This is a time of transition on many fronts. School has started. The leaves are starting to fall. At Selichot services tomorrow night, special penitential prayers and poems (selichot) will be chanted in High Holy Day mode as we the end of 5777. The haftarah, the last before Rosh Hashanah is Isaiah 61:10-63:9, is the seventh and final Haftarah of Consolation. Rabbi David Abudarham (14th c.) described the set as a dialogue (see Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Devarim, pp. 154-5): (1) the Lord commands the prophets to comfort the people. (2) Zion wails that the Lord has forsaken her. (3) The Lord recognizes that Zion can’t be consoled. The final three demonstrate increasing levels of comforting: (5) “I am He that comforts you!” (6) “Sing, O barren one!” And the seventh haftarah is full of triumph and ecstasy as Israel rejoices in her reunion with the Lord:
10 I greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My whole being exults in my God.
For He has clothed me with garments of triumph,
Wrapped me in a robe of victory,
Like a bridegroom adorned with a turban,
Like a bride bedecked with her finery.
And, as we near the end of the annual Torah reading, Moses approaches the end of his life and the Israelites prepare for their big transition from wilderness to Promised Land.
Nitzavim-Vayeilekh is a double portion, but at only 70 verses, roughly half the length of a typical weekly single portion. In Nitzavim (29: -30:20), Moses tersely sets out what is expected of the people, a summary of the past month’s exhortations. First, all of Israel is being bound by the covenant: men, women, children, converts, present or not, including future generations. That means that everyone must study the Law, in order to know how to obey it mindfully and wholeheartedly. And the Law is accessible to all. Moses assures the people that they not only must, but can, study and learn the Law.
At this critical juncture, they are presented with a choice (30:19-20):
19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life — if you and your offspring would live — 20 by loving the Lord your God, heeding His commands, and holding fast to Him. For thereby you shall have life and shall long endure upon the soil that the Lord swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them.”
Vayeilekh (31:1-30) finishes up the narrative. Moses formally presents Joshua to the people as their next leader. Moses writes down the Law and gives it into the care of the Levites, and it is to be read in its entirety in public every seven years. Then the Lord takes Moses that he dies, despite his efforts, the people will stray and the Lord will then smite them, etc., continuing the old pattern established in the wilderness. But, as his last assignment, Moses must write a song, a poetic summary to be an additional witness to what they have promised. Maybe they’ll be able to pay attention to that.
Moshe: I am about to die
Jews: You are?
Moshe Out of Office Reply: I will be out of the office, permanently. For immediate assistance on Judaism please contact Josh or God
12 Horribly Amazing Puns to get you through Finals Week (selected) –
Puns for the Sleep Deprived and Coffee Dependent, by Alison Kaye
Finals Week: when coffee becomes the dominant food group, sleeping in a chair is socially acceptable, and the only emotions you’re capable of expressing are laughing and crying.
- First, some encourage(mint) for those of you with that stack of 400+ notecards– may it take you less time to study them than it took to make them.
- How many tickles does it take to make a squid laugh? Ten-tickles
- What kind of fish is made out of only two sodium atoms? 2 Na
- It’s not even summer and I already have a tan: sine/cosine.
- And how about a politically relevant slice of Berned toast?
Quotes about Transitions
Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want. Kristin Armstrong
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it. Nikki Giovanni
The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism. John C. Calhoun
Life is one big transition. Willie Stargell
A Five-Year Old’s View of Weddings
Hilary, a grandmother, overhears her 5-year-old granddaughter, Mo, playing “weddings.”
As the little girl, Mo, marches the bride down the aisle, the marriage vows went something like this: ‘You have the right to remain silent, anything you say may be held against you, you have the right to have an attorney present. You may now kiss the bride.’