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“Prepare to Be Present” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

Friday, August 27, 2021

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we draw near to Shabbat.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah next Monday night, we ask how we shall be present. In the context of this year, it might not just mean how we will prepare ourselves for the inner work this holiday season demands of us, instead it could refer to whether we will show up on the steps of the Riverway or Nessel Way to enter the building or attend through technological assistance from wherever we reside.

Our Torah portion helps to clarify and respond to this question. In a familiar passage, we recite around the seder table as we tell the story of our people, the Torah provides those who would bring the first fruits of the land a specific script of what to say as they offered their bounty to the priests:

When you enter the land that the Eternal your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that the Eternal your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the Eternal your God will choose to establish God’s name. You shall go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him,

“I acknowledge this day before the Eternal your God that I have entered the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to assign us.”

The priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down in front of the altar of the Eternal your God…[and tell the story of being freed from Egypt]

[And you shall say,] “Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, Eternal One, have given me.”

You shall leave it before the Eternal your God and bow low before the Eternal your God. And you shall enjoy, together with the Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that the Eternal your God has bestowed upon you and your household. (Deuteronomy 26:1-4, 10-11)

It is true that the farmers had to show up to deliver their crop to the priests as their offering, but the liturgical formula offers something more than physical presence.

Intention and attention play a greater role. The farmers had to make sure that what they brought was actually the first fruits. The Talmud described how they tied a red ribbon to the first fruit so they would know exactly which ones to select. In addition, they don’t just place the basket down, they have to hand it over to the head priest with the specified recitation. They had to pay attention to their words and actions so that their intention played out in this beautiful ritual.

We are about to enter a magnificent ritual as well for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We have specific liturgy we offer. We bring the harvest of our lives as we consider and confront our actions. What kind of person will we be? This takes attention and intention as well. The focus is on how—internally–we will be present. Therefore , being present remains accessible to us all, onsite or online, wherever we find ourselves for these Days of Awe.

Shabbat Shalom!

  • We gather for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Join us on site – no registration needed; or join on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or stream on our website here.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathers HERE at 5:00 p.m.
  • Torah Study will begin at 9:00 a.m. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
  • Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat gathers on site at 10:00 a.m. Register to join us.
  •  S’lichot Candlelit Outdoor Service and Havdalah will be held in the Temple Israel garden at 8:00 p.m.
  • S’lichot Candlelit Zoom Service and Havdalah will be observed at 10:00 p.m. online.


Connect with me HERE. I look forward to corresponding with you and to hearing your thoughts.