Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Tazria-Metsora Healing Rituals: Then and Now

Dear Friends,

I think you would agree with me that this year we have all experienced a measure of “isolation,” of social distancing hoisted upon us not of our own choosing, and pain of all sorts. Our lives have been filled with “messiness.” We may feel tired, frustrated, or confused. We are searching for a way “back.”

It is exactly these kinds of feelings that we read about in our double Torah portion of Tazria-Metsora. Whether it is the experience of childbirth, or an illness, or a sense of having failed someone special, or ourselves, whatever the cause, at times, we may feel alienated from one another, or from God, or even from ourselves.

The question the ancients grappled with in our double Torah portion, and the question we too may be grappling with, is: How to come closer to God and/or to one another after we experience a difficult encounter, a “blemish” on our skin…perhaps a “blemish” on our reputation, or on our sense of self? How can we return to a path of healing, of holiness, after we have been aching physically or spiritually?

It seems that, in ancient times, rituals, coupled with human compassion, played a big part in helping our ancestors to heal, to come closer to one another, and to come closer to God. And, if you ask me, the same is true for us today.

We have been aching. Now, let us learn from our holy Torah about the healing power of rituals, and let us help one another re-enter the paths of connection – the paths of healing and of holiness.

At Rodef Sholom Temple, we have never closed our doors. We have responded to life’s messiness by opening new paths in which we can connect to one another and to God through powerful Jewish rituals. Inspired by our holy Torah, we have opened new paths to strengthen one another. We have found ways to validate one another. And, I, for one, give thanks that, in Jewish tradition, our shared human quest for holiness addresses our very human feelings, acknowledges the messiness of life, and lifts us up to a greater sense of purpose, of wholeness and of meaning.

I look forward to seeing you this evening at our combined Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat School service which will feature many of our youngsters connecting with us and with one another as they lead parts of our service!

Join us and you will be uplifted. Join us and you will be proud!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Shemini Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Remembrance and Rejoicing

Dear Friends,

This week, we are moving through Holocaust Remembrance Day even as we read the Torah Portion of Shemini. This Shabbat, in addition to our usual prayers, we will recite the prayer for the new Jewish month of Iyyar. Rosh Chodesh Iyyar will be on Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday of this coming week. May it be a month of blessing and of comfort.

And, during this coming week, we will mark Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, followed immediately by the celebration of Yom HaAtazmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.

And so, once again, we are thrust from celebration of new beginnings (Rosh Chodesh), to mourning our losses (Yom HaZikaron), and immediately thereafter to celebrating the rebirth of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel (Yom HaAtzmaut). Join us for a celebratory Zoom 8 a.m. Thursday morning minyan on April 15th, when we will chant Hallel and a special Yom HaAtzmaut Torah reading and Haftarah!

This week’s Torah portion, Shemini, begins with a huge celebration of the newly consecrated Sanctuary in the desert. In the midst of this greatly anticipated celebration, our parsha continues with the tragic story of the death of two of Aaron’s sons. We are reminded by our Torah reading of the melding of remembrance and of rejoicing both in our personal and in our communal lives.

The essence of coming together every day in prayer, specifically in a minyan, where in the natural course of events some of us are celebrating while some of us are saying kaddish, is the essence of Jewish affirmation of God no matter what we face individually in our lives. We are there for one another in happiness and in sadness. And, we are there to affirm God’s presence in our individual and communal lives.

May our presence for, and with, one another give us all the strength and the comfort we need to help us reach new peaks of rejoicing, new moments of belonging, and renewed horizons of hope!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Seventh Day of Passover Beloved, Beautiful, Black Yizkor

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat we will have a virtual Friday night service followed by a virtual Shabbat morning service on Saturday morning. During our virtual Saturday morning service, we will recite the Yizkor prayer. But, we will also read the traditional Torah reading for the Seventh Day of Passover, including the Song of the Sea. This special Song, celebrates the culmination of the first stage of the Exodus from Egypt.

Only after crossing the Red Sea – only after the parting of the waters of the sea, a miracle allowing our people to truly escape the Egyptian armies – did our people breathe a sigh of relief and sing God’s praises using the phrase: “Mi kamocha ba’elim Adonai” Who is like you among the gods, God?”. Only then did our people begin to comprehend God’s powerful message of redemption and of liberation. Only then did our people understand that God wants us to be partners in the on-going work of redemption in our world. Only then did our people realize that we have a mission to fulfill in the world – to be a true light unto the nations.

And, on the Seventh Day of Passover, tradition has us read the Biblical “Song of Songs” – the romantic love story between a shepherdess and her lover – a story that Rabbi Akiva re-interpreted to be a love story between God and the people of Israel. In that Biblical love story, the woman describes hershelf, saying: “Shechora ani v’na’avah” “I am black and I am beautiful.” In the Song of Songs, the shepherdess is expressing her sense of being seen as “different”. She is defiantly stating that she, too, is beautiful, that she, too, is worthy of being beloved.

These days, when Springtime is in the air, when we celebrate Passover, the holiday of redemption, of liberation, of hope and of new beginnings – when we see the burgeoning of new blossoms, new flowers, of renewed grass and of abundant sunshine – we also must remember our mission as Jews.

What is our mission as Jews?

To help move our society closer and closer to the ultimate fulfillment of the redemption that began with the Exodus from Egypt.

Our society still treats Black people as different from White people. Our society still relates to Asian Americans as different from White Americans. And, although the difference may or may not be visible to the naked eye, many in our society still relate to Jews as different from other Americans.

On this holiday of redemption, of hope, of liberation, of Springtime, of renewal, let us remember that the visible and invisible differences between human beings do not make us or them any more or less children of the One God, the creator of all human beings.

Let us rededicate ourselves to working as God’s partners to bring about more respect, more love, more inclusion, more understanding, more justice and more peace into our world. And, may we be privileged to see the fulfillment of the redemptive process and to sing more songs of praise of God who has inspired us to be better human beings in a kinder and more inclusive world – speedily and in our days!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Gilah Dror