Tidbits of Torah


Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim September 23, 2022 - 28 Elul 5782 Shana Tova!

2022-09-23 12:41:19 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

As we approach this final Shabbat of 5782 and prepare to welcome the new Jewish year of 5783, I would like to wish all of us a Shana Tova u’metukah – a sweet and a good year, filled with joy and blessings! And, I look forward to seeing many of you at services on the High Holy Days.

Our weekly Torah portion of Nitzavim mentions that we are all part of the Covenant – “The heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, every person of Israel, your young children, your women and your convert who is within your camp, both your woodcutters and your water drawers.”  (Deut. 29:9-10).

All of us count.  All of us are important.  All of us play a part of being a community inspired by Torah –  then and now.

So….to all of us, a Shana Tova u’metukah !

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tetse September 9, 2022 - 14 Elul 5782 Consolation and Hope

2022-09-09 14:29:27 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Queen Elizabeth’s reign lasted for 70 years!  She was an amazing human being who stood tall through thick and thin, through good times and bad times, through periods of war and of peace, through political ups and downs, through family issues, sorrows and celebrations.

Queen Elizabeth passed away as we read the weekly Torah portion of Ki Tetse, a reflection of her life and legacy.   Our portion is filled with mitzvoth that help us to navigate personal and communal life through situations of war and peace, through times of strife and joyous ocassions, through all the ups and downs of daily life including commerce,spirituality and all manner of challenges and opportunities.

The major theme that connects all of these mitzvoth and runs through the entire Torah portion is that of human dignity.  We must do our best to find and to maintain human dignity in difficult situations, at home, in community, in our professional and personal circles.  It is definitely a challenge.  Finding our center, finding the right way forward is not easy.  And, each one of us faces our unique and ever-changing situation in our own way.  But, Torah helps us to thrive, to cope, to hope, and, when needed, to console one another, as we navigate our lives.  Each one of our lives is precious whether we are well-known, as the Queen has been, or whether we are anonymous.  We are all present in the eyes of God.

As we read the fifth Haftarah of Consolation this week, we remember the prophet Isaiah’s words:

For the mountains may move
And the hills be shaken,
But my loyalty shall never move from you,
Nor my covenant of friendship be shaken
–said the Lord, who takes you back in love.
(Isaiah 54:10)

May we be there for one another, giving strength, hope, and consolation when needed, and may we sense God’s presence in each of our lives as we move toward the new Jewish year of 5783!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Shof'tim September 2, 2022 - 7 Elul 5782 Reflecting On Our Inner Selves

2022-09-02 12:24:26 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Our Torah Portion of Shof’tim [Judges] begins with the words: “You shall place judges and magistrates for yourself at all of your gates…”.

Isn’t this obvious?  Of course, we need to have a system of justice in our society in order to maintain a just society.

Nevertheless, as this Torah Portion is read at the beginning of Elul, the month of “introspection” leading up to the High Holy Days, our Sages read a deeper meaning into these words.

In their thinking, “all your gates” refers not to the physical gates of our city or of our society in general, but rather to our individual gates; to our ears which open us up to the sounds of the world around us, and to our mouths which communicate our thoughts to the world around us!

What does it mean to place judges at all of y/our individual gates?  It means that we should do our best to judge justly the things that we hear and the things that we chose to communicate to others.

Similarly, one might note the repetition of the word Tzedek [justice] in the verse Tzedek tzedek tirdof [Justice justice shall you pursue] which appears just two verses later in our Torah Portion.

Why is the word “justice” repeated twice?  Perhaps it is to teach us that we should judge our own state of justice or injustice first.  Only after that, should we consider the state of justice or injustice in the world around us.

And so….perhaps, rather than describing Elul and a month of “introspection”, we might benefit by thinking of Elul as a month of “inner-spection”.  If we do our best to improve our individual inner spiritual state, together we will, hopefully, be better able to create a more just society around us.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Re'eh Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Elul - Day 1 August 26, 2022 - 30 Av 5782 It's A New Day!

2022-08-26 16:11:54 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Rosh Chodesh Elul begins tonight and the month of Elul begins on Saturday night!  We are just one month away from Rosh HaShana….Every day of the month of Elul, beginning this Sunday morning, you will receive a brief spiritual email message from RST to help us get into the spirit of the High Holy Days.  May this new month of Elul help us to usher in a new-found spirit of teshuva – that is: a time of re-evaluating,  re-thinking and re-directing our lives.  And may this process bring us true spiritual joy and health.

Please note that you will not receive the daily Elul messages on Shabbat throughout the month of Elul.  On Shabbat, please join us for services either in person or online to enhance your spiritual preparations for the upcoming new Jewish year.

This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Elul and every Rosh Chodesh is a “mini” opportunity to reflect more deeply on our lives and on our Torah.  How much more so when we are approaching the month of Elul – the month of introspection.

Our weekly Torah portion begins with the Hebrew word Re’eh – which in English means:  See! (in the singlular form of the verb).  Each one of us is charged with doing our utmost to see the best path forward.

The Torah then continues speaking to us in the plural, as a community.

Our Sages, noting the sudden switch from the singular to the plural in the very same verse of Torah remark that the Torah is teaching us that just because many others think in a certain way, we are still obligated to use our own minds, hearts, and souls to ascertain the best path forward.  Yes, we are supposed to be a part of community.  But, no, we are not turning over our moral responsibility to others.

We  are a part of community for the good we can accomplish together with others.  But, we must speak out when our understanding of what is good differs significantly from the currently held views of others.  That is the essence of spiritual accountability and growth.

It’s a new day!  It’s a new month!  And it is time for us to begin anew to assess our place in the world and the purpose of our lives, individually, and as a community, as we move toward a new Jewish year.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov [A Good Month]!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Ekev Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh

2022-08-19 12:11:17 RST Web Admin

This Shabbat we will be reciting the Blessing of the new Jewish Month of Elul – the month of preparation for the High Holy Days.  Rosh Chodesh Elul will be a week from now – beginning on Friday night, August 26th, and continuing on the following Saturday and Sunday.  This Shabbat, a full week in advance of Elul, we are reminded that our month of intense spiritual preparation is about to begin….

What is this preparation, and preparation for the preparation, all about?

A hint is found in this week’s Torah portion of Ekev where we read [Deuteronomy 8:10]: “V’achalta, v’sa’va’ta u’veyrachta et Adonai Elohecha” – You shall eat and be sated and bless the Lord Your God.  This verse is the basis for the mitzvah [commandment] of Birkat HaMazon – the Blessing After the Meal.  And, it is a wonderful and beneficial spiritual practice in which we constantly remind ourselves of the power of gratitude even for the most basic of our needs – even for our food.  We express our gratitude to God each and every time right after we eat and are sated!

Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch remarks that God gives us food to eat so that we will have the energy to redefine ourselves anew each day in light of God’s vision for us.  When we recognize that the food we eat is a gift from God, it helps us to be our best selves.

Simply knowing, intellectually, or believing, theologically, that God is the source of our life, and of our food, is not as helpful as reminding ourselves of this at every opportunity.  By adopting the spiritual practice of expressing our gratitude in Birkat HaMazon, we reinforce a broader practice of gratitude in life – gratitude to God, to family, to friends, and to community.  And, we are able to better discern who we are, who we have become, and who we want to be as we move forward throughout our lives.

May our moments of preparation and our spiritual practice of gratitude lead us to moments of greater blessing and inner peace in life.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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