Friday, August 31, 2012

Ki Teitzei
Deuteronomy 24:19
"When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to take it; it shall be [left] for the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord, your God, will bless you in all that you do.”

This mitzva of leaving the gleanings for others is something we can only do accidentally – when we forget.  With such human shortcomings such as forgetfulness, the text suggests that the key is to accept them and turn those mistakes to benefit others.   Paradoxically, it is when we accept our flaws and allow others to benefit from them that we receive unexpected blessings.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Parsha Re'eh: Deuteronomy 13:1
“Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it.”

This passage gives clear instruction for living fully, exuberantly, and mindfully.  When performing an action, don’t add to it, meaning don’t get lost in the busy thoughts and stories that the mind spins.  Also, don’t subtract from it, meaning don’t ignore the sensory aspects inherent in each action. For instance, when eating a meal, don’t get lost in thoughts such as “this isn’t as good as the way my friend makes it” or  “this is great, I wish I could have this for dinner every night” or “I don’t have time to enjoy this because I should be cleaning up the mess in the kitchen”. Similarly, don’t subtract from a meal by failing to notice the sensations of chewing, tasting, swallowing.

By neither adding nor subtracting, but doing each action simply and with full awareness, we bring ourselves closer to re’eh  - to seeing and beholding the blessings before us each moment and every day.

Friday, August 3, 2012

VaEtchanan: Satisfaction and Gratitude

 Parsha VaEtchanan: Deuteronomy 6:10-11 When God your Lord brings you to the land that He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that He would give to you, [you will find] great, flourishing cities that you did not build. You will also have] houses filled with all good things that you did not put there, finished cisterns that you did not quarry, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant.

You will eat and be satisfied. But be careful that you do not forget God, who is the One who brought you out of Egypt, the place of slavery.

The fig tree in our backyard is giving such an abundance of figs that we are able to eat our sweet fill, give to our neighbors, and even feel generously toward the birds that get first to the very ripest figs early each morning. Yes, we planted the tree – but did we bring the rain that watered it? Did we shine the sun on it? Did we breed the cultivar that works in our climate? No. The success of our own actions rests on so much that we inherit. We live, and find satisfaction, within a rich web of natural and human actions.

May our satisfaction give rise to gratitude and wonder at the rich inheritance, both natural and human, that sustains us.