Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Vayeshev Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Give it a Try!

Hopefully, you have enjoyed Thanksgiving and will continue having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend as well.

This Shabbat we will recite the blessing for the new upcoming Jewish month of Tevet.  Rosh Chodesh Tevet will be a week from now, on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday and, in anticipation of the new month of Tevet, we will pray for a month of joy and of blessing.

Of course, Chanukah will begin this coming Sunday evening so we are looking forward to much blessing and joy as we celebrathe Chanukah together, as a community, beginning at City Center on Sunday evening at 6 pm and then on Monday evening at 5:30 pm as RST takes its turn lighting the Menorah at City Center.  I hope to see many of us there on Sunday and on Monday evenings!

This Shabbat we will read the weekly Torah portion of Vayeshev.  It recounts the beginning of the Joseph story in the Bible.  Lots of action.  Lots of drama.  Lots of ups and downs.  This parsha connects in my mind with the lighting of the Chanukah candles and particularly with the story of the small cruze of oil that miraculously burned for 8 nights when the Temple in Jerusalem was reclaimed and purified.

How so?

One small cruze of oil doesn’t seem like much.  Yet, as the story goes, our ancestors gave it a try.  They lit the first candle and, seemingly, against all odds, they managed to light the Menorah for a full 8 days!

Similarly, our parsha relates the story of Joseph, who managed, seemingly, against all odds, to go from the bottom of the pit and from the depths of Egyptian imprisonment, to the heights of government in Egypt and to saving not only his family, but all of Egypt, from famine!  Here is another instance of our tradition reminding us never to give up hope.

The message is that there is always a chance that things will turn out for the good.  All we have to do is to give it a try…You never know what light will be found at the end of the tunnel!

With that in mind, I again wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving weekend and a very Happy Chanukah beginning on this Sunday evening!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Toledot Facing our Truth

Dear Friends,

Why, of course, I tell the truth!  But, then again, maybe I bend the truth from time to time….

Judaism teaches us that God is Truth.   And yet, we humans, who are created in the image of God, don’t always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Most of the time, we try our best to tell the truth.  But, sometimes, for the sake of peace, or for the sake of being considerate of people’s feelings, or for some other reason, we find ourselves embellishing what we know to be true.  Or, we find ourselves telling partial truths and leaving out plenty of significant parts of our stories.

When the ideal of truth comes up against the complex reality of our lives, we live with the consequences of our choices in relation to truth telling….

Our weekly Torah portion is filled with examples of people struggling with the issues of truth telling.

Rebecca was not open with Isaac.  She did not face her truth and speak with candor.  Instead, Rebecca resorted to subtrafuge.  She asked Jacob to disguise himself and to present himself as his brother, Esau, as a way of securing both the birthright and the blessing from Isaac.  Jacob went along with the scheme.  Isaac’s vision was dimmed so that he could not recognize the truth that presented itself before him.  And, despite his hesitation, he chose to accept Jacob’s narrative of deception and to bless Jacob in place of the blessing he had intended to give to Esau.

Our weekly Torah portion reflect the reality that facing our truth is especially Truth.  Torah challenges us to face our truths, even when truth seems illusive or inconvenient.  With a measure of humility, and with the help of our Torah stories, we can strive to face our truths and to speak them with candor.

Happily, our Torah portion also reminds us that there are plenty of blessings to go around.   So, perhaps, subtrafuge is not the best or the only way to secure our blessings for the good!

May all of our prayers and hopes be answered for the good, speedily and in our time!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Chayey Sarah Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Seasons of Our Lives

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat we will be reciting the prayer for the upcoming new Jewish month of Kislev. Rosh Chodesh Kislev will be on Thursday night and Friday of this coming week. And Chanukah will be celebrated beginning toward the end of the month of Kislev…May it be a month of joy, of good health, of comfort, of blessing and of peace!

But, just around the corner is Halloween! Although Halloween is not a “Jewish” holiday, lots of us relate to it anyway….Got your costume? Ready for the fun? The weather promises to be conducive to trick or treating. Just be safe.

The excitement of Halloween comes just once a year. Maybe that is what makes it so special. Maybe it is the sharing of the fun coupled with the tension and the spooky quality that makes it so special. Maybe it is simply the contrast with the calmer days of our lives. What do you think makes it so special?

Speaking of the contrast between the ups and the downs of life….Our weekly Torah portion of Chayey Sarah is just such a contrast with last week’s Torah portion of Vayera! Last week’s parsha was filled with excitment and with out of the usual events that happened in the course of Abraham and Sarah’s lives. There were wars. There was the Akeda [the Binding of Isaac]. There was the whole story of Sodom and Gemorrah. Lots of action. Lots of ups and very few downs in between…. Lots of stories that we may find hard to connect with our everyday lived experiences.

But, this week’s parsha, Chayey Sarah, deals with regular life experiences. For instance, our parsha deals with questions like: how do we deal with the death of a loved one; how do we look for and possibly find a marriage partner; how do we convey our values to the next generation? This week’s parsha has more things in it that reflect our everyday lives.

Yet, even in our relatively calm, everyday, lives, there are ups and downs. And, for all of us, there are seasons of our lives. There are more turbulent times and more calm times. Youth and old age are not the same. We change over a lifetime. If we are granted the gift of long life, we inevitably experience different seasons of our lives. And the flavor of one season spills over to the flavor of the next.

We all need to know how to navigate the stormy times as well as the calm times of life. And, that is exactly what the Torah helps us to do by reflecting so well the various seasons of our lives in the stories of our ancestors!

Halloween comes just once a year. Similarly, Shabbat comes just once a week, and Chanukah comes just once a year, after we have experienced a calm, holiday-free, couple of months since the intensity of the High Holy Days. The seasons of each year are reflected in the seasons of our lives. And, all of these seasonal changes – all of the ups and downs of our lives – are reflected, for our benefit, in our Torah in the ups and downs of the stories of the lives of our patriarchs and matriarchs.

Hopefully, we can ride the waves of life and then enjoy the calm times in our lives, as well. Hopefully, we can enjoy Shabbat and Halloween and Chanukah as much as we appreciate the calmer days and weeks and months in between.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror