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The Musings of a Rabbi - Issue #3

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July 31 · Issue #3 · View online
The Musings of a Rabbi
Some Torah: Eikev
I try not to assume that everyone who reads my stuff is Jewish, so I often try and do a little more explaining. 
A few weeks ago, the Jewish people entered into the book of Devarim, aka the book of Deuteronomy, the final book of the Torah. In Hebrew, Devarim means words. The book begins with “These are the words that Moses addressed to all the people…” Deuteronomy consists almost entirely of the final words of Moses in a series of farewell addresses. Oddly, this is the man who once tried to turn down the job because he was not “a man of words.” (See Exodus. 4:10)
As we read through the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are standing on the bank of the Jordan River, poised to cross over and enter, finally, into the Promised Land. Moses stands for the last time before the people he has led for the past forty years, knowing that his days of leadership, and days of life, are coming to an end and that he will not be allowed to enter into the land. Under these sad and dramatic circumstances, Moses launches into his final and most monumental oration to the people, comprising the bulk of the Book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is, in effect, a final sermon that Moses delivers to the people. 
One of the things I love about Judaism is that Jews all over the world are reading the same section of the Torah. For those who may not know, the Torah is also called the Five Books of Moses of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In this week’s Torah portion, Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25), we learn that Moses tells the Israelites, you shall circumcise the foreskin of your hearts. Circumcise your hearts! What does that mean? We know that on the 8th day, a Jewish boy is to be circumcised, but what does it mean to circumcise one’s heart?
Circumcise your hearts means that we should stop whatever is blocking our hearts so that we may open up ourselves and our hearts to the Mystery, the Divine presence. Opening our hearts allows us to open ourselves to what God has to offer. One of my teachers called this, clearing out the shmutz like Spring cleaning for our souls. But why the metaphor circumcise? And why the heart? Maybe it’s because God understands that for us to love and let people in, our hearts must be open. 
Several times in this week’s Torah, we see some form of the following phrase:
וְלַֽעֲבֹד֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֖ וּבְכָל־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃
Most of that phrase should sound familiar to us because it is in the Shema. Translating this phrase means, and you shall serve God with all your heart and all your soul. Moses understands that we can sometimes be too protective; we can close ourselves off and keep people at a distance. Moses is telling us to keep our hearts open to love each other and to love God. Remember, if we keep our hearts closed, we can’t love anyone. Keep our hearts open, direct our hearts to God, love the stranger, love our family, love our partner, love our friends, and love each other.
Updates:
On June 30, 2021, I led a racial justice workshop called Creating Radically Welcoming Communities for Philadelphia’s Center City Kehillah.
To learn more about the workshop here is a write up from Reconstructing Judaism and you can watch the workshop.
Creating Radically Welcoming Communities | Reconstructing Judaism
Join Reconstructionists from around the world on Sunday, August 8, 202for our movement-wide day of learning on the topic of reparations. We are offering this program as we lean into the work of Reconstructing Judaism’s goal to, “join and lead Jewish efforts to dismantle systemic racism.” These Jewishly rooted sessions will take a deep dive into one of the most potentially transformative and complicated pathways for racial justice. In March, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association passed a resolution on Reparations for Slavery, Indigenous Genocide, and Systemic Racism in North America/Turtle Island. This day of learning kicks off an effort, led by our Tikkun Olam Commission, to explore what a movement-wide resolution on reparations could look like. We understand racial justice to be the civil rights issue of our era and are determined to help shape a Jewish response to it. Click here to register and to learn more
Quick Question:
I’m thinking of creating a Youtube Program. What should it be? If you have been following for a while maybe you can help me come up with an idea? Hit me up and let me know what you think.
Have a great weekend and upcoming week.
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