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Sermon: Parshat Ki Teitzei, 8/28/20

09/02/2020 05:28:40 PM


Rabbi Charlie

To see Rabbi Charlie deliver this sermon, click HERE

Sometimes the simplest teachings can be the most profound. Judaism makes it clear that we need to care for each other. This week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, gives us reminder after reminder. If we see someone’s animal go astray or we find a lost item – we can’t ignore it, even if we don’t know where the person lives. If someone’s animal has fallen in the road – we can’t ignore it – we have to help.

We can’t abuse or take advantage of our workers and we have to pay them on time. We can’t abuse or take advantage of those without power and if someone needs a loan, we have to be reasonable about what we ask for in collateral. We need to be honest in business. When it comes to food, we can’t be selfish – we have to make food available for those who need assistance and preserve their dignity in the process.We need to build a parapet on our roof… Ok that one might need some explanation…

Think flat, Middle Eastern roof that doesn’t have to worry about a lot of snow. The roof would be a place to hang out because they didn’t have basements. So you have to have a railing around the roof to keep people safe and make sure no one falls off.

All of this is in this week’s Torah portion. Mitzvah after mitzvah commanding us – encouraging us to feel the sacred sense of obligation to care for each other. It could be a stranger or a relative, it could be a formal setting or just coming across someone on the street, it could be something we have to react to or something that we need to plan for – the Torah’s basically telling us that in every aspect of our lives we can’t just look out for ourselves. We have to care for others. This is what God expects of us.

I know, I know – we have to let God know that times have changed and it’s just too much. How can we return lost objects and visit sick people and comfort mourners and offer hospitality and be honest and not gossip and not embarrass others and give tzedakah and drop everything to help someone change a tire? Doesn’t God know about Netflix or Facebook or Instagram? Liking someone’s post is the same as hospitality, right?

I do believe that God knows about Netflix and I know we are living in a complicated world. And it was complicated before there was a pandemic or dozens of major fires burning in California or another massive hurricane struck Louisiana and Texas or unrest in some cities or professional sports leagues pausing play for the sake of activism and everything else that’s going on… We’re living in complicated, challenging times.

The beauty of Judaism is that regardless of when we’re living, certain aspects never change. Reform Judaism looks very different from Orthodox Judaism. All of us are expected to care for other people. In complicated times we may have to get creative, but we’re still expected to care for other people. Times have changed - we may not need to bring a donkey back to our neighbor’s house. The principles continue to guide our ideals and our actions.

Caring for others has never been convenient. It’s not always fun. And in Judaism, it’s never been an option. It’s simple – straightforward. The numerous mitzvot imploring us to act for the benefit of our family and neighbors and friends and strangers – our communities – will always be sacred obligations. During this month of Elul, this time of reflection, it’s up to us to figure out how to meet those divine expectations.

Shabbat Shalom!

Mon, January 25 2021 12 Sh'vat 5781