Escaping Danger: Ki Tavo 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: If you are reading this, it’s likely that you’re traveling or planning to travel away from your home in order to safely escape Hurricane Irma. Although leaving one’s home is an arduous endeavor today, the Jewish experience is well-acquainted with fleeing from dangerous circumstances:

The Pitch: “You shall then recite as follows before the Lord your God: ‘My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation.’ …” – Deuteronomy 26:5

Swing #1: “The Hebrew Bible makes clear that Abraham’s monotheism was not part of his religious heritage. Abraham was of general Semitic stock described in the Pentateuch as ‘Aramean.’” – John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible

Swing #2: “When the Israelite would bring his first fruits to the Temple, for example, he would make a declaration, tracing his personal history back to the time of Jacob. … This is read as a reference to Laban, who represents the experience of exile for Jacob. Oved, therefore, can mean to destroy by destructuring one’s relation to one’s proper place.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Beginnings of Desire

Swing #3: “How do women read this parashah? The most obvious challenge is the seemingly endless battle of female marginality. The Hebrew text is defiantly male. Women are missing. The ‘fugitive father’ is recalled, not the mother. ‘He’ (the farmer) brings the basket to the male priest, the kohen. The kohen, a man, takes it from him.” – Rabbi Nancy Wechsler-Azen, from The Women’s Torah Commentary, edited by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein

Late-Inning Questions: In what ways, in the opinion of our commentators, does our text recall the plight of our wandering ancestors? Does our text give us a complete picture of such wandering, or only a selective one? What characteristics of our nomadic past can inform us as so many of us travel to safety, even if only temporarily?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: All events, services, and classes at Synagogue Emanu-El have been cancelled from Friday, September 8th-Tuesday, September 12th. We wish encourage everyone to take proper precautions for the sake of everyone’s safety.

Shabbat Shalom!