The New Shul

Parshat Miketz

In this week’s parashah, Miketz, Yosef tests his brothers (who do not yet know that he is Yosef) to see if they regret having sold him into slavery years earlier. Through the power of his position as second in command to Pharaoh, Yosef constructs an elaborate ruse, which includes accusing his brothers of being spies. In response to his accusation, his brothers exclaim: “We are honest men; your servants have never been spies!”

The word for “spy” in Hebrew (“m’ragel”) is related to the word for “routine” or “habit” (“hergel”). Rabbi Yitzhak Meir of Ger drew on that similarity of language to teach a spiritual lesson at the heart of Hasidism. Lifting the brothers’ exclamation out of context, he interpreted it, not as a statement of their innocence, but as a statement about how they live their spiritual lives. The brothers’ point, he taught, was that they do not serve God out of habit, in a routine manner, but rather try to make each mitzvah new, as if they were performing it for the first time.

Our task as Jews (descendants of those brothers)  is to strive to do the same. The purpose of all Jewish spiritual practice is to reawaken and renew our deepest insights and awareness, to make ourselves new in that sense. But rituals and prayers can help us to achieve that only if we make them new, if we constantly invest our practice with new energy so that it doesn’t grow routine and empty.

Together, may we strive to do that work.

  • Candle lighting this Friday evening December 15, is at 5:03 pm. Shabbat ends on Saturday night at 6:02 pm.
  • The New Shul’s Shabbat morning service is from 9 am to about 11:45 am, followed by a kiddush-lunch open to all. This Shabbat, December 16, the kiddush-lunch is sponsored by Nina Targovnik and by Diane Targovnik and John Jacobs.
  • Rabbi Wasserman’s class: Dare to Daven: Exploring Jewish Prayer, continues this Shabbat afternoon December 16 at 4:30 pm. The class meets at the Kanter/Wasserman home (contact-us for directions).
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm at the shul. Kabbalat Shabbbat is on Friday evenings at 6 pm at the Kanter-Wasserman home.
  • On the Shabbat of January 23-24, our guest teacher will be Rabbi Eli Kaunfer, President and CEO of the Hadar Institute in New York.