Times: Shabbat starts on Friday at 5:20pm and ends on Saturday night at 6:19pm. The weekly Torah portion is Eikev.
Mincha in the CBD: Mincha is still virtual as we await people returning to work in the city. That means we all daven at an agreed time, which is 1.00pm. Details at the WhatsApp group.
Study: Weekly Shiur continues on Wednesday at 1:10pm via zoom, following mincha at 1.00pm. BYO lunch. Details here.
Thought of the Week with thanks to Mandi Katz. Two of the three paragraphs that make up the Shema are found in last week’s Torah reading (Vaetchanen) and this week’s (Ekev). The two paragraphs don’t follow one another – there’s much text and narrative between them, and they also provide very different models for Jewish observance and yet together with the paragraph on tzitzit they make up the Shema – a central document of Jewish faith. Leaving aside the very first verse of the Shema – the first paragraph begins with a text that requires us to love God in an unconditional way. There is no reason for this obligation, no reward is promised for following it and no punishment for those who do not. It is simply an obligation that these words about loving God are to be in our hearts, to be taught to our children, and to be spoken wherever we are and at all times.
The second paragraph – from Ekev – has a very different quality. Loving God is central here too but it is framed very differently. The obligation to love God to merit reward (rain and prosperity) and avoid the punishment that follows swerving from loving God.
The two paragraphs capture two authentic but very different theologies – lishma (for its own sake) and shelo lishma (not for its own sake – for a reason, for reward or to avoid punishment). The Rambam taught that the Torah permitted people to love God for reward and punishment, as an accommodation to those not capable of loving God without the knowledge of consequences. This position perhaps acknowledges that there are different religious personalities – and that the two frameworks address those different psyches.
Perhaps it is also true that each speaks to different seasons in our lives. Perhaps at times of suffering and uncertainty, the opposite is true, that loving God for reward and punishment makes little sense but the obligation to simply love God in a surrendered and open way can be powerful and comforting.