Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Bemidbar Shabbat Machar Chodesh Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Still Counting…

Dear Friends,

Still counting…. What are we counting?  At times, we are counting the days of Corona….At times, we are counting the days of the Omer.  At times, all that we are counting blurs into a sense of needing to count our days and to make every day count.  As Jews, we are still counting toward the Shavuot holiday.  As human beings, we are still counting toward the next moment in life.

This weekend we mark Memorial Day weekend and honor all those who served and gave their lives so that we could live in freedom and enjoy the many blessings we have been granted.  In their memory, may we appreciate their service and the precious nature of the gift of life.

As long as we are still counting, we are still able to receive Torah and to receive blessings. Even more importantly, as long as we are still counting, we are still able to appreciate Torah and to spread a sense of blessing to all those around us.

This Shabbat we will bless the new Jewish month of Sivan.  Rosh Chodesh Sivan will be on Saturday night and Sunday of this coming week.  And, on the 6th and 7th Day of Sivan, we will celebrate Shavuot – the holiday of the Receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai!

I hope you will join us for our pre-Shavuot Zoom session on Thursday, May 28th, at 5:30 pm when we will celebrate “Highlights of Shavuot” which will include a Yizkor service, and a Teacher Appreciation celebration!

May the new Jewish month of Sivan be a month of joy, of health, of blessing, of learning, of growing, of creating and of simply “being.”  As long as we are still counting, may we make each and every day count.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat B’har-B’Chukotai Rabbinic and Congregational Resilience in the Covid-19 Era: Responses Requested!

Dear Friends,

What does our weekly Torah portion have to do with Rabbinic and Congregational Resilience in the Covid-19 Era?

Here’s my story and here’s my take on the connection between this question and our Parsha….

I will begin by saying that, in truth, being a rabbi during this time is challenging. Thankfully, I have been extremely busy during this time. I have not been bored. But, as most of us are feeling, I too am feeling the pressure of our situation.

As your rabbi, and with the help of our staff and of some amazing RST volunteers, I have been working overtime to make so many adjustments. We have made adjustments to our services, to our education, to our teaching, to our counseling, to our life cycle events, to our connection with all of our families and in particular with those who are struggling and/or who have lost loved ones.. We are making adjustments to just about everything!

Just yesterday, I realized how much I miss seeing you all as you come into the RST building. You used to walk in from time to time, not necessarily to see me. Perhaps it was to work on a Sisterhood project. Perhaps it was to make a donation. Perhaps it was to fix our Sukkah. You walked in and, whether we had planned it or not, our paths crossed. And we had the blessed opportunity to catch up, to exchange ideas, to interact with one another.

I can’t tell you how much I miss that interaction.

But, I also realized, just yesterday, just how much my rabbinate had been informed by our running into one another at RST!

I just realized that now, in the Covid-19 Era, I feel like I am trying my best to serve our holy congregation “from afar” – from within “a bubble” that isolates us all from one another. And I realized that I am missing vital information that I took for granted before the era of social distancing began.

Now, more than ever, I feel the need for your input, for your feedback, for your thoughts, for your ideas, for your participation in the joint project that we are all a part of – the project of maintaining a vibrant and a vital RST congregational family – in very different circumstances.

So, what does this have to do with our Torah portion?

Our weekly double Torah portion of B’har-B’chukotai begins with the image God speaking to Moses B’har Sinai – on Mount Sinai. The Hebrew word B’har, means: mountain. Mountains have long been symbols of challenges, of opportunities, of striving, of loneliness, and of hope.

We all have our mountains to climb right now. As a congregation, we have more than one huge mountain that we must climb….The first mountain is the mountain of maintaining our connection in a time of social distancing. As your rabbi, I welcome your input, your feelings, your questions and your concerns regarding that challenge. Please take your time and let me know what you think and what you feel.

And, we have another huge mountain that is also looming ahead of us. It is the High Holy Days mountain. I want to be sensitive to the needs of our congregation but I have less opportunity to interact with you. Therefore, I am asking for your response to the following 4 questions as we consider the approaching High Holy Days:

1. Because of issues of social distancing, we may be facing High Holy Days that must be very different from our usual experience. Should that will be the case, what would you miss most of the experience we have had in previous years?

2. Because of issues of social distancing, if we have to make adjustments to our observance of the High Holy Days, what would you want to make sure we include in our services?

3. What would be your most urgent questions and concerns regarding the High Holy Days? What would you need to feel safe, comfortable, uplifted and cared for?

4. What would you be willing to do to help?

Please take some time to consider your responses and please consider your responses as the next best thing to walking into the RST building in person and catching up….Please share your thoughts and feelings with me either in an email or by phone! I am truly looking forward to hearing from you.

In the meantime, may all our mountains lead us to a place of blessing and of hope!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Emor Celebrations in the Midst of Life…

Dear Friends,

Our weekly Torah portion, Emor, reminds us that in the midst of life….we celebrate!  Every week, at the end of the week…we celebrate Shabbat!  What is Shabbat if not our weekly celebration of life at its best?!  We pause.  We reflect on what we have accomplished.  We appreciate the vastness of the creation.  And we have time to realize that, in the midst of the vastness of creation, despite the fact that we occupy only a tiny space within such a vast expanse of reality, each one of us has had the opportunity to make a small but significant contribution to our world and to our future.  That is the essence of Shabbat.  A celebration of life at its best.

And Shabbat is only the first in a long list of sacred celebrations mentioned in our Torah portion.

Our Parsha reminds us of all of our Biblical holidays – of all the occasions on which we pause in the midst of life to celebrate special moments.  From Passover, through the counting of the Omer, and on to Shavuot,  Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.  Our Parsha is full of celebrations!

But, our Jewish calendar is not complete without our post-Biblical celebrations.

This week, on Monday night and Tuesday, we celebrate Lag B’Omer – the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer.  The Talmud tells us that in ancient times, one year, during the days between Passover and Shavuot, even as they counted the Omer day by day, the students of Rabbi Akiva did not treat one another respectfully. As a result – Rabbi Akiva’s students suffered.  But, on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer – they made peace with one another and their suffering ended.  What had been a troubling time of turmoil turned into a happy time.  And since that time, every year, we, too, celebrate on Lag B’Omer!  The anxiety often associated with the counting of the Omer is lifted on Lag B’Omer.  Jewish weddings often take place on Lag B’Omer.  Picnics and outdoor sporting events take place on Lag B’Omer.  A fun time is had by all….In the midst of life, with all of its up and downs, we celebrate!

One could say that celebrating in the midst of life is a theme in Jewish life – a theme that is highlighted in our Parsha and is enhanced by the celebration of Shabbat at the end of each and every week of the year!

In the spirit of the very Jewish theme of celebrating in the midst of life, this coming weekend, we will also celebrate Mother’s Day!  I take this opportunity to wish all our mother’s the very best Mother’s Day possible even as we stay physically distant from one another. Despite this year’s circumstances, I am confident that we will find fun ways to celebrate all of our celebrations in the midst of life.

May our celebrations in the midst of life lift our spirits and give us added moments of joy, of hope and of comfort!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gilah Dror