It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I sort of dropped out for a while, stopped writing weekly, stopped blogging, stopped writing anything but my paid monthly column in the Chicago JUF News. I’m sorry I didn’t make some sort of announcement, because I really didn’t think it would be this long. I just….stopped. It was one week. then it was another week. And now it’s been months. You all know how much I love struggling with the text. Well, I was struggling with other things, and the text was just one more. So, I didn’t write. It got easier to let each week go by, and like that late thank you note that gets later because you’re embarrassed at how much time has passed, you still don’t write it.
Things are better now. The family that needed to get healthier seems to have done so, though I am at a new level of hyper-vigilance and amazed, sometimes, at my ability to make little boxes inside my head and heart. I open and close them when needed, not letting an open box spill over into what I have to get done in another box.
So, here we are at Re’eh, a week or so away from the beginning of Elul, and a month from the beginning of the New Year. Re’eh says, “I put before you a blessing and a curse.” (Deut. 11:26). Moses reminds the people that if they follow God’s Instructions, they will be blessed, and if they turn away from the path, they won’t. Moses is talking about when they get into the Land, where Moses knows he won’t be going, so he has to spend a lot of time (all of Deuteronomy, pretty much) getting last words in.
Re’eh also lays out the three major festivals of the Jewish year, plus the Shemita year, when every seventh year is one where we “practice the remission of debts” (Deut 15:1) so that there will be no needy among the people. The Shmita is supposed to make sure no one in the community is mired in debt. And, in true Torah form, after stating the ideal, we read of the reality. “However, if there is a needy person among you….” (Deut 15:7) Things don’t always go as we hope.
Moses recaps how to celebrate Passover, how to observe the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), and the Feast of Booths (Sukkot). These are times of blessings, of remembering, of honoring and acknowledging. We honor and remember our release from slavery with Pesach. On Shavuot, we celebrate our march to freedom, to Sinai, to receive the Torah, and the whole community gathers; no one is left out. And on Sukkot, we remember the wandering, the journey from Torah to the Land. It wasn’t an easy path; we struggled and fought and battled and lost people along the way, and those moments are harder to honor, and struggle to find the blessings in them.
I think it will take me a while to get back in the swing of things – regularly diving back into the text and sharing my insights, such as they are, re-opening one of those boxes in my head that has been closed for a while. I’m not sure how many of you even noticed I hadn’t been writing. For those who did, and wondered……thank you for noticing.
There are times to welcome the blessings and times to ride out the curses. I’ve been doing both. Let’s ride into the New Year together now.