The New Shul

Parshat Ki Tetzei

This week’s parashah, Ki Tetzei, teaches that, if we find a mother bird sitting on her eggs, we may take the eggs but must let the mother bird go free. What is the message of that mitzvah? Rabbi Avraham of Sokhchov explained:  The mother bird, at that moment, has a special status almost like that of a human being. In guarding her eggs even at the risk of her life, she reminds us of a human ideal, that of placing another’s needs above our own. Because the mother bird is emblematic of the human ideal of compassion, we must honor her as we would honor a person.

What trait defines us as human beings? Philosophers and scientists have offered many answers: our ability to reason, to use language, to make complex tools. Rabbi Avraham answered that question very differently. What makes us truly human, he taught, is our capacity for empathy and compassion.

During times of crisis, when a chaotic world leaves us disoriented and confused, and our deep divisions leave us feeling isolated, perhaps our greatest need is to remember what it means to be truly human. What is our deepest source of dignity and strength? What do we all have in common? What makes all of us worthy of God’s love? The answer, according to Rabbi Avraham – an answer symbolized, ironically, by a non-human neighbor – is our potential for empathy and love, our capacity to see God’s image in the face of others.

  • The New Shul is closed for now due to the Covid-19 crisis. In the mean time, all are welcome to participate in our on-line classes and  events, including Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday afternoons, Havdalah on Saturday nights, daily text study in lieu of kaddish, and weekday classes on the parashah of the week and topics from the Talmud. Please contact us for further information and the Zoom link.
  • 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.
  • For a schedule of our programs and events on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, please see our website.