Tidbits of Torah

Tidbits of Torah

       

 Parashat Vayigash

Identity, Safety and Survival 

December 15, 2018 – 7 Tevet 5779  

 

Dear Friends,

 

There is so much that we can learn from Joseph…

 

When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers in Egypt, he said: Ani Yosef [I am Joseph].

 

Retaining our identity is primary in life.  It is true for each of us as individuals.  It is equally true for us as a congregation.  We need to remember who we are and why we exist.

 

As we look at the Joseph story, we learn that along with remembering and retaining our essential identity, we also must learn to be there and to take responsibility for one another.

We read in our parsha that Joseph wanted to be sure that his brothers would not repeat the mistake of “discarding” one of their siblings when it was “inconvenient” or “unpleasant” to stay connected.  He wanted to be sure his brothers would no longer do to one another what they had done to him decades earlier.  And Joseph was assured that his brothers had learned that lesson when Judah offered to stay in Egypt, as a slave, in place of Benjamin!

 

 

As a people, we learn from Joseph that the combination of remembering and retaining our identity, and of our taking responsibility for the physical and spiritual safety of one another, has given us the strength and the capacity to survive throughout the ages.

 

 

As a congregation, we also learn from Joseph that, going forward, it is a keen awareness of our identity, along with our mutual commitment and concern for our physical and spiritual safety, that will ensure our survival and our ability to thrive as a congregation.

 

We learn that we exist because we take responsibility not only for ourselves, but for one another as well.  So, for example, following the lessons learned from Joseph, we take the time and make the effort to show up to minyan, not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

 

May our identity be enriched, our safety enhanced, and our survival ensured by our being here for one another as a caring and as a mutually supportive spiritual community!

 

 

Shabbat Shalom!

 

Rabbi Gilah Dror

 

 

Tidbits of Torah

 Parashat Miketz

Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Tevet – Day 1

Shabbat Chanukah – Day 6

Stronger Together

December 8, 2018 – 30 Kislev 5779  
 
Dear Friends,

The slogans “Stronger Together” and “No Hate” have been front and center in our minds in recent weeks as we confronted rising incidents of overt antisemitism.  These slogans represent sentiments that we share with all people, Jewish and non-Jewish, who appreciate the blessings of respect and of diversity in our communities and in our nation.

“Stronger Together” and “No Hate” also reflect a special connection between the Joseph story of our weekly Torah portion and the Chanukah story we are celebrating this week.

We often speak of the bravery and determination of the Maccabees who stood up for the right to live full Jewish lives in the face of those outside forces (the Greek Empire) who prohibited Jewish learning and Jewish living in the Land of Israel.

Nevertheless, another view of the Chanukah story asserts that the Greeks that outlawed our religious and spiritual lives in the Land of Israel did so as a direct result of our internal Jewish factionalism, strife and hatred.  Jewish groups, acting out of hatred to other Jewish groups, “informed” on one another to outside powers. In fact, Jewish groups fought with one another.  The Greeks perceived this internal fighting as a threat against the Greek Empire!  It was our Jewish internal factionalism, strife and hatred that led to the restrictions on Jewish religious freedom in the days of the Maccabees!  It was that internal strife that led to the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem!

Similarly, the Joseph story, which ultimately led our people into the 400 year enslavement in Egypt, was rooted in the strife and hatred that was generated between Joseph and his brothers!

Ultimately, it all worked out and we were “redeemed.”   Ultimately, we have Passover to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt, and Chanukah to celebrate the victory of the Maccabees. But, perhaps we would have been able to avoid some of the pain and destruction that our people endured both in the period of Egyptian enslavement and in the Land of Israel before the Maccabees rose up to defend our Jewish lives, if we, ourselves, had been more willing to live together in peace!

We are indeed “Stronger Together.”  We can have a world with less pain if we remember that “No Hate” applies not only to our relations with others, but also to our internal Jewish communal connections as well.  We do not have to be identical to one another in order for us to love one another, to respect one another, and to see the image of God in one another!

May we learn from our founding stories and find a path to greater light, to greater peace, and to greater joy today and in all the days to come!

Shabbat Shalom and a very happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Gilah Dror

Tidbits of Torah

 Parashat VaYeshev

Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh

Chanukah and Us

December 1, 2018 – 23 Kislev 5779  
Dear Friends,

We live in a time of rising overt anti-Semitism.  This phenomenon is a darkness that demands our attention. There is no sense in denying it.  The reality of growing overt anti-Semitism is affecting our lives, individually and communally, in ways we may have thought impossible.  But, we must not despair!

Thankfully, there are strong and significant voices of support around us as well.

This Shabbat we will recite the blessing for the new Jewish month of Tevet.  Rosh Chodesh Tevet will be next Friday night, Saturday and Sunday.  And, as we transition from the Jewish month of Kislev to the Jewish month of Tevet, we celebrate Chanukah – the festival of lights.

This year, Chanukah is not just a festival of lights.  This year Chanukah is very much a festival of lights even as we acknowledge that there is darkness around us, threatening our most precious values.

Chanukah will begin this Sunday evening.  I hope you will join us this Shabbat as we pray for good and for blessing in the upcoming new Jewish month of Tevet.  I also hope you will join us again this weekend as we celebrate the first candle lighting of Chanukah, in community, this Sunday night at City Center.

This year,  the festival of lights comes as a stark reminder that we must face anti-Semitism with courage and with determination.  We must light the candle/s to remind ourselves of the most Jewish of all values – the value of hope and of faith in the face of darkness.

Our tradition teaches us that the world will one day be a redeemed world – a world of true and lasting respect for all human beings no matter their race, creed, religion or lack thereof!

Our tradition also teaches us that we must act as partners with God, to bring our world closer and closer to the ideal of peace which was envisioned by our prophets.

This Shabbat, let us pray for a good month ahead.  This Sunday, let us light the candles of Chanukah together.  Let us stand up proudly as Jews, alongside those who value our presence and alongside those who value the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of a diverse community.

Shabbat Shalom and a very happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Gilah Dror