Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
“Thank God for the blessings we’ve been granted and the privilege to enjoy them.”
I’m back. Since June 1st, I was able to tour around Israel, be French in Paris, and laze in Colorado. Writing, reading, study and research filled in the gaps between hiking, sightseeing, eating and rejuvenating. Finally, Lisa and I returned from Winston-Salem, where our youngest daughter attended a summer theater program at Wake Forest University. Barely unpacked, but ready to return to my duties at Temple, it will be very good to be with you all, again. But, how do I properly complete this two-month excursion that filled me up and prepared me for the New Year?
From Torah we learn this week that Moses described to the Israelites all the resources they would find in the Promised Land, after their trek in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:7-10, Moses says:
“For the Eternal your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you can mine copper.”
In the Promised Land, there is enough water for the people and to irrigate the fields. The soil, very rich in nutrients, can sustain and grow wheat and barley. There are grapes, figs, fruits, olive trees and honey for ordinary and sacred uses, alike. There is wine from the fruit of the vine for sanctification, olive oil to light the sacred lamps, and even honey that will later be associated with the sweetness of the New Year. There will be plenty of food and they will lack nothing, not even clothes and general provisions. Furthermore, the land and hills will provide metals and minerals to shape tools for use in the fields, and iron, used to make instruments of war, for defense.
Before the section concludes, Torah teaches us that after the people nourish and sustain themselves on all these rich resources, they must give thanks for all that they have been given. Deuteronomy 8:11 states, “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the Eternal your God for the good land given to you.”
An examination of the Hebrew makes it clear that the people should eat and satisfy themselves. They should nourish their bodies and grow strong on the produce the land provides and the blessings God bestows on them. “V’achalta” means you shall eat. “V’savata” means you shall satisfy yourselves; in essence, take a big plate and have seconds, too. And, then, “u-veirachta” you shall bless the Lord your God; that is, give thanks.
That’s just how I feel, and how I will properly end my time away. I’ll reflect on all that I consumed and not just the good food. I consumed great history, books, interesting articles, sweet air, fine friendships, and many awesome sceneries. I didn’t hold back. I truly relished the experiences and even stopped along the trails in the mountains to breathe deeply and smell the wood, water and grass that surrounded me. At meals, I ate seconds, believe it or not, and saved room for dessert and espresso. Then as now, I give thanks for all the blessings provided me. Now, I feel full and ready to provide for you, again.
As Shabbat nears, let me thank Rabbi Adrienne Scott, Rabbi Chase Foster, and Cantor Star Trompeter for leading Shabbat services with inspiration in words and music, and for tending to our members with kindness and compassion. Thank you, David Scott, for welcoming new members over the summer and greeting familiar friends, too. Thanks to Michael Jenkins for overseeing the facilities projects and roof repairs that are essential to our safety and well-being in the congregation. Thank you, Kathy McMahon, my assistant, for being in touch and welcoming me back to my study at Temple. And, thank you to Bruce Levy and Irv Stern, who are trading places as Temple President. It’s a time of transition but also continuity. With every assurance that Beth Israel is well-prepared for the New Year, I’m grateful to them for their leadership and friendship. For all this and more, I thank God for the blessings we’ve been granted and the privilege to enjoy them, together.
Rabbi David A. Lyon is Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX. Rabbi Lyon serves on the Board of Trustees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and chairs its professional development committee. He can be heard on “iHeart-Radio” KODA 99.1 FM, every Sunday at 6:45 a.m. CT, and is the author of God of Me: Imagining God Throughout Your Lifetime (Jewish Lights 2011) available on Amazon.com.