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 the place where the body was found would go out to a stream (a place of cleansing) and offer a sacrifice. Then they would make a formal 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 responsibility for a crime that no one would have accused them of committing 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 pleas by the victim for shelter or suppport.

The Talmud’s point is that, in the face of evil, we are liable not only for what we do, but for what we fail to do. As Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.”

This past week we began the month of Elul, the month of introspection and teshuvah. Elul is a time to reflect not only on what we have done wrong in the past year, but also on what we have not done right, on our failures to stand up for our own values. May this month be a time of growth and renewal for all of us, as we make our way to the new year.

  • 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 is sponsored by Fran Richter in honor of her 70th birthday.
  • 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.
  • Fall classes are ramping up. Our new men’s group begins on Sunday evening August 27 at 7 pm at a private home (contact us for the location). Our class on the teachings of the Hasidic masters begins next Monday evening August 28 at 7:30 pm at the shul. It’s not too late to join our adult Hebrew class, which meets on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 pm at the shul. Please see our website for a full  schedule of adult classes.
  • 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.
  • On Monday September 6 at 7:15 pm, The New Shul will host a panel discussion: “”Do We Always Have to Forgive?” On the following evening, Tuesday September 7 at 7 pm, we will host a lecture by Rabbi Mike Uram: “Next Generation Judaism: How College Students and Hillel Can Help Reinvent Jewish Organizations.”  Rabbi Uram is the director of the University of Pennsylvania Hillel. Both events are co-sponsored by Valley Beit Midrash.
  • On the night of S’lihot, Saturday September 16, join us at 9 pm for a screening and discussion of the film “Is That You?” by Dani Menin. The program will be followed by the S’lihot service.