When I arrivedat the Jewish Theological Seminary nearly ten years ago, two different faculty members used the word or expression, “the Amecha.” The last thing a new student wants to admit is that he or she did not know what they were referring to. And I did not. In the ensuing days it was brought out that “the Amecha” is who we (the rabbinical students) would some day be serving. In what now seems like the next day, I was preparing for my first rabbinic internship and instantly realized who “the Amecha” was as I juxtaposed it with one of my favorite High Holy Day liturgy supplications, Ki Anu Amecha v’ata Malkeinu. It goes:
For we are Your People and You are our God;
We are your children and You are our Parent.
We are your servants and You are our Sovereign.
It continues with, “we are the sheep and You are the Shepherd, we are your vineyard and You are our keeper” and the conclusion (which says it all), “for we are Your beloved, and You are our Lover”. The last thing I would suggest is that I am more learned or committed than my balabatim (the wonderful laity of CSI), but I have been privileged to enjoy over ten years post high school of intensive Jewish education and been blessed and privileged to live, love, and learn for over two years with you.
Not a day goes by that I do not realize “the Amecha” are the wonderful people “we” (my first month rabbinical school counterparts) would be called upon to ultimately serve. You must now be wondering what is the relationship to this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Eikev? Moses reprimands the Israelites for their transgressions in the desert, retelling the story of the golden calf at length followed by a description of God’s abundant mercy. Moses emphasizes that the “generation of the desert” has a special obligation to the mitzvot because of the many miracles they personally experienced.
What about the afterlife of “Amecha?” It is my personal belief that the spiritual life of the Jewish people is at least in part our individual responsibility as an integral part of being the Chosen People. Eikev repeatedly warns the people not to think that it is their own righteousness that entitles them to “the Land”. Not one of us is a “tzaddik” who can claim the gift of religious leadership as any kind of right. However, each day, through our study, acts of compassion, and performance of mitzvot, we earn a place in God’s redemptive plan for the world. This week’s haftarah proclaims that God provides a “learned tongue” and the motivation to rise morning after morning, to listen, and to learn. As we continue our preparation for the New Year of learning together, may we approach it with humility, curiosity, and joy.
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham