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May 15, 2020
21 Iyar 5780

36th day of the Omer
Parashat Behar-Bechukotai
Leviticus 25:1 - 27:34

Dear Friends,

We have a double portion this week -- Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34). This is the week where the Torah reading focuses on the practice of a complete rest for the land every seven years and a jubilee in the 50th year, when the land goes back to the original owners. We have no evidence of the jubilee ever actually happening, but we continue to observe the shmita year. The last shmita year occurred in 2014-2015. What a concept -- a Sabbath for the land!

Although we don’t observe it actually as originally conceived, it has provided an opportunity for us to reflect upon ourselves and our relationship to the land. As urbanites, we are further removed from the land that produces the food we eat, but we do understand, especially at this moment, how tenuous our control is over anything.

As always, the point of examining the Torah portion is to grapple with what it has to teach us at particular moment, either personally or as a community. So here we all are doing a full stop of our regular behavior, adapting what we do to the moment that is now. Our ancestors were able to prepare for the year when their world changed and they were prohibited from farming.

However, looking to the past and looking forward, we understand that preparing for a crisis is crucial. As restrictions are very slowly lifted, we will be facing new challenges. We may discover that something that worked two weeks ago doesn’t quite do the trick any more. When I reflect on the shmita year, the seasons impacted that year for our ancestors as well, even as the seasons impact all of us now.

Our prayer is that we will not find ourselves in this space again, of not being able to adequately care for one another when faced with a medical or social crisis. Our prayer and our call to action is to create a better tomorrow. Being in a time when everything is at a standstill, we cannot imagine that the world will look the same when we resume. Here is the challenge -- all of us have learned something over these last months about ourselves, about what matters to each of us. When we emerge, we will not be the same nor will the world we reenter be the same. It will be a time of innovation, re-creation, and transformation, when much will be asked of us. We will be required to see the world differently. It makes me wonder about our ancestors who had the benefit of a shmita year; did they take the time in between to plan, to do it better, and to grow in their understanding of what it meant to stop and take stock?

Even at this moment, Tehillah will continue trying new things and new ways of interacting with you. Stopping in one arena does not mean that we are frozen in every other one. This is the challenge of the moment and of the days and weeks ahead. We are all in the process of becoming.

Next week we will observing Shavuot in a number of different ways as we recognize that, these days, each of us is standing at Sinai. We start with being part of the greater Riverdale Community on Wednesday evening as we grapple with what Torah means to each of us, join with Riverdale Temple on Thursday night to pray and study together, and finish with our very special Shabbat morning service, that will include a very special Yizkor for all who have been lost along with our loved ones and the reading of the Ten Commandments.

Wishing you continued strength and a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

We encourage you to contact Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn if you are in need of pastoral care at

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781