Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Acharei-Mot Kedoshim Love. Love. Love.

Dear Friends,

This Friday night at our abbreviated Kabbalat Shabbat service, we will celebrate Shabbat and the Confirmation of Zoe Epstein and of Pearl Kluger.  I hope you will join us for our special “Zoom Confirmation” Service.  Mazal Tov to Zoe and to Pearl and to their families. We rejoice with the families as we celebrate our Confirmands!

A word of Torah for this week….What is at the center of our Torah?  The Book of Leviticus is the center. It is the third book of the five Books of Moses.  Two books precede it.  Two books follow it.  So, the Book of Leviticus is the center of the Torah.  And what is the heart of Leviticus?  The Holiness Code, in Chapter 19, is arguably the heart of the Book of Leviticus.

It contains, two commandments that have to do with heart, with love.  Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself (Leviticus 19:18).  Love the Stranger as Thyself (Leviticus 19:34).  Each of these two commandments to love others is founded on the principle that each one of us is worthy of love.  If we are to love others “as ourselves”, then it follows that we are to love ourselves.  We are to realize that our lives are a sacred gift from God.  Even when we feel inadequate, even when we falter, even when we slip up…., the Torah reminds us our life is precious.  And, even when our neighbor, or a stranger in our midst, does not live up to our expectations, the Torah reminds us that their lives are also precious.  Love. Love. Love. That is the heart of Torah.

May this Shabbat fill our lives with a sense of our own worth and with a sense of the worth of the lives of those around us.   Even with all of our imperfections, may we be blessed to see the worth of life and the image of God in ourselves as well as in others.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Tazria-Metsora Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Iyyar Day 2 Weathering the Storm

Dear Friends,

Weathering the storm is the current challenge.  We are all in this together, even though we are experiencing the storm in very different ways.  Some of us are alone, isolated.  Some of us are together, isolated.  Some of us are on the front lines of service.  Some of us have lost jobs and are struggling financially.  Some of us are inundated with work which has become overwhelming.  However we are experiencing it, we are all striving to weather the storm.

Our double Torah portion reminds us that life is full of ups and downs.  Tazria begins with reflections on birth, on new life, on creativity with all of its joys and challenges.  Metzora reminds us that sometimes we are isolated, apart, confused, anxious, needing connection when connection is extremely limited.

With the help of our connection to Torah and to virtual community for the time being, we are together even when we are weathering our current storm in such disparate ways.

Join us for our zoom sessions. We welcome new faces and delight in seeing our regulars. Join us for Jewish life enhanced through connection.

And let’s not forget that Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, is this coming Monday night and Tuesday.  It is a day of sadness and sorrow.  A day when we sense the storm clouds surrounding us.  But, then, on Tuesday night and Wednesday of this week, we celebrate Israel Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut.  That is a day in which we celebrate Israel’s 72nd birthday and, with it, we celebrate the sunshine in our lives.  We celebrate the ups, the creativity, the joy, the potential for flourishing more and more – even if this year the memorial services and the celebrations will be virtual.

We are all weathering the storm.  May we be blessed with a rapid clearing of the storm clouds, with healing and with comfort for those experiencing illness, grief and loss, and with a sense of inner peace that will uplift us, sustain us and bring us the blessing of hope.

Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov (a good new Jewish month) and Chag Atzmaut Sameach (a Happy Israel Independence Day)!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Shemini Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Limits and Life

Dear Friends,

Passover has come and gone.  We are back to eating chametz!   If we observed Passover traditionally, for the whole week of Passover, we limited our food to Kosher for Passover foods.  And this limitation that we set on ourselves had meaning for us.

We limited ourselves to remember that we too were once slaves.  We too were once living at the mercy of our human masters.  Then, suddenly, we were freed.  But, that freedom came at a price.  We had to rush to get out of Egypt.  We had to drop everything and leave without time to prepare. But, we did it.  We looked forward to a better future and we moved forward, as God commanded us.  And now we are free.  That is the story of Passover in a nutshell.

Now that Passover is over, we are back to “normal.”  We can eat chametz once again!  But this week’s Torah portion of Shemini reminds us that back to “normal” for traditional Jewish observance means back to eating Kosher food.  This too is a limit that Jews have set upon themselves for generations.  This too must be for a reason….And this too is a journey each one of us can enjoy….

Why limit ourselves in what we eat?

Perhaps we might understand it differently this year because of the Coronavirus situation. Nowadays, as a society, we are voluntarily limiting ourselves in more ways than one in order to save lives.  We are staying at home, unless we are involved in essential services. We are covering our noses and mouths with masks when we are outside.  And, for the most part, we understand that the limitations we are imposing on ourselves, uncomfortable as they may be, are meant to remind us of the fragility of life and of the value of life.

So, too, with keeping Kosher year round.  We limit ourselves in what we eat so that on the average, three times a day, we remind ourselves that there is holiness in life and value in life.  We do not eat without thinking about life, without awareness of life’s preciousness. And, we say a blessing each time before and after we eat, to remind ourselves that we are not the ultimate masters of our world.  In other words, we keep Kosher so that the gift of life will not become something that we begin to take for granted.  We limit ourselves in order for us to enhance our appreciation of the gift of life!

I would be interested in your thoughts and comments on this take on the value of keeping Kosher year round.  And if you have not kept Kosher until now and would like to take a step in that direction, please let me know if I can be of assistance to you in this new spiritual journey.

This Shabbat we will also recite the prayer for the upcoming new Jewish month of Iyyar.  Rosh Chodesh Iyyar will begin next Thursday night, Friday and Shabbat.  May it be a month of health, of joy, a month of healing and a month of fulfillment!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gilah Dror