Tidbits of Torah


Tidbits of Torah

2018-04-13 15:28:08 RST Web Admin
Shabbat Parashat Shemini

Shabbat Machar Chodesh

Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh

The Art of Living!

April 14, 2018 – 29 Nisan 5778 

Dear Friends,


We have just experienced Passover and the special foods that accompany its celebration. We did our best to relate the Passover story to our communal and individual lives today. Then, we moved on to a communal remembrance of the Holocaust.  And we do our best to make that memory meaningful, not only for us, but for future generations.


Now we are counting the Omer.  We are numbering each one of our days, and weeks, as we move toward Shavuot.  Day by day.  We are back to basics.  We are back to bread.  We are back to current challenges and opportunities.  Life is not simple.  But, our Torah helps us to develop the “art of living.”


This week we read the Parshat Shemini.  It contains much of the biblical discussion about kashrut – “the art of keeping kosher.”  I am sure many of us ponder….Is all of this old fashioned?  Perhaps.   But, does it have any meaning for us today?   Consider the following:


We live in a world in which we emphasize the power of each of us to actualize ourselves to the maximum.  We live in a world where we encourage our children to dream and to reach for their dreams.   And that is good.  We all have a holy spark in our souls.  That spark is unique and worthy of the gift of life we have received.  And, our Torah teaches us that every human being was created in the image of God.  But, the Torah also reminds us that we are not alone in the world.


We share this holy time and space with others.  We can expect to face challenges in life.  And, we will have many opportunities to make choices.


“The art of keeping kosher” is not simply ritual. It affects our souls, reminding us, each time we eat, that powerful as we may be, there are limits which we must learn to impose upon ourselves in order to succeed in life.


There is no better way to lean than by repetition.  Kashrut plays a key role in the Torah’s teachings that relate to “the art of living.”  Each time we eat, we have the opportunity  to strengthen our resolve that, at times, we must limit ourselves so that we may actualize our powerful potential.


While kashrut may be “old fashioned” – we can also appreciate it as “super current!”

In our day and age, incorporating the “art of keeping kosher” into our lives can go a long way toward helping us to hone the greater “art of living!”


Shabbat Shalom!


Rabbi Gilah Dror

P.S.  This Shabbat we will recite the prayer for the upcoming new Jewish month of Iyyar.  Rosh Chodesh Iyyar will be on Saturday night, Sunday and Monday!  May it be a month of joy and of blessing.


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Tidbits of Torah

2018-03-23 14:15:01 RST Web Admin

  Shabbat Parashat Tzav

Shabbat HaGadol

Happy Passover! And Passover Tips…  

March 24, 2018 – 8 Nisan 5778
Dear Friends,headshot white 2015cropped

This is the last Shabbat before Passover!  We read the weekly Torah portion of Tzav which describes various kinds of sacrifices that our people brought to the Tabernacle, and later to the Temple, in ancient times.  The Parsha reminds us of the dedication of the people of Israel who sought connection to God, to the Priestly officiants, and to one another.  Today, as we prepare for our Passover Seder/s, we can get a sense of the kind of dedication and  multi-faceted connection that our people sought when they brought sacrifices in ancient times.   They prepared and we prepare.  They came together and we come together.  They had a “manual” with instructions on how to do the sacrifices and we have the Haggadah that outlines the rituals of the Seder/s for us.

Rituals, then and now, can have great impact and significance if we imbue them with meaning and if we carry them out with love.

I hope and pray that this Passover will be enhanced by the rituals we perform in preparation for Passover, as much as by the rituals of the Passover Seder/s themselves.

In that spirit, I share with you Pesah Tips 5778 – tips on traditional Passover observances – for this year:

Pesah Tips 5778
Thursday Evening, March 29 –
Bedikat Hametz – (Search for leaven): This is customarily done on the night before Passover immediately after sunset.
This ritual is especially effective and enjoyable for children…This is what we do:
   a) Make sure all Hametz has been removed or locked away, with the exception of     what will be needed for the morning for early breakfast…
b)    Place several pieces of bread (of visible size) in various locations throughout the house.
c) Make the following blessing: Baruch ata Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al biur Hametz. Then, proceed (traditionally with lighted candle, feather or brush and a box or cloth for the bread collected) to look for any leaven that may be found in the house.
d) After all the bread pieces are found and gathered, make the following declaration: “All manner of leaven that is in my possession which I have not seen or have not removed, or have no knowledge of, shall be null and disowned as the dust of the earth.”
Friday Morning – March 30 – 
Ta’anit Bekhorim (Fast of the Firstborn) – This daytime fast applies to the firstborn of either a mother or father. If you participate in a siyyum, completion of study of a tractate of rabbinic literature, this may be followed by a se’udat mitavah, a meal accompanying the performance of a mitzvah. Here, the performance of the mitzvah is the completion of study. All firstborn in attendance at a siyyum are then permitted to eat!
Biur Hametz (Disposing of the Hametz)-The container of hametz, gathered the evening before, is to be burned. The burning of the hamtez should be completed by the fifth hour after sunrise. No blessing is recited. However, a slightly modified version of the formula for nullification of hametz is recited, as follows: “Any leaven that may still be in the house, which I have or have not seen, which I have or have not removed, shall be as if it does not exist, and as the dust of the earth.”
Preparation for Yom Tov [Holiday]:
On Yom Tov, kindling a new fire is not permitted; however, the use of an existing fire for cooking or other purposes is permitted. On Shabbat, neither kindling a new fire nor transferring an existing fire is permitted.
To allow you to light candles for the second day of Yom Tov (Saturday night) ensure you have a fire burning before the beginning of Shabbat that will continue to burn at least until after dark when Shabbat ends. A pilot light or a long-burning (25-hour-plus) candle may be used for this purpose. During Yom Tov, one can light successive candles by transferring the flame.
On Friday night when lighting the candles, we recite the blessings: “Barukh Attah Adonai eloheynu melekh ha-olam asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat v’shel Yom Tov” and “…Shehecheyanu...”
On Saturday night, after dark, when lighting the candles, we recite the blessings: “Barukh Attah Adonai eloheynu melekh ha-olam asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Yom Tov” and “...Shehecheyanu...”
On Friday night the candles are lit before sundown. On Saturday night the candles are lit at least 25 minutes after sunset, by transferring the fire from an existing flame.
Most importantly, have a wonderful, happy, healthy and kosher Pesah and may this year be a year of true redemption and peace for us and for all of Israel and for all peoples everywhere!
Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy and Kosher Passover!
Shabbat Shalom and a wonderful, meaningful, joyous and Kosher Passover!
Rabbi Gilah Dror


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Tidbits of Torah

2018-03-16 14:19:43 RST Web Admin

Shabbat Parashat VaYikraheadshot white 2015cropped

Rosh Chodesh Nisan

Shabbat HaChodesh

Power and Pride

March 17, 2018 – 1 Nisan 5778

Dear Friends,
This Shabbat, Shabbat HaChodesh, is the last of the four special Shabbatot that lead up to Passover! It is an extra special Shabbat because Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new Jewish month, is also on Shabbat!
And, so, we take out three Torah scrolls this Shabbat:
From the first, we will read the weekly Torah portion of VaYikra, divided into six(!) aliyot.
From the second (our Holocaust Torah), we will read the Rosh Chodesh reading which will be our seventh aliyah.
And, from the third, we will read a special maftir for Shabbat HaChodesh, taken from Exodus 1:1-20. This maftir describes the eating of the Pesach lamb sacrifice on the first night of Passover (in ancient times). It reminds us of the story of Passover, and of some of the rituals associated with Passover. All in all, it is a timely reminder that this is the time for us to engage in our own preparations for a meaningful Passover!
One of the themes that runs through all of this Shabbat’s readings is the power of God to create and to redeem. We, as human beings, also have power to create and to redeem, albeit much more limited power than God’s power….
In VaYikra, Moses teaches us about human power. His connection with God, as well as with our People, was unique. Yet, when God called to Moses (in the Hebrew: VaYikra), Moses recorded the letter aleph at the end of the Hebrew word VaYikra as a particularly small alef. And, so it appears, as a small alef, in all of our Torah scrolls to this day. The small alef symbolizes Moses humility, despite his unique connection to God and to our people, and despite his immense power.
Our Sages note that when Moses recorded the power and greatness of our people in Deuteronomy33:29: Ashrecha Yisrael, mi chamocha am nosha ba-Adonai [O happy Israel! Who is like you, A people delivered by the Lord…), the alef of Ashrecha is not a small alef. As opposed to his personal humility, when Moses speaks of the connection and of the power of our people, he speaks with open pride and gratitude!
As we prepare for Passover, let us remember that we can all be a part of the on-going creative and redemptive processes in our world, but that, as Moses taught us by his example, our pride and gratitude would best be directed not to ourselves, but to the successes of our communities, of our people, and of our world!
Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov [a good month]!
Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Tidbits of Torah

2018-03-09 15:34:26 RST Web Admin

Shabbat Parashat VaYakhel-Pekudeiheadshot white 2015cropped
Shabbat Parah
We Are Many!
March 10, 2018 – 23 Adar 5778
Dear Friends,

God promised us that we would one day be as many as the stars in the sky. Or, as many as the grains of sand on the beach. At least the Bible tells us that God promised that to our ancestors. But, truthfully, how often do we get to feel that we are many? As Jews in the diaspora, most of the time we feel that we are few and that others are many more.

Last week I attended the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC. I was one of approximately 18,000 participants in a conference that featured speakers such as VP Pence, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Congressmen and Congresswomen from both parties, PM Netanyahu and Israeli leaders from the current coalition and from the opposition, the President of Guatemala, thought and action leaders from both the U.S. and Israel, racially diverse Jews and Christians of all denominations, students and older participants, affiliated and non-affiliated folks, and a large delegation of rabbis and cantors from across our nation. We were many. And, despite our differences on so many levels, we were all there to celebrate and to support the important connection between the U.S. and Israel.

There were opportunities to learn directly from people involved in Israeli initiatives that benefit people around the world. And, there were opportunities to learn about joint Israeli and Palestinian start up efforts directed at bolstering the economy and life of Palestinians.

We heard stories from Tzipi Livni and from Isaac “Bougie” Herzog, two Israeli politicians from opposing sides of the aisle, who shared stories about their childhoods. Livni told about growing up with a mother who was a legend in her time. Livni’s mother loved her but refused to hug her children because she believed that this was the best way to raise children to be strong in a “tough neighborhood.” Herzog spoke of the warmth of his father and of his pride in knowing that it was his own grandfather who wrote the Prayer for the State of Israel.

In our weekly Torah portion of VaYakhel-Pedudei we read that the Israelites brought gifts to the Sanctuary and contributed efforts “above and beyond” (v’hoter) what was required (Exodus 36:7). Our Sages teach us that “above and beyond” means that not only the material objects were given, but that the genuine spirit of participation was amazing. It was that genuine spirit of participation that was mirrored in the words “above and beyond.”

At AIPAC, the genuine spirit of participation was amazing, and the joy of being one of many was uplifting.

If you want to see a full menu of videos of speeches, interviews and/or sessions, click here.

Most of all, while we may not be many in comparison with others around us, may we be blessed with a sense of being connected to many across our nation and in Israel as well as across the many generations of our people’s history!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Tidbits of Torah

2018-03-02 14:46:52 RST Web Admin

Shabbat Parashat Ki Tissaheadshot white 2015cropped

Inclusivity and Belonging

March 3, 2018 – 16 Adar 5778

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join me at services this Shabbat as we celebrate the bat mitzvah of Tzipora Hyman. Mazal Tov to Tzipora and to her entire family!
It is safe to say that most folks do not enjoy being excluded by others. Thankfully, we are becoming more and more aware of the importance of inclusivity in our congregation and in our communities at large. Step by step we look for ways in which we can include people who may have been sidelined in the past. Whether it is by making our new Sanctuary and our bima more accessible, or by taking care to have the best lighting and best sound system in our new building, RST is part of a general cultural trend of working to be as inclusive as possible. This is a very good thing!
However, there are times when, as individuals, we choose to exclude ourselves from much of what goes on around us! Knowing that, as human beings, we all have our limits, we differentiate ourselves from community as a whole. We step aside. We look away. It is natural enough. But, our weekly Torah portion, Ki Tissa, has an extraordinary message for us, acknowledging our human desire to turn away, but spurring us on to come back…
Remember the story of Moses and the Golden Calf?
Moses comes down from Mount Sinai carrying the two tablets with the Ten Commandments etched upon them, only to find that his community has created a Golden Calf. And, his own brother, Aaron, was involved in facilitating the creation of the idol. Moses does what any human being would do! He distances himself from the community. He says to God: These are Your people (not mine!)….
But then…Moses remembers that, ultimately, he is part of these people.
And, Moses prays to God saying: Pardon us for our iniquity and our sin and take us for Your own (Exodus 34:9)!
Why would Moses say: Pardon us? Moses did not sin! He wasn’t even there when the Golden Calf was formed. He was far away on the top of Mount Sinai! So, why did Moses not say: Pardon them for their iniquity and their sin and take them for Your own?
And, why does the Torah tell us this story in such detail?
It must be because this story is eternally relevant. It is as relevant to our lives today as it was to Moses and to the children of Israel in ancient times.
After his initial reaction, Moses realized that his life is bound up in the life of his people. He realized that, much as he would want to distance himself, he is part of a greater whole. And, Moses comes back from his self-imposed exclusion to do his best, on behalf of the people who are ultimately his community.
As we celebrate this Shabbat and look forward to many more celebrations in our community, may we remember that our congregation and our communities may not always be perfect. But, they are ours. And, we are a part of them. Let’s come together. Let’s pray together. Let’s work together to make us the best we can be…And, let’s enjoy the many blessings of inclusivity and of belonging.
Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Gilah Dror

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