The New Shul

Parshat Ki Tetzei

This week’s parashah, Ki Tetzei, begins:  “When you go to war against your enemies. . .”  The ancient rabbis understood this to refer not to an external war, but to an inner war against our own darkest impulses. Teshuvah, turning toward the good, means waging war against ouryetzer hara, our capacity for selfishness. Change begins with confrontation and struggle.

But the Hasidic masters understood the process of teshuvah very differently. Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav taught that seeing the good in everyone, including ourselves, is what makes teshuvah possible. We begin not by attacking the worst in ourselves but by acknowledging the best, by recognizing that, no matter how badly we have failed, we are still images of God. That is what motivates us to do better. Change begins not with confrontation but with compassion, even for ourselves.

Whichever way we choose to begin — by confronting the worst in ourselves or by searching for the best — we cannot do it alone. Being part of a spiritual community, a community that draws out the sacred spark within us, gives us the strength to push back against our darker impulses. It also helps us to recognize our strengths. In both ways, turning to community enables us to grow.

During this season of teshuvah, may we help each other to find renewal.

  • 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 29, is sponsored by Selma Strier.
  • Childcare is available from 10 am to noon on Shabbat mornings. Learning services for children this Shabbat are at the following times: for toddlers and pre-schoolers from 11 to 11:30 am, for grades 1 to 3 from 11 to 11:45 am. and for grades 4 to 6 from 10:15 to 11:30 am.
  • Join us for the night of S’lihot, Saturday September 5 at 9 pm. We will begin with a screening and discussion of the film “Fill the Void” as a text on teshuvah. The S’lihot service will follow at about 11 pm.
  • On Labor Day, Monday September 7, The New Shul community will serve meals to the hungry at St. Vincent de Paul’s Jackson Street dining room. Please let us know if you can help.
  • Information on The New Shul’s services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is available here.