Tidbits of Torah


Shabbat Parashat Behar Omer Count: Day 35 What's The Plan? May 20, 2022 - 20 Iyyar 5782

2022-05-20 14:54:17 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Having recently returned from a scheduled Sabbatical, people ask me often: What’s the plan?  When you retire (in a year and a quarter), what will you do?  Where will you live?  Will you stay?  Will you go?  These are all natural questions.  My tendency is to say:  The beauty of retirement will be that I don’t have to have a plan!  But that is not entirely true…

This week’s Torah portion begins with a teaching about the Sabbatical year in the Land of Israel.  One might wonder:  What does this have to do with us?  We are not living in the Land of Israel.  We, for the most part, are not farmers.  And yet, there is a message for us in this teaching about the Sabbatical year.

The message is that we need to plan ahead, as individuals, as a congregation, as a community, and even as a nation.  While we don’t have to be able to forsee the future in exact detail, we do need to plan to some extent.  We need to plan how to live in accordance with our ideals.  We need to plan how we might implement those ideals.  We need to plan how we will relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor when the Sabbatical year arrives!  And then, we need to plan ahead again, looking toward the next Sabbatical year.  And we need to realize that every plan might need to be adjusted along the way.

So, why do we read about the Sabbatical year in the Land of Israel even though we do not live in Israel?

Think of the ongoing cycle of Sabbatical and of preparation for the Sabbatical year as the equivalent of the cycle of our lives.  In cyclical fashion, we live and we prepare for the next chapter of our lives.  Studying about the Sabbatical year in the Land of Israel is a great way for the Torah to get us thinking about our lives and how we might pause periodically to plan for the next chapter.  This is, after all, the way that we might make the most of the gift of life that has been granted to us!

So, what’s the plan?

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Emor Omer Count: Day 28 Back From Israel

2022-05-13 15:27:02 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Each day is a miracle.  Counting the Omer reminds us of that.  Each day counts.  Each day of my Sabbatical was a miracle.  Each day of being in Israel is a miracle.  Each day of being part of Jewish community is a miracle.  Each day of being back is also a miracle.  My time here is precious, as is your time!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers and staff who put in so much time and effort to keep services and events happening at RST during my Sabbatical – to the service leaders, torah readers, dvar Torah people, minyan and Shabbat and holiday service leaders and daveners [prayer participants], leadership and committees and more…Thank you!!!  You are all amazing!

As we count the Omer from the second night of Passover and onward, we look forward to the light of Torah which we will celebrate right after we conclude the 49 days of counting the Omer.

One of the highlights of my time in Israel was visiting the new Anu [We] Museum in Tel Aviv.  This is a complete overhaul and renewal of what used to be known as the Museum of the Diaspora.  In its new iteration, the museum is truly amazing!  On your next trip to Israel, be sure to pencil in time to go through this multi-media, interactive, exciting presentation of who we are as a people in Israel and in the world at large.

I am not a museum person, but I spent 4 hours in that museum and each time I thought I would call it a day, I found myself drawn into yet another part of the museum….Jewish music and Jewish musicians, Jewish art and Jewish artists, Jewish actors, directors, writers, Jewish humor, synagogue architecture, prayers, history and more.  And, finally, when I saw our very own Siddur Lev Shalem displayed, along with pictures of people that I know…I realized that I really need to come back and see more next time.

Visitors to the Anu Museum are invited to enter information and photographs about themselves and about their own congregation/s.  Think of how exciting it will be for us to be added to the glorious array of Jewish life presented in the Amu Museum!

As we continue to count our days toward Shavuot, Chag Matan Torah, the holiday of the Giving of the Torah, let us remember to keep moving toward the light of the good that is yet to come, toward the light of the ultimate redemption, and most especially, toward the light of joyous Jewish living.   We are all a part of that light!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Yitro We Are One January 21, 2022 - 20 Shevat 5782

2022-01-21 13:17:51 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Since my Sabbatical begins this Sunday, this will be the final Tidbits of Torah until I return from my Sabbatical on May 9th.  During my Sabbatical, I will be spending some time in Israel and I look forward to coming back refreshed!

This has been a difficult week and I want to reflect on the events that took place in Colleyville, Texas, in the context of our weekly Torah portion and share some of my thoughts with you.

In our Shabbat Mincha prayers we say: “You are One, and Your name is One, and who like Your people, Israel, are One.”

What does this mean?

It means that, You, God, are One.  But we, the Jewish people, are also One.  And, no matter how divided we may seem, we are all a part of one very unique and distinct people.

This past Shabbat, the events that took place in the synagogue in Collleyville, Texas, reminded us once again that we are, indeed, all a part of one very unique and distinct people.

Our tradition teaches us that we all stood at Mount Sinai and received the Torah.  Then, as now, each one of us receives Torah and understands it in accordance with our individual neshama [soul].   Nevertheless, then and now, we stand together and understand ourselves to be part of a whole people – part of something greater than ourselves.

This Shabbat, we read the weekly Torah portion of Yitro, including the Ten Commandments.  Traditionally, we stand for the reading of the Ten Commandments from the Torah scroll, symbolically connecting ourselves with the moment in which our people received Torah at Mount Sinai and with all the Jewish people the world-over, today.  We are One.

Then and now, we stand together, proud of our heritage and of our tradition, even as we take practical measures to protect ourselves from those who would wish to destroy us.

We do so because our Torah is beautiful.  We do so because our Torah is a Tree of Life.  We do so because our Torah is a source of inspiration and a guide as we navigate our individual and communal paths in a complex world.  Ashreinu, [How blessed are we] that we have Torah and we have community to embrace us, even as we embrace our Torah and our community.

May we always stand together, even as we hear and understand Torah in our unique and individual ways.

May we always be proud of our heritage and of our community.

And, may we always be blessed with loving connections that give us strength, courage, and inspiration, to continue working toward a time of ultimate redemption – a time of true and lasting peace – a time of true understanding and mutual respect among all the peoples of the world!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat B'Shalach Shabbat Shirah Miriam's Timbrel and Us January 14, 2022 - 13 Shevat 5782

2022-01-14 16:56:13 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

What does Miriam’s Timbrel have to do with us?

This week we will be reading the Song of the Sea which was recited right after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and saw that they were safe.  Moses and the Israelites sang the Song of the Sea.  Miriam took out her timbrel and led the women in her version of the song and dance in celebration of their redemption.

What can we learn from the fact that Miriam had her timbrel handy even immediately after all the tumultuous events of the Exodus?

The lesson of Miriam’s Timbrel is that we would do well to always be prepared to celebrate.  Even when the going is rough, as it was through the Exodus, Miriam kept her timbrel by her side, believing that redemption will happen.  Joy will come.   A time to celebrate awaits us.

This Shabbat, we will stand for the reading of the Song of the Sea, symbolizing our joy at the beginning of the redemption.  We will also celebrate the Simchat Bat, the baby naming, of Kevin and Naomh Hudon’s second daughter, and Maeve’s younger sister, Aine Rebecca Hudson. Mazal Tov to the Aine Rebecca Hudson’s entire family!

And, we look forward to this coming Monday, when we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the festive New Year of the Trees, Tu B’Shevat.

So, get your timbrels ready, because we have many reasons to celebrate on this Shabbat and in the days to come!

We have not reached the ultimate redemption yet, but like Miriam, we can celebrate good events along the way!

Looking forward to seeing you and to sharing as much good news as possible.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Bo Creativity Is A Plus January 7, 2022 - 6 Shevat 5782

2022-01-07 14:11:14 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

A stand out piece of our weekly Torah portion, to my mind, is what Moses says to Pharaoh in Exodus 10:25-26:

And Moses said: “You too shall give sacrifices and burnt offerings into our hands…And also our cattle will go with us; not a hoof will remain, for we will take from it to worship the Lord our God, and we do not know how we will worship the Lord until we arrive there.”

Especially in this most confusing time, when everything seems to change from day to day and sometimes from minute to minute, I find this passage most inspiring.  We cannot rely on rote.  Especially in prayer.  Yes, our prayerbook is our prayerbook, but, if we listen deeply, our souls infuse our prayer with new and relevant meaning each and every time we pick up our prayerbook.  We do not know, until the moment of prayer arrives, how we will experience the meeting of our minds and our souls with the words that are printed on the page of the prayerbook.  Each time we pray, we pray through the lens of our present moment.

It seems that even in prayer, even with a “fixed” prayerbook, creativity is a plus!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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