Congregation Rodeph Sholom Bridgeport, Connecticut

Tradition Through Open Doors! A Conservative synagogue affiliated with USCJ

Shoftim

Posted on August 21st, 2017

Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9 


BY RABBI MATTHEW BERKOWITZ. A Wexner Fellow ordained in 1999 by the Jewish Theological Seminary


Never Return to Egypt


Resisting the temptation to return, geographically or psychologically, to the site of our bondage.


Several years ago, a book review in the New York Times caught my attention. Janet Maslin, reviewing The Known World by Edward Jones wrote: “Mr. Jones explores the unsettling, contradiction-prone world of a Virginia slaveholder who happens to be black.”

Maslin observed that such situations actually existed in the Antebellum South. A black slaveholder — quite a jarring concept for our rational minds! Nevertheless, such situational opposites are sadly not uncommon throughout history. Indeed, what actually caught my eye in this review was a vignette that the reviewer cited. Augustus, a former slave himself, confronts his son, Henry, who is a black slave-owner: “Augustus, who became free at the age of 22, is aghast to find his son . . . owning slaves. ‘Don’t go back to Egypt after God done took you outa there,’ Augustus warns.”

One could hardly imagine a more powerful philosophical and historical statement; and it is this notion of not returning to Egypt that is rooted in this week’s portion, Parashat Shoftim.

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Re'eh

Posted on August 14th, 2017

Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17


Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. 


Be Yourself


The gifts brought to the Temple for the pilgrimage festivals teach us the importance of preserving our unique identities.


Social pressure to conform is a steady and soul-deadening force. With relentless enticements, cultures seek ways to impose similarity of worldview, of behavior, even of thought upon their members. Even contemporary society, with its laudable commitment to individuality, imposes subtle mandates through the media, through the movies, through advertisements and in countless other ways.

Small wonder, then, that the truly free soul is rare. Indeed, for many who practice religion (and for many who flee religion), that conformity and habit are nowhere more imposing than in the realm of faith and ritual.

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Eikev

Posted on August 7th, 2017

Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25 


Rabbi Salomon Gruenwald has served as the Assistant Rabbi of Congregation HEA in Denver, CO since his ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles.


Helping a Stranger


Breaking down emotional barriers to empathy.


I participated in the AJWS Rabbinical Student Delegation to El Salvador because I thought I would find some answers to my questions about global poverty and development. Instead, I left with more questions.

I have held an ideological commitment to sustainable development, workers’ rights, and poverty reduction for a long time, but I have to admit that I have done relatively little to contribute to finding solutions. I give a modest amount annually to organizations like Oxfam and AJWS that work in the developing world. I vote in ways that I think will result in better policies for the world’s farmers and workers. I try to buy fair trade products. But, I have made few personal sacrifices.

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Shabbat Nachamu - Vaetchanan

Posted on July 31st, 2017

Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11 


Rabbi Dorothy A. Richman teaches Torah in the Bay Area and is Rabbi of Makor Or: Jewish Meditation Center. Rabbinic Ordination, JTS. 


Hear & Act

 

Primo Levi's poem gives us new insights into the Shema:


You who live secure

In your warm houses

Who return at evening to find

Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider whether this is a man,

Who labors in the mud

Who knows no peace

Who fights for a crust of bread

Who dies at a yes or a no.

Consider whether this is a woman,

Without hair or name

With no more strength to remember

Eyes empty and womb cold

As a frog in winter.

Consider that this has been:

I commend these words to you.

Engrave them on your hearts

When you are in your house, when you walk on your way,

When you go to bed, when you rise.

Repeat them to your children.

Or may your house crumble,

Disease render you powerless,

Your offspring avert their faces from you.

–Shema by Primo Levi

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Shabbat Hazon - Devarim

Posted on July 24th, 2017

Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22 


Rabbi Lewis Warshauer teaches topics in Judaism to adult study groups in a variety of venues. Among his interests are family dynamics in the Bible and art as interpretation of Jewish texts. He was ordained at JTS.


Attributes of a Leader


Moses shares his views on leadership.


Much of the Book of Deuteronomy is taken up with Moses‘ farewell address to the Israelite nation. He has served his people as their leader in every sphere: military, administrative, judicial and spiritual. Now, he reviews the events of the 40 wilderness years, and presents, from his own perspective, a report of how he has led the nation.

Moses does not offer a dispassionate review of the past; to the contrary, he rebukes the nation for its failings.

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