The New Shul

Weekly D'var Torah

In this week’s parashah, Ekev, Moshe boils down the entire Torah to a single rhetorical question: “And now, O Israel, what does YHWH your God ask of you, except to revere YHWH…?” Reverence (yir’ah in Hebrew) takes precedence over all other human qualities.

What is yir’ah? It is an essentially negative quality — not so much about recognizing who God is as recognizing who God is not, namely ourselves. We may not know much about God, but at least we know that we are not God, that the universe does not revolve around us.

That is the essence of yir’ah, making ourselves small. What Moshe is suggesting is that everything else — all wisdom and spiritual insight — flows from that first step. Why? Because, without it, our consciousness has no room for anything larger than our own ego.

Yir’ah is a special challenge for us today, since our culture venerates the human ego. How do we cultivate reverence in a world that invests so much value in personal ambition? Fortunately, we have Shabbat to help us. By putting aside our work once a week, by renouncing our creative power, we remind ourselves that — even if we do not know who made the world — at least we know that it was not us. That negative insight, as Moshe taught, is where all wisdom and all spiritual life begin.

  • Shabbat services at The New Shul are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. The kiddush-lunch this Shabbat, August 12, is sponsored by the shul. The desserts are sponsored by Michael and Shaindel Ross in honor of their 10th wedding anniversary.
  • Childcare is available from 10 am to noon on Shabbat mornings.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, Monday evenings at 7 pm, Wednesday mornings at 7 am, and Wednesday evenings at 7 pm.
  • On Labor Day, Monday September 4, The New Shul community will serve meals to the hungry at St. Vincent de Paul’s Jackson St. dining room. Please let us know if you can help.