Here's the d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday. (More or less -- when I offered it aloud, I extemporized and added some bits, but this is where it started out.) (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.)
This week's Torah portion is filled with instructions. Here are some of them which speak most to me this year (lightly paraphrased):
If someone works for you, pay them right away. You never know when someone might need payment desperately. Don't shame them by making them ask.
This is a time of year when requests for dues abatements and Hebrew school tuition abatements come across my desk. These verses in Torah remind me how important it is to respond to these requests lovingly.
If someone's children misbehave, try not to judge the parents. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Parenting can be difficult.
If someone's parents have done wrong, try not to judge the children. We are not responsible for the actions of those who came before us.
When the Torah speaks of not putting people to death for the sins of their parents or children, I hear a message about the importance of responding to people with generosty of spirit.
Maintain perspective about the difference between wants and needs. Remember that you don't need to own everything. Practice sufficiency.
Whatever abundance comes your way, be sure to share it. Cultivate a sense of trust in the universe which will allow you to give freely.
Though most of us no longer have fields or vineyards in which those who are hungry may glean, we can still choose to share with others, and to train ourselves to trust that we don't need to hold on to everything for ourselves.
Always remember the hard places and tight straits which you have known, and let those memories impel you to kindness and generosity.
We're almost halfway through with the month of Elul. This is the month during which we prepare ourselves for the coming Days of Awe. This is a time of teshuvah, the spiritual work of re-orienting ourselves in the right direction again.
One tradition teaches that we should seek to repair our relationships with each other during Elul, so that during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we can focus on repairing our relationship with our Source.
The mitzvot enumerated in this week's Torah portion are mitzvot bein adam l'chavero, mitzvot between people. Directions for right action in our relationships with each other.
May we be strengthened in our intentions and in our practice. May these mitzvot become engrained in us, engraved in us, channels through which our behaviors naturally flow. Kein yehi ratzon.