By: Renee Morris Roth
This week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, is a list of seventy four laws given to the people. The topics of the laws address relationships between family, neighbors, members of society and even laws concerning animals. They speak to sexual misconduct, clothing, and forbidden relations. They address laws protecting the vulnerable, with special care to paying wages to workers, protecting the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. There are laws disclosing the need to be honest in business with regard to using accurate weights and measures. Finally, there is a charge to remember Amalek – to blot out the name of the enemy of the Jewish people.
In studying this portion, I wondered what to make of these rules. Yes, many are very relevant to life today. I certainly hope that when I buy my apples at the grocery store the scale is accurate so I don’t pay more than what is fair. I really hope that my employer is fair with the wages I have earned, and that I am paid within the agreed upon time period. I don’t own a sheep or ox, but if my dog Toby got away and was lost, I would hope that the person who found him would feel my pain and hurry to return him to us. But really, I’m not so sure that I can get behind the law that I should not wear “men’s clothing.” What about pants? Am I permitted to wear pants? And also, it says that I shall not wear cloth combining wool and linen. Really?
These varied laws, which are often random, are still alive to us as part of the Torah. We keep Torah alive by reading, studying and discussing its words year after year. While we do not amend or change the Torah, as Reform Jews, we turn the text around, and make it relevant to modern life. This is why it is a living, breathing document.
In sisterhood, we also have documents and rules. Our By Laws and our Policies and Procedures are documents that we use to be sure that we are following our mission as Women of Reform Judaism. They address how we govern, how we relate to our congregations, and how we spend our hard earned money and time. We have the ability to study them and make sure they are relevant to how we actually live our sisterhood lives. We have the ability to amend those By Laws and Policies and Procedures. At this time of year, as we ramp up to begin anew, it is a great time to look at your sisterhood documents to be sure that what you really do is documented, and that your actions are in line with what is on paper. If not, perhaps it is time to gather a committee to bring them up to date. We need to be sure that these are living and breathing documents as well.
May the light of the Shabbat candles brighten all our lives.
Renee Morris Roth is president of WRJ Southwest District and a member of Temple Shalom, Dallas, Texas