Commentaries for 5779

Shabbat Shuva 5779 VaYeilech; Are Services Spectator Sports?

Dvarim 31; Hoshea 14:2-10 & Yoel 2:15-27 & Micah 7:18-20

Here we are at the Shabbat of Return between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. It is a time when all Jews are encouraged to go to services to participate and not be spectators. This is said to be particularly important for this Shabbat of return for many reasons such as: to better the success of our atonement experience; to assure getting a minyan [quorum] when many are tired out by the Rosh HaShanah experience with lots of family and services; to encourage greater participation in synagogue events; etc. One reason spread by some Rabbis is that complete attendance by all Jews everywhere on Shabbat Shuva would bring the Moshiach!

Obviously any business adventure needs to find adequate funding in order to continue. Often a paid ticket is requested to attend either through regular dues or via ticket sales. [To a certain extent this is counter-productive as the process to get a financial exemption frequently is a demeaning and embarrassing experience.]

So how do the religious groups try to draw in attendance? One option is to make the event into a spectacle. Some use new music, songs, and jokes to make the service “different” and more “enjoyable”. Particularly disturbing in traditional views is when the congregation claps after each song and joke. Are they treating services like a movie or a theatre play? Have these services and others where there is little if any “audience” participation become like spectator sports?

Are there any discussions about the service contents afterwards? Do any reflections on repentance and amends occur in these folk during the Ten Days of Awe? Do older folk participate more than the youth? How do you plan to participate?

We are all connected. If our youth are brought up as spectators, who will be responsible for our communities in the future? May we all find our ways to repent, make amends, and return to the mitzvot! Shabbat Shalom!

Please submit this week the names of loved ones you want added to the memorial remembrance list for 5779!

Shabbat HaAzinu 5779 ; History in a Song; Dvarim 32; 2 Samuel 22

When you read a history book, how long does it take for your attention to wander and drift? If you read or heard the history as an ode or song, would you be able to be more attentive?

So, too, people of every generation seem to be able to retain information from poems and songs more easily than by rote story or prose. Is that why In Torah we get the third version of our history as a poetic song from Moshe? It summarizes our history for those people about to enter the Promised Land, about to be faced with the spectacle of twelve pillars.

What are the events that you remember most vividly in your life? Why do you think these events were most memorable?

We are now in a season of attempting redress of our past errors, of forgiving others for their past errors [if we do not, we give them power over us to hurt us], and of resolving to improve our adherence to the Law, the Mitzvot. What could happen to make this season most memorable for us?

As a parent lies on the cusp between life and death at this time, this season will certainly be a most memorable one… Yet is there a lesson of improvement that will come from this experience? Or just sorrow and grief?

May we all have a memorable season leading us onto a path toward betterment! Tzom kal… Gmar Chatima Tova… and then Shabbat Shalom!