Last week we began to read the book of Deuteronomy which is the final book of the Torah. For the most part it consists of Moses’ farewell address as the Israelites are preparing to cross the Jordan and conquer the Promised Land. The book is filled with pathos as Moses knows that he will not cross over the Jordan with the people and has to appoint Joshua as his successor.
This week’s reading is VaEtchanan which means “I pleaded.” Moses here recounts how God told him that he would not enter the Promised Land because of some sin or mistake that he made, and how he pleaded with God to reverse the punishment. We know that this has to do with Moses getting angry at the people and hitting the rock to make it bring forth water rather than speaking to it as God commanded, but it’s not clear why this is such a grievous sin.
But starting with Moses and through the State of Israel, Judaism has taught that no one is above the law. Deuteronomy prescribes that the king must personally write out a copy of the Torah and keep it with him to remind him that he, too, is bound by the laws contained therein -- laws which place strict limits on the king’s power. Rabbinic tradition prescribes a separation of powers In recent Israeli history a former Prime Minister went to jail for corruption and bribery (Ehud Olmert) and a former President (Moshe Katzav) went to jail for rape. The idea that certain people should be above the law is un-Jewish and unbiblical.
I wanted to note that I have switched my weekly day off to Monday instead of Tuesday. As we start to do more programs with other shuls, and as more and more professional seminars and webinars take place, I have found that the vast majority of rabbis take Monday off and scheduling meetings with other rabbis has become complicated. The one exception is that on Mondays when we have a synagogue board meeting, I will work on Monday and take Tuesday instead.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by. Starting this week I will be having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian