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Time: Shabbat starts on Friday at 5:53 pm and ends on Saturday at 6:51 pm. The weekly Torah portion is Ki Tavo.

Mincha in the CBD: On Mon/TueMincha is at ABL – 21/333 Collins, on Wed at Warlows Legal – 2/430 Lt Collins. Thurs is a public holiday. Join the WhatsApp group to stay across the latest details.

Study: The Weekly Shiur continues on Wednesday at about 1.15pm (after mincha) at Warlows Legal – 2/430 Lt Collins – and via Zoom. Current topic: duty of care for a borrower.  Details here and on the WhatsApp group.

Thought of the Week with thanks to Michelle Coleman.

In this week’s Torah portion, we are given the mitzvah of bringing the first fruits to the Temple. Upon doing so, we declare “An Aramean [Lavan] destroyed my forefather [Yaakov]”. Wait, what? An Aramean destroyed my forefather? Lavan certainly made life extremely difficult for Yaakov but despite his sinister efforts, Yaakov left the house of Lavan with two wives, multiple children and immense wealth. How can we say that Lavan “destroyed” him?

Rashi explains this verse as meaning that Lavan would have i.e. wanted to destroy Yaakov. Noted medieval commentators, however, refute this interpretation, translating the verse as “my father was a wandering Aramean”.

To me, however, it seems that Rashi’s interpretation is particularly fitting given that Ashkenazim always read this Torah portion just before we start saying the Selichot prayers in the lead up to the High Holy Days.

The focus of Selichot is on asking for Divine forgiveness, not only for our improper actions and speech, but even for inappropriate thoughts. Lavan, after all, is considered as if he had destroyed Yaakov, just for thinking and planning to do so, even though he is ultimately unsuccessful.

I for one find the idea of having to control not only my words and actions but even my thoughts rather daunting. However, rather than feeling that this is a goal beyond my achievement, I can look at it in another way: If we are even held accountable for our thoughts, how much more so are we accountable for our speech and actions.

May we all use this time of year to focus on improving our speech and actions (the thoughts will come), thereby returning and becoming closer to G-d and meriting the rebuilding of the Third Temple where we’ll be able bring the first fruits once again.

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