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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Friday, 23 August, 2019 - 4:40 pm

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Dear Friend,

This Shabbat we will announce and bless the upcoming month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish year. We will also read the Torah portion of Ekev, which is a continuation of last week’s portion Ve’etchanan.

Once Elul begins, it is customary to blow shofar blasts daily to get into the frequency of the High Holidays. Unlike other instruments, the Shofar's sound is somber and sobering. It's a fitting sound for this time of year, and the Torah portions read at this time reflect this mood as well. 

In last week’s portion we read the primary statement prayer of our faith: “Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad”, and its continuation: and you shall "Love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, all your soul and all your might”. 

This week’s portion includes the second portion of the Shema, which enjoins us “….To love G-d and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul..."

What does the second portion of the Shema add to the first? The key word in our portion is and to serve Him. Chapter one of the Shema is all about love; Chapter two on the other hand is all about serving G-d with awe and deep respect.

According to Lyrics.com, the word “awe” appears in American pop music 897 times, as opposed to “love” --which appears a whopping 330,441 times. This is very telling about the culture we live in and the emotions we value. Love wins, we are told. But what about awe, respect, reverence?

In the High Holiday prayers we refer to Hashem as "Our father, Our King”, a loving and caring father and at the same time, a supreme King whom we serve with  reverence.

In other news (and on topic): Just this week we mark 50 years from the Woodstock festival. In a pastoral letter penned eleven months prior to Woodstock, the Rebbe addresses the generation (and the vibe at the time) with the preamble (Igrot Kodesh v. 25) “Every generation has its advantages and challenges”. The Rebbe comments on the trend at the time, that of every social norm reevaluated and every possible yoke thrown off. The Rebbe then encourages an exception to this trend: accepting G-d’s sovereignty as King of the world. 

We have little, if any, frame of reference for accepting sovereignty upon ourselves. Our very country is built on rejecting the concept of a (human) king. This week’s Torah portion teaches and encourages us to meditate on this possibly foreign concept, getting ready emotionally and spiritually to evoke the deep feelings of both awe and love, as together we coronate the King of the universe anew on Rosh Hashanah, with the stirring sound of the Shofar.

I conclude with the beautiful blessings found in this week’s portion:

"…And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your soil, your grain, your wine, and your oil; the offspring of your cattle and the choice of your flocks, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you..."

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