Tidbits of Torah

Torah Tidbits

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Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Ki Tissa

Shabbat Parah

March 2, 2013 – 20 Adar 5773

Dear Friends,

Another special Shabbat awaits us; a Shabbat that turns our attention to two animals – the red heifer and the golden calf…!

This week, on Shabbat Parah, the third of four special Shabbatot that lead up to Passover, we read a special maftir which refers to the ritual of the red heifer.

Designed to spiritually purify those of us who come in close contact with the death of a human being, this ritual has perplexed Jews and Jewish scholars throughout the ages.

How can sprinkling a few drops of a mixture which contains ashes of a red heifer on a person bring about that person’s spiritual purification in the face of death?  And, why does the person who does the sprinkling become spiritually impure?

Of course, one could ask the same question of many rituals we perform in life.  Rituals don’t always have a logical explanation.  Yet, they help us to confront complex situations.  They give us direction when we are spiritually at a loss to comprehend that which has happened.

Reminding ourselves of the red heifer ritual, helps us to put into perspective the various rituals we still embrace as part of our upcoming Passover celebration – rituals that help us to focus on the significance of Passover, in ancient times and now.

Our weekly Torah Portion of Ki Tissa tells of the sin of the golden calf.  How quickly after the miraculous Exodus from Egypt did our people manage to forget the significance of worshiping God and revert to creating an idol as a spiritual crutch?

But, are we spiritually that much stronger than our ancestors were?

It is so easy for us to slip into modern forms of idol worship – to rely on the comfort offered by physical objects or by material creations and acquisitions when our world seems to have been turned upside down.

The sin of the golden calf is emblematic of  the human tendency to lean on the physical rather than on God.

The red heifer reminds us that we can be there for one another even when we loose our spiritual moorings, even when we mourn the loss of a loved one.

Ki Tissa (with the golden calf) and Shabbat Parah (with the red heifer), remind us that we can help one another find our way back to God and to the values of Torah.

This special Shabbat reminds us that we can help one another return to love of life and to appreciation of the gift of life.  That is ultimately what Passover is all about.  On Passover, we will celebrate love of life, love of liberty, and love of the responsibility that goes it. And, the rituals that we will observe remind us of the spiritual wealth of our religious tradition – a tradition that puts life, not death, at the center of our awareness.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Torah Tidbits

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Tidbits of Torah
Shabbat Parashat Tetsavveh
Shabbat Zakhor
February 23, 2013 – 13 Adar 5773

A Happy Purim to All!

Dear Friends,

A bit of silliness is part of Purim…So, here’s my contribution…
How many “h” words can you associate with Purim?
Here’s my (admittedly incomplete) list:
…Purim is the Holiday
of Heroines and of Heroes;
of Hoaxes and of Hocus-pocus;
of Hissing and of Hilarity;
of Happiness and of Hope;
of Head and of Heart;
of Helping and of Healing
because…mixed in with the laughter, we remember our friends with Mishloach Manot (thanks to Jody Sarfan and all who helped organize our RST Mishloach Manot bags this year); and with Matanot La’Evyonim (gifts to those in need) we remember to increase the joy not only for ourselves but for others as well!
Okay, so I haven’t even gotten to
Hamentaschen and Humor…
I’m sure there are more great “h” words associated with Purim…Want to add to the list?

And, a bit about this Shabbat…Shabbat Zakhor [Remember], is the second of four special Shabbatot that lead up to Passover.   In addition to our regular weekly Torah portion from the book of Exodus, we read a special maftir aliyah from the book of Deuteronomy recalling the unprovoked attack of Amalek on the weak and weary Israelites as they traveled through the desert from Egypt toward the Promised Land.

The Torah exhorts us to stamp out the memory of Amalek.  In reading this special maftir, we express our hope that senseless hatred will one day cease to exist and our belief that we can contribute to making the world a better place.

On Purim, haunting echoes of the Amalek incident described in the Torah accompany the reading of the Megillah as we “stamp out” the memory of Haman and cheer on Esther and Mordecai.

In the midst of our as yet unredeemed world, Purim invites us to remain hopeful and proactive.

I hope to see you on Shabbat and also on Saturday night at our RST Megillah reading.  Let’s see how much Happiness and Healing laughter can we generate for ourselves and for others on this Purim!

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy, Happy Purim!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Tidbits of Torah

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Tidbits of Torah
Shabbat Parashat Terumah
February 16, 2013 – 6 Adar 5773

Dear Friends,

Where is God to be found in our world?

That is the central question of our weekly Torah portion of Terumah [contribution] that tells of the contribution of our people to the building of the Tabernacle, the Sanctuary, in the desert.

But, that same question may be asked in regard to our lives today…Where is God to be found in our world?

Our Torah portion reminds us that all the Israelites were active participants in creating the sacred space that would travel with them, and remain with them, at the center of their encampments, during the forty year trek in the desert as they made their way from Egypt toward the Promised Land.

Some say the Tabernacle was built and placed at the center of the Israelite camp as a reminder to our people that, despite our failings, God has not abandoned the world.   And then as now, even after the sin of the Golden Calf, we can always find ways to connect with God and with holiness.

A close reading of Torah reveals to us that there are, not one, but three points of access that have the potential to connect us with holiness.  These points of access are non other than the arenas of time, of space, and of the human soul.

Through Shabbat and festivals, we sanctify time and strengthen our connection to higher ideals and values.

Through our dedication and contribution to synagogues, and to “spiritual spaces” in our lives, we sanctify space in a way that adds meaning and depth to our lives.

And, by living a life of mitzvot, we dedicate our selves to a life that makes us true partners with God in bringing greater blessing, greater justice and greater peace into the world.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror