Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat VaYelech September 30, 2022 – 6 Elul 5783 Shabbat Shuvah Core Identity

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat, Shabbat Shuvah [the Shabbat of Return] gets its name from the beginning of the special haftarah that we read on the Shabbat between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.  This haftarah begins with the words of the prophet Hosea (14:2): “Shuvah, Yisrael, ad Adonai Elohecha…[Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God…].”

In our weekly Torah portion, VaYelech, we learn of Moses’ final testament to our people before his death.  Moses’ foresees a time when our people might abandon God and God’s covenant, and reassures our people that the way back will always be open, if we truly seek it.

Interestingly, our Sages imagined that it is possible to abandon either God, or God’s covenant (that is: Torah), and not necessarily both!  In fact, our Sages imagine that abandoning the idea of closeness to God is not as detrimental to our people, or to the individual Jewish person, as abandoning the Torah.  Their reasoning was that Torah includes wisdom for the ages – mitzvot that help us to live a better, more value-driven life.  And, if we heed words of Torah, those words, those deeds, those mitzvoth that we fulfill, may yet lead us back to a belief in our own connection to God.

Torah, in and of itself, reminds us to grapple honestly with questions, to stand up for what is right, to work on finding ways of peace and of respect for all human beings.

We are so fortunate as to have this amazing gift from God, whether we believe in our connection to God or not, for this is the heart and core of our Jewish identity!

One of the greatest gifts Moses left for us are the words that are repeated several times, in various grammatical forms, in our parsha, and in Psalm 27 (the Penitential Psalm), “Chazak v’Ematz [Be strong and courageous].”   Moses faced many storms in his life, yet he stood firm in his belief in the great value of Torah, and encouraged our people to face whatever storms they may face in life with the help of the strength and courage that Torah can give us as a people and as individuals.

May we face all of our storms, guided by the wisdom of Torah, with strength and with courage.

May we be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

And, may we be blessed with a Shabbat Shalom and a good new year!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim September 23, 2022 – 28 Elul 5782 Shana Tova!

Dear Friends,

As we approach this final Shabbat of 5782 and prepare to welcome the new Jewish year of 5783, I would like to wish all of us a Shana Tova u’metukah – a sweet and a good year, filled with joy and blessings! And, I look forward to seeing many of you at services on the High Holy Days.

Our weekly Torah portion of Nitzavim mentions that we are all part of the Covenant – “The heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, every person of Israel, your young children, your women and your convert who is within your camp, both your woodcutters and your water drawers.”  (Deut. 29:9-10).

All of us count.  All of us are important.  All of us play a part of being a community inspired by Torah –  then and now.

So….to all of us, a Shana Tova u’metukah !

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Ki Tetse September 9, 2022 – 14 Elul 5782 Consolation and Hope

Dear Friends,

Queen Elizabeth’s reign lasted for 70 years!  She was an amazing human being who stood tall through thick and thin, through good times and bad times, through periods of war and of peace, through political ups and downs, through family issues, sorrows and celebrations.

Queen Elizabeth passed away as we read the weekly Torah portion of Ki Tetse, a reflection of her life and legacy.   Our portion is filled with mitzvoth that help us to navigate personal and communal life through situations of war and peace, through times of strife and joyous ocassions, through all the ups and downs of daily life including commerce,spirituality and all manner of challenges and opportunities.

The major theme that connects all of these mitzvoth and runs through the entire Torah portion is that of human dignity.  We must do our best to find and to maintain human dignity in difficult situations, at home, in community, in our professional and personal circles.  It is definitely a challenge.  Finding our center, finding the right way forward is not easy.  And, each one of us faces our unique and ever-changing situation in our own way.  But, Torah helps us to thrive, to cope, to hope, and, when needed, to console one another, as we navigate our lives.  Each one of our lives is precious whether we are well-known, as the Queen has been, or whether we are anonymous.  We are all present in the eyes of God.

As we read the fifth Haftarah of Consolation this week, we remember the prophet Isaiah’s words:

For the mountains may move
And the hills be shaken,
But my loyalty shall never move from you,
Nor my covenant of friendship be shaken
–said the Lord, who takes you back in love.
(Isaiah 54:10)

May we be there for one another, giving strength, hope, and consolation when needed, and may we sense God’s presence in each of our lives as we move toward the new Jewish year of 5783!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror