Tidbits of Torah

 

Tidbits of Torah

2017-10-11 14:31:29 RST Web Admin

      Devotion. Dedication. Delight.      

  Erev Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah/Bereishit   

October 11, 2017- 22 Tishrei 5778
Dear Friends,headshot white 2015cropped
This coming Sunday, October 15th, I will be flying to Israel for a few weeks to see family and friends.  As you may recall, my summer vacation was postponed this year until right after the conclusion of the holidays.  I look forward to holding my newest granddaughter, Lian, in my arms, and to spending precious time with family and friends in Israel.
In the meantime, before I take off…we have two more amazing holidays and a wonderful Shabbat to spend together!
Devotion.  Shemini Atzeret [literally, eighth day of gathering] begins this Wednesday night.  On Thursday morning we will recite Yizkor at our services.  This holiday reminds me of “devotion.”   We often feel tremendous devotion toward the people we have loved and who have passed away, leaving us a legacy of both love and of loss.  Our Sages have taught us that Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day which follows Sukkot, is an extra day of rejoicing in which God simply wants to hang onto us for just one extra day of rejoicing, after all the holidays of the Jewish month of Tishrei. Shemini Atzeret represents God’s tremendous sense of devotion to us – a devotion similar to that which we often feel during the Yizkor service in relation to our loved ones.
Dedication.  Thursday evening we will celebrate the beginning of Simchat Torah with special melodies and with 7 hakafot (dancing rotations) with the Torah scrolls.  On Friday morning we will continue with the Simchat Torah celebration at our morning services, concluding our annual reading of the Five Books of Moses with the chanting of the final weekly Torah portion of V’zot HaBeracha!  And, immediately, we will begin the new cycle of Torah reading with the chanting of the first few verses of Bereishit [Genesis]!  Once again, we will sing and dance with the Torah in 7 hakafot.  Simchat Torah embodies a sense of pure joy and “dedication” to our sacred heritage.
Delight.  The first Shabbat after all the holidays of Tishrei is Shabbat Bereishit.  On Shabbat we will not only read about the creation of the world, we will also celebrate a Simchat Bat – a naming ceremony, for the newborn daughter of Rebecca and Marshall Scheetz.  I cannot think of an event more delightful than welcoming a newborn baby girl into our world and into our community.
Devotion.  Dedication.  Delight.  These are the words that come to my mind as I look forward to the final few days of holidays and Shabbat that will signal the culmination of a wonderful holiday season with our congregation.
I look forward to celebrating with you in the coming days and I will look forward to seeing you when I return from my vacation on November 14th!
This Shabbat we will also recite the blessing for the upcoming new Jewish month of Cheshvan.  Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan will begin a week from now on Thursday evening, Friday and on Shabbat.
May it be a month of blessing and may we all have many occasions for rejoicing and for celebrating as we conclude our holiday season.
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!

 

Rabbi Gilah Dror

 

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Tidbits of Torah

2017-10-04 13:21:38 RST Web Admin

Sukkot: Especially Now – Joy and Resolve! headshot white 2015cropped

Erev Sukkot

October 4, 2017- 14 Tishrei 5778

Dear Friends,

The unique thing about Sukkot is that the Torah asks us to be joyous for all seven days of Sukkot – non-stop! That is a difficult task in ordinary times. But, this week, following the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, tremendous spiritual fortitude is required for us to live up to the non-stop joy that is the optimal way to experience Sukkot.

Hurricanes and floods are bad enough. But, when a human being deliberately murders so many others, it becomes that much harder for us to celebrate with a full heart.

And yet…Sukkot begins tonight. What will our celebration be like…?

I share with you some thoughts….

The Sukkah symbolizes our belief that some day, as was envisioned by our prophets, people of all races and creeds, of all religions and faiths, will appreciate the humanity of all people.

The Sukkah symbolizes our belief that one day, the world will be more open, more hospitable, more sharing, more loving.

The Sukkah symbolizes our belief that God’s sheltering presence will always be with us – helping us to come together: to build bridges of peace and of understanding; to bring comfort and healing to one another; and to work together to further our shared goals of making our world a better place.

And, so, we send our prayers of solidarity to the people of Las Vegas, and our thoughts and prayers of comfort to the families of those who were murdered, and of healing to those who are in need of physical and of spiritual healing.

May we, and all who are affected by this horrific event, increasingly feel the strength of God’s sheltering presence, day by day.

And, may the great joy of Sukkot be coupled with an equally great resolve on our part to do our best to make our world a better place for all people everywhere.

Wishing us all a very Joyous Sukkot holiday!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Tidbits of Torah

2017-09-29 13:28:50 RST Web Admin

As Yom Kippur Approaches… headshot white 2015cropped

Shabbat Yom Kippur

September 30, 2017- 10 Tishrei 5778

Dear Friends,

We do our best. But, we don’t always get it right. Okay…I’m speaking for myself. If I didn’t get it right, I hope that you will forgive me.

Yom Kippur is a time to re-align our souls. Let’s do our best to be kind to one another on this Yom Kippur. Let’s do our best to be kind to ourselves as well.

Here is a brief summary of Yom Kippur practices – practices meant to enhance the time we spend setting the tone for ourselves, and for our community, for the coming year.

Before Yom Kippur, it is a mitzvah to eat a festive meal, and to light a yahrzeit candle in memory of a deceased parent or close relative.

It is also a custom to light a fire that will burn through Yom Kippur so that the Havdalah candle, lit after dark on Saturday night, will be lit from a long-burning candle or fire that was prepared from before the start of Yom Kippur.

At home, before we leave for the synagogue, we light candles and recite the following two blessings:

Barukh attah Adonai, eloheynu melekh ha’olam, asher kiddeshanu bemitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat v’shel Yom HaKippurim.

Barukh attah Adonai, eloheynu melekh ha’olam, shehecheyanu v’kiyyemanu v’hehiggiyanu la-zeman ha-zeh.

A unique feature of the Kol Nidre service tonight is that everyone who has a tallit, dons a tallit for the evening service. If you have a tallit, please bring it to services this evening and we will all don our tallitot together, as we begin our Kol Nidre service tonight!

The Torah refers to Yom Kippur as Shabbat Shabbaton – the most complete day of rest. All the Shabbat rules apply to Yom Kippur.

However, Yom Kippur takes on its special character through these additional practices. On Yom Kippur, we refrain from the following:

Eating and drinking
Sexual relations
Bathing (except for minimal washing)
Using skin or bath oils
Wearing leather shoes (for two reasons: first of all, leather shoes were considered a luxury; and, secondly, we do not want to remind God of the sin of the Golden Calf!)

Also, if possible, it is customary to wear white on Yom Kippur.

Of all of the additional practices summarized above, we do what we can do, without endangering our health. The point of all of these traditions is to free us up to use our time spiritually. If we can only do a part of the above, we do as much as we can safely do.

If you are able to join us, I look forward to seeing you at services tonight and tomorrow.

Most importantly, may this Shabbat and Yom Kippur be a time of blessing and a time of healing for all of us.

To all of us, wherever we may be tonight and tomorrow, I wish us all a G’mar Tov [a successful conclusion to the High Holy Days]!

Shabbat Shalom and G’mar Tov!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Tidbits of Torah

2017-09-15 12:33:12 RST Web Admin

      HaYom [Today]!      

  Shabbat Parashat Nitsavim-VaYelekh  

September 16, 2017- 25 Elul 5777
Dear Friends,headshot white 2015cropped
This is my opportunity to wish all of us a Shana Tova U’metukah – a sweet New Year, filled with blessing and with joy!  This coming week, we will celebrate Rosh HaShana!   L’Shana Tova tikatevu – May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year!
As we prepare, for the High Holy Days, this Shabbat we celebrate the final Shabbat in the Jewish Year 5777 with the reading of the double Torah portion – Nitsavim and VaYelekh.    At the beginning of Nitsavim, we read Moses’ words to our people.  The Torah tells us that Moses said:  “Atem Nitsavim HaYom…You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 29:9)
The very same theme, stressing the significance of HaYom [today], is found in the Rosh HaShana liturgy as we sing the beautiful words of the prayer “HaYom…”.  We pray, HaYom t’amtzeynu. Today, may You give us strength.  HaYom t’varcheynu.  Today, may You bless us.  HaYom t’gadleynu.  Today, may You help us reach greatness!
The significance and potential positive power of each day of life is emphasized in our tradition in so many different and wonderful ways, especially as we approach the High Holy Days.
Yet, sometimes, it takes a voice from outside of our own tradition to help us to better appreciate the depth and wisdom of our own tradition!   And, so, I hope that a quote from the Dalai Lama will enable us all to appreciate more fully the wisdom of our own HaYom teachings.
In this particular quote, the Dalai Lama speaks about two days in a year in which nothing can be done.
Do you know which two days he had in mind?
Hint:  He was not referring to the two days of Rosh HaShana…
The Dalai Lama reportedly said: “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.”
HaYom,” in the context of our Torah as well as in the context of our High Holy Day liturgy, is a powerful word.  It is an intense teaching.  It is a wise reminder that each and every day of life is valuable, precious, and offers us the opportunity to strive to better ourselves and to bring greater blessing into the world.  HaYom, and every day, may we pray for life and may we appreciate life to the fullest!
Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!
Rabbi Gilah Dror

 

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Tidbits of Torah

2017-09-01 14:14:26 RST Web Admin

  Harvey and the Mitzvah of Response     

  Shabbat Parashat Ki Tetze 

September 2, 2017- 11 Elul 5777
Dear Friends,headshot white 2015cropped

The Jewish month of Elul is in full swing.  The High Holy Days are approaching.  And, with the passage of these precious days of Elul, we do our best to prepare for the upcoming Days of Awe – Rosh HaShana through Yom Kippur.  I know some of us are cooking already.  Some of us are taking breathers just to catch up with our spiritual selves.  Some of us are working on the physical preparations at the Temple…There are all sorts of ways to gear up for the High Holy Days.

An additional way to prepare for the High Holy Days is to study Torah, and to let it touch our neshama, our inner soul.

Our weekly Torah portion of Ki Tetze includes a magnificent teaching (Deueteronomy 22:3): “Lo Tuchal l’hit’alem [One may not turn a blind eye]” from the losses incurred by our neighbors.  This week, we are seeing and hearing about the losses incurred by the victims of hurricane Harvey.    We mourn the loss of life and send our prayers and comfort to the families who have lost loved ones.  But, the full effects of the hurricane reach much farther than what we have seen so far.  Some people are still in danger.  Some people are still homeless, and/or dealing with substantial disruption and loss on many levels.  Some are our own family members.  Some are total strangers.  Some are people who are connected with us through social media, or through mutual friends and acquaintances.

Lo Tuchal l’hit’alem [One may not turn a blind eye].” These words of Torah are a powerful reminder of our obligation to respond.

Just as there are many ways to gear up for the High Holy Days, there are many ways in which may respond to the many losses incurred by the hurricane.

Some have raised the question of whether it is better to respond to Jewish organizations that are collecting donations for Hurricane Relief, or to broader communal relief funds.  The truth is there are many ways to respond.  The Jewish community in Houston and environs has suffered significant losses.  Three synagogues have been affected along with many Jewish families.

While everyone will be served by the donations we make to broader communal relief funds, we should also remember that Rosh HaShana is coming for our Jewish brothers and sisters in those affected areas.  The general communal funds will not be able to help with the unique needs of our Jewish communities.  In addition to the housing and general needs that we share with all others, synagogue restoration will be needed. Kosher food, siddurim,[prayer books], machzorim [High Holy Day prayer books], chumashim [Books of Torah], and a place to hear the shofar on Rosh HaShana will have to be organized as best as possible.

As we prepare for our High Holy Days, I hope we respond as generously as we can to the needs of our family, our friends, our Jewish community, as well as to the needs of all good people affected by the storm.   There is more than one way to respond.  Let us not turn a blind eye.

And, may our inner soul, and study of Torah, guide us to act for the benefit of our families, of our friends, of our Jewish communities, as well as for the benefit of all good people.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Gilah Dror

 

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