Weekly Words of Torah goes PC (Parashah and Chesed) –  Parashat Devarim /Shabbat Chazon 5779

To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, Executive Director, Women’s League For Conservative Judaism

This Shabbat, we begin the book of Deuteronomy, Sefer Devarim, with Parashat Devarim. In this week’s Torah reading, before Moses’ passing, Moses repeated the Torah, and we read another rendition of Moses’ hardships. Moses reviewed the history and deeds of the children of Israel, B’nai Yisrael. Moses reprimanded the children of Israel for their past sins. As any good teacher knows, students learn through repetition, and so Moses, as the ultimate teacher of the children of Israel, repeats some of the commandments to the children of Israel. In addition, we read once again, the story of spies’ mission, as well as a discussion about the crossing of the border of Moav. 

This Shabbat, the Shabbat before Tisha B’av, which will begin on Saturday night after sundown, is called Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat of vision, named for the first word of the Haftarah, from the first chapter of Isaiah. The word Chazon means vision or prophecy. This Haftarah is always read the third Shabbat after the fast of Shevah Asar B’Tammuz, and right before Tisha B’av. Parts of the haftarah are chanted in Eichah, Lamentations Trope, melody. Isaiah begins the Haftarah by condemning the people of Judah and Jerusalem for their bad behavior. Isaiah reminds them that God is like a father to the children of Israel, and the people should respect God and show their gratitude to God for all God has done for them. However, instead, the children of Israel rebel and are punished for their sins. Isaiah tells the people that God is no longer interested in the sacrifices people bring, and they will not receive any rewards for the sacrifices brought, because of their lack of social justice. Isaiah tells them they need to change their behavior. The Haftarah states (Isaiah 1:17), “Learn to do good, devote yourselves to justice, aid the wronged, uphold the rights of the orphan, defend the cause of the widow” (1:17). In the conclusion of the Haftarah, Isaiah laments the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem, the destitution of Zion, and the injustice that is rampant. But Isaiah promises that God’s anger will be abated, and there is a hint of hope for the future: “Zion shall be saved in the judgment, her repentant ones, in the retribution” (1:27).

This week, for acts of Chesed, here are a few ideas: Begin a collection of unused eyeglasses. The Haftarah begins with the word, Chazon, vision. Thus, help bring vision to other people, and donate your old and unused glasses. Another chesed idea is to find a local foster care center, and see if they would allow you to read to any of the children there. Or see what they might need. One of the groups of people that Isaiah says we should help are orphans and widows. Funeral homes can be a very scary place for children, where widows sometimes need to bring their children. Crayons, paper, and coloring books could help occupy children when they are brought to a funeral home. For a chesed project, collect crayons, new or used, some paper, or coloring books, and put them in a shoebox, bring them over to a local funeral home, and say, “These are for the children who may need to come with adults.” Chesed is a way to show lovingkindness. There are so many unique ways to show kindness to others. What are some acts of chesed you will do this week?

Weekly Words of Torah is a brief paragraph prepared weekly by our Executive Director, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, presented in our “This Week @ Women’s League.” WWOT will provide meaningful thoughts related to the Weekly Torah Portion, an event on the Calendar, a Prayer, or something of Jewish interest, to inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women. If you have any particular interest in future topics, or want to send Rabbi Wolintz-Fields an email, you can contact her at ewolintz-fields@wlcj.org. Read previous Weekly Words of Torah here, and stay up-to-date with the latest WWOT theme, Chesed, here.