Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Behar-Bechukkotai Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Covenant and Confirmation

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join us this Friday night as we celebrate Shabbat and the Confirmation of Julia Blaha, David Dorfman, Lainey Epstein and Carson Frank. Mazal Tov and Yasher Koach to our Confirmands and to their families!

Confirmation is a form of affirmation on the part of our younger generation of our communal commitment to Torah and to Jewish living – the essence of our Covenant with God.

The double Torah portion of Behar and Bechukkotai reminds us that our Covenant with God, and with one another, was initiated on Mount Sinai, and has been reaffirmed throughout the generations. Behar means “On the Mountain”, and Bechukkotai means “My Laws”.

We, as a people, see Mount Sinai as a challenge and as an inspiration, and we see the laws of our Torah as a fountain of wisdom and of strength. With the help of God and of one another, this Shabbat, in more ways than one, we reaffirm our connection, our history, and our determination to bring greater light and blessing into the world – one step at a time, one moment at a time.

Our four Confirmands are wonderful examples of Jewish strength and of connection. It has been a pleasure to see each and every one of them reach this very special moment in time! To them, to their families, and to all of us, I say: Shehecheyanu! May our Confirmands find challenges, inspiration, wisdom and strength in our tradition and in our community, and beyond, for many years to come.

This Shabbat will lead us into Rosh Chodesh – the beginning of a new Jewish month. New beginnings always reveal new vistas and the promise of new possibilities. Rosh Chodesh Sivan will be on Tuesday night and Wednesday of this coming week. May it be a month of new beginnings, of joy, of healing and of blessing.

And, speaking of blessing…I take this opportunity to wish us all a Happy Mother’s Day weekend. And, lest you think Mother’s Day is not a Jewish thing..Just remember that in the Ten Commandments, the essence of our Covenant, we are reminded to “Honor Your Father and Your Mother!”. So, don’t forget….and do celebrate!

Wishing us all many blessings, many new beginnings, many simchas and many celebrations.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim A Reason To Smile

Dear Friends,

A reason to smile….or maybe a few reasons to smile! We all can use moments of joy in our lives.

Looking ahead at this coming week, we have Lag B’Omer on Wednesday night and on Thursday! That’s one reason to smile!

What is Lag B’Omer?

We are about half way through the counting of the Omer – the counting of 50 days from Passover to Shavuot, and here we are almost at Lag B’Omer which is the 33rd day of the Omer. The Omer is the grain offering that was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times. Lag is a combination of two Hebrew letter: Lamed (which has a numerical equivalent of 30) and Gimmel (which has a numerical equivalent of 3). Lamed plus gimmel becomes Lag, and Lag represents the number 33!

Why is this a reason to smile? Because Lag B’Omer is a day of fun and games! It is the day associated with the lifting of a plague from the students of Rabbi Akiva.

Lag B’Omer is a day in which the somber feeling of the slow and deliberate counting of the Omer is lifted. Jewish weddings (which are mostly not performed during the 50 days of the counting of the Omer) often take place on Lag B’Omer. Outdoor sporting events take place on Lag B’Omer. Bonfires with roasted potatoes and onions represent the “scent” of Lag B’Omer. Well, maybe we should not do bonfires this year, but, we could get into the swing of Lag B’Omer even without bonfires…

Another reason to smile is the good news that we hear from so many of our congregants. Slowly, but surely, more and more of us are vaccinated. This means that we are moving toward a modicum of relief from the pandemic we have been experiencing. We are moving toward greater participation in person (with limitations), and to a greater sense of ease in our lives. Some of the hugs we have been missing are back!

And, we are reading a double Torah portion of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim that lays out for us Torah’s plan for recovery after a tragedy. Aaron, and the people, were devastated after the sudden loss of Nadav and Avihu, two of Aarons sons. Yet, our Torah reading reminds of the way forward – the path to holiness – which includes the melding of ritual and ethics, of human caring and connection and of divine caring and connection. That is yet another reason to smile! Our Torah shows us a path to greater good, to greater love, to greater healing and to greater joy. Our Torah shows us a path to greater inclusion, to greater justice and to a renewed sense of purpose!

We are right in the middle, at the half way mark, of the counting of the Omer. We are also reading the middle, the half way mark, of the Torah this week. And, in the middle of our Torah reading for this week (Leviticus 19:18), we read: “V’ahavta l’reyacha kamocha” [Love your fellow as yourself]. And, since we are mentioning numerical equivalents in Jewish tradition, you may notice that this is in Verse 18 which represents the combination of the two Hebrew letters of Yod (the numerical equivalent of 10) and Chet (the numerical equivalent of 8). Added together: 18, or as we know it: “Chai” – To Life! V’Ahavta l’reyacha kamocha, and all of Torah, represents our striving to have more reasons to smile even as we strive to enable others around us to have more reasons to smile. What more beautiful instruction could we hope for as a central focal point of the entire Torah, as we move toward and strive to generate and to amass many more reasons to smile in our world!

So…here’s to smiles and to life!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Tazria-Metsora Healing Rituals: Then and Now

Dear Friends,

I think you would agree with me that this year we have all experienced a measure of “isolation,” of social distancing hoisted upon us not of our own choosing, and pain of all sorts. Our lives have been filled with “messiness.” We may feel tired, frustrated, or confused. We are searching for a way “back.”

It is exactly these kinds of feelings that we read about in our double Torah portion of Tazria-Metsora. Whether it is the experience of childbirth, or an illness, or a sense of having failed someone special, or ourselves, whatever the cause, at times, we may feel alienated from one another, or from God, or even from ourselves.

The question the ancients grappled with in our double Torah portion, and the question we too may be grappling with, is: How to come closer to God and/or to one another after we experience a difficult encounter, a “blemish” on our skin…perhaps a “blemish” on our reputation, or on our sense of self? How can we return to a path of healing, of holiness, after we have been aching physically or spiritually?

It seems that, in ancient times, rituals, coupled with human compassion, played a big part in helping our ancestors to heal, to come closer to one another, and to come closer to God. And, if you ask me, the same is true for us today.

We have been aching. Now, let us learn from our holy Torah about the healing power of rituals, and let us help one another re-enter the paths of connection – the paths of healing and of holiness.

At Rodef Sholom Temple, we have never closed our doors. We have responded to life’s messiness by opening new paths in which we can connect to one another and to God through powerful Jewish rituals. Inspired by our holy Torah, we have opened new paths to strengthen one another. We have found ways to validate one another. And, I, for one, give thanks that, in Jewish tradition, our shared human quest for holiness addresses our very human feelings, acknowledges the messiness of life, and lifts us up to a greater sense of purpose, of wholeness and of meaning.

I look forward to seeing you this evening at our combined Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat School service which will feature many of our youngsters connecting with us and with one another as they lead parts of our service!

Join us and you will be uplifted. Join us and you will be proud!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror