Vayeilekh (Deut. 31:1-30), Shabbat Shuvah

This Shabbat: Very short weekly Torah portion (30 verses), longish special haftarah (29 verses at my shul). 

We are in the midst of the Ten Days of Penitence leading to Yom Kippur. [Before I forget, there are some fasting tips at .  For me at least, the key ones are weaning off caffeine over several days, not overeating at dinner before the fast, and not eating greasy or spicy foods at that dinner.]  Although it’s not really intended to, the Torah portion dovetails nicely with the season’s themes of repentance and atonement.

Moses describes himself as 120 years old that day, thus physically not strong enough to continue to lead the people.  [This sounds like a retirement announcement, though in this case “retirement” rapidly becomes death.]  But then he adds that this is because the Lord won’t let him cross the Jordan.  [Now it sounds like forced retirement.]  Concerned for the future of his flock, Moses tries to provide a smooth transition, assisted by the Lord’s direction. [I tried to do this in advance of my totally, totally, totally unforced retirement, with 3 months’ notice, but my replacement only came the day before I left.]  He brings Joshua before the people and publicly confirms that he is the leader who, with the Lord, will bring them into the Promised Land.  And what is the last instruction Moses gives the people?  Every sabbatical year, on the festival of Succot, all the people – men, women, children, resident foreigners – are to gather to hear the Law read to them so they can learn it. 

But what does the Lord say next?  After Moses dies, the people will screw up and worship idols.  Lest he thinks it’s all been for naught, he is reassured that they can atone and be forgiven if their atonement is genuine.  Moses is to write down a poem as a reminder of their past, punishments, and possibilities.  We’ll read that next week.

This Shabbat, the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is Shabbat Shuvah, Sabbath of Return.  It is one of only two Sabbaths during the year on which, in olden times, the rabbi was expected to give a substantive sermon.  The haftarah begins with the word shuvah, which has the same root as teshuvah, repentance. There are various customs as to what is read; what is chanted in my synagogue is Hosea 14:2-10, Joel 2:11-27, Micah 7:18-20.  The theme is repentance, followed by forgiveness and redemption, readying us for Yom Kippur.

We are taught that our atonement on Yom Kippur is really for sins between us and God.  Therefore, sins against people need to be addressed separately.  We’re not supposed to lean on blanket apologies but rather to deal with specific actions and specific people.  I’m afraid I have to make due with generalities here, since I don’t even know who some of you are.  So, for you who read this, if I have offended or hurt you in any way, through these missives or otherwise, I am truly sorry and will try to be more considerate. 

Shabbat shalom,


Albert’s retirement party presentation

“Today we would like to thank Albert for his service to our company. Albert is someone who does not know the meaning of impossible task, who does not know the meaning of lunch break, who does not understand the meaning of the word no. So we have clubbed together and bought Albert a dictionary.”



Retirement Jokes

“I am not available right now, but thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes.”

What’s the biggest gripe of retirees?
There is not enough time to get everything done.

Among retirees, what is considered formal attire?
Tied shoes.

I hear this daily from retirees. They say “I don’t know how I ever found time to work…” and they are serious! (TRUE! IGP)

What do retirees call a long lunch?

What’s the biggest advantage of going back to school as a retiree?
If you cut classes, no one calls your parents.


Ex-Treasury secretary Liam Byrne’s note to his successor: there’s no money left (excerpts)

The former chief secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, has reignited criticism of Labour’s stewardship of the economy with a note for his successor which said “there’s no money left”.

Byrne’s note was discovered by David Laws, the Liberal Democrat MP who was appointed by the coalition government to succeed Byrne as No 2 at the Treasury.

Laws told reporters: “When I arrived at my desk on the very first day as chief secretary, I found a letter from the previous chief secretary to give me some advice, I assumed, on how I conduct myself over the months ahead.

“Unfortunately, when I opened it, it was a one-sentence letter which simply said: ‘Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left,’ which was honest but slightly less helpful advice than I had been expecting.”

Byrne said the message was meant in jest. “My letter was a joke, from one chief secretary to another,” he said. “I do hope David Laws’s sense of humour wasn’t another casualty of the coalition deal.”

Treasury sources said the full text of the letter from Byrne – dated 6 April, the day Gordon Brown called the general election – was: “Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards – and good luck! Liam.”

Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News claimed today that former chancellor Alistair Darling had also left a note for his successor, George Osborne, as well as a bottle – but, in Gibbon’s words, “no revolver”.


Not ‘love thy neighbor’?


This seems super Canadian….



Forgiveness Quotes

  • The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Mahatma Gandhi
  • Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. John F. Kennedy
  • Forgiveness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr
  • When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future. Bernard Meltzer





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