As I enter my 13th year as the rabbi of this wonderful community, I often recall my first Yom Kippur here. We were clobbered all day leading up to Kol Nidre with relentless rain, and by the end of services that evening, we discovered that the shul building was taking on water. There was a flood in the school wing, the roof was leaking in a number of places, and most crucially, the ark had some water dripping in. Our custodians worked quickly to make a plastic layer that would cover the Torah scrolls, and while the rain stopped overnight, we weren’t entirely sure what we would find in the morning. Thankfully, all was well with the Sifrei Torah, and I even had a pretext to dress the scrolls in raingear a couple weeks later on Simhat Torah.
This memory came flashing back as I saw a short video message from Rabbi Adam Watstein of Congregation B’nai Aviv in Weston, FL, in preparation for Hurricane Irma making landfall over Shabbat. He and his ritual staff were sealing their Sifrei Torah in large garbage bags. As they worked, he shared a message: just as we take great care to preserve and protect the Torah in its physical sense, we must also commit to preserving and protecting the ideas and values found in its words.
This week, when we read Parshat Ki Tavo, one passage is going to sound most familiar. It’s the declaration ancient Israel was instructed to make when bringing bikkurim, first fruits, to the sanctuary. “Arami oved avi–my father was a fugitive Aramean.” We know it from the haggadah, so we have managed to preserve the words. But how do we preserve its message and protect the values contained in this version of telling our People’s story?
We’ll dig a bit deeper into that question on Shabbat morning.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,