Tidbits of Torah


Shabbat Parashat Tetsaveh Shushan Purim Showing Up!

2021-03-01 13:28:52 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

There were over 60 Zoom windows for our online Purim celebration on Thursday night! Yasher koach to this wonderful congregation and to all the volunteers who helped make this Purim extra special!!!!

While we are still in the Purim spirit, I note how wonderful this congregation really is by comparing our “showing up” in large numbers to the Purim celebration (as well as to our twice weekly online morning minyanim and to our weekly Torah study session) to the perpetual lighting of the Ner Tamid, the eternal, or perpetual, light described in our weekly Torah portion. No matter the weather, no matter the conditions, no matter the challenges, the High Priest was to light the eternal/perpetual light every single day of the year. The High Priest had to “show up” every single day! The Hebrew word Tamid, in the phrase Ner Tamid, means “always”. The High Priest had to show up, always.

Today, we don’t have a High Priest. We have a congregation filled with wonderful folks. And, what we learn from our weekly parsha is that we really need to “show up” to create a holy space for community….and, I am happy to say that we are blessed because our community does just that!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Terumah Shabbat Zakhor A Work in Progress

2021-02-19 18:12:15 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

It’s the Shabbat before Purim! I hope you join us for our online Megillah reading this coming Thursday evening and join in the fun! There will be costumes, a Purim Shpiel and, of course, the reading of the Megillah!

Thanks to all the volunteers who are working so hard to make all of this happen and thanks in advance to you all for coming to our Purim Megillah reading! And, if you can come to our Purim Megillah Zoom in costume, please do! It will just increase the fun for yourself and for everyone else. Whether you come to the Purim Megillah Zoom in costume, or not, I look forward to seeing you all online on Thursday night.

This Shabbat, the Shabbat before Purim, Shabbat Zakhor, is also the 2nd of 4 special Shabbatot that precede Passover. It is the time when we read the special maftir reading of Shabbat Zakhor (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). In this special reading, we recall the cowardly attack of the Amalekites on our people’s weakest stragglers as we traveled through the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. We are commanded to remember the story of Amalek and to blot out the memory of Amalek’s name.

How can we both remember and blot out the memory?

It seems that what we are to blot out is not the memory of the Amalek story but, rather, the phenomenon of human beings attacking, preying on, or taking advantage of the weak and the “stragglers” in society.

On Purim, we read about Haman, a descendant of Amalek, and we “blot out his name” by sounding our groggers when his name is pronounced during the Megillah reading. But, what we are really doing is reminding ourselves that the tendency to take advantage of the weakest elements of society is still within us, individually, and as a society. We are reminding ourselves that we still have work to do. We are all a work in progress.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Mishpatim Rosh Chodesh Adar - Day 2 Shabbat Shekalim Holy People

2021-02-12 13:17:05 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

All of the laws of Mishpatim support the Torah’s central idea that we are encouraged to strive for holiness through our human interactions with one another, as well as through our human actions as they relate to our connection to God.

Human interactions are intended to raise us up beyond the realm of the animal world. We human beings are all created in God’s image and we are to treat one another accordingly. Therefore, we seek justice, honesty, fairness, and generally a sense of responsibility in our dealings with one another. So, for example, we read: “You must not carry false rumors, you shall not join hands with the guilty to act as a malicious witness.” (Exodus 23:1)

Human actions, unrelated to our relationship with other human beings, are also intended to raise us up beyond the realm of the animal world. So, for example we read: “V’anshei kodesh t’hiyun li...You shall be holy people to Me: you must not eat flesh torn by beasts in the field; you shall cast it to the dogs.” (Exodus 22:30). This teaching, as other teachings that outline the world of keeping kosher, does not teach us how to relate to one another. It teaches us how to control our very human appetites. At the same time, it is a spiritual exercise demonstrating our acceptance of God’s ultimate “ownership” of the world. We are “guests” in God’s world. Therefore, we eat only what God decides to offer us – only what God defines as “kosher” – not simply anything that we are able to find. This is a wonderful level of holiness for which we can all strive.

And…. a chasidic interpretation of “Anshei kodesh” also points us to an additional level of holiness. Although the phrase “Anshei kodesh” is literally “holy humans”, it may be interpreted in this way, as well: Strive to be a holy humans by keeping kosher, but beyond that, strive to be holy and humane. Let us not strive for holiness at the expense of humaneness. Instead, let us strive for humane holiness. This is the ultimate challenge of Mishpatim – how to be in relationship with others and well as with God, while exhibiting the very best aspects of our human/humane nature.

May it be so!

And now for a public service announcement…..

Our Sages teach us:

When the Jewish month of Adar begins,

so does the fun!

We are already looking forward to celebrating Purim together

in just two weeks time!


See you then!

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Yitro How Quickly We Forget! Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh

2021-02-05 13:31:52 RST Web Admin

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

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

2021-01-29 13:20:57 RST Web Admin

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

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Men’s Club Kosher-for-Passover Wine Sale

The Men’s Club announces its annual Kosher-for-Passover wine sale!

There will be a wine tasting and ordering during the Purim “Shindig in Shushan” on Saturday night, February 23, 2013. The order deadline is March 1, 2013.

Checks should be made payable to the RST Men’s Club. The point of contact is Steve Meyerson at 874-8550 or steve.meyerson@cox.net