Deuteronomy, the last of the Five Books of Moses, is filled with a repetition of the laws that were given earlier in the Torah and also some new ones. There are particularly, lots of laws pertaining to women. We have finally been given a major part of a parshah, but wait - not always on the positive side! Laws regarding sexual misconduct by women. Laws regarding adultery…serious trouble for women and men! Laws regarding forbidden relationships, well you get the idea. Also, many miscellaneous laws. Remember, we are almost at the end of the Torah and there is a lot of material to cover! I don’t mean to be flippant but I have to admit I found the portion was a little boring. I get to the end of the portion and who should appear but Amalek.
For those of you who might have forgotten, Amalek was the ruler of the Amalekites who attacked the Jews, from behind, while they were fleeing from Egypt during the Exodus. I found this the most fascinating part of the portion. Adonai says, “Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt…Do not forget”. (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) Pretty harsh words, don’t just wipe out the people but wipe out any memory of them.
Earlier in the parshah we are told to protect the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. We are instructed as to how to treat our slaves and our livestock. We are reminded not to go back for an overlooked sheaf of wheat, it must be left for the stranger and we are told we should pick our grapes and olives only once in a harvest. Any fruit that grows after that should be left for those less fortunate.
How do we reconcile these two very different edicts from Adonai? If I am to come to terms with what Adonai tells us and relate it to my life today I can only believe that we need to be aware of the destructive things of in our lives whether they are people or ideas. It is our responsibility to do whatever we can to temper those who’s angry outbursts and insensitivity to our concerns is antithetical to what we want to achieve. We must protect and defend the people who need our assistance to survive and thrive.
That is what Women of Reform Judaism is all about. We participate in the Consultation on Conscious, prepare resolutions to advocate on issues and educate our members and have speakers like Lilly Ledbetter who brought tears to our eyes and joy to our souls at the 2015 Fried Leadership Conference.
While reading this parshah I kept hearing Limdu Heiteiv, our Centennial Anthem, in the back of my head. Its words remain our call to action and the melody is a part of everything we do.
Diane Kaplan has been an active member of Temple Israel Sisterhood in Minneapolis for over 40 years. She is currently serving her 15th year on the WRJ Board of Directors. Diane has served in many capacities on the board and is particularly proud to have been the Co-chair of WRJ’s Centennial Celebration.