To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

- Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Dear Friends,

Our Torah portion this Shabbat is Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25).  As Moses continues to speak of the moral implications of a commitment to the covenant, the parsha conveys an underlying axiom which has transcendent merit:  to live a full and meaningful existence, one needs to see that life not a sprint but rather a marathon.

This is understood right from the openings words of the portion as the biblical commentators grappling with the implications of its first words, "and it shall come to pass..."   "When?"  they ask.  The answer is both "in this moment" and "over the course of time."

When I first came to Connecticut to serve as the rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah, I was startled by the distance I needed to travel to make pastoral calls, especially to the hospitals.   I had come from a congregation in New Jersey where the hospital was a brief ride from the synagogue, so a pastoral visit could work easily into a full schedule of other daily responsibilities.  But in Connecticut, the hospital was a much greater distance from the synagogue and with time for parking, the pastoral visit and the return journey to the synagogue, the scheduling of other rabbinic concerns became a greater challenge.   At first, I thought I would just try to drive faster on the Interstate and even contemplated buying a radar detector and then my angst met with some moments of insight:  all that needs to be accomplished will.  It is going to take a little longer, but "it will come to pass" (and it did) in due course and with diligence "over time."

This is the message in our parsha, that the fullness of life can only truly be experienced over time, through reflection and introspection.  How we live, the values we affirm each and every day through our actions, will bring us the blessings of a life well lived.  What, the parsha asks, will we say in our hearts and how will we affirm the commitment to the covenantal relationship?  Only when we honestly attempt to answer that question will we find blessing and inner contentment in our lives.

A first step toward that goal is to "stop believing one's own press!"  When we start to adhere to a "holier than thou" attitude in life, we delude ourselves (9:4-5).  In Jewish folk tradition there is a belief that the world continues to exist because of 36 anonymous, righteous individuals in every generation.  They are known as the "lamed vavniks." (the Hebrew letters which have the numerical equivalent of thirty-six).  It is through these individuals that we understand the warning against self-righteousness, for if an individual believes that he/she is one of the lamed vavniks, that is a clear indication that he/she is not!  It is only through a contrite heart and an awe-filled openness to humility that the spirit of righteousness can take root in our souls.  As the psalmist reminds us (51:19), "the real offering to G-d is a contrite spirit."

It is with this message in mind that Moses starts to bring closure to his second discourse to the community of Israel by asking the question, "What is really required of us?" (10:12).  The answer is as important today as it was for the Israelites:  be open to the awe-filled aspects of life, make each step of your journey have meaning and purposefulness, love with all your heart and soul and serve others and the Other with the a conscious determination and commitment to make this a better world.

And the reward, the blessing of life..."it shall come to pass."

Shabbat Shalom,

Hesch