Monday, July 29, 2013


Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Be Yourself

The gifts brought to the Temple for the Pilgrimage festivals teach us the importance of preserving our unique identities.
By Rabbi Bradley Artson
Social pressure to conform is a steady and soul-deadening force.

With relentless enticements, cultures seek ways to impose similarity of worldview, of behavior, even of thought upon their members. Even contemporary society, with its laudable commitment to individuality, imposes subtle mandates through the media, through the movies, through advertisements and in countless other ways.

Small wonder, then, that the truly free soul is rare. Indeed, for many who practice religion (and for many who flee religion), that conformity and habit are nowhere more imposing than in the realm of faith and ritual.

Three Festivals Is it really that hard to be free? Is it really that impossible to be ourselves? Can it be that God wants us to conform?

Today's Torah portion speaks with great joy of the three Pilgrimage Festivals of the Jewish calendar: "Three times a year--on the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), on the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), and on the Feast of Booths (Sukkot)--all your males shall appear before the Holy One your God in the place that God will choose. They shall not appear before the Holy One empty-handed, but each according to their own gift, according to the blessing that the Holy One your God has bestowed upon you."

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