Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat BeHa’a’lotkha Memorial Day Weekend and Us

Dear Friends,

This weekend we prepare for Memorial Day which will be observed on this coming Monday. Since the Revolutionary War and until today, Jews have served our country in all branches of the military, and many have lost their lives in the process of protecting our nation and our freedoms. We owe them, and their families, a debt of gratitude.

You have received an email regarding opportunities to participate virtually in a National Jewish Community Observance of Memorial Day which will take place on this coming Sunday, May 30th, at 7 pm. I hope that many of us will tune in to pay our respects and to hear some of the personal stories that will be shared by some of our Jewish Gold Star families.

At the same time, we are witnessing the rise of Anti-Semitism in our midst and around the world. We had the opportunity to listen to the Act Against Anti-Semitism program that took place online yesterday. Jews, Christians, Muslims, religious and secular organizations, politicians, and leaders from all walks of life, came together to raise their voices against the rising tide of antisemitic acts. We must not remain silent. We were invited to contact our representatives in Congress to let them know that we expect them to stand up firmly against Anti-Semitism.

All of this comes as we read the weekly Torah portion of BeHa’a’lotkha which includes the phrases we sing as we stand before the ark and prepare to take the Torah out of the Ark:

Va’yehi b’nesoah haAron, VaYomer Moshe [As the Ark was carried forward, Moses would say]:

Kuma Adonai v’yafutzu oyvecha, v’yanusu m’san’ehcha mipanecha [Adonai, rise up and scatter your foes, so that Your enemies flee Your presence].

As long as we keep the Torah and its values at the center of our focus and awareness, we can hope to have our human efforts to combat evil along with God’s help, combine as a powerful force for good in our world.

Let us not forget those who gave their lives for the sake of our people and of our nation. Let us comfort one another on our painful losses. Let us be grateful for the Torah that inspires us to strive for a world, and for a nation, built on principles of justice and of respect for all human beings. Let us continue the inspiring work of our ancestors, of our predecessors, and of our heroes throughout the generations.

And, let us celebrate Shabbat with a sense of true peace, grateful for the divine inspiration and for the gifts of Torah, of life, of justice, and of liberty for all.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Nasso Bonding Through Blessing

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join us for services this Friday evening and this Shabbat morning as we celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of Aliyah Stupar! Mazal Tov to Aliyah and to her entire family!

A bat mitzvah is a very significant “moment” of blessing in the lives of Jewish people. Whether it is our personal friend or relative who is celebrating becoming a bar or bat mitzvah, or simply another Jewish person celebrating a special “moment” in time – it is a very special blessing for each and every one of us!

Our weekly Torah portion includes a particular blessing that most of us have heard recited by parents on Friday nights just before Kiddush, or by the rabbi blessing the bar or bat mitzvah, or at a Jewish wedding, or during a Shabbat morning service in synagogues where the Kohanim [Priests] recite the Birkat HaKohanim [the Priestly Blessing]. And, you may have heard this blessing referred to as: “The Threefold Blessing” because it includes the following three blessings, all rolled into one:

“May the Lord bless and protect you.

May the Lord deal kindly and graciously with you.

May the Lord bestow favor upon you and grant you peace.”

There are those who say that the threefold blessing refers to three levels of blessing: material blessing, intellectual blessing, and spiritual blessing. This is a wonderful midrashic interpretation of the blessing.

While we may not understand everything about the plain meaning of the threefold blessing, it is clear from the structure of the blessing that peace is considered to be the ultimate blessing.

What is even clearer is that when we take the time and trouble to bless one another, we are taking the time and trouble to form precious bonds of connection and of blessing.

Bonding through blessing is a truly expressive way of encapsulating our caring and compassion for one another – whether it is God who is the ultimate source of blessing, or the priests who conveyed God’s blessing to our people, or the parents who bless the children, or the rabbi who blesses the bar or bat mitzvah – the act of sharing words of blessing is a wonderful way for human beings to bond with one another.

Let us use the power of blessing to enhance our positive connections. And, through our positive connections, may we be privileged to promote greater understanding and lasting peace in the world around us

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Bemidbar Standing with Israel

Dear Friends,

This morning I wrote on my Facebook page:

“Standing with Israel. Praying for peace. Determined to help. Bolstered by hope. Shabbat Shalom.”

This sums up quite well the question of “where I am” right now.

Upon reflection, I realized that we are Standing with Israel in more ways than one!

First of all….We are confronting the situation in which Israel is forced to take drastic military action to defend the people who live within her borders from an unprecedented and ongoing barrage of rockets, while, at the same time, dealing with a disturbing rise of internal unrest within Israel’s borders. But, do not despair. There are also many people, Jews and Arabs, within the State of Israel, who are brave enough to gather together, under banners saying: “We refuse to be enemies.” And, in addition: There is a “silent majority” in Israel, Jews and Arabs, who are praying for peace and for the continued flourishing of peaceful coexistence. What can we do? How can we help? I will get back to this question a bit later…

Secondly…We are about to celebrate Shabbat, our holy weekly day of rest, along with all our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world. Celebrating Shabbat is another form of Standing with Israel.

And, finally…On Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday, we will be celebrating Shavuot, the pilgrim festival that marks not only the completion of the counting of the Omer, but also the moment in which we all stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and received the Torah. Celebrating Shavuot is yet another way in which we are both re-enacting and re-living the moment in which we stood together, as a people, and received Torah on Mount Sinai. We are, once again, Standing with Israel – connecting with God; connecting with our sacred heritage; connecting with our history; and connecting with one another.

We are, as I said earlier, Standing with Israel in more ways than one.

I also asked earlier: What can we do?

And my response is: We can continue to actively Stand with Israel in more ways than one! We can celebrate Shabbat. We can celebrate Shavuot. We can recommit ourselves to living lives inspired by our Torah and our Jewish values. And, we help Israel, now, in several ways:

We can pray for the peace of Jerusalem and of Israel. As we read in Psalm 122:

“Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem: May those who love you be at peace. May there be well-being within your ramparts, peace in your citadels.”

We can speak out in support of Israel’s right to exist and to defend herself.

We can donate, through our local UJCVP website, to support Operation Guardian of the Walls, Standing with Israel, and have your donations support emergency grants to victims and their families, psychological counseling and support for first responders.

If you Stand with Israel, if you Pray for Peace, if you are Determined to Help, and if you are Bolstered by Hope, then….There is so much good that can be done even by us, even at a distance!

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Shavuot and look forward to seeing you this evening at our Friday night Zoom service and then at our Monday morning Zoom service for Shavuot (including Yizkor).

In the meantime, as we pray for peace, I wish you and your loved ones a….

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror