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Weekly Message

September 16, 2022
20 Elul 5782
Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8

Dear Friends,

This week’s Torah portion is Ki Tavo -- “when you enter in” (Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8). As we prepare to enter the New Year, it is an appropriate name for this week’s parasha. As we prepare to enter the new year, what do we take with us and what do we leave behind?

This week’s Torah portion offers a clue. In the process of recapping our story, we encounter the paragraph below -- one that is found in every Haggadah.

“My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt few in number and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. We cried to Adonai, the God of our fathers, and the Adonai heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. Adonai freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and wonders. And brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, O Adonai, have given me.” Deuteronomy 26:5-10

In short order, our story is being retold and we are being told how to respond to that journey. The key thing is the centrality of our story. Our Torah is filled with story. Telling our story, reflecting on our story, and retelling our story are our ways to engage in the world. The process of telling our story connects us both to the past and to the future.

The story we tell ourselves is one that explains ourselves to ourselves, creating a collective vision. The important concept is that the story is collective, It belongs to each of us and all of us; no one is to be left out. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z’’l refers to us a nation of storytellers. We place ourselves into the story of our people. We are reminded every year at Passover that it is as if each and every one of us went forth from Egypt. It is a story that has been embedded. We are tasked with remembering.

The process of remembering binds us to one another, even if each of us recounts and understands the story slightly differently. Rabbi Sacks, in looking at the Jewish phenomenon of our covenantal relationship to our story, compares it to the way England recalls the past. The English recollection of the past is not a covenantal one; rather, it is based on hierarchy and tradition, which we are currently witnessing in the aftermath of Queen Elizabeth’s death.

Our story is not the story of the few; it is the story of the many. It belongs to each of us.  When we remember that, we are reminded of our connection to one another and to the larger world. We are not alone and our stories, all of our stories matter.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom.

I also want to take this moment to welcome Melissa Sigmond to our community. Melissa is the new executive director of the Riverdale Y. If you find yourself at the Y, please take a moment to welcome her to Riverdale.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Sun, October 2 2022 7 Tishrei 5783