MOS 5-Point Parasha - Ekev 5779


Here is our weekly "5-Point Parasha", a short list of what we are enjoying or pondering, as it relates to life and Torah.

What Rabbi Sherril is mulling over this week…

In this week’s Torah reading we are instructed to "circumcise the foreskin of our hearts." (Deut. 10:16) How curious is this! We already know from Torah about one kind of circumcision, the symbol of the covenant which the Holy One made with the Israelites. This is the instruction to circumcise the foreskin of a baby boy on the eighth day after birth.

However, Moses (and then the later prophets) spoke about a second kind of circumcision, the circumcision of the heart. I don't think that he is talking about this as a type of "procedure" that replaces circumcision of the flesh. Rather, I want to suggest that  circumcising our hearts be considered as an ongoing "process" throughout our lives.

During our lifespan, we encounter and interact with many different kinds of people. And in some of these encounters, some of us get hurt. And the way that some of us have learned to protect ourselves is to build a fence around our hearts, a barrier that "protects" us from further pain. We do this by distancing ourselves from people and feelings. We cut ourselves off from hurt. And as time goes by, the fence around our hearts grows taller and stronger. We feel limited pain that way. But we also feel limited joy. 

And so when Moses invites us to circumcise our hearts, maybe he is teaching us to cut away the barrier that we have built up to protect ourselves, to knock down the fence that isolates us from others and from our feelings. It is true that circumcising our hearts makes us more vulnerable. But circumcising our hearts also makes us human. Because it is when we open ourselves up that we can touch and be touched by others.

Perhaps this is what the 19th century Hasidic master Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk meant when he said that "There is nothing more whole than a broken heart."

Source: Estelle Frankel, Sacred Therapy: Jewish Spiritual Teachings on Emotional Healing and Inner Wholeness (2005, Shambhala Publishers)

Where Cantor Heather is:

Cantor Heather is singing and dancing up a storm at the sold out Klez Kanada retreat up north. To get a taste of the lively action, you can go to the facebook page.

What Rabbi Schachar has been learning/sharing:

We are back in wedding season in the Jewish Calendar and I am looking forward to a number of upcoming weddings. Rabbi Sherril, Cantor Heather and I enjoy personalizing the weddings in which we participate.

In our Hebrew through Torah session on Wednesday, we uncovered 3 meanings for the Hebrew word "kallah / כלה". Most well-known, the word kallah means, "bride". The word kallah also gets rendered as "cease"--as in, the bride ends one chapter of her life and embarks on a new one. Brown, Driver & Briggs also provide a third meaning of the Hebrew word "kallah": yearn. The bride ends a chapter and begins a new one, full of yearning for a great and holy union. Amen.

Rabbi Schachar shares a soothing song of the week:

We are in the 2nd of 10 weeks of consolation and comfort after Tisha B'av. This sweet prayerful track by Jason Shulman moves me and expresses the essence of this healing time in our calendar.

Rabbi Schachar juxtaposes a couple of quotes:

"Know that when you make an affirmation ascribing something to G!d, you become more remote from G!d" - Rambam (Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, 1:59)

“Once you label me, you negate me.” - Søren Kierkegaard

Announcements & Upcoming @MOS --

Live streaming available

We will focus primarily on Biblical Hebrew reading practice. You can make a small contribution for a session or the series by getting a ticket online.

Save the Date:

Elul is coming! In preparation for the High Holiday’s MOS is joining forces with R. Aubrey Glazer of Shaare Zion to offer Refresh, Reflect, and Renew – An Urban Elul Retreat on Sunday September 22. It should be truly lovely, so keep your eyes out for details.

Tickets and more info now available on our website.

MOS needs High Holiday Torah readers! If you are interested please contact us so we can get you set up with a reading and all necessary preparation materials.