I recently spent time exploring the Lower South of the US, delving into the emotionally fraught history and legacy of enslavement and civil rights, overlaid with an exploration of Southern Jewish life. It was a provoking, at times emotionally draining, visceral, and absolutely fascinating trip that challenged me every day to examine and reflect upon the impact of our nation’s history of slavery and to explore the extraordinary and unique life of Jews in the South. Continue reading
This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, begins with the responsibility of the Israelites to bring an offering of first fruits (bikkurim) after they’ve entered the land of Israel. “He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground which you, O Lord, have given to me.” (26:9-10)
Fruit offerings were later replaced with prayers but the purpose and intention are the same. As my teacher, Diane Bloomfield of “Torah from Jerusalem” explains, each day is the potential for both the physical world and humans to renew through prayer and actions. Despite the darkness that shrouds much of the world, we are commanded by God, as caretakers of the world, to illuminate dark places through mitzvot (actions). Such behaviors enable us to connect more deeply to God and renew ourselves and the world.