Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat VaYakhel-Pekudei Shabbat HaChodesh Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Gathering Together and Keeping Track

Dear Friends,

Here we are trying to figure out ways to gather together virtually and we happen to be reading the double Torah Portion of VaYakhel-Pekudei. The Hebrew word VaYakhel means: And he (Moses) gathered the people. We have been rising to the challenge of gathering together using the technological medium of Zoom! As I mentioned on our first Zoom gathering last night, I think we may be able to legitimately call ourselves the “Zoom Jews” for the time being. Hopefully, we will be back to normal soon and this new term (“Zoom Jews”) that I coined will be all but forgotten. In the meantime, we gather together without being physically present in the same place.

The second challenge that we have at this point in time is the challenge of keeping track of one another and of our wellbeing. Amazingly, our second Torah portion is Pekudei, which in Hebrew means: keeping track. In the Bible, Moses completed the building of the Sanctuary and gave an accounting of all the elements that went into the building of the holy space. He kept track of all the things that were donated and made a point of sharing that information with the people. We, today, are charged with keeping track of one another. We are the elements that go into making our congregation a holy community. And, we are doing the best we can to account for each and every one of us during this unusual time.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me/us by phone or by email and/or to take part in our Zoom opportunities. We want to know how you are. We want to hear from you. We want to share some torah and our prayers with you. We want to be connected.

VaYakhel-Pekudei says it all. Let’s gather virtually for the time being. Let’s connect as best we can. And let’s keep track of one another because we are all valued members of our holy community.

I take this opportunity to thank all of our staff and volunteers who have been working so hard to help us meet our congregational needs under such unusual circumstances!

And…

This Shabbat is Shabbat HaChodesh. It is the last of four special Shabbatot before Passover. It falls on the Shabbat before the Jewish month of Nisan begins. The special Torah reading of the Maftir this Shabbat (Exodus 12:1-20) describes the night of the first Passover. It is an apt reminder that Passover will soon be here.

We also recite the blessing of the new Jewish month of Nisan this Shabbat. Rosh Chodesh Nisan will be on Wednesday night and Thursday of this coming week. May it be a month of joy, of good health, and of redemption!

I look forward to seeing you on the Zoom Virtual Abbreviated Kabbalat Shabbat this evening at 5:30 p.m. And I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Shabbat!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Ki Tissa Shabbat Parah Social Distancing and Torah!

Dear Friends,

In light of our current situation which includes recommendations of “social distancing”, I share with you a wonderful reading by Rabbi Yosef Kanevsky:

“Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place.
Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern.
Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a thought as to know we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.”

Yes, we can have an aliyah to the Torah without kissing the Torah. Yes, we can have services without handshaking. Yes, we can adjust some of our customs to preserve our health and the health of those around us!

Our Torah portion of Ki Tissa begins with the census which was to be accomplished by counting the donations of a half shekel contributed by each person in the Israelite camp.

Why a half shekel?

Our Sages suggest that the half shekel is symbolic of the fact that we all play a part in the welfare of our people as a whole. Each one of us is a proverbial “half shekel.” All of us are needed and each one of us can help. But, none of us are entirely “whole” without the others. Each one of us is a “half shekel.” We are all dependent upon one another to create holy space, holiness in time, and wholeness of spirit!

Even as we practice elements of “social distancing,” may we find the way to wholeness and to holiness in community through our constructive relationships with those around us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh Shabbat Zachor Let’s Show Up on Shabbat and Then Let’s Have a Happy Purim!

Dear Friends,

Although a Jewish community as a whole is supposed to do everything in its power to ensure that there is a minyan present at all services, there is usually no personal obligation for any Jewish individual to be present at any particular service….However, this Shabbat is the exception to the rule!

On this Shabbat, Shabbat Zachor, each one of us is obligated to do our very best to be present at services and to hear the chanting of the special maftir for Shabbat Zachor.

What is so special about this reading? It is the reading that reminds us of the danger our people faced in Biblical times when we were wandering in the desert and the Amalekites set upon and attacked our weak stragglers!

Why is this story so special as to require each of us to show up in person?

This is how I see the importance of this particular section of Torah:

In obligating each one of us to show up and to hear this reading, we are invited to reflect on this reading, not only on our own, but together with others, in community. We are opening up the conversation on how we might learn to be different from Amalek. We are urged to remind ourselves and to teach our children that we do not side with the bullies. We do not attack the weak, the stragglers, and, generally speaking, all those who have trouble keeping up! Instead, we strive for something better in our world. We reach for a higher standard. We believe that all people are created in God’s image and that all people are entitled to be treated with dignity. Even those who are weak. Even those who are stragglers. Even those who have trouble keeping up!

In order to make a difference, we all have to be a part of the conversation! We all have to show up!

Nevertheless, if showing up poses a health risk, we may have to temporarily exclude ourselves from the in-person communal conversation.

If we are concerned about health issues, it is important to remember that kissing the Torah, or kissing the mezuzah, are customs that are not obligatory. We can show respect for the Torah simply by not turning our backs on the Torah, and/or by a slight bow or nod in the direction of the Torah as it is carried around the Sanctuary!

In fact, the most recent Guidance from the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement promolgated due to concerns that are being raised about Coronavirus states that:

“Pikuah nefesh, protecting human life, overrides almost every other Jewish value….All should follow advice regarding hygiene and handwashing….It is advisable to refrain from kissing ritual objects (Sifrei torah, communal talitot, siddruim, mezuzot) that are also kissed or touched directly by other individuals.”

Let us show up to be a part of our communal conversation. Let us take care to safeguard our individual and communal health – both physical and spiritual. And let us pray for continued inspiration as we strive to make our world a better place for all.

Finally, let’s not forget that Purim is right around the corner! Let’s join together to read the Megillah on Monday evening at RST! I look forward to seeing you there! In the meantime…

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Gilah Dror