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Parashat Vayeilech

September 10, 2021
4 Tishrei 5782
Parashat Vayeilech
Deuteronomy 31:1 - 31:30

As we prepare for Yom Kippur, the reflections offered by our members prior to the Malkhiyot, Zichranot and Shofarot on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, help us expand our field of vision as we go forward together. With gratitude to Natasha Reich, Ralph Johnson and Lee Feldman for their insights:

Malkhiyot

God’s sovereignty/majesty
 Natasha Reich

The rabbi suggested that the question I try to answer could be: what is majestic in your life, what makes me feel awe, what makes me feel small.

As some of you may know, I am a chemist, or more accurately a chemist in training, and I think a lot of people who are scientifically-oriented struggle to reconcile that with religion, and people who are religious don’t always engage with scientific understandings of natural phenomena.. I think for me, though, the opposite is true, and when I think of the moments that I fell in love with chemistry and physics and science, it was the feeling of falling in love with concepts that were undeniably majestic. One of those places was quantum entanglement.

I’m going to try to explain it here: Let us bring two particles together, particle A and particle B, and inexorably bind their states together, we have entangled them. This means if we put A into an up state, B must be in a down state. They can never both be up or both be down. Once they are entangled, even if we move them to opposite ends of the universe, if we put A into a down state, B must then be itself in an up state. This may not seem so amazing, but this entanglement on information transfer violates physical laws; specifically If entangled things send signals to each other instantly, then the message would be traveling faster than the speed of light, which is the speed limit of the universe!

How does this entanglement work, how can A transfer that information to B instantly, and more importantly, how can A transfer that information to B faster than the speed of light? Einstein called this phenomena “spooky actions at a distance”. He went to his grave denying this was possible, but during his life and since his death the existence of quantum entanglement has been confirmed many times over. I love that phrase “spooky actions at a distance” and to me, this is another word for god’s majesty and God’s sovereignty, for our smallness in the universe. Not necessarily that God is the one creating this entanglement and violating physical laws, but that this phenomenon itself is what God is, these unknown and spectacular, and even miniscule, parts of the universe.

Zicharanot

God remembers
Ralph Johnson

Think about all of the sand on all of the beaches on Earth. 

And think about all the sand in every desert on the Earth. 

It is estimated that if we count each grain of sand on every beach and in every desert, that number would fail to count every galaxy in the cosmos.

And each galaxy contains billions of stars of which our sun is one.

And in the middle of all what seems so infinite here we are on the Earth.

There are about 380 million people in America and amidst that G-d remembers each one of us. 

There are almost 8 billion people on the planet and yet G-d remembers each one of us.

And think about all of the people who have ever lived and G-d not only remembers them, but G-d also knows them better than they knew themselves.

But G-d is not the only one who remembers.

We are called to remember.

We remember not only during Shabbat, but throughout the year, we remember that G-d has been with us throughout time. 

He liberated us from slavery and continues to liberate us from all that seeks to hold us back.

So in this way we remember as we are remembered.

Shofarot

Revelation
Lee Feldman

I just learned that the opening to Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” is a Tekiah Gedolah.  (take a moment and listen to the opening).

What a great way to open a piece of music.

It’s been said that breath is praise, and that music is a form of praise.

Musicians talk about breath all the time.  Of course trumpet players and singers talk about it.  But so do pianists.  Chopin said that the pianist breathes with his wrists.  All good instrumentalists try to make their phrases breathe.

The shofar blasts are music at its most basic. 

Like Morse Code, it’s communicating something to us, but unlike Morse Code, we don’t know how to translate the dots and dashes.

So we are affected by it, but we can’t put it into words.  Prayers put praise into words, but the Shofar is the purest sound of praise.   It’s beyond understanding.

Sun, October 17 2021 11 Cheshvan 5782