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Torat Futon

09/09/2020 10:33:02 PM

Sep9

There is a futon in my basement that I’ve had since college. It previously belonged to my parents when they spent a year in New York and when they were leaving, I claimed it for myself. If schlepping it from my parent’s apartment to my dorm was move number one, then after multiple moves within New York City, shipping it to Atlanta would have been move number six. We’ve since relocated within our neighborhood which means that at least seven times I had to disassemble and reassemble that futon! And each and every time, I had to dig out the old instruction booklet and make sure I was hooking everything up correctly. You would think that I would have it down by heart, but since the moves are infrequent enough I need the quick refresher.

In Parshiyot Nitzavim-Vayelech, Moses instructs the Israelites that they are to read the Torah, in its entirety every seven years on Sukkot. The procedure is for every man, woman, child, and stranger to gather together and hear a public reading of the Torah as a refresher of God’s laws. Just like how I need a refresher in how to build a futon, the idea behind this commandment is for the Israelites to brush up on all the laws and rituals contained in Torah. The Torah stresses that this will be even more important for the children’s children who didn’t have the experience of the Exodus and the wandering in the wilderness. However, by hearing these laws, and the stories contained in the Torah, these descendants can be equally inspired and gain understanding. (I assume that my descendants too will gain understanding from the same futon manual that has been my guide these past few years.)

While the Torah seems to have thought that hearing the Torah once every seven years would have been adequate, the Jewish law developed so that congregations would read the entire Torah annually, reading particular portions multiple times a week. This increase in frequency of reading the Torah reflects the intense value placed on the Torah and its teachings (as compared to a futon manual.) Surely, the morals and values embedded in the text of the Torah are important for the community to hear, learn, and discuss more regularly than once every seven years. These are the same values and experiences we hope to share with our descendants and the more often we can study them publicly, the more opportunities we have to engage with the words of our tradition. As we approach these last portions of our Torah, let us remain committed to studying these words frequently, and continuing this ancient religious conversation with our descendants for generations to come.

Shabbat Shalom

Sat, October 31 2020 13 Cheshvan 5781