Tidbits of Torah

 

Tidbits of Torah

2018-10-12 13:44:53 RST Web Admin

  Shabbat Parashat Noah

After the Flood – Then and Now

October 13, 2018 – 4 Heshvan 5779  
 
Dear Friends,

It is difficult to read the weekly Torah portion of Noah as we watch and listen to the news of the devastation caused by the winds and storm surge of Hurricane Michael.  The images are close to home and all too real.

This morning I heard a news commentator ask one of the officials in charge of rescue operations what message they thought should be delivered to folks now that we begin to take in the extent of the destruction that has occurred, particularly as regards the need to heed evacuation orders in the future.

Interestingly, the first response of the official was not about the future.  Instead, the official responded that what we must do now is let people know that first and foremost, neighbor should help neighbor!   Then, he added that rescue workers would do whatever they could do to bring relief to as many of the hurricane victims as possible, as quickly as possible.

Only after that did the official reference the need for folks to heed evacuation orders that may be issued in similar circumstances in the future.

When we read the weekly Torah portion of Noah, we might at first be caught up in discussion such questions as “Why did God let the flood happen?”  or “Why did God include the animals in the flood?”  But, perhaps we should be focusing on another aspect of the flood story which appears in our parsha.  Perhaps, in telling us the story of Noah, the Torah is telling us to pay attention to what happened to Noah after the flood.

Our Sages debate the extent of Noah’s righteousness. The Torah tells us that Noah was righteous and that he walked in God’s ways.   But, our Sages ponder….   Was Noah righteous only in comparison with those around him?  Was he as righteous as Abraham or as Moses?  These questions are left unanswered in our tradition.

What we do know is that, according to the Biblical story, even though Noah and his family lived through the flood, Noah was deeply affected by the vast destruction of the flood.  In fact, the Torah tells us that, in the aftermath of the flood, Noah planted a vineyard and drank himself into oblivion.

With news of Hurricane Michael on my mind,  I read our Torah portion in a new light.  I see that in telling us the story of Noah, the Torah is suggesting that our first response in the wake of the hurricane should be to alleviate the suffering of the survivors, no matter where we imagine that they fall on our human scale of righteousness, or lack thereof.  The Torah is reminding us that our response should, first and foremost, be guided by sensitivity and by compassion.

May we see brighter days, magnificent rainbows, and many signs of blessing and of healing in the days to come.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror
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Tidbits of Torah

2018-10-05 17:54:52 RST Web Admin
  Shabbat Parashat Bereishit

Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh

In the Moment

October 6, 2018 – 27 Tishrei 5779  

 
 

Dear Friends,

 

I hope you will join us at services this Friday night, and especially this Shabbat morning, as we celebrate the aufruf of Katie Majors and Adam Becker.  Mazal Tov to Katie and to Adam and to their families!

This Shabbat we read the beginning of the Torah once again!  We read the creation story! And interestingly, the language of the Torah reveals to us that in the moment of creation, there was a startling shift.

The Torah tells us that God said: “Let the earth sprout vegetation, seed-yielding herbs and fruit trees producing fruit…and so it was.”  Yet, as Sivan Rahav-Meir points out in her book, #Parasha, the Torah then goes on to describe what actually happened.  And, this is what the Torah tells us:

“And the earth gave forth vegetation, seed-yielding herbs…and trees producing fruit.…”

God’s original plan was to have “fruit trees producing fruit” – that is to say that the trees themselves would taste just like the fruit they produced.  But, in the moment of creation, the earth only brought forth “trees producing fruit” – that is to say that the trees did not taste like the fruit which they would eventually produce.

In the moment of creation, there was a shift.  And, the reality of creation was different from the original concept of creation.

What can we learn from this?

Perhaps that the world we see and experience around us is not an accurate reflection of the ideal that God had in mind at the moment of creation!  Our world contains a taste of God’s original conception in the taste of the fruit we eat.  But, it is up to us to strive to increase the taste of fruit, the taste of blessing, so that the trees themselves embody the taste of their fruit!  It is up to us to do whatever we can to bring greater joy and blessing into the world around us!

This Shabbat we will be reciting the prayer for blessing in the new Jewish month of Cheshvan.  Rosh Chodesh Chesvan will be on Monday night, Tuesday and Wednesday of this coming week.  May it be a month of increased joy and blessing for all!

Shabbat Shalom!

 

Rabbi Gilah Dror

 

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Tidbits of Torah

2018-10-03 20:48:55 RST Web Admin

  Shabbat Parashat HaAzinu

Can You Top the High Holy Days?   

September 22, 2018 – 13 Tishrei 5779
 
Dear Friends,

I hope you will join us at services this Friday night, and especially this Shabbat morning, as we celebrate the aufruf of Amanda Eisner and Jeremy Granoff.  Mazal Tov to Amanda and to Jeremy and to their families!  What a lovely way to “top the High Holy Days” with a wonderful simcha!

But, can we really top the High Holy Days?

In Judaism, we often emphasize the significance of our continued uphill climb toward holiness.  So, for example, on the first night of Chanukah we begin by lighting just one candle.  Then, as you know, on each consecutive night, we add one candle to the number of candles that we light.  The custom of adding one more candle each night goes a long way to symbolically reinforce the value of taking the next step up in holiness – day after day.  As the light of the candles increases day after day, so does our quest for holiness increase day after day.

So, having just concluded the High Holy Days, can anything really top that experience?

We are about to celebrate Sukkkot!  Is Sukkot a letdown from all the holiness we have been exploring?   Or, can we imagine that, despite the spiritual intensity of the High Holy Days, Sukkot somehow represents our continued upward steps toward holiness?  What do you think?

Consider the following:  The message of Sukkot is that the holiness of Yom Kippur is not meant to stay in  the synagogue.  Sukkot reminds us that holiness resides in our day to day lives in the “real world” as represented by the Sukkah!  If so, perhaps, Sukkot represents an even higher level of holiness than Yom Kippur!….

Sukkot, the holiday of our joy, begins on this Sunday night!

May it be a sign that our prayers and fasting are an expression of our ongoing commitment to a life based on our most sacred values!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach [a joyous Sukkot holiday]!
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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Tidbits of Torah

2018-09-14 20:37:49 RST Web Admin

  Shabbat Parashat VaYelech

Shabbat Shuva – The Shabbat of Repentance

The Calm Before the Storm   

September 15, 2018 – 6 Tishrei 5779
Dear Friends,
The traditional blessing for the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is: Chatima Tova [May you be sealed for the Good] in the New Year.
We paused on Rosh HaShana to take a look at where we are, where we have been, and where we would like to go in the coming year.  Last Shabbat, we read the weekly Torah portion of Nitzavim which represented the blessings of being able to take a break, to stand still, and to evaluate.  This Shabbat, we read the weekly Torah portion of VaYelech [And he, Moses, went…] reminding us that after the pause, after the period of calm and introspection, it behooves us to get going, to move on!
This week, in our physical world, we have seen the literal calm before the storm, as we prepared for Hurricane Florence.  Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is impacted by the storm.  In our spiritual lives, our calm precedes the actions we will take to make our world, and the world around us, a better place for all.  After the calm and after the storm, we have the opportunity to reach out to one another and to help one another in the process of recovery.
While it is true that after a physical calm we may experience a physical storm, it is just as true that after a spiritual calm, we may be readier to spring into action to come to the aid of those who are in need.
May we do what we can to help and may our good deeds lead to greater peace, greater blessing, and greater joy in our world.
Shabbat Shalom and Chatima Tova!
Rabbi Gilah Dror

 

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Tidbits of Torah

2018-09-07 13:29:17 RST Web Admin

Shabbat Parashat Nitsavim

Shana Tova!!!   

September 8, 2018 – 28 Elul 5779

Dear Friends,

 

I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a Shana Tova, a good year filled with sweetness and joy!!!

This Shabbat we will be reading the weekly Torah portion of Nitsavim [standing firmly].  The  sense of the Hebrew word Nitsavim is stationary.  Yet, our High Holy Day season invites us to be anything but stationary!  We are invited to get moving.  We are invited to remember our goals, our inspiration, and our hopes!  We are invited to “return” to our roots, to our family, to our community, and to God!  In our parsha, God promises to accompany us on our journey of “return.”

As I read our parsha, one particular image that stands out in my mind is that of God gathering together our people from where ever we may be, and bringing us back “in”.  This image acknowledges that we, as a people, and as individuals, might be disconnected from our roots.  We might feel disconnected or isolated from one another.  We might not see ourselves as part of the “in” crowd.  Yet, where ever we are, God will find us and help us to reconnect.

During these High Holy Days, we will have the opportunity to greet folks whom we have not seen in a while.  Let’s be as welcoming to them as God promises to be for us.   When we see new faces, let’s take the time to say hello and to listen to their stories.

May the image of God finding us (no matter how far and wide we have wandered) and gathering us in, inspire us to do our best to re-connect and to be as inclusive as possible of those around us.   Let us welcome people “in” and accompany them in their journey, as we would have God welcome and accompany each and every one of us back in our own spiritual journey!

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova u’Metuka [a good and a sweet new Jewish Year]!

 

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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