The New Shul

Parshat Shoftim

In this week’s parashah, Shoftim, Moshe declares: “You shall be whole (tamim) with YHWH your God” — meaning that we must not divide our loyalty.

But Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev understood the declaration differently. He interpreted the words “You shall be whole” not as a command but as a promise. Moshe’s point, as Levi Yitzhak understood it, is not that we ought to be whole in our relationship to God, but that we will be whole to the extent that we let God into our lives. God’s one-ness will make us one.

We all struggle to fit the various pieces of ourselves together, to resolve our inner conflicts, to make our lives coherent. But that inner struggle, on its own, can never bring the peace that we are looking for. There are always more loose ends to knit together. It often seems that the more we focus on ourselves, the harder it is to escape our own complexity.

Levi Yitzhak offers a different approach. We make peace within ourselves by looking outward. We find completeness by striving to honor God and the image of God in other people, by engaging in the work of mending the world. Yes, we must examine our inner lives. But that inner work comes to fruition as we turn our hearts to one another. We become whole, not by perfecting ourselves, but by transcending ourselves.

May our work of teshuvah during the new month of Elul help us all to find the peace that we are seeking.

  • Candle lighting this Friday evening August 18, is at 6:52 pm. Shabbat ends on Saturday night at 7:48 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, August 19, the kiddush-lunch is sponsored by Selma Strier in honor of her 75th birthday.
  • 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.
  • Beginning this Shabbat afternoon, August 19, and continuing through the month of Elul, Rabbi Wasserman will teach a four-part class on hasidic teachings on repentance. Further details are available here.
  • Information on our services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is available here.