In this portion, Moses presents the People with a jumble of sentiments — from sweeping promises to dire threats — which found their way into prominent roles in our prayers. And, while biblical context often has little to do with the use the siddur makes of the bible’s language, our prayers do reflect this portion’s tangled relationship between the People, God and others.
Monthly Archives: July 2010
An inter-denominational group demonstrated outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, on July 22 in support of religious freedom in Israel, in opposition to the arrest of Anat Hoffman for carrying a Torah at the Kotel and in protest of growing violence against women throughout Israel.
Hoffman is the Executive Director of Israel Religious Action Center and chair of Women of the Wall. She was arrested on Rosh Chodesh Av (July 12) as WOW held their usual monthly service. A woman who was with WOW on July 12 described the event (see second of three demonstration videos). She reported that the arresting officer became visibly upset as a female cantor sang Hallel (psalms of praise recited on festivals, Rosh Chodesh [beginning of a new month] and Chanukah.)
Where will we stand — and how loud will we be — on Rosh Chodesh Elul and in the new year?
The earliest prayer links in Va-etchanan come in the first verse, long before what is probably the portion’s most famous passage: the first paragraph of the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9). In fact, there are prayer links galore in the portion’s first word: “va-etchanan” [I pleaded, implored]. Some commentaries examine details of the communication between Moses and God as the portion opens. Some focus, more generally, on what prayer can (or should) mean to regular folks.
During all the years that Israel was in the wilderness, on the eve of every ninth of Av, Moses sent a herald throughout the camp to proclaim, “Go out and dig graves, go out and dig graves!” and the people went out and dug graves, in which they spent the night. In the morning, the herald went and announced, “Let those who are alive separate from the dead!” The living then stood up and found themselves some fifteen thousand short [NOTE: One-fortieth of the adults died each year -- see parashat Shelach-Lecha for narrative explanation]….In the last of the forty years, they did the same….finally when they saw that not one of them had died, they said: It appears that the Holy One has removed the harsh decree from over us. The declared that day a festival. Continue reading