This week, Parshat Ki Seitze will be read in synagogue from the Sefer Devarim. (Book of Deuteronomy)
In Brooklyn, NY, candle lighting will be at 7:04 PM. Candle lighting is 18 minutes before sunset. Shabbat ends in New York City at 8:36PM. The times of candle lighting differ from city to City. Chabad.org has a section of their web site where you can look up candle lighting for your locality. In America this can be done by zip code. In addition to multimedia, both Chabad.org and Aish.com have stories that can be printed out to read on Shabbat while your computer is resting along with you.
One article on Chabad.org was about Steven Sotloff, the journalist who was recently beheaded by ISIS. Sotloff, despite the professional need to hide his Jewish identity, still fasted on Yom Kippur and prayed facing Jerusalem.
Aish.com printed a eulogy to Joan Rivers, a comedian who helped the world not only with humour, but with sage and candid advice drawn from her own life. Her famous quote “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift, that’s why we call it the present.” works on several levels. It is a pun that is meant not only to elicit a chuckle or a groan, but an insight. It is an expression that would not be possible in another language, and raises the thought that each of the many languages on earth has its own contribution to make to our collective wisdom.
Another one of her quotes that shows a doggedly positive attitude is “I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive.” In those rough times that are all too short of happy moments, this is the attitude that helps me keep my head above water.
This week’s parsha has some interesting biblical commandments. Some make rational sense, such as putting a fence around one’s roof, and not harnessing animals of two different species to the same plough. There are also commandments that make no rational sense, such as one prohibiting the wearing of wool and linen mixed together. It should be noted that there are more commandments (74) out of the total of 613 commandments.
One commandment instructs Jews not to hate Egyptians “because you were a stranger in his land.” It is interesting to note that even though our relationship with the Egyptians went notoriously bad, that we are still enjoined to remember the hospitality that preceded our enslavement. By reflecting upon the impermanence and fickleness of human friendships and political alliances, one is reminded that G-d is the ultimate guarantor of our well being. It is interesting to note that Egyptian converts are allowed to marry other Jews in the third generation, where male Moabites are not allowed to marry within the Jewish people after converting. Today, since the genealogies of nations and individuals are far less clear, there are no such limitations on the number of generations an Egyptian or anyone else must wait before marrying within the Jewish people.
Very frequently, a new job, a new place to live or even an intimate relationship can become problematic. It is always good to remember the time when the job, place to live or familial relationship was once a step up and a step forward. Often, the old magic can be replaced with new magic as a relationship moves forward. At the very least, business and personal relationships that one has left behind can be seen as a step on one’s intended path. It would seem that this is a lesson we can take from our time in Egypt.
As the sun sets earlier this time of year, it is a reminder that life itself goes by quickly and to make the most of it. It should be noted that this month of Elul, every day of the month except for Shabbat and the day before Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is sounded at the end of week day prayers. Coming to shul on a week day during the month of Elul certainly helps to get into the mood of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. In Elul, a month of preparation precedes the month of Tishrei, in which thirteen out of thirty days are either festivals, days of fasting or both. According to many opinions all the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are also holidays of a sort. If a human being were to design a calendar of religious holidays, he or she would almost certainly spread them around the year. May the upcoming year be one of peace and revelation for all of the people on this troubled planet.