- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On September 16, 2016
- 0 Comments
Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tetzei, provides a plethora of instructions and wisdom to prepare the Jewish people before they will cross over into the land. There isn’t necessarily any new information here that hasn’t been brought up before in the Torah. Rather, it is grouped together as a litany of instructions of how the people might thrive in the new land and ensures their lives are imbued with just values and ethical principles.
There is one phrase that summarizes the general essence of much of what is offered in this week’s portion. In an instruction about what to do if you find a neighbor’s animal which has gone astray, the proper action is a clear directive that applies to anything one finds that belongs to another: Lo tuchal lehitalem You must not remain indifferent. (Deuteronomy 22:1)
This is not the literal translation.
Rashi, the 11th century commentator, provides it: “Do not disappear yourself from them.” He explains: “Do not hide your eyes as if you did not see them.” To remain indifferent is not to act when it is necessary and clear. Later the Torah speaks of taking care of those vulnerable in a community. The widow, the stranger, and the orphan epitomize those who are often present in every community but ignored.
“You must not remain indifferent.”
It is an instruction worthy of our attention. This time of year, in particular, calls upon us not to hide our eyes as if we don’t see what calls to us for attention. Whether it is in our behaviors in need of change or the cry of injustice close by or far away, we raise ourselves up to a higher level of being and thriving by responding.
To me, this verse infers that there is no such thing as an “innocent bystander”. Though we may think our voice, our opinion, or our action may not matter, it does. As individuals and as a community, together we can step forward.
Shabbat gives us that strength because it provides a taste of the world as it can be, full of peace, wholeness, and healing. May it be so for us all.
I hope I will have the joy of greeting you this Shabbat whether in person or through Livestream for this extraordinary historic moment in the life of our community.
Please feel free to connect with me here. I would be honored to learn of your own reflections and response to Shabbat Awakenings. I’m grateful to the many people who have already shared their thoughts with me in this way.