The New Shul

Parshat Ekev

In this week’s parashah, Ekev, Moshe distills the entire Torah down to just a few imperatives, which begin with reverence. “And now, O Israel, what does YHWH your God ask of you, except to revere YHWH. . . ?” Moshe’s point seems to be that reverence (yir’ah in Hebrew) takes precedence over all other human qualities.

What is the nature of yir’ah? It begins with a negative insight — not about who God is but about who God is not, namely ourselves. We may not know much about God, but we can at least recognize that we are not God, that the universe does not revolve around us.

That is the essence of yir’ah, the recognition of how small we are in the ultimate scheme of things. What Moshe suggests 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.

Recent months have brought home to us the limits of our power over nature. For all of our technological prowess, there is much about the world that we do not control. That recognition of our smallness brings with it a sense of loss and vulnerability. But, as Moshe reminds us, it can also be the seed out of which deep spiritual wisdom grows. The recognition that we are not God makes room within us for the One who is. That openness, in turn, invests our lives with deeper purpose.

The High Holidays are called in Hebrew the Yamim Nora’im, the Days of Awe or Reverence (nora’im comes from the same Hebrew root as yir’ah). As we hope for a new beginning in the coming year, may we use the sense of our own limits that the current year has brought us as the starting point for our work of renewal.

  • The New Shul is closed for now due to the Covid-19 crisis. In the mean time, all are welcome to participate in the following on-line classes and  events. To participate, please contact us for the Zoom link.
  • In lieu of weekday minyanim, join us for on-line davening, and for study and discussion of Pirkei Avot (in place of kaddish). The timesare9:15 am on Sunday mornings, and 6:15 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
  • On Fridays before Shabbat, join us online at 5:45 pm for an abbreviated Kabbalat Shabbat and a drashah on the parashah of the week. All are welcome.
  • Join us for virtual havdalah on Saturday nights. This Saturday August 8, the time will be 8:15 pm.
  • Our on-line Talmud class meets on Mondays at 5 pm, and our on-line Parashah-of-the-Week class meets on Tuesdays at 11 am.
  • Contact us for information on our Elul study and discussion groups.
  • On Thursday September 3 at 9 am, our community will celebrate the bar mitzvah of Benjamin Karp. The minyan will be strictly limited in number due to the pandemic, but all are welcome to participate by Zoom. Contact us for the link.
  • We will soon announce our plans for the Yamim Nora’im. Watch for upcoming emails.