Shelter From the Storm: Vayelekh 2016

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

I’m discarding the usual format for my weekly post; with a hurricane on the way, I don’t think those of us in the Southeastern U.S. need to occupy themselves with a multitude of questions and baseball anecdotes. Instead, let’s keep it simple, and learn a brief word of Torah:

“Every seventh year, the year set for remission, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before your God Adonai in the place that [God] will choose, you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel. Gather the people — men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities — that they may hear and so learn to revere your God Adonai and to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching. Their children, too, who have not had the experience, shall hear and learn to revere your God Adonai as long as they live in the land that you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 31:10-13)

“Moshe Rabbenu insists that even though individuals live in different locations and probably do not see each other from year to year, nevertheless they must all come together at least once in seven years to listen to what makes them unique, what binds them together. The king would read to the people the fundamental affirmations of Jewish life that give the community its uniqueness and purpose. Everyone would hear the same message, and all would be obliged to adhere to that message. Thus would be reinforced the unity of purpose, in the atmosphere of the unified presence of all Israel.” — Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, More Torah Therapy

Over the last few days, it’s been heartening to see a unity of purpose throughout this region of the country. Whether it’s Charlestonians helping other Charlestonians “hunker down” for Hurricane Matthew or the many families in more land-locked areas who are graciously hosting those who would otherwise be in harm’s way, we have been reminded how, as Rabbi Bulka says, we are bound together. We can only hope that the spirit of cooperation carrying us through dangerous times also will inspire us to act with the same level of togetherness in future, calmer days as well.

Please stay safe, wherever you are. Wishing all of you a Shabbat of peace and a meaningful approach to Yom Kippur.

Shabbat Shalom!