Shabbat Parashat Toledot
Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh
November 22, 2014 – 29 Heshvan 5775
I share with you my Facebook post of this past week:
“Just when there are intimations of possible peace in Jerusalem, terrorists strike again, killing innocent Jews praying in a synagogue in Jerusalem. It is time for all leaders and for all people of conscience to confront terror and to say clearly that it is not okay! Any equivocation is just an invitation to more terror in the future. Time for true partners for peace to speak out – to come together, and to work side by side to create a better future for all good people.”
The first 4 people who were murdered in the Jerusalem attack were rabbis taking part in a morning minyan. Each of them had donned their tallit and tefillin. They were in the midst of prayer.
Sadly, since that post, we know that the brave Druze police officer who was a first responder on the scene of the Jerusalem attack and was wounded by the terrorists, succumbed to his wounds and died, bringing the total number of casualties to 5.
The lives of the 4 Jewish people, and the life of the Druze police officer, were all cut short by baseless hatred and violence.
As human beings, we mourn the loss of life and pray that the families who lost loved ones will find comfort and support in the embrace of family, friends and of community. As Jews, we search for Jewish wisdom to help us deal with the pain and sadness of such an horrendous event.
In our Torah portion we read of Rebecca’s turning to God to ask: Why is this happening? This same question often plagues us when we are in pain or when we see the face of evil in the world around us.
In relating this bit of Rebecca’s story to us, the Torah is reminding us that we can choose to distance ourselves from God in difficult times, or we can choose to turn to God. We can choose to distance ourselves from Jewish life and tradition, or we can choose to connect. It is up to us.
If there is a response to evil that is authentically Jewish, it is the response of affirming life.
Our Torah is a Torah of life. When one dons tallit and tefillin, one affirms Jewish values. When one dons tallit and tefillin, one affirms the sanctity of human life and the connection to community. And, one remembers that each and every day, no matter what the present challenge might be, we give thanks to God for the good and for the blessings in life.
This Shabbat we will recite the blessing for the new Jewish month of Kislev. Rosh Chodesh Kislev will be on Saturday night and on Sunday. Kislev brings with it the anticipation of the joy of Chanukah.
But, this week, even before Chanukah, we will have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving!
Let us embrace this special day and highlight our thanks to God for all that is good. Let us remember that “thanksgiving” is a Jewish value.
For the gift of life, for the gift of Torah, for the gift of freedom, for the gift of community, for the gift of Israel…and for all the gifts that each of us can enumerate….For all of these, we give thanks!
So, let us fill our world with love, leaving less and less space in the world for baseless hatred and resentment.
Let us determine that we shall don tallit and teffilin, and we shall pray, as Jews, with community, giving full expression to our commitment to a life-affirming Torah.
Let us come together in celebration of life and in thanksgiving – proud of our Jewish heritage, and of our Jewish lives!
Let us honor the devotion of those who have come before us, showing us the way of light and of love.
And, let us enjoy a happy and a peaceful Thanksgiving together with friends and family!
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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