Tidbits of Torah

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A Yom Kippur Story
Shabbat and Yom Kippur
September 14, 2013 – 10 Tishrei 5774

A Yom Kippur Story

A Hasidic tale tells of a conversation between a Rabbi and a Soap Maker.
The Soap Maker was troubled by a theological conundrum.
“Rabbi,” he asked, puzzled, “why is it that we have been studying our sacred Torah for thousands of years?  It teaches us values of truth, kindness, compassion and love.  Yet, if we look at the world, all we see is lies, meanness, apathy and violence.  Why has not the Torah succeeded in helping us do teshuvah–changing our lives for the better?”
As the two were strolling along the street they came upon a young boy, dirty and grimy from head to foot.
Said the Rabbi to the Soap Maker:  “What good is the soap you make?  It has been around for years and years, and yet look at this dirty little boy.  Why hasn’t your soap helped to make little boys more clean and neat?”
The Soap Maker replied:  “Well, soap is no good unless you use it!”
“Aha!” replied the Rabbi.  “So it is with the Torah.  Unless we apply its teaching to our daily lives, and cleanse our immoral souls with its moral values, it is of no use.”
The U-Netaneh Tokef prayer teaches us that three things will help us change and purify our lives: Teshuvah, Tefillah, u-Tzedakah
.  However, they are useless unless we take them seriously, and put them into practice in our daily lives.

(taken from Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins’ book, Yom Kippur Readings, p. 151)

I take this opportunity to wish you an easy fast and a meaningful Yom Kippur.  May you and your loved ones be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year, and may this be a year of joy and of peace, and of fulfillment, for us, for all the people Israel, and for all people everywhere!

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Torah Tidbits

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The Last Shabbat of 5773 is the Most Precious of All!

Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim-VaYelech

August 31, 2013 – 25 Elul 5773

The Last Shabbat of 5773 is the Most Precious of All!

Every Shabbat is precious, but the last Shabbat of the Jewish year is the most precious of all.

Each week, at the end of the week, on the seventh day of the Jewish week, we celebrate Shabbat – a precious day which has the potential to center us, to remind us of our humanity, to restore our spirits, to bring us closer to God, to family, and to community.

How much more precious is the last Shabbat of the Jewish year!

On this Shabbat, we read the Torah portions of Nitzavim and VaYelech.

Nitzavim [standing; present; upright] represents our individual and our collective presence in the moment – our participation in the Covenant of our people with God.

VaYelech [And he went…] represents our acknowledgment of the power of forward motion.  We are present in the moment but we are also in motion.  We look forward to the new year.

Our tradition reminds us that it is never too late to celebrate Shabbat.  Even if we have missed opportunities to celebrate other Shabbatot during the past year, we still have the opportunity to make this final Shabbat our own.  We can still decide to give Shabbat a special place in our lives – to make Shabbat a time in which we remind ourselves of who we are and why we were created.

And, just as it is never too late to take ownership of the gift of Shabbat, it is never too late to make the most of the upcoming Days of Awe – of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.

It is never too late to seize the moment and to remind ourselves that we have hope for the future; that we believe that our lives can have meaning and significance in this world; that we can believe in the power of good decisions to stand up for good and for justice, for mercy and for love, and to help us come together to create a better world.

I look forward to seeing you at Rodef Sholom Temple on this last Shabbat of the Jewish year of 5773 – the most precious Shabbat of all!

Let us stand together and let us determine to move forward together toward a better future for all of us, for all the people Israel, and for all people everywhere!

I hope you will join us for an unusually thought provoking and spiritually moving Selichot program and service at Rodef Sholom Temple on this Saturday night at  9 p.m. and I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a Shana tova u’metukah – a good year filled with sweetness and joy.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

 

Torah Tidbits

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Never Underestimate the Power of a Few Small Blessings!
Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo
August 24, 2013 – 18 Elul 5773

Never Underestimate the Power of a Few Small Blessings!

It is so easy to complain about what is missing in our lives.  It is so easy to enumerate all the things that we wish were different in our society.  And, in truth, it is important for us to be able to identify our own failings, to name our shortcomings, and to acknowledge the failings of our society as a whole.  How else could we ever hope to improve the situation?

The Season of Repentence, which intensifies as we go through the Jewish month of Elul, challenges us to do just that – to identify shortcomings and to resolve to improve the situation in the coming year.

In aid of this mission, the lesson of Ki Tavo, our weekly Torah portion, is simple.

No matter how long the list of shortcomings, challenges, and even curses in our own lives and in our surroundings – there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

May we never lose sight of the blessings, and of the potential for blessing, that may at times be obscured by difficulties we encounter in life.

May we never underestimate the power of a few small blessings to lift up our spirits – to enable us to see beyond our shortcomings – and to help us focus on what we can do to make this world a better world for ourselves and for those around us.

May we be blessed with the light of hope and of spiritual renewal as we recall our convenant with God, the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt, and the promise of the eventual completion of the ongoing redemptive process for us, for all of Israel, and for all people everywhere.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Gilah Dror