Ki Tavo contains the formulaic utterance given with first fruit offerings. “My father was a wandering Aramean…” Devarim 26:5.
We are very familiar with this from its inclusion in the Haggadah. It was supposed to be given from memory.
So concerned were the Sages that a lack of education kept some from coming to the Temple that they instituted a practice of having each person, irrespective of education, wealth or station, recite the words repeating after the Kohen. In that way, no one should be ashamed or embarrassed about a lack of knowledge. The phenomenon of Jews of different levels of knowledge, education and familiarity with liturgy is as old as our faith. Just as old is the principal that all are welcome, encouraged and respected.
This is an important tenet of Judaism. God loves each and every one of us and wants us to be engaged with the divine and to have active prayer lives. There are to be no barriers between us and God, especially not barriers that we set up for ourselves because we somehow feel disconnected. Lack of knowledge of Hebrew is no impediment. God understands every language, the utterances of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts. We learn that at this time of the year, in the month of Elul, God is even more approachable, as if the King leaves the palace to meet the people in the shopping center (okay the Midrash is really that God comes into the fields, but we may spend more time at the shopping center than in the fields).
Ki Tavo reminds us that the important thing is to be a part of the community and to show gratitude to God for all of our blessings.
This Shabbat we learn with Rabbi Aaron Bergman 9:45 a.m. He has a fascinating topic called, “How to turn a square matzah into a round challah: The Haggadah and Rosh Hashanah.” We are always looking for extra meaning in the holiday. I am certain this will be helpful. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.
The time honored tradition of Selichot among Ashkenazi Jews is tomorrow night, September 25th. This year all of our sister Conservative congregations are coming together as a community at Congregation Beth Ahm. The Selichot Service itself begins at 11:00 p.m., but it is preceded with a 9:30 p.m. program featuring Dara Horn, noted author and teach speaking on “Technology, Memory, and the Past that Lives within the Present.”
Shabbat shalom and shanah tovah!