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HHSpecialsFriday night services, TONIGHT September 21 at 7 p.m.
Please note that there are no shabbat morning services this weekend, but save the dates for the following two exciting events:
Friday September 28th, at the special time of 6:30 p.m., we will celebrate Sukkot with services and dinner in the sukkah. PLEASE come this Sunday at 12 noon to help us build the Sukkah.
Monday October 1st, at 7 p.m., we will celebrate Simchat Torah. Lots of joyful singing and dancing with the Torah!
Also on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. our BERS continue Sunday Fundays!
 
Sincere and heartfelt thank you to Cantor Ben-Moshe for leading incredible Yom Kippur services; to Sandy Kress for a very inspiring and moving Dvar Torah, and to our wonderful service helpers! Thank you to Bam Rubenstein for again being our Baal Tekiah and blowing the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur and of course to Arthur and Kevin for being our tireless and enthusiastic Gabbais.

 

 Shereen Ben-Moshe did an incredible job engaging and entertaining our lovely children with songs, stories, and a reader’s theatre. Many, many folks helped and apologies for not mentioning everyone by name, but we literally can not do it without you guys! 
 
Our delicious Break the Fast was very generously sponsored by Dani Kadosh and Juliette Meinstein! Juliette also tirelessly cooked many of the delicious treats. Thank you so very much to you both!!!
 
 Cantor Ben-Moshe’s Weekly Message: 
This week’s parshah is the second to last of the Torah, Haazinu.  In this parshah, Moshe teaches the People of Israel a song that they are to take with them as they cross into the Land of Israel, a song to remind them that they are not to stray from the Covenant with God.  One of the phrases that Moshe uses is “And Yeshurun (a poetic name for Israel) became fat and kicked”-evoking an overfed animal that is difficult to control, and thus warning our ancestors not to let prosperity blind them to moral action.  We have just finished the Fast of Yom Kippur, when we forgo food and drink in order to concentrate on spiritual growth.  As we return to our daily lives, enjoying food again, let us not become so involved with the pleasures of the table that we forget the spiritual lessons that we recently learned.  Shabbat Shalom.  Hazzan Yitzhak Ben-Moshe
Shabbat candle lighting times are at 7:11 p.m.
Sunday School continues this Sunday morning, September 23, at 10 a.m. What a great first week. We welcomed several new families to our BERS family, our lovely educators, and also had an amazing Bee Keeper come talk to the children about bees and honey. Of course lots of apples were dipped in honey and our children even fulfilled a beautiful mitzvah of delivering honey cakes to several community members and retirees in senior living homes. I am so proud of our little mentsches!

Our children will have a special guest also this week , Jewish Educator and Storyteller Cathy Schechter of Shalom Austin, who wrote a children’s book about Tashlich!
On Repentance – By Sandy Kress.

 
The great 20th century sage, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, gave several noteworthy addresses on the topic of repentance during the High Holy Days in various years of the 60s and 70s.
I have devoted considerable effort to distill important and compelling points from those remarks for this blog.
I hope that Jews will consider using this reading for reflection during the Days of Awe.
I hope, as well, that these words will be of value to all people of faith who believe in a God Who offers grace but also asks of us, as appropriate, a true turn of confession and repentance.
If not fasting, get a large coffee. Read slowly. And interact with these ideas. If you seek to get back on the right path with others and with God, I feel certain you’ll find the time you spend here time well spent.
1. A. “Sin constitutes a sort of spiritual pathology…
If sin is a sickness, then it also has the characteristics of a sickness. What is characteristic of sickness? Suffering.”
B. “We have discerned the stage of acknowledgement of sin in the process of repentance. Before this stage, however, there is another phase, which I call the sensing of sin. Sensing of sin is analogous in every respect to feeling sickness.”
C. “As in sickness of the body, so, also, in sickness of the soul which is sin, man tries to minimize and to distance himself from the pain.”
D. “The sinner also mourns…
What does the sinner mourn? He mourns that which he has irretrievably lost…
The sinner has lost his purity, his holiness, his integrity, his spiritual wealth…the spirit of sanctity in man – all that gives meaning to life and content to human existence.”
E. “The sinner begins to sense a feeling of contempt…”
F. “The feeling of sin which drags a person to repentance is an aesthetic sensation…
The suffering of sin lies in the feeling of nausea toward the defiling… uncleanliness of the sin.”
G. “We are human beings with a sense of beauty, an aesthetic soul, and we are attracted to fine things; how then could we have let ourselves…do contemptible things?
H. “In addition to the sense of bereavement, remorse is related to another emotion: the sense of shame – the sense of shame a person can feel for himself.”
2. Having sinned, we are led to “an element that is the diametric opposite of the despair resulting from the acknowledgement of sin: the possibility to free oneself from sin and overcome it.”
3. A. For Jews, “Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – has a double function. The first is kapparah – acquittal from sin or atonement…
The second aspect of Yom Kippur is taharah – catharsis or purification,” a subject which we’ll address in a moment.
B. “For acquittal of sin, remorse is sufficient,” yet what constitutes remorse requires deeper understanding.
(i) The way of sin: “It overtakes man while indulging in a night of iniquity. Mist and fog conceal the inner light of the soul of a man who is immersed in the blinding, obsessive night of his passions…”
(ii) So, what is meant by remorse? “Remorse…results in true recognition. The manner of regret is related to the sin and its meaning. At the moment when man sobers up from the drinking party, he grasps the implication of his sin. They are: failure, despair, and spiritual bankruptcy. To sin actually means to miss the target.” Remorse comes when one says: “I stumbled, I missed my goal; sin has failed me; sin has brought me to despair and led me astray.”
C. In that remorse, “the expiation afforded by the Day of Atonement” also involves a sort of “commuting of sentences” which has the effect of reducing “the amount of suffering.” This commutation involves:
(i) Offering a “trace of something,” that is, though we may have erred in bigger, more dramatic ways, we perform a “small, modest, perhaps unseen act” that may be “a simple manifestation of human kindness, a display of decency toward people.”
“Man is too weak, his life too short, to pay all his debts in full. So the Almighty makes do with the nominal payment of a single penny.”
(ii) Offering by “exchange,” that is, by responding with something of substitution, appropriate, but without monetary value.
”The sinner owes something to the Almighty because he stole from Him.” Fundamentally, God has given us life. And the issue here is how and to what extent we’ve misappropriated the “rights and privileges” that in trust have been given to us in life.
“When man repents and regrets his sinful acts, it is as if a new transaction has taken place and the contract of ownership has been renewed between him and the Creator.”
So, what’s the consideration due? It involves “suffering and hardship as a result of his sins.” But, on this day of mercy, the God of grace, through “the divine quality of loving-kindness” asks only a “particle of suffering,” by, say, experiencing “deep and heartfelt spiritual anguish and pangs of conscience, by the travail of discomfort and lack of tranquility.” This suffering helps usher in renewal.
(iii) Much as with sacrifices in the time of the Temple, these offerings must be purposeful, with intent, and directed to effect renewal. But, as with the scapegoat offering, all that we have offered during the year – including that which was not God-ward – is today accepted by God as part of our sacrifice.
4. “Repentance sprouts forth and grows in the course of a long and drawn-out process typified by doubt and speculation, soul-searching and spiritual reckoning.”
5. Through faith in God and in man’s spiritual potential, the sinner finds through repentance that “though the highway be blocked, it is still possible to travel the hidden byways;” “there is always a tiny window through which man may seek entry.”
6. A. The ability of man to attain repentance can be considered a divine gift. “The fact that a person is able to rise above his lowly state and ascend the mountain of the Lord is one of the most wondrous favors with which the Creator has endowed His creatures.”
B. “The grace of repentance…is revealed by two factors: first in the fact that the human personality is the true sanctuary of the Holy One, blessed be He…The second one, which is a divine favor throughout eternity, is the fact that the Holy One, blessed be He, who chose the human soul as His dwelling place, does not remove Himself from man even after he sins.”
C. “When a person becomes penitent it is because the Holy One, blessed be He, who is present within him, has aroused and altered him to do so.”
7. A. What is satisfactory repentance? “If, from the start, the repentance was made so ‘unreservedly and sincerely’ that the penitent called upon the Almighty to bear witness to his earnestness, then the repentance is operative, even if he later reverted to sin and failed to live by his vow.”
B. “What is perfect repentance?” asks Maimonides…
’That in which the former transgressor is afforded an opportunity of repeating his sin but stays his hand and refrains from doing so because he has repented, and not out of fear or due to incapacity.’”
C. “There is however a type of repentance which surpasses even perfect repentance: namely, ‘repentance from love’,” neither a “repentance from fear,” nor one from “misgivings and skepticism,” but rather one that also “practically excludes the possibility of ever reverting to his sin,” but is in the nature of “redemption,” and not merely “expiation.”
8. Repentance of purification goes a step further; it “necessitates a complete breaking away from the environment, the contributing factors and all the forces which created the atmosphere of sin.”
“‘A new heart and a new spirit’ come about only by means of departure from the path of sin…”
“How does one arrive at repentance of purification? The repentance does not come about as a result of punishment…
It is necessary to bend one’s head…only ritual immersion may achieve this end. We are referring to a double baptism – of water and of fire.
A. Immersion in water represents an analytical plunge into the sea of knowledge, which is done through intense self-contemplation and profound soul-searching.
B. The baptism of fire, in contrast, represents the great act of breaking one’s own will, passing through the fire of one’s passion. The proof of man’s self-transcendence: when he succeeds in subjugating his animal will to the supernal will.
These two immersions are what bring man to the stage of repentance of purification.”
C. Our hope is to end feeling “remote from God” and instead feel His “close proximity.” It’s not just the exile of Israel in a geographical sense that is our concern: it is the individual’s spiritual “absence of a home,” the sinner’s having “lost his way from home.”
“A house is no home for a Jew if the Almighty is not present in it, too.”
A sinner is “blown to and fro by each gust of wind,” with one part of him found in one realm while another part of him is an another…” Through repentance of redemption, “the sinner also gathers together the dispersed sparks of his spiritual self in order to reintegrate his personality.”
9. “Repentance not only cleanses the sinner of the pollution of sin, it implies a sort of reenactment of the covenant between an individual person and the Holy One, blessed be He.”
10. “In Chapter 7 of the Laws of Repentance, therefore, Maimonides  – when speaking of the repentance of redemption – talks of repenting not only over deeds and transgressions but also evil character traits…This time he is dealing with a total transformation of personality and not only in regard to a specific transgression…
If a man refrains from every possible transgression but retains his accustomed traits of anger, jealousy, or hatred, he will be incapable of acquiring the new personality which is imperative for redemptive repentance.”
11. A. “If the penitent utilizes the power of free choice to form a new way of life for himself and establish a new set of rules which will affect all his natural reactions if he succeeds in shaping a radically new personality for himself, then he is not in danger of backsliding to his former sinfulness.”
B. “This repentance which brings about a radical transformation of a whole way of life leading to a rebirth of personality is repentance of redemption…”
C. “Like conversion, repentance is also seen as new birth in the sense of receiving a new identity, a whole new personality, a new life.”
12. In another fashion, there are at least two means of repentance. “The first way (as we have discussed) is by: blotting out evil. The second (and alternate way that might be more suitable for some) is by: rectifying evil, and elevating it.”
As to the first, man makes “a clean break and starts anew.”
As to the second, “the very same hunger and zest which drove him to do evil and sin can be utilized to do good…The very same eagerness and dedication with which he invested his labors to make money illicitly, he can now invest in the labor of charity and in doing deeds of loving-kindness.
He does this through his “capacity to sanctify these forces and to direct them upward.”
One thinks as an example of King David “who does not wipe out the past nor tear the pages of sin from his memory, but rather makes a point to use the memory of his sins to enhance his longings for holiness…”
13. A. “What is the concluding act of repentance? It is confession.” Confession begins by saying, “I beseech Thee, O Lord, I have sinned,” as “a clarion call that the gates be unlocked, that our confession be allowed to enter within and be heard…”
B. “God is referred to as ‘He who opens the gate for those who come knocking in repentance.’”
C. “By confession, we say to God, “free me from the tangling web of my sins and allow me to return and stand before Thee.”
D. “Repentance contemplated, and not verbalized, is valueless…
Confession completes the process of repentance…
Confession is the act which brings man acquittal.”
E. “Confession compels man…to admit facts as they really are…
This is a sacrifice, a breaking of the will…
Both remorse and shame are involved in this process…
Just as the sacrifice is burnt upon the altar so do we burn down, by our act of confession, our well-barricaded complacency, our overblown pride, our artificial existence.”
“Only then, after the purifying catharsis of confession, does one return, in circular motion, to God who is there before man sins, to our Father who is in Heaven, who cleanses us whenever we approach Him for purification.”
14. The core components of confession are: “acknowledgement of sin,” “remorse,” and “resolution for the future.”
15. One important step in the path of confession is when one says during Ne’ilah: “We are not so insolent and obstinate to say before Thee…’righteous are we and we have not sinned’; indeed, we and our forefathers have sinned.”
“We can no longer deny our guilt! Aval (indeed)…it cannot be concealed…” Attaining this level of repentance, one brings “a contrite heart and the acknowledgement of sin at the time.”
16. Returning to the two types of repentance discussed at the outset, as with the ways in which the promised land was possessed by Joshua and Ezra, there are two types of penitents  – those “who sanctify themselves by conquest” and those “who attain sanctity by inspiration received from the Shekhinah.”
“Concerning both, tradition has bequeathed us a fine rule: “For him who comes, the way is cleared and he is extended a helping hand.”
17. In one instance, “repentance does not come and suddenly overtake the whole man.” It’s “step by step,” “one struggle to another.” This is “arduous and protracted.” But in the end “it leads to the establishment of the Holy Temple.”
18. In the other, if it is possible, “the Almighty aids the penitent and causes a sudden revolution to take place.” From fragmentation and dark places, “through a sudden ray of illumination, “he discovers the focal point of his existence.” “A new light shines in the depths of his soul, a new aspiration fills his being; he is released from the bonds that held him back, the fragments of his personality, collected and reunited to form an integrated person…
The penitent “regains control over his own self.” “All at once God frees him from his captivity.”
Friday night services, September 7 at the regular time of 7 p.m.

Saturday morning services this Saturday September 8, at 9 a.m. Torah service at around 9:45 a.m. Delicious meat kidish lunch after services generously sponsored by Arthur Gurney, in loving memory of his late mother

Lorraine, may her memory always be for a blessing.
 Rosh Hashanah starts Sunday evening, September 9th at 7 p.m. 
 
Check out the HIGH HOLIDAY calendar: 
 
 
 Cantor Ben-Moshe’s Weekly Message: 
Our parshah this week, Nitzavim, is one of the shortest in the Torah-it is often combined with the following parshah, Vayyelekh-but it is full of meaning, especially at this time of year.  Among many other things, our parshah speaks of the return of the People of Israel from exile, to live free once again in our own land.  For me personally, there is no time when I miss living in Israel more than at the Holiday Season.  To experience the holiest days of the year in the holiest place on the earth is like no other experience.  The parshah says that HaShem will “rejoice in you as He rejoiced in your ancestors” as we return to the right path.  May we all walk on the right path in this coming New Year, and may we fulfill the words “Next Year in Jerusalem”.  Shabbat Shalom, and L’shanah Tovah Nikkatev v’Nehatem, may we be written and sealed for a good year.
Hazzan Yitzhak Ben-Moshe
Shabbat candle lighting times are at 7:28 p.m. 
Chazzan Ben-Moshe blowing the shofar for the children of Shalom Austin’s Early Childhood Program, the ECP. Getting ready for Rosh Hashanah with a Tekiah, Truah and Shevarim! Come hear him on Rosh Hashanah where we will be blowing the Shofar 100 times!
Rosh Hashanah begins THIS Sunday evening.
 This email includes all of the details and information for the High Holidays. Of course, if you have any questions, please let us know.
We look forward to seeing you!
 
Seating:   If you have a particular seat preference or would like seats reserved, please let us know ASAP.
Parking: Similar to years past, please reserve the places in the front of the building for the elderly and please note that parking should be only on the south side of Dominion Cove. Consider parking at Grace Church around the corner and take a short walk to the building.
 
Participating: We need people to help with English readings, be ushers, and more.  If you would like to help, please let us know.
 
Costs: As always, there is not a specific charge for the High Holidays and we are not taking tickets, but please be sure to send in your dues.  If you did not receive a dues statement or have any questions about your dues, please let us know. You can go to www.bethelaustin.org/donate to donate or pay dues.
Kiddush: We will have apples and honey cake on the first evening of Rosh Hashanah and kiddushes following services on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday!  If you would like to help sponsor or bring something kosher to the Kiddush, please contact us.
We wish everyone a Happy and Sweet New Year.  May you all have a year of good health, peace and blessing.
 שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה
Dear Beth El Members,
We’d like to personally invite you to attend a major event taking place at the Dell Jewish Community Campus to see Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, address the Austin Jewish community. This event was previously scheduled earlier this year, and we now have confirmed our new date—the evening of October 9. We are honored to host Ambassador Dermer during his first-ever visit to the capital city. Please join us on Tuesday, October 9 at 7pm at Congregation Agudas Achim for this important event.
Free event
Registration is required by Sunday, October 7.
Register for tickets here:  https://ambassadordermer.eventbrite.com
Hurry- space is limited!
Tickets required upon entering the event.
For security reasons, no bags or purses will be allowed inside Congregation Agudas Achim.
Thank you for joining us.
Rabbi Daniel A. Septimus
Chief Executive Officer
Shalom Austin
Jewish Federation | Jewish Community Center
Jewish Family Service | Jewish Foundation
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks:
The World is waiting for You!
Something remarkable happens in this week’s parsha, almost without our noticing it, that changed the very terms of Jewish existence, and has life-changing implications for all of us. Moses renewed the covenant. This may not sound dramatic, but it was.
Thus far, in the history of humanity as told by the Torah, God had made three covenants. The first, in Genesis 9, was with Noah, and through him, with all humanity. I call this the covenant of human solidarity. According to the sages it contains seven commands, the sheva mitzvoth bnei Noach, most famous of which is the sanctity of human life: “He who sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God did God make man” (Gen. 9:6).
The second, in Genesis 17, was with Abraham and his descendants: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty. Walk before Me and have integrity, and I will grant My covenant between Me and you … I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout the generations as an eternal covenant.’” That made Abraham the father of a new faith that would not be the faith of all humanity but would strive to be a blessing to all humanity: “Through you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
The third was with the Israelites in the days of Moses, when the people stood at Mount Sinai, heard the Ten Commandments and accepted the terms of their destiny as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Who, though, initiated these three covenants? God. It was not Noah, or Abraham, or Moses, or the Israelites who sought a covenant with God. It was God who sought a covenant with humanity.
There is, though, a discernible change as we trace the trajectory of these three events. From Noah God asked no specific response. There was nothing Noah had to do to show that he accepted the terms of covenant. He now knew that there are seven rules governing acceptable human behaviour, but God asked for no positive covenant-ratifying gesture. Throughout the process Noah was passive.
From Abraham, God did ask for a response – a painful one. “This is My covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. This shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you” (Gen., 17:10-11). The Hebrew word for circumcision is milah, but to this day we call it brit milah or even, simply, brit – which is, of course, the Hebrew word for covenant. God asks, at least of Jewish males, something very demanding: an initiation ceremony.
From the Israelites at Sinai God asked for much more. He asked them in effect to recognise Him as their sole sovereign and legislator. The Sinai covenant came not with seven commands as for Noah, or an eighth as for Abraham, but with 613 of them. The Israelites were to incorporate God-consciousness into every aspect of their lives.
So, as the covenants proceed, God asks more and more of His partners, or to put it slightly differently, He entrusts them with ever greater responsibilities.
Something else happened at Sinai that had not happened before. God tells Moses to announce the nature of the covenant before making it, to see whether the people agree. They do so no less than three times: “Then the people answered as one, saying, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’” (Ex. 19:7). “The people all responded with a single voice, ‘We will do everything the Lord has spoken’” (Ex. 24:3). “The people said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do and heed’” (Ex. 24:7).
This is the first time in history that we encounter the phenomenon enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence, namely “the consent of the governed.” God only spoke the Ten Commandments after the people had signalled that they had given their consent to be bound by His word. God does not impose His rule by force.[1] At Sinai, covenant-making became mutual. Both sides had to agree.
So the human role in covenant-making grows greater over time. But Nitzavim takes this one stage further. Moses, seemingly of his own initiative, renewed the covenant:
All of you are standing today before the Lord your God—your leaders, your tribes, your elders and officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, the strangers in your camp, from woodcutter to water-drawer — to enter into the covenant of the Lord your God and its oath, which the Lord your God is making with you today, to establish you today as His people, that He may be your God, as He promised you and swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut. 29:9-12)
This was the first time that the covenant was renewed, but not the last. It happened again at the end of Joshua’s life (Josh. 24), and later in the days of Jehoiada (2 Kings 11:17),  Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29) and Josiah (1 Kings 23: 1-3; 2 Chron. 34: 29-33). After the Babylonian exile, Ezra and Nehemiah convened a national gathering to renew the covenant (Nehemiah 8). But it happened first in today’s parsha.
It happened because Moses knew it had to happen. The terms of Jewish history were about to shift from Divine initiative to human initiative. This is what Moses was preparing the Israelites for in the last month of his life. It is as if he had said: Until now God has led – in a pillar of cloud and fire – and you have followed. Now God is handing over the reins of history to you. From here on, you must lead. If your hearts are with Him, He will be with you. But you are now no longer children; you are adults. An adult still has parents, as a child does, but his or her relationship with them is different. An adult knows the burden of responsibility. An adult does not wait for someone else to take the first step.
That is the epic significance of Nitzavim, the parsha that stands almost at the end of the Torah and that we read almost at the end of the year. It is about getting ready for a new beginning: in which we act for God instead of waiting for God to act for us.
Translate this into human terms and you will see how life-changing it can be. Many years ago, at the beginning of my rabbinical career, I kept waiting for a word of encouragement from a senior rabbinical figure. I was working hard, trying innovative approaches, seeking new ways of getting people engaged in Jewish life and learning. You need support at such moments because taking risks and suffering the inevitable criticism is emotionally draining. The encouragement never came. The silence hurt. It ate, like acid, into my heart.
Then in a lightning-flash of insight, I thought: what if I turn the entire scenario around. What if, instead of waiting for Rabbi X to encourage me, I encouraged him? What if I did for him what I was hoping he would do for me? That was a life-changing moment. It gave me a strength I never had before.
I began to formulate it as an ethic. Don’t wait to be praised: praise others. Don’t wait to be respected: respect others. Don’t stand on the sidelines, criticising others. Do something yourself to make things better. Don’t wait for the world to change: begin the process yourself, and then win others to the cause. There is a statement attributed to Gandhi (actually he never said it,[2] but in a parallel universe he might have done): ‘Be the change you seek in the world.’ Take the initiative.
That was what Moses was doing in the last month of his life, in that long series of public addresses that make up the book of Devarim, culminating in the great covenant-renewal ceremony in today’s parsha. Devarim marks the end of the childhood of the Jewish people.  From there on, Judaism became God’s call to human responsibility. For us, faith is not waiting for God. Faith is the realisation that God is waiting for us.
Hence the life-changing idea: Whenever you find yourself distressed because someone hasn’t done for you what you think they should have done, turn the thought around, and then do it for them.
Don’t wait for the world to get better. Take the initiative yourself. The world is waiting for you.

Friday night services, September 7 at the regular time of 7 p.m.

Saturday morning services this Saturday September 8, at 9 a.m. Torah service at around 9:45 a.m. Delicious meat kidish lunch after services generously sponsored by Arthur Gurney, in loving memory of his late mother
Lorraine, may her memory always be for a blessing.

Rosh Hashanah starts Sunday evening, September 9th at 7 p.m.

Check out the HIGH HOLIDAY calendar:

http://www.bethelaustin.org/high-holidays/

Cantor Ben-Moshe’s Weekly Message:

Our parshah this week, Nitzavim, is one of the shortest in the Torah-it is often combined with the following parshah, Vayyelekh-but it is full of meaning, especially at this time of year. Among many other things, our parshah speaks of the return of the People of Israel from exile, to live free once again in our own land. For me personally, there is no time when I miss living in Israel more than at the Holiday Season. To experience the holiest days of the year in the holiest place on the earth is like no other experience. The parshah says that HaShem will “rejoice in you as He rejoiced in your ancestors” as we return to the right path. May we all walk on the right path in this coming New Year, and may we fulfill the words “Next Year in Jerusalem”. Shabbat Shalom, and L’shanah Tovah Nikkatev v’Nehatem, may we be written and sealed for a good year.

Hazzan Yitzhak Ben-Moshe

Shabbat candle lighting times are at 7:28 p.m.

Chazzan Ben-Moshe blowing the shofar for the children of Shalom Austin’s Early Childhood Program, the ECP. Getting ready for Rosh Hashanah with a Tekiah, Truah and Shevarim! Come hear him on Rosh Hashanah where we will be blowing the Shofar 100 times!
Rosh Hashanah begins THIS Sunday evening.
This email includes all of the details and information for the High Holidays. Of course, if you have any questions, please let us know.
We look forward to seeing you!

Seating: If you have a particular seat preference or would like seats reserved, please let us know ASAP.

Parking: Similar to years past, please reserve the places in the front of the building for the elderly and please note that parking should be only on the south side of Dominion Cove. Consider parking at Grace Church around the corner and take a short walk to the building.

Participating: We need people to help with English readings, be ushers, and more. If you would like to help, please let us know.

Costs: As always, there is not a specific charge for the High Holidays and we are not taking tickets, but please be sure to send in your dues. If you did not receive a dues statement or have any questions about your dues, please let us know. You can go to www.bethelaustin.org/donate

to donate or pay dues.
Kiddush: We will have apples and honey cake on the first evening of Rosh Hashanah and kiddushes following services on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday! If you would like to help sponsor or bring something kosher to the Kiddush, please contact us.
We wish everyone a Happy and Sweet New Year. May you all have a year of good health, peace and blessing.
שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה
Dear Beth El Members,

We’d like to personally invite you to attend a major event taking place at the Dell Jewish Community Campus to see Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, address the Austin Jewish community. This event was previously scheduled earlier this year, and we now have confirmed our new date—the evening of October 9. We are honored to host Ambassador Dermer during his first-ever visit to the capital city. Please join us on Tuesday, October 9 at 7pm at Congregation Agudas Achim for this important event.

Free event
Registration is required by Sunday, October 7.
Register for tickets here: https://ambassadordermer.eventbrite.com

Hurry- space is limited!

Tickets required upon entering the event.
For security reasons, no bags or purses will be allowed inside Congregation Agudas Achim.

Thank you for joining us.

Rabbi Daniel A. Septimus
Chief Executive Officer
Shalom Austin
Jewish Federation | Jewish Community Center
Jewish Family Service | Jewish Foundation
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks:
The World is waiting for You!
Something remarkable happens in this week’s parsha, almost without our noticing it, that changed the very terms of Jewish existence, and has life-changing implications for all of us. Moses renewed the covenant. This may not sound dramatic, but it was.
Thus far, in the history of humanity as told by the Torah, God had made three covenants. The first, in Genesis 9, was with Noah, and through him, with all humanity. I call this the covenant of human solidarity. According to the sages it contains seven commands, the sheva mitzvoth bnei Noach, most famous of which is the sanctity of human life: “He who sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God did God make man” (Gen. 9:6).

The second, in Genesis 17, was with Abraham and his descendants: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty. Walk before Me and have integrity, and I will grant My covenant between Me and you … I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout the generations as an eternal covenant.’” That made Abraham the father of a new faith that would not be the faith of all humanity but would strive to be a blessing to all humanity: “Through you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

The third was with the Israelites in the days of Moses, when the people stood at Mount Sinai, heard the Ten Commandments and accepted the terms of their destiny as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Who, though, initiated these three covenants? God. It was not Noah, or Abraham, or Moses, or the Israelites who sought a covenant with God. It was God who sought a covenant with humanity.

There is, though, a discernible change as we trace the trajectory of these three events. From Noah God asked no specific response. There was nothing Noah had to do to show that he accepted the terms of covenant. He now knew that there are seven rules governing acceptable human behaviour, but God asked for no positive covenant-ratifying gesture. Throughout the process Noah was passive.

From Abraham, God did ask for a response – a painful one. “This is My covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. This shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you” (Gen., 17:10-11). The Hebrew word for circumcision is milah, but to this day we call it brit milah or even, simply, brit – which is, of course, the Hebrew word for covenant. God asks, at least of Jewish males, something very demanding: an initiation ceremony.
From the Israelites at Sinai God asked for much more. He asked them in effect to recognise Him as their sole sovereign and legislator. The Sinai covenant came not with seven commands as for Noah, or an eighth as for Abraham, but with 613 of them. The Israelites were to incorporate God-consciousness into every aspect of their lives.

So, as the covenants proceed, God asks more and more of His partners, or to put it slightly differently, He entrusts them with ever greater responsibilities.
Something else happened at Sinai that had not happened before. God tells Moses to announce the nature of the covenant before making it, to see whether the people agree. They do so no less than three times: “Then the people answered as one, saying, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’” (Ex. 19:7). “The people all responded with a single voice, ‘We will do everything the Lord has spoken’” (Ex. 24:3). “The people said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do and heed’” (Ex. 24:7).

This is the first time in history that we encounter the phenomenon enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence, namely “the consent of the governed.” God only spoke the Ten Commandments after the people had signalled that they had given their consent to be bound by His word. God does not impose His rule by force.[1] At Sinai, covenant-making became mutual. Both sides had to agree.

So the human role in covenant-making grows greater over time. But Nitzavim takes this one stage further. Moses, seemingly of his own initiative, renewed the covenant:
All of you are standing today before the Lord your God—your leaders, your tribes, your elders and officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, the strangers in your camp, from woodcutter to water-drawer — to enter into the covenant of the Lord your God and its oath, which the Lord your God is making with you today, to establish you today as His people, that He may be your God, as He promised you and swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut. 29:9-12)
This was the first time that the covenant was renewed, but not the last. It happened again at the end of Joshua’s life (Josh. 24), and later in the days of Jehoiada (2 Kings 11:17), Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29) and Josiah (1 Kings 23: 1-3; 2 Chron. 34: 29-33). After the Babylonian exile, Ezra and Nehemiah convened a national gathering to renew the covenant (Nehemiah 8). But it happened first in today’s parsha.

It happened because Moses knew it had to happen. The terms of Jewish history were about to shift from Divine initiative to human initiative. This is what Moses was preparing the Israelites for in the last month of his life. It is as if he had said: Until now God has led – in a pillar of cloud and fire – and you have followed. Now God is handing over the reins of history to you. From here on, you must lead. If your hearts are with Him, He will be with you. But you are now no longer children; you are adults. An adult still has parents, as a child does, but his or her relationship with them is different. An adult knows the burden of responsibility. An adult does not wait for someone else to take the first step.
That is the epic significance of Nitzavim, the parsha that stands almost at the end of the Torah and that we read almost at the end of the year. It is about getting ready for a new beginning: in which we act for God instead of waiting for God to act for us.
Translate this into human terms and you will see how life-changing it can be. Many years ago, at the beginning of my rabbinical career, I kept waiting for a word of encouragement from a senior rabbinical figure. I was working hard, trying innovative approaches, seeking new ways of getting people engaged in Jewish life and learning. You need support at such moments because taking risks and suffering the inevitable criticism is emotionally draining. The encouragement never came. The silence hurt. It ate, like acid, into my heart.
Then in a lightning-flash of insight, I thought: what if I turn the entire scenario around. What if, instead of waiting for Rabbi X to encourage me, I encouraged him? What if I did for him what I was hoping he would do for me? That was a life-changing moment. It gave me a strength I never had before.

I began to formulate it as an ethic. Don’t wait to be praised: praise others. Don’t wait to be respected: respect others. Don’t stand on the sidelines, criticising others. Do something yourself to make things better. Don’t wait for the world to change: begin the process yourself, and then win others to the cause. There is a statement attributed to Gandhi (actually he never said it,[2] but in a parallel universe he might have done): ‘Be the change you seek in the world.’ Take the initiative.

That was what Moses was doing in the last month of his life, in that long series of public addresses that make up the book of Devarim, culminating in the great covenant-renewal ceremony in today’s parsha. Devarim marks the end of the childhood of the Jewish people. From there on, Judaism became God’s call to human responsibility. For us, faith is not waiting for God. Faith is the realisation that God is waiting for us.

Hence the life-changing idea: Whenever you find yourself distressed because someone hasn’t done for you what you think they should have done, turn the thought around, and then do it for them.

Don’t wait for the world to get better. Take the initiative yourself. The world is waiting for you.

Friday night services, August 31 at the regular time of 7 p.m.  Engaging and warm Havdallah and Slichot service this Saturday evening, September 1st, at 8 p.m. Join us as we warm up for the High Holidays and dress our Torah in white.
 
Countdown to the High Holidays!  Rosh Hashanah starts Sunday evening, September 9th. 
 
Check out the HIGH HOLIDAY calendar : 
 
 
 Cantor Ben-Moshe’s Weekly Message: 
This week we read Parshat Ki Thavo, which speaks extensively of what B’nei Yisrael are to do once they cross into their (our) Land. One of these is the ritual for offering First Fruits, which obviously could only be done when the People were settled and farming.  Interestingly, this ritual was to be done on Shavu’oth, at the beginning of the harvest season, when farmers did not yet know how their returns would be.  According to the Torah, this is irrelevant-we give thanks for anything and everything that we receive.  We read in Tractate B’rachoth that we are to recite a b’rachah for everything that happens in our lives, good and bad alike (although the brachah differs).  We have the extraordinary privilege of life and consciousness-we not only exist, but we are aware of that existence, and it behooves is to show gratitude.  May we take this “attitude of gratitude” into our service this New Year that approaches, and beyond into our daily lives.  Shabbat Shalom.
Hazzan Yitzhak Ben-Moshe
Shabbat candle lighting times are at 7:37 p.m. 
Sunday School restarts Sunday September 16. We look forward to seeing our BERS again!
Talmud class will be next Thursday evening, September 6th, at 7 p.m. We have been learning so much!

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood Events
August 30 Sisterhood Annual Meeting, Social & Book Club Evening at 7 PM Hosted By Gail Ellenbogen – Join us for a great evening as we meet new and old friends, brainstorm ideas for upcoming Sisterhood events and discuss Judas, by Amos Oz. Haven’t read the book? Join us anyway, it will be a fun evening!  **Please come with your ideas for future events & books.
September 16  Honey Cake Baking with BERS at 10 AM. Come join the fun of the first day of the Beth El Religious School and help the students make honey cakes.  We will be delivering them too!  What a mitzvah!
September Date TBD    Join us at Juliette’s home to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!  
 
We had so much fun watching the first movie together, that we are scheduling another movie night! Check or join the sisterhood Whattsapp group or watch your emails for an announcement. 
From My Jewish Learning: Parashat Ki Tavo: Summary
Moses instructs the Israelites regarding the first fruit offering; Moses then lists the blessings for keeping the commandments and the punishments for disobeying them.
 Commentary on Parashat Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8
Moses continues his last speech before the Israelites, “When you dwell in the promised land, take a selection of the first fruits and bring them to the place God chooses for God’s Name. With a priest you shall make an offering saying, ‘We remember when we were slaves in Egypt. We remember how God brought us to freedom with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with signs and miracles. You, God brought, us to this land flowing with milk and honey. And now I have brought these first fruits that you, God, have given me.’
“You shall cast yourself down before the Presence of God and you shall rejoice in all the good that God has given you and your household. You shall also give portions to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. They shall eat it within your gates and be satisfied. In the third year of giving portions, you shall say in God’s presence that you have followed the commandments for giving regularly to those less fortunate. You shall then ask God to bless the Israelites and the soil.
“On this day God commands you to carry out these laws and social ordinances with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall, today, hearken to God and promise to keep all God’s laws. Today, God said that you shall be a people belonging to God alone. God will place you high above all the nations God has created. You will be a proclamation for God’s Name and for God’s glory. You shall be a holy people to God.
“When you enter the promised land, you shall make an altar with stones to God with the words of this Teaching. You shall make offering there and rejoice before God.”
“Pay attention,” Moses says, “and hear O Israel, on this day you have become a people to God, your God. Follow all of God’s commandments. The priests shall say to the people upon Mount Gerizim: ‘Cursed is the man who makes a graven or molten image which is an abomination to God.’ And all the people shall raise their voices and say, ‘Amen.’
“‘Cursed is he who moves the boundary marker of his neighbor.’ And all the people shall say ‘Amen.’
“‘Cursed is he who misleads a blind man, or twists what is rightfully due to an orphan or stranger or widow.’ And all the people shall say ‘Amen.’
“‘Cursed is he who commits incest, with parent or step-parent or sibling. Cursed is he who lies with any animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
“‘Cursed is he who strikes down his neighbor in secret or a takes a bribe to strike down a man in innocent blood. Cursed is he who does not uphold the Teaching to carry them out.’ And all the people shall say: ‘Amen.’
“If you hearken to God and carry out God’s commandments, God will set you above all the nations of the earth. You will be blessed in the city and in the field. Blessed will be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your soil and the fruit of your livestock. Blessed will you be when you come in and when you go out.
“God will deliver your enemies. God will raise you up as a holy nation and you will walk in God’s ways. God will give you rain in its season and bless all the work of your hand. You will lend to many nations but you will not borrow. God will make you a head and not the tail, you will be only above and not below if you hearken to God’s commandments.
“But it shall come to pass that if you will not hearken to the voice of God, nor carry out God’s commandments that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you. Cursed you will be in the city and the field, cursed will be your fruits of your body and soil and livestock. Cursed will you be when you come in and when you go out. God will unleash against you the curse, and you will be restless and feel guilt in everything to which you put your hand, so that you will be destroyed because of your wickedness in forsaking God.
“Since you did not serve God with joy and with gladness of heart, therefore you will serve your enemies whom God will send against you. If you do not fear God’s Name, then God will send to you plagues and sufferings and sicknesses that are evil and enduring. And you will be left only few in number instead of as you were like the stars of the heavens.
“You will be scattered among all the peoples from one end of the earth to another and serve other gods. Among these nations you will find no peace and your heart will be full of trembling and grieving of the soul. You will have terror night and day and no faith in your life. You will be returned to slavery. These are the words of this Covenant at Moab.”
Moses called out to Israel, and said, “Before your eyes in the land of Egypt, you have seen all that God did to the Pharaoh, his servants and his land. These great acts of proof you have seen. I led you for forty years in the wilderness and your clothing and shoes did not wear out. You neither ate bread nor drank wine nor strong drink to know that God is Your God. And you came to this place and your enemies were driven away. Therefore keep carefully the words of this Covenant so that you may practice intelligently everything you do.”    BY NANCY REUBEN GREENFIELD
Parashat Ki Tavo Discussion Questions
1) What does it mean that the Jews are “a people belonging to God?” Don’t all people belong to God?
2) If the Israelites choose not to follow God’s laws and walk in God’s ways will the people still belong to God?
3) Do you think God still sends blessings and curses to the Jews? How?
4) How has God blessed and cursed you in your life?