Ekev — 5770

06/08/2010 at 13:08 Leave a comment


Shabbat Ekev

31 July 2010

Neil F. Blumofe

Today marks my twelfth anniversary in serving our community and congregation and while I wasn’t born here in Austin, I did get here as fast as I could, raising my family and learning the ways of this exceptional city and this great state.  And over the years, I have experienced many things – I have gone to El Paso to tour the Tony Lama boot factory, I have traveled the length and breadth of this state from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast – from Big Bend to the Piney Woods and I have gotten to know the big cities as well – Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.  I have sat with a great number of people, discovering an oral history not only of this synagogue – but too, the people who have founded the attitude and the exceptionalism of this place – from the politicians, to the statesmen – from the entrepreneurs to the scholars – from the musicians to the authors – from the anarchists to the clergy to the dispossessed – all over this state, I have learned from a great mix of people who come from varied backgrounds with diverse outlooks and in all of this time shared, I still do not have a clear idea about a few words that grip many of us and cause us either to stand in pride or sputter in disgust – of course, I am referring to the University of Texas school song: “The eyes of Texas are upon you/All the live long day/The eyes of Texas are upon you/You cannot get away.”  What do these words mean?  If you think about it for a moment, having the eyes of Texas upon you all the live long day is uncomfortable, spooky and hard.

In researching the origins of the lyrics of this song, there are a couple of theories having to do with the bravery of the Texas Brigades in the Civil War and the comments of Colonel Prather, who was a former student and then became the president of Washington and Lee College in Virginia where General Robert E. Lee was on faculty – you can ask me more details later – however, I see a direct reference of these always watching eyes of Texas to a verse in our Torah portion this week: tamid einei haShem elokecha ba mei’reishit hashanah v’ad a’charit shanah – the eyes of haShem, your God are always upon the land, from the beginning of the year, to the year’s end (11:12).

Our Talmud comments on this – appropriately in these weeks leading up to our new year – the comment comes in the maseket called Rosh haShanah.  The question is asked, what are the eyes of God that are always upon the land?  Rain.  However, it is not the simple.  According to our tradition, the power, frequency and time for rain are not arbitrary – rather all of it is linked to our deeds.  And in fact, our judgments are not written and sealed once a year as we would be led to believe by the majestic liturgy of our High Holy Days, rather, according to this theology, God continuously observes the land and its people to see how to apportion the rain – and thus, makes adjustments in every moment.  For example, if things start off well, and God ordains a year of plentiful rain, however the people become unworthy God can modify things and bring a lot of rain in unexpected times and places.  The converse is also true – if God has decreed just a little rain in the year and the people improve under the scrutiny, every drop can count and is used to precious and maximum advantage.

So, sometimes such unstinting observation is positive and sometimes it is negative.  Sometimes we fear that things can only get worse – how often do we think that things can get better?  Can we not continuously fine-tune our actions and our speech to make improvements at any time?  The days of Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur are not a zero-sum game – although we would like to be written in the Book of Life for another year, we know that there are no guarantees – we know that we come to many things with the best of intentions – exercise, or watching what we eat – a new relationship or a new job or attending minyan and gradually, we find ourselves back in our old habits, knowing that it is not a dramatic interruption that will change our ways for the good – rather, it is the gentle, everyday lapping at our souls that will influence us affecting us enough to adjust.

And how can we influence our souls so profoundly, everyday? – this too, is a profound lesson taught in our Torah portion today — v’achalta, v’savata, uveirachta et haShem elokecha – you will eat and you will be satisfied and you will bless haShem your God — the Birkat haMazon, or the Grace After Meals, is the development of a practice everyday of offering blessings.  It is our way of not only averting an evil decree – it is too to remind us that as the eyes of God are always upon us – it is equally true, to quote Zora Neale Hurston, that our eyes are always watching God.  We offer blessings to God not only when we are desperate and are looking for guidance – we also bless God when we are full, when things are going well and when we think we are masters of our fates.

Last week, I spoke about establishing the practice of praying the Shema Yisrael at any moment in these weeks leading up to the High Holydays — this one line from our Torah establishes the platform onto which all of our prayers and desires may be built, so when Rosh haShanah comes we are not starting from scratch and with an unexamined heart.  Today I ask something similar – I ask us to bring a simple blessing into our lives, after we eat.  Many of us enjoy the singing and the bentsching that happens here every week, during Shabbat luncheon – I am asking that we take the feelings from this – the instinct to be together and apply it to the busy meals that we may have during the week.  While the language may be unfamiliar, the sentiment is not – we also recognize that as we yearn to live our lives with meaning – the Torah asks us to rain blessings down.  Here is a one line blessings that is found in our tradition — iet us take this line, which is in Aramaic to begin to draw our thoughts back to God in our meals – we can learn it:

B’rich rahamana malka d’alma mareih d’hai pita – Blessed are You, merciful One – the one who is everywhere always – the Creator of this Bread.

Our journeys begin with a single step – may we recognize that we are not mere consumers in this world – that our lives are intricately and inexorably tied to the rhythms and the patterns of both the triumphs and the disasters in our world – for example, that BP is at fault for the oil spill and so are we all, for our behaviors and our choices that drive these decisions and hazards in the deep water.

No matter the outcome of the UT game we stay and stand and put our arms in the air to sing the school song – let us be so dedicated to our lives before God – and as we recognize that we are always watched, let us take comfort in this and respond with a look of our own.

Hayom katsar v’hamlacha m’ruba, v’hapoalim atseilim v’hasachar harbeih, u’va’al habayit docheik. The day is short the work is great – the workers are lazy, yet the reward is bountiful.  And the Master is insistent.  Let us work, everyday to bring the rain in its proper season. (Sing b’rich rahamana to UT fight song) – Shabbat Shalom.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Balak — 5770 Re’eh — 5770 — Living in the Day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

August 2010
« Jun   Sep »

%d bloggers like this: