Tidbits of Torah

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Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Tazria – Metsora

April 13, 2013 – 3 Iyyar 5773

Dear Friends,

This coming week we will celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day.  The actual day this holiday will be celebrated in Israel is on Monday night and on Tuesday but we will hold a special 20 minute ceremony here at RST on Sunday, April 14th at 11:40 am.  I hope you will participate.  The ceremony promises to be short, yet meaningful and moving.

As we read this week’s double Torah portion of Tazria and Metsora, we are reminded of situations in which we might feel less connected to community.  It might be when we are ill, or if we have just recently become a new parent.  Whatever the cause, there are times in our lives when we may feel alone and distanced from others.

The Torah’s response is to set various purification rituals which mark an individual’s return to a more connected communal place – to a place where we may experience heightened holiness through connection with God and with community.  In offering us purification rituals as a model for dealing with liminal situations, the Torah teaches us to recognize that there is a spiritual element to feelings of isolation or of alienation that we may experience at those times in our lives.  It teaches us that we can play an important part in making people feel more included in our holy endeavors and in our communities.  It is this kind of spiritual effort to be more inclusive that enables folks to see our communities as the warm and safe environment that we would want them to be.

Interestingly, one of the most powerful messages of the State of Israel is the message that a Jewish and democratic State has the potential to give people a greater sense of  inclusion,  a sense of safety, and a sense of being “at home”, along with a deep and abiding sense of  history and of holiness.

May we be blessed to celebrate this 65th birthday of the State of Israel, and many, many more birthdays in the years to come – in peace, in joy and in hope of good things yet to come.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Tidbits of Torah
Shabbat Parashat Shemini
Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh
April 6, 2013 – 26 Nisan 5773

Dear Friends,

Immediately after Pesach – the very night that we switched back from Pesach dishes to year-round chametz dishes, and the next morning as well – I noted that many of my Jewish friends and acquaintances spoke about the chametz they were planning to enjoy – and, the sooner, the better.  Some spoke of pizza; some of beer.  For me, it was actually the combination of pizza and beer that sounded most appealing…

It occurred to me that this conversation, about the joys of chametz eating, was taking place on the 8th day of the counting of the Omer, coincidentally in a week when our weekly Torah portion was “Parashat Shemini” – referring to the 8th day of the Biblical celebration of the initial consecration of the Sanctuary in the desert.  It was on that 8th day of ritual preparation and consecration that our people experienced for the first time the beginning of the priestly service of sacrifices in accordance with God’s instructions to Moses and to Aaron.

In truth, the number 8, in Jewish tradition, is often associated with new beginnings.  While 7 symbolizes completion – as in the 7 days of creation; 8 symbolizes new beginnings – as in the celebration of berit milah, the ritual circumcision of a newborn boy, that is done on the 8th day of a healthy Jewish baby boy’s life.

Yet, interestingly, despite the fact that 8 symbolizes new beginnings – in the ritual counting of the Omer, the 8th day is not referred to as “the first day”, but rather as “the 8th day”, or as “the first day following the completion of the first week”.  And in our Parsha, “the 8th day” is similarly seen as a continuation of the full week of preparation for the consecration ceremony, rather than as a “first day” standing on its own as such.  Why is this?

Here’s my thought…

We know that new beginnings, no matter how refreshingly different and uplifiting they may seem, are buttressed by the events of the past.  The context of a new beginning is just as important as the new beginning itself.
Clearly, the joy of eating chametz is enhanced by the previous exclusion of chametz from our diet for a full week…

By calling a new beginning, the 8th day, we acknowledge the fact that new beginnings, and their meanings for us, are shaped by the context of the previous days.

It seems that Jewish tradition understands that as human beings, we need to recognize our past, in order that we may appreciate the full measure and significance of our present, and of our future.

This Shabbat we will be reciting the blessing for the new Jewish month of Iyar.  This too is a new beginning…In fact, if we count the Jewish months from Tishrei, the month which includes the Jewish New Year of Rosh HaShannah, Iyar is the 8th month in the Jewish calendar….

Rosh Chodesh Iyar will be on Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday.

We pray for Iyar to be a month of health, of joy,  of peace and of love.  May it be so for us and for all the people Israel and for all people everywhere.

May our past enable us to fully appreciate the blessings that are yet possible in the new Jewish month ahead!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Chol HaMo’ed Pesach     

March 30, 2013 – 19 Nisan 5773

Wishing you a Wonderful and Meaningful Passover!
Dear Friends,Perhaps because I am anticipating the counting of the Omer and this Shabbat will be the 4th day of the Omer, or possibly because of the recent experience of the Passover Seder,  I find myself thinking about the number 4.It is common knowledge that the number four plays a key role in the Seder.  There are four cups of wine at the Seder and we highlight the four questions and focus our attention on the four children.  We even break the middle matzah of the three matzahs that we point to as we recite the Haggaddah in order to create the afikoman – which means that we essentially turn three pieces of matzah into four pieces of matzah as part of our ritual at the Seder table!Probably less well known and celebrated, are the four women who were an essential part of the story of our redemption from Egypt.  I refer to Batya (Pharoah’s daughter), Miriam (the prophetess and Moses’ sister), Yocheved (Moses’ mother), and Tzippora (Moses’ wife).These four women symbolize forces of redemption that may not receive “lots of press”, but are nevertheless powerful forces that combine to help move the Exodus story forward toward its positive outcome.

Thinking of these women and their role in our redemption from Egyptian slavery, I discover a growing awareness of the more subtle factors in life that help us to remove modern shackles of slavery and to find our way to lives blessed by a greater sense of liberation and of purpose.

May this Pesach and this season bring us all a renewed sense of liberation – a refreshing sense of vision and of hope, and a nourishing sense of purpose in our daily lives.

Shabbat Shalom v’Pesach Kasher v’Sameach – wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a joyous and a kosher Passover!

Rabbi Gilah Dror