Rabbi Sherman’s Weekly Torah Commentary – September 4-5, 2020 (16 Elul 5780)

September 4-5, 2020
Parashat Ki Tavo
16 Elul 5780

We Jews are keenly aware of our ancestry. We give newborn babies Hebrew names that include the names of their parents. When we are called up to the Torah, we use our entire names that include our parents’ names. And when Israelites presented their first fruits on the altar, they were required to recite an autobiographical statement that recounted all of Israelite history up to that point. This week, Parashat Ki Tavo describes this ceremony, known as Viddui Bikkurim, Confession of First Fruits. This ritual was originally performed at the Festival of First Fruits, the festival we now observe as Shavuot.

Why did this ancient ritual require a recitation of history? Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin writes that memory carries with it a sense of obligation, not merely curiosity and nostalgia: “Memory creates identity; it means locating your brief life within a larger context and within a story that gives it meaning and direction.” Reciting history shows our understanding of where we came from.

As part of the Viddui Bikkurim, Israelites expressed their identification with the experience of slavery in Egypt and the liberation from that slavery. In fact, this whole passage from the Torah now forms the core narrative in our Passover Haggadah. On Passover, we all identify with our collective history. Moving forward, those who come after us will remember the impact of our generation. As Jewish poet A.M. Klein writes: “Generations look through our eyes.” When our descendants look through our eyes, what will they see?

For Reflection:
How much does your family history influence your life?
How far back can you remember or retell?
Why do you think Jews have a particular fondness for memory and history?

Haftarah of Consolation – We read the sixth of seven special Haftarah portions of consolation following Tisha B’Av and leading up to Rosh HaShanah. This week’s Haftarah is a selection from the Book of Isaiah, 60:1-22. The prophet Isaiah focuses on images of light to remind the people that although they may be experiencing a dark time, Divine light will eventually return.

Please join our Shabbat celebrations on Channel 1960.

Friday at 4:30 PM, followed by candle lighting, Kiddush, hand washing, and motzi
Saturday at 10:00 AM, followed by Kiddush, hand washing, and motzi

Shabbat candle lighting time for the city of Mission Viejo is 6:53 PM.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Sherman