Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Yitro How Quickly We Forget! Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh

Dear Friends,

One might wonder: Why is our Torah portion, Yitro, named after a non-Jew? Yitro, Moses’ father-in-law, was a Midianite priest. Yet, our Sages named this entire Torah portion – which contains the story of the momentous event of our people receiving of the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai – after Yitro, the Midianite priest!

One might say that this is to remind us that despite the centrality of Torah in our lives, we can also learn important lessons from non-Jewish, external, sources. The Torah is “wisdom”. But, it is not the exclusive source of wisdom.

Moses learned a lot from Yitro. Seeing Moses trying to adjudicate the people’s disputes all by himself and sitting on the bench from morning to night, Yitro suggested a judicial system which allowed Moses to share the judicial burden with other appointed judges. Moses accepted Yitro’s advice and followed it.

But, it is very interesting that, later, Moses seems to have forgotten that Yitro was the source of his wisdom in how to set up the judicial system.

In Deuteronomy 1:9-15 when Moses retells the story of the events that led up to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, Moses never mentions Yitro! In fact, Moses takes all the credit for figuring out that he needed to appoint others to help him carry the burden of leadership of the people.

It is especially notable that the Torah lets us know that Moses, our greatest teacher of Torah and the most humble of people, forgets to give credit to Yitro when he recounts the trek of our people in the desert.

Perhaps, this is why our Sages named our Torah portion, Yitro. Perhaps they realized how quickly we, human beings, tend to forget those who help us. And, how quickly we forget that there is wisdom outside of Torah, as well as wisdom in Torah! Perhaps, our Sages wanted us to remember these essential facts and so they emphasized Yitro’s name. Lest we forget.

And, let’s not forget that this Shabbat we will be reciting the prayer for the new Jewish month of Adar! Rosh Chodesh Adar will be on Thursday night, Friday and Shabbat of this coming week.

May it be a month of health, of joy (Purim is in Adar), of wisdom and of remembering and giving credit to those who help us!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat B’Shallach Styles of Praise and of Prayer Shabbat Shira

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat is called “Shabbat Shira [the Shabbat of Song]” because we read the Song of the Sea which our people recited after they experienced the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.

There are actually two Songs of the Sea recorded in our Torah portion: one led by Moses; the other led by Miriam. And, the comparison of the two Songs of the Sea is an interesting study in contrasts.

Moses’ song is wordy. It is a lengthy and literary personal expression of praise and of prayer. And, it references history, philosophy, theology, faith, emotion, and joy.

Miriam’s song is short and sweet. It may be likened to a mantra or a meditation. It invites the people to participate in the song in celebration of the miracle they had just witnessed and it was accompanied by dance and by drumming.

Moses and Miriam: Two great leaders of our people. Two completely different styles of expression of praise and of prayer.

To this day, we Jews, incorporate both styles of expression in our prayer services. Some congregations lean more to one style than to the other. Neither style is more authentic. Both are solidly rooted in our history and in our tradition.

Food for thought…..If you have a preference for one style over the other, which style is closer to your heart? Do you consistently lean toward one style more than the other, or do you prefer one style at times and the other style at other times? And how does your preference, or preferences, reflect your neshama – your particular soul?

Whatever we prefer, may our personal and communal songs – expressions of praise and prayers – be acceptable to God.

And, may all of our prayers be answered for the good!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Shabbat Parashat Bo Being Seen and Being Heard

Dear Friends,

I think we all know what a difference it makes to each one of us when we feel that we are seen and heard by those around us, even as we disagree with one another. Equally important is our own willingness to be there for others – whether we agree or disagree with them – to make them feel seen and heard.

We read in our Torah portion about the plague of darkness that fell upon the Egyptians in Egypt, just prior to the Exodus. It took that moment when the Egyptians were simply unable to see one another, nor to see the Israelites, that brought about the huge transformation and the willingness of the Egyptians to see the Israelites “in a new light” when the plague of darkness was removed. From that point in time in the story of the Exodus, it became clear that change for the good was possible.

As we move forward, with a new President and administration, let us remember the message of our Parsha, and of the story of the Exodus and of the redemption from slavery, on the importance of being seen and heard. Each one of us wants to feel seen and heard. Let us also remember to let our neighbors – who may or may not see things our way – know that we are there for them and that we are willing to see and hear them.

And, may a new light shine upon all of us as we move forward into the future.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror