Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Balak Ma Tovu

Dear Friends,

Balaam, the non-Jewish prophet who was sent by Balak, King of Moav, to curse the Jewish people, looked over the encampment of the Israelites in the desert in ancient times and was moved to say: “Ma Tovu…” [How lovely are your dwellings, Jacob; your sanctuaries, people of Israel].

Nowadays, these powerful words of blessing appear in almost all siddurim [prayer books] as an introduction to our daily prayers. And, they are often incorporated as a popular “decoration” in many synagogues around the world.

And, I feel the same way about our congregation. We are blessed with a wonderful congregation and with a lovely sanctuary. And, we are all looking forward to praying together in person in our sanctuary as soon as possible. But, above all, we are dedicated to the principles of Jewish living that form the true life-blood of our people.

In our Sages minds, despite the fact that Balaam blessed our people with very powerful words of blessing, it is Abraham who remains our role model for Jewish life and values.

In comparing Balaam and Abraham, our Sages said that a person who possesses a generous spirit, a humble soul, and a modest appetite is a disciple of our patriarch, Abraham. One who possesses the opposite characteristics of a grudging spirit, an arrogant soul, and an insatiable appetite is a disciple of Balaam, the wicked!

As I look over our congregation, I believe that I see within our wonderful congregation and within our lovely sanctuary’s walls, many people who are true disciples of Abraham!

I look forward to seeing many of you at services, at events, and at celebrations, as we move into a new era of growth. I look forward to enjoying a true and renewed spiritual flourishing of the best values of Jewish tradition in our area, and beyond. I look forward to moving ahead, together, as a people who are truly disciples of Abraham. Ma Tovu. How lovely are your dwellings, Jacob, your sanctuaries, people of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Chukat Juneteenth, Father’s Day and Us

Dear Friends,

What do we take to heart from the vast expanse of the Jewish history and of the American history that we study? What do we choose to raise up to the level of a celebration? How do we learn from and celebrate both people and events even when we are aware that they may not have been perfectly reflective of the achievement of our highest goals and ideals?

Today, Juneteenth becomes a national holiday. Recognition of the importance of this day comes along with the realization that there is more work to be done to achieve the freedom and equality that was envisioned in those who celebrated it for the first time in 1865. Yet, today, we celebrate!

Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day. We don’t wait to celebrate this day until all fathers collectively and individually embody the ideal that Father’s Day represents. We celebrate the ideal, and we celebrate the individuals, even though some may have passed away and some may still be less than “perfect.” Yet, this weekend, we celebrate!

We can learn a lot about all of this from our weekly Torah portion of Chukat. In our parsha we learn of the death of Miriam and of Aaron, and of the decision God made not to allow Moses to lead our people into the Promised Land. We are reminded of the humanity, of the frailties, and of the failures of our ancestors and of our leaders. Yet, despite all of that, we rightly remember them as great leaders of our people, as teachers of Torah, as role models (for the most part) for all of us. Thanks to their efforts, we derive our most cherished values and teachings thanks to the efforts of those ancestors who envisioned a world far better than the world they lived in and far better than the world we live in today.

So, this weekend, let us celebrate this Shabbat, Juneteenth, and Father’s Day, with the understanding that great things have happened in the past, that these special days remind us that change is possible, and that we can look forward to more progress in the future, as we build on the lessons learned from our vast expanse of history, both Jewish and American.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Korachodesh Thoughts on Korach

Dear Friends,

Sometimes I truly feel like Korach who rebelled against Moses and demanded that Moses cede his leadership of the people Israel.

What do I imagine Korach was feeling?

I imagine that Korach might have felt, as I too have felt at times – angry, upset, frustrated, wishing that I could make the world around me bend to my understanding of right and wrong…if only people would “put me in charge”.

But then I realize that none of us are really “in charge.” Yet, we are all integral parts of the puzzle.

Korach’s rebellion against Moses was an attempt to tear down Moses as a human being, to deny his good qualities, to destroy his work and, ultimately, to replace him as a leader.

In contrast to Korach, Moses “fell on his face.” Moses took a step back. Moses took a deep breath. Then, Moses did all that was in his power to restore a sense of common purpose among the people of Israel, to re-focus people on the highest ideals of our people, and to restore a sense of connection with God, with Torah, and with the Promised Land.

I am sure that it was not easy for Moses to react with such restraint to the challenges of Korach’s rebellion against him and against God. Nevertheless, Moses make the effort and showed us the way. Rightfully, Moses became, not only our role model, but also the greatest “teacher” of our people.

May we all be blessed with a sense of purpose, of humility and of connection so that, together, we may see the blessings of a brighter future for ourselves and for those around us.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror