is a direct connection between this tragedy and the instructions of Yom Kippur described in our Torah portion.

According to the Sages, part of the transgression committed by Aaron’s two sons is that not only did they offer improper offerings, but they entered into the Holy of Holies, which only the Kohen HaGadol (the High Priest) is allowed to do. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (First Century) comments that either sin would have been enough to warrant their death. As a result, the entire rest of the chapter deals with the proper protocol of Yom Kippur and the order for the High Priest to enter into the Holy of Holies.

It is taught that Moses’ long process for seeking forgiveness on behalf of the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf ended on the tenth day of Tishrei (Yom Kippur) when he returned with the second set of tablets. That day became associated with forgiveness.

The rest of our Torah portion goes on to describe the Yom Kippur sacrifices and proper sexual relationships.

Often we might not think that God cares that much about protocol and how we live our lives. It seems Nadav and Avihu took this for granted as well. The problem with Nadav and Avihu is they knowingly and intentionally violated the mitzvot God clearly commanded them to obey.

I don’t believe HaShem is out to “zap” everyone the moment they stray. Instead, throughout our Scriptures we often see a loving and merciful God who is always willing to offer second (and more!) opportunities to do teshuva, and re-orient ourselves spiritually. But as with being a parent or a spouse, or in other types of relationships, there are certain lines one does not cross without severe repercussions – adultery, lying, stealing, cheating. It seems that we too have certain protocols and commitments we expect one to follow in certain types of relationships.

The same with HaShem. Nadav and Avihu violated their intimate relationships with HaShem. As priests who were consecrated to serve and devote themselves wholly to God, they took advantage of that relationship. It seems, based on the following commandments of our Torah portion, they may have even violated other intimate relationships as well.

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Divine Presence

Parashat Terumah

What is the connection between the construction of the Tabernacle, its furnishings and the Presence of G-d among the people of Israel?

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Terumah, centers on the instructions concerning the building of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) and its furnishings. This raises an interesting question. For if the Bible’s overall theme is about G-d’s relationship with humanity through the Jewish people, then why is so much attention given to the details of objects? The answer is deeply connected to the purpose of the Mishkan, its services, and the manifest presence of the Divine.

The Torah states, “They shall make for me a Sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them (25:8).” The Hebrew name for the Tabernacle is mishkan, which means “to dwell” or “dwelling.” As such, even the word mishkan denotes HaShem’s presence that would dwell among the people of Israel.

Ibn Ezra comments that “while Moses was still on Mt. Sinai, G-d commanded him concerning the tabernacle so that it would be a permanent place among the people for the glory that had rested on the mountain.” Further, Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch notes that the key to the Tabernacle is directly related to Israel’s calling in verse 8. The Sanctuary represents Israel’s obligation to sanctify itself in its personal life. When the nation carries out that primary responsibility, G-d responds by dwelling among them.

G-d has always desired to tabernacle among His people. And the purpose of the Mishkan was to be a constant reminder of G-d’s presence residing among the Jewish people. The mishkan represents G-d’s shechinah (from the same word as mishkan) – G-d’s manifest presence on earth.

The author of Revelation writes that this continued presence of G-d among the Jewish people will continue beyond the second coming of the Messiah and even into the “New Jerusalem.”

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of G-d is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. G-d Himself will be with them and be their G-d (Rev. 21:3).’”

This promise echoes passages from the Torah in which G-d promises that He will be Israel’s G-d, and that they shall be His people. This promise of Israel’s unique relationship will continue into the Olam HaBa – the World to Come. May we, as followers of Yeshua, our Righteous Messiah, continue to live personal lives aware of G-d’s manifest presence, and may we continue to work to bring that Presence to the rest of the world – thereby affirming our calling to be a Light to the Nations.

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Holiness, Justice and Reaching Out to Others

OutreachParashat Mishpatim

What can this week’s parasha, and the Torah as a whole, teach us about reaching out to others and drawing them close?

Our Torah portion begins:

Exodus 21:1

א  וְאֵלֶּה הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, אֲשֶׁר תָּשִׂים לִפְנֵיהֶם.

1 These are the ordinances which you shall place before them.

The Torah then describes instructions for becoming a people of the covenant. But what does that mean exactly? To better understand, we’ll need to dig deeper into the Torah.

Justice as Holiness

Mishpatim is actually a continuation of last week’s parasha, Yitro. Therefore, we must go back to where Yitro leaves off … at the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The point is that the commandments of this week’s parasha are a continuation of those same mitzvot on Mt. Sinai. What, then, follows are primarily matters of justice:

  • The ethical treatment of slaves
  • Crimes of murder and kidnapping
  • Personal injuries
  • Damages through neglect or theft
  • Unfair business practices …

Such seemingly civil and tort matters are further mixed with commandments of social justice …

Exodus 22:20-23:

כ  וְגֵר לֹא-תוֹנֶה, וְלֹא תִלְחָצֶנּוּ:  כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.

20 You shall not taunt or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
21 You shall not afflict any widow, or orphan.
22 If you dare to cause them pain – for if they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry–
23 My wrath shall blaze, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives will be widows, and your children fatherless.

So, again, what is the purpose of these seemingly juxtaposed mitzvot? Mishpatim provides an important insight into Judaism, and into Biblical thought: To G-d, there is no separate realm between ritual and spiritual matters (unlike within Western thought which separates the two). All areas of life are intertwined and holiness potentially binds them together. According to the Torah, concern for justice is a concern for the Holy.

Holiness is not some mystical, esoteric state of being. Rather, it is a way of life and a pattern of action. To “do holiness” is to partner with G-d in bringing redemption into the world. For example: The Torah considers the treatment of strangers a matter of justice, and repeatedly calls us to stand up for the downtrodden. WHY?  Because every person is created b’tzelem Elohim – Created in the image of G-d (Genesis 1:26-27).

Therefore, We must recognize justice as essential to holiness. Before we can attain deeper levels of holiness within ourselves, we must be able to recognize holiness within others.

So what does this teach us about Outreach?

Bringing people into our community requires seeing the reflection of HaShem within them, and welcoming them into our community.

A Lesson from Avraham Avinu

One of the greatest examples of hospitality in the Torah is Avraham Avinu … our great Patriarch, Abraham.

Genesis 18:1-8 describes the story of “Abraham’s tent” and his welcoming of the three strangers. According to Jewish tradition, his tent was open on all sides, meaning it was open and welcoming to all. The rabbis are quick to point out that Avraham’s hospitality is not passive. He was looking for guests! And not only was he looking for guests … the Torah tells us that Avraham RAN to not only meet his guests … but he ran to meet their needs as well:

“(v. 2) On seeing them he ran from the door of this tent to meet them.”

“(v. 6) Avraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Quickly, three measures of the best flour. Knead it and make cakes!”

“(v. 7) Avraham ran to the herd, took a good, tender calf, and gave it to the servant who hurried to prepare it.”

According to the Talmud, hospitality is a great mitzvah. It is considered more important to show hospitality than to attend classes or to greet HaShem in prayer (b. Shabbat 127a).

A young person once visited the famous teacher known as the Chofetz Chaim. The guest had arrived at the synagogue just as Shabbat had begun after having been on the road for many long hours. He was hungry and very weak from having walked so far. After the service he was invited to the home of the Chofetz Chaim for Shabbos dinner, who noticed how weak and hungry his young guest was.

To the surprise of all his guests, the famous Chofetz Chaim skipped singing Shalom Aleichem (a prayer where we welcome the angels) and after quickly reciting Kiddush and HaMotzi began to eat.

“Why did you skip singing Shalom Aleichem,’ the young man asked his host. The Chofetz Chaim replied, “I could see that you were very weak and hungry. A hungry person should be fed as soon as possible. The angles can wait to be greeted.”

Yeshua’s Final Instructions

Yeshua commands us to “make talmidim” (Matttew 28:16-20). One of the roles of a talmid, according to Jewish thought, is to make other talmidim for their Rebbe.

In Luke’s version of this event, Yeshua tells his followers he is to begin in Jerusalem and then go out to the nations. They are to continue the work first among our own people, and then spread the message to the rest of the world.

Conclusion

In continuing that commitment, I feel it is vital to step-up our efforts at attracting other like-minded individuals and families to our communities. But we need new and creative ideas for how to reach out to,  and bring-in other Jewish and intermarried people. It’s time for fresh, out of the box thinking.

I might not have all the answers for how to do that, but what I do know, is that it must begin with recognizing justice and the way we treat others as an extension of holiness. Like Avraham, we need to run to greet those we feel would be a welcome addition to our congregation and to our movement … and draw them near to our Messiah.

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