Cantor Shapiro's Shabbat Message - August 4, 2023

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Cantor Shapiro's Shabbat Message - August 4, 2023

A rabbinic story addresses this commandment that we find in Ekev, this week’s Torah portion: “Take care lest you forget YHWH your God and fail to keep God’s commandments, rules, and laws, which I enjoin upon you today.” (Deut. 8:11)
The holy Yehudi of Przysucha went to visit the Seer of Lublin, and found him distraught, moaning from the depths of his heart. He asked him, “Why are you moaning so?”

The latter replied, “I have transgressed the negative commandment: ‘take care lest you forget the Lord your God.’ For one small second I didn’t pay attention, and I did not give my heart to the reality of God.”
The Yehudi said to him: “There is a mishnah that addresses this directly! ‘If a sheaf that weighs two seahs was forgotten in a field during harvest, it is not considered ‘forgotten’ and available for gleaning by the poor’ (Peah 6:6). The reason for this is that something of value, something good, is never forgotten, and if someone should forget it, they remember it right away, since ‘something forgotten that is eventually remembered’ does not qualify as ‘forgotten’. This certainly applies here, and you did not transgress the negative commandment, since you surely remembered right away!”
The rabbi of Lublin responded: “You have revived me with your words!” (Otzar Hahasidut; Torah Gems, pg. 211)
Our Jewish tradition is constantly reminding us to be present and pay attention. After all, the “watchword of our faith” is the Sh’ma - enjoining us to listen - to pay attention. The commandment that the Seer of Lublin thinks he has not kept is that of paying heedful attention to God’s presence. We can imagine the Seer going about his daily life, actively thinking, “God is in this book, God is in that chair, God is present in the face of this human sitting in front of me.”
As we approach the month of Elul, a time for practicing introspection and self-awareness, it’s wonderful to note that even a holy tzaddik like the Seer of Lublin became distracted from time to time. As we enter this time of self-accountability, it’s wise to heed the call of both the commandment to pay attention, and also to take the advice of the Seer’s friend, Yehudi. We can be gentle with ourselves when we lose sight of what’s good and important as long as we return to it. May we enter this month of Elul being able to recognize holiness in each moment.

Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro