Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Ekev Consequences

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join us for services this weekend, both on Friday night and on Shabbat morning, when we will celebrate Shabbat and the bar mitzvah of Brad Rubenstein! Mazal Tov to Brad and to his entire family!

It is amazing how deeply the weekly Torah portion seems to touch our very existence, even as our circumstances change from year to year!

This week’s Torah portion, Ekev, captures a great truth that we would sometimes rather ignore. Keep in mind that the meaning of the Hebrew word “Ekev” is: “as a consequence…”. Our Torah portion, Ekev, teaches us that, whether we know it or not, all of our actions have consequences.

There is a Jewish mystical teaching that says that in each and every action that we take, we create a world. If our action is good, we create a good world. If our action is not good, we create a world that is not good. And each of these worlds that we create, as a consequence of our actions, is seen and felt by God and by others around us. Some mystics even say that in the afterlife, we inhabit all the worlds that we have created as a consequence of our actions.

No matter what we choose to do, whether it is to opt in or to opt out of participation, our action has meaning.

This weekend we will celebrate Shabbat, and also the choice Brad Rubenstein and his family have made, to opt into the rich tradition of having a bar mitzvah at Rodef Sholom Temple. I hope you will choose to opt into the equally significant tradition of supporting the bar mitzvah and his family by joining us at services on both Friday night and on Shabbat morning!

I look forward to seeing you all this weekend and to celebrating with Brad and with his family! And, I am sure that our presence will be especially appreciated and significant as we navigate the waters of our very first COVID-19 era bar mitzvah.

I take this opportunity to give special thanks to Roy Lasris (who headed our technology efforts), to Steve Meyerson (our Ritual Chair), to Radie Maye (our RST Temple Administrator), and to the Rubensteins, to the RST COVID-19 task force (headed by Steve Shapiro), to our President Allen Fraley and to Sarah Barnett (Brad’s tutor), and all the volunteers who have given of their time and energy to help us make this bar mitzvah a reality!

Yasher koach to all and Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Mattot + Mas’ey Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Reality Check

Dear Friends,

If we have ever had issues with our Torah, it was probably with our double Torah portion of Mattot-Mas’ey.

What difficult passages are those?

Let’s start with the verses that describe the power of a husband to annul the vows of his wife. If people’s words are meant to be taken seriously, why should a husband be empowered to nullify the vows of his wife? Aren’t her words as sacred as his?

Or, if that example does not seem so difficult, how about the order by Moses to wipe out the Midianites?

One may ask: Why continue to read parts of the Torah that contain really difficult passages?

Some would have us skip these parts of the Torah in our weekly Torah readings because of the discomfort these passages create. Some abandon Torah altogether because our Torah contains difficult passages.

But, our tradition – a tradition that teaches us love, kindness, and the humanity of each and every human being – refuses to have us skip these passages or ignore them! Why?

I will admit that I too am sometimes tempted to ignore the difficult passages of Torah. However, the light of Torah is in its power to be an amazing reality check!

The difficult passages of Torah have the power to get us thinking, and acting, to make this world a better place – a place of healing, a place of love, a place of wholeness.

How can we address the difficulties of the world without reading about them? How can we take steps to make the world a better place without speaking about the real situations that surround us? How can we hope to have a sense of wholeness if we choose to simply skip over or ignore the difficulties of Torah and of real life?

As individuals and as a community, we still face some of these same difficulties. We still live in a world of inequality, of hatred, of violence, and of benign neglect of the needs of those around us. And we are innundated 24/7 by news of the difficulties which surround us, often, and very understandably, to the point of “turning off the news.” “Turning off the news” is the equivalent of skipping the difficult passages of Torah or of simply abandoning Torah altogether.

Torah teaches us that we all deserve to take a break from the news and from the difficulties of the world on a regular basis every single week by observing Shabbat – a day of rest. However, we are supposed to use that time of rest to refuel our souls so that we may return to the real world and address the real world difficulties that are around us.

We are taught not to skip over the problems in Torah, and not to skip over the problems in the world. We are taught not to stop reading Torah in its entirety, and not to turn our backs and pretend that everything is as it should be.

Our Sages taught us that the goal of Torah is not to teach us to “do as our ancestors did” but rather to inspire us to envision a better world – a world of equal rights and of equal opportunities of all. But, without reading and noting the difficult passages, without giving ourselves a chance to address the difficulties in a thoughtful and constructive way, we are doomed to stay mired in the same difficult situations.

Let’s pray for some respite on Shabbat and for renewed energy for the week ahead.

This Shabbat we announce the coming new Jewish month of Av. Rosh Chodesh Av will be on Tuesday night and Wednesday of this coming week. May it be a month of comfort, of healing, and of health.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Pinchas Believe!

Dear Friends,

Standing up for what is right, especially if it might be seen as self-serving, takes courage. It takes determination. It takes faith – faith that our actions can lead to positive change.

And, in order for change to happen peacefully, it also takes leadership that is willing to listen respectfully. It takes leadership that is willing to admit that they don’t necessarily have all the answers based on what had been the prevalent custom or the social givens up to that point in time.

This week’s Torah portion features the five daughters of Zelophechad. These courageous women were knowledgeable and respectful of Torah and of Moses’ leadership. Yet, when they perceived a wrong in the way the Torah was being interpreted…they went straight to Moses. They spoke up, supporting their claims with respectful and knowledgeable arguments.

Moses had no answer. But Moses was wise enough to admit that he needed God’s guidance in addressing the issue the women had brought before him. Even though Moses could not see his way to aceeding immediately to their demands, Moses respected the learned arguments of the women enough to turn to God for guidance. And, God said, in no uncertain terms, that the women were right and that the interpretation of the Torah needed to change.

What a powerful lesson for all of us! The way things are, is not necessarily the way things ought to be in the future. We are meant to re-think our positions. We are meant to be open to discussion. We are meant to believe that our insights, shared in respectful ways, may in fact be doorways to a better world.

May we be inspired by the daughters of Zelophechad – whose names, by the way, are: Machlah, Noah, Choglah, Milkah, and Tirzah – to believe in ourselves and to stand up for what we see as right. May we learn from them the value of taking the time and trouble to educate ourselves about the issues. And, may we speak our truth, respectfully, so that those in leadership positions may hear our words and consider joining us in an effort to make the world a better place.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror