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Parshat Ki Teitzei

08/27/2020 02:59:26 PM


Rabbi Yosef Weinstock

Strength in Vulnerability

At the end of this morning’s Parsha, Ki Teitzei, the Torah encourages us to remember a time in our national history during which we were vulnerable, and directs us in how to channel those feelings. 

In the seventh aliyah, The Torah states:
Vezacharta Ki Eved Hayita B’Mitzrayim:

Remember the suffering and vulnerability that you felt, and that you may continue to feel due to your experiences in Egypt. One possible response to vulnerability is to sublimate those feelings into an attitude of indifference and callousness. One who had been a slave in Egypt might say to him/herself, “When I was vulnerable in Egypt, no one helped me but Hashem. Now that I am self-sufficient let everyone take care of themselves.”

For this reason, the Torah commands us to be extra vigilant not to pervert justice in cases that involve the Ger Yatom or Almanah; the stranger, orphan and widow. 

There is a relationship between feeling vulnerable and feelings of love and connection towards others.
The more vulnerable we are willing to be, the stronger that relationship can grow. To fully connect we have to take risks- the risk of exposing who we really are, the risk of facing rejection. Taking those risks will increase our feeling of connectedness. Perhaps that is what the Torah is telling us by the Stranger, Orphan and Widow: We should tap into our feelings of vulnerability- because by doing so we will be more inclined to empathize with their situation, connect with them, and provide for them. I believe there’s a kal v’chomer at work here: if remembering our vulnerabilities can help deepen our bond with those whom we don’t know well, how much more so can it strengthen our connection to loved ones.

There is a tradition that Elul is an acronym for various themes that should serve as tasks for the month leading into the High Holidays. One such acronym that many are familiar with is Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li: Elul is a time to appreciate and reenergize our relationships: with family, friends and Hashem. A lesser known acronym is based on the verse in Parshat Mishpatim (21:13)

Concerning the accidental murderer who did not plan on murdering, the verse states:
Ina L’yado Vsamti Lecha (makom)

Hashem orchestrated a scenario in which this person is involved in an accidental killing. So it is Hashem who has also provided a place for him to go: the Ir Miklat, City of Refuge. Now, the words may form an acronym for Elul- but how does it relate to the theme of the month?

An accidental murderer must feel confused guilty and – yes, vulnerable. There is a Goel Hadam after him and the death wasn’t even his fault. Elul is the time to tap into those feelings of vulnerability to allow us to question long held assumptions, see things in a new light, and deepen our connections to Hashem and to each other.

Wed, October 28 2020 10 Cheshvan 5781