The New Shul

Parshat Shoftim

In this week’s parashah, Shoftim, Moshe warns the children of Israel that “bribery blinds the eyes of the wise.” Narrow personal interests make it impossible to see the bigger picture, to get a true view of reality.

Moshe’s warning applies not only to cases of actual bribery, but to all the ways in which  “motivated reasoning” distorts our thinking. Instead of  weighing all the evidence, we often start with a conclusion dictated by our own interests, and then construct arguments to support it.

But implicit in Moshe’s warning, there is good news as well. If self-centeredness blinds us to the bigger picture, it must mean that, were it not for our self-centeredness, we would have the power to see that picture after all. That is the lesson that the Sfat Emet drew from Moshe’s words. To the extent that we can rise above our narrow interests, we human beings have the ability to see the world from something like God’s point of view.

On Shabbat, we try to rise above the narrow concerns that preoccupy us during the week, and see the world from a higher vantage point. By taking time to step back from our work, we remind ourselves what our lives, and work, are ultimately for. In that sense, Shabbat renews our vision.

May this Shabbat, and every Shabbat, help to keep our eyes more open.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat morning service is from 9 am to about 11:45 am. This Shabbat, September 3, the kiddush-lunch is sponsored by Norwin and Charlotte Landay in honor of their 60th wedding anniversary. The dessert is sponsored by Selma Strier, in honor of her daughter Adele, and her friend Joy.
  • Join us for The New Shul’s twentieth anniversary weekend, September 9 – 11. Our guest teacher for the weekend will be Rabbi Ed Feinstein. You can find a full schedule of events here, plus links to register for the Friday night dinner and/or the Sunday reception. Reservations are due by Sunday September 4.
  • Weekday minyanim at The New Shul are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm. Kabbalat Shabbat is on Friday evenings at 6 pm, usually at our rabbis’ home (please contact us for directions).
  • S’lihot is on Saturday night September 17. Join us at 8:30 pm for a screening and discussion of “The Syrian Bride” (Eran Riklis, 2004) as a text on teshuvah, followed by the S’lihot service at approximately 10:45 pm.
  • Information on our services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is available here.