Parashat shoftim

Friday Night Shabbat Services
Tonight 9/9, at the regular time of 7:00 PM.
Shabbat morning services are TOMORROW Saturday September 10. Thank you to Bob Miller for sponsoring the kidush in memory of your beloved late mother and friend to us all, Marion Miller, may her memory be for a blessing.
Check out the High Holiday schedule at
We’ll have a Beth El work day September 25 12:30-3:00 to get the shul beautified for the High Holidays.
Sunday school September 11 at 10 AM.
Candle lighting in Austin is at 7:24 PM
Cantor Ben Moshe’s Message
This week’s parshah, Shoftim (“Judges”) deals extensively, as one might expect, with judicial process. Our parshah ends with a curious law-when someone is found killed outside of the boundaries of any town or village, the elders of the closest town perform a ceremony of expiation. They perform a sacrifice and declare that they didn’t shed the victim’s blood. The commentators note that they do so as an acknowledgment that they failed to provide a safe environment in which a killing could have been prevented. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, of blessed memory, said, “Not all are guilty, but all are responsible.” As a society, we are all responsible for the safety and welfare of everyone in our society. As we continue our process of introspection before the High Holidays, let us remember our responsibility not only as individuals but as a community as well. Shabbat Shalom.
Hazzan Yitzhak Ben-Moshe
Thank you to our Shabbat Shefs who valiantly cooked in a rather hot kitchen a lovely kidush. Michelle, Mary, Genevieve and Shereen. You guys are wonderful. Everyone lovingly thought of our sweet and departed friend Marion Miller for whom the kidish is in honor. Marion z’l would always be one of the first to see how she could help with our events and we will forever have her in our hearts! Below is a photo of our beloved Marion z’l.
Sunday school is this Sunday September 11 at 10 AM. We look forward to seeing all the sweet children! We’ll have fun and get a whole lot of learning done.
The Jewish women of Austin and of Beth El had a meaningful and uplifting community celebration at Mega Challah Bake last night. Thank you to Chabad of Austin for making such a beautiful celebration.
Rabbi Peter Tarlow of the Center for Latino-Jewish relations weekly parashah
This week’s parashah is called “Shoftim.” You will find it in the Book of Deuteronomy16: 17-21:9. The parashah presents us with the second part of Moses’ great third soliloquy. This is the soliloquy that we began in last week’s parashah. In this, part two of this very long speech, Moses begins to define what it means to be a “holy people”. The text tells us that to be an “Ahm Kadosh/A Holy Nation” there must be a fair system of administrative justice. The text argues for a standardized and centralized judicial system, in which both the judges (shoftim) and the administrators of justice (shotrim/police or law enforcement) work in unison and treat each person equally before the law without regar to his/her social class, wealth, race or religion, but solely due to his or her action.
The Hebrew word for justice is not easy to translate. In fact “tzedek” has no exact English equivalent. Tzedek is the point of encounter between justice and righteousness. Tzedek is not justice for the sake of vengeance, nor is it simply punishment. Justice is not keeping the poor tied to a welfare state, but permitting people to move on with their lives, repairing mistakes and helping people move away from dependency. While the word justice in the Western world is often closely associated to the word “punishment,” and to the word social justice, neither word expresses tzedek. The concept of “tzedek” is tied to the word “tzedakah,” meaning actions that allow another to stand on his/her own as a useful member of society.”
Thus, the phrase “ zedek, tzedek tirdof/Justice, Justice, you shall pursue” is not merely a cornerstone of Jewish jurisprudence but of civil society. The rabbis understood that one must pursue tzedek so that people do not become enslaved to government handouts given in the name of justice but resulting in economic enslavement. The Halachah (Rabbinic law) insists that we pursue “tzedek” not for gain, but simply because the pursuit of justice/tzedek is the right thing to do. This does not mean that we do not help those who cannot help themselves, but it does mean that we help each person to help him or herself to the extent possible. What do you think? Have we become a society that uses tzedek not to set free but rather to entrap others in a web of gentle economic enslavement? Does our system of social justice set people free or keep them in bondage?
Did you know that if you make a purchase at the Agudas Achim gift store, you can designate 10% of the sale to go towards your congregation, Beth El. This week they sent us a lovely check as many of our congregants have indeed been shopping for their Judaica there and designating Beth El as the recipient. What a great deal!
From our friends at CAA: Please join us.
The Roberta Long (a”h) Memorial Concert will be held on Sunday, September 11th at 6 p.m. in the CAA Sanctuary. The Concert will feature instrumental and vocal performances by the CAA Choir as well as Steven Long and soloists from the Gilbert and Sullivan society. In addition, Susan Kleinwill be performing “Viktor’s Theme,” a clarinet solo from the movie The Terminal. Also, Rabbi Neil Blumofe will perform the cantorial solo Avinu Malkeinu with instrumental accompaniment. Please come and enjoy an evening of spirited music in our beautiful Sanctuary to honor the memory of beloved teacher and friend, Roberta Long (a”h). Refreshments and conversation to follow the concert