The New Shul

Parshat Shoftim

This week’s parashah, Shoftim, describes a ritual that was practiced in ancient Israel in the event of an unsolved murder. The elders of the town nearest to the site of the murder would go out to stream (a place of cleansing) and offer a sacrifice. Then they would make a ritual declaration: “Our hands did not shed this blood [of the murder victim] nor did our eyes see it,” and they would ask God not to hold them responsible for the crime.

The rabbis of the Talmud were puzzled by this. Why did the elders of the town need to disclaim responsiblity for a murder that no one would have accused them of commiting in the first place?

The rabbis explained that, when the elders declared, “Our hands did not shed this blood,” what they were really saying was that they had not, even passively, contributed to the victim’s death. They had not ignored the victim when he had sought shelter.

The Talmud’s point is that, when it comes to taking care of one another, we are liable not only for what we do but for what we fail to do, not only for our active sins but for our passive sins as well. To be members of a sacred community is not only to avoid hurting one another, but actively to reach out to one another with love and concern. May we always strive to meet that challenge.

  • 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 this Shabbat is sponsored by Gary Parilman. The dessert is sponsored by Shirley and Brian Brener in honor of Talia Frindell’s 10th birthday.
  • Childcare is available from 10 am to noon on Shabbat mornings. Beyond Bim Bom I, our learning service for grades K to 1, is from 10:15 to 11:00 am.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and Wednesday mornings at 7 am.
  • On Monday September 3, Labor Day, 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.
  • Join us for S’lihot on Saturday night September 8. We will begin at 9 pm with a screening and discussion of the film The Human Resources Manager by Eran Riklis (2010) as a text on teshuvah. The S’lihot service follows at about 11:30 pm.
  • Erev Rosh Hashanah is Sunday evening Sept. 16. You can find complete information on The New Shul’s services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur here.