>> Torah portilin
Parshat Ki Teitzei: Deuteronomy
21:10-25:19; Isaiah 54:1-54:10.
ast week, I attended an
unusual baby shower. In lieu
of presents, the mother-to-be
asked all the guests to bring advice
on parenting. At the end of the lun-
cheon, everyone's advice
was compiled into a beau-
In thinking about what
parenting advice I might
contribute, I looked at one
of my favorite parenting
guides, The Blessing of a
Skinned Knee by Wendy
Mogel. This book wisely
claims that some of the
most important things we
learn in life come from
As we approach the High Holidays,
we're called upon by God to do a
thorough and unflinching self-evalu-
ation. Where have we met our goals?
Where have we fallen short? How
often have we truly been the people
God created us to be?
Frankly, if we take this idea seri-
ously, it can be terrifying. The dis-
tance between who we are and who
we can be seems vast and unbridge-
able. How do we commit ourselves
to this process without feeling over-
This Shabbat, when many of us are
beginning to do our self-evaluation,
we receive an unexpected message
from this week's parshah, Ki Teitzei.
The Torah teaches us, "When you
reap the harvest in your field and
overlook a sheaf, do not turn back to
get it; it shall go to the stranger, the
fatherless, the widow" (Deuteronomy
This unique mitzvah of shichechah
isn't the mitzvah about intentionally
leaving the corners of the field for
the poor. This is a separate mitzvah
altogether — the unique mitzvah of
leaving for the poor the crops you
forgot to harvest.
Plant a Tree in Memory of a Loved One
Take part in a JNF time-honored tradition and plant
a tree in Israel as a living tribute of your loved one.
Dr. David Lieber writes, "This
is the rare mitzvah that cannot be
performed on purpose. One cannot
choose to forget or overlook a sheaf
of grain:' Out of 613 mitzvot, this
is the only mitzvah that
can be accomplished by
mistake; a farmer that
forgets to collect part of
his harvest is able to ful-
fill a mitzvah he wouldn't
otherwise have been able
Despite our best efforts
last year, we, too, like the
farmer, made mistakes.
Perhaps we were not as
patient, loving or giving as
we aimed to be. We didn't
always do the things we thought we
should have done. We disappointed
others. We disappointed ourselves.
As we go through our soulful
preparation for the High Holidays,
we will surely come up against
what I like to call life's "should've,
could've, would'ves." When these
thoughts arise, let's take a moment
to think about the ways in which our
failings may have unwittingly helped
us or others to grow. In so doing,
may we all recognize the subtle,
yet critical, "blessings of a skinned
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• How have our past mistakes
given us wisdom that we might
not otherwise have found?
• How might perfectionism
hinder our ability to develop into
our best selves?
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August 15 • 2013