The New Shul

Parshat Vayishlah

In this week’s parashah, Vayishlah, Yaakov returns to the land of Israel after twenty years of exile. He goes on a pilgrimage to Beth El, the place where he had first encountered God as a young man. In preparation for the pilgrimage, he commands the members of his household to purify themselves from any remnants of idolatry that they might have brought back with them to the land of Israel. The Torah tells us that the members of his household “gave to Yaakov all of the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears, and Yaakov buried them.”

Rabbi Simha Bunem of Pshiskha asked: Why did they need to give their earrings to Yaakov, as well as their idols? What does ordinary jewelry have to do with idolatry?

The point, according to Rabbi Simha Bunem, is that sometimes ordinary possessions are idols — that is, if we allow them to be. Often, instead of owning them, we let them own us. Instead of enjoying them, we become enslaved to them. That is what the Torah meant to teach.

Part of why Shabbat is so important is that it challenges us to step back and regain perspective on the things that we have. It helps us to remember that our possessions — even those that are most precious to us — are means and not ends. They should serve our purposes, not become our purpose. May this Shabbat, and every Shabbat, help us to remember what we really work for.

  • Candle lighting this Friday evening December 9 is at 5:01 pm. Shabbat ends on Saturday night at 6:00 pm.
  • The New Shul’s Shabbat morning service is from 9 to about 11:45 am, followed by a kiddush-lunch open to all. This Shabbat, December 10, the kiddush-lunch will be sponsored by Kenneth Klein and Andrea Hernandez.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm. Kabbalat Shabbat is on Fridays at 6 pm (usually at our rabbis’ home – please contact us for directions).
  • Hanukah begins on Sunday night December 18. The New Shul will host a Hanukah party for families (in partnership with PJ Library) on Monday December 19 at 6:15 pm. Contact for more information, or to rsvp.
  • Join us for our annual Hanukah Coffee House on Saturday night December 24 at 7:30 pm. There will be lots of live entertainment by our own local talent, and home-made latkes and other refreshments. The cost is $5 per adult at the door (children under 13 free).