Tidbits of Torah


Shabbat Parashat Tazria-Metsora Healing Rituals: Then and Now

2021-04-16 12:22:45 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

I think you would agree with me that this year we have all experienced a measure of “isolation,” of social distancing hoisted upon us not of our own choosing, and pain of all sorts. Our lives have been filled with “messiness.” We may feel tired, frustrated, or confused. We are searching for a way “back.”

It is exactly these kinds of feelings that we read about in our double Torah portion of Tazria-Metsora. Whether it is the experience of childbirth, or an illness, or a sense of having failed someone special, or ourselves, whatever the cause, at times, we may feel alienated from one another, or from God, or even from ourselves.

The question the ancients grappled with in our double Torah portion, and the question we too may be grappling with, is: How to come closer to God and/or to one another after we experience a difficult encounter, a “blemish” on our skin…perhaps a “blemish” on our reputation, or on our sense of self? How can we return to a path of healing, of holiness, after we have been aching physically or spiritually?

It seems that, in ancient times, rituals, coupled with human compassion, played a big part in helping our ancestors to heal, to come closer to one another, and to come closer to God. And, if you ask me, the same is true for us today.

We have been aching. Now, let us learn from our holy Torah about the healing power of rituals, and let us help one another re-enter the paths of connection – the paths of healing and of holiness.

At Rodef Sholom Temple, we have never closed our doors. We have responded to life’s messiness by opening new paths in which we can connect to one another and to God through powerful Jewish rituals. Inspired by our holy Torah, we have opened new paths to strengthen one another. We have found ways to validate one another. And, I, for one, give thanks that, in Jewish tradition, our shared human quest for holiness addresses our very human feelings, acknowledges the messiness of life, and lifts us up to a greater sense of purpose, of wholeness and of meaning.

I look forward to seeing you this evening at our combined Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat School service which will feature many of our youngsters connecting with us and with one another as they lead parts of our service!

Join us and you will be uplifted. Join us and you will be proud!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Posted in: Tidbits of Torah Read more... 0 comments

Shabbat Parashat Shemini Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Remembrance and Rejoicing

2021-04-11 17:06:30 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

This week, we are moving through Holocaust Remembrance Day even as we read the Torah Portion of Shemini. This Shabbat, in addition to our usual prayers, we will recite the prayer for the new Jewish month of Iyyar. Rosh Chodesh Iyyar will be on Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday of this coming week. May it be a month of blessing and of comfort.

And, during this coming week, we will mark Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, followed immediately by the celebration of Yom HaAtazmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.

And so, once again, we are thrust from celebration of new beginnings (Rosh Chodesh), to mourning our losses (Yom HaZikaron), and immediately thereafter to celebrating the rebirth of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel (Yom HaAtzmaut). Join us for a celebratory Zoom 8 a.m. Thursday morning minyan on April 15th, when we will chant Hallel and a special Yom HaAtzmaut Torah reading and Haftarah!

This week’s Torah portion, Shemini, begins with a huge celebration of the newly consecrated Sanctuary in the desert. In the midst of this greatly anticipated celebration, our parsha continues with the tragic story of the death of two of Aaron’s sons. We are reminded by our Torah reading of the melding of remembrance and of rejoicing both in our personal and in our communal lives.

The essence of coming together every day in prayer, specifically in a minyan, where in the natural course of events some of us are celebrating while some of us are saying kaddish, is the essence of Jewish affirmation of God no matter what we face individually in our lives. We are there for one another in happiness and in sadness. And, we are there to affirm God’s presence in our individual and communal lives.

May our presence for, and with, one another give us all the strength and the comfort we need to help us reach new peaks of rejoicing, new moments of belonging, and renewed horizons of hope!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Posted in: Tidbits of Torah Read more... 0 comments

Shabbat Seventh Day of Passover Beloved, Beautiful, Black Yizkor

2021-04-02 17:22:03 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat we will have a virtual Friday night service followed by a virtual Shabbat morning service on Saturday morning. During our virtual Saturday morning service, we will recite the Yizkor prayer. But, we will also read the traditional Torah reading for the Seventh Day of Passover, including the Song of the Sea. This special Song, celebrates the culmination of the first stage of the Exodus from Egypt.

Only after crossing the Red Sea – only after the parting of the waters of the sea, a miracle allowing our people to truly escape the Egyptian armies – did our people breathe a sigh of relief and sing God’s praises using the phrase: “Mi kamocha ba’elim Adonai” Who is like you among the gods, God?”. Only then did our people begin to comprehend God’s powerful message of redemption and of liberation. Only then did our people understand that God wants us to be partners in the on-going work of redemption in our world. Only then did our people realize that we have a mission to fulfill in the world – to be a true light unto the nations.

And, on the Seventh Day of Passover, tradition has us read the Biblical “Song of Songs” – the romantic love story between a shepherdess and her lover – a story that Rabbi Akiva re-interpreted to be a love story between God and the people of Israel. In that Biblical love story, the woman describes hershelf, saying: “Shechora ani v’na’avah” “I am black and I am beautiful.” In the Song of Songs, the shepherdess is expressing her sense of being seen as “different”. She is defiantly stating that she, too, is beautiful, that she, too, is worthy of being beloved.

These days, when Springtime is in the air, when we celebrate Passover, the holiday of redemption, of liberation, of hope and of new beginnings – when we see the burgeoning of new blossoms, new flowers, of renewed grass and of abundant sunshine – we also must remember our mission as Jews.

What is our mission as Jews?

To help move our society closer and closer to the ultimate fulfillment of the redemption that began with the Exodus from Egypt.

Our society still treats Black people as different from White people. Our society still relates to Asian Americans as different from White Americans. And, although the difference may or may not be visible to the naked eye, many in our society still relate to Jews as different from other Americans.

On this holiday of redemption, of hope, of liberation, of Springtime, of renewal, let us remember that the visible and invisible differences between human beings do not make us or them any more or less children of the One God, the creator of all human beings.

Let us rededicate ourselves to working as God’s partners to bring about more respect, more love, more inclusion, more understanding, more justice and more peace into our world. And, may we be privileged to see the fulfillment of the redemptive process and to sing more songs of praise of God who has inspired us to be better human beings in a kinder and more inclusive world – speedily and in our days!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Posted in: Tidbits of Torah Read more... 0 comments

Shabbat Parashat Tsav Four New Questions for the Seder Shabbat HaGadol (Erev Pesach)

2021-03-26 12:08:27 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

We approach Passover this year with the understanding that not all is well in the world around us. It has been a truly difficult year. This is the second Passover that we are experiencing under the shadow of the pandemic. Yes, the shadow is lifting. But, it is still with us.

And now, we have just heard the news of two mass shootings that occurred in the United States of America this past week.

The Exodus story, which we celebrate on Passover and recount during the Seder/s, is the beginning of the story of the redemption of our people from slavery. But, the trek to the Promised Land was a long and treacherous trek. It had its ups and downs. Despite the ups and downs, the vision of true and lasting freedom and the hope of the fulfillment of that vision, is what has kept our people going both in ancient times and throughout the generations.

Today, in our imperfect world, we are still on a continuum of the journey that began with the Exodus – the journey from slavery to freedom.

There is, clearly, still a way to go until we will all be able to see the ultimate fulfillment of the vision of our prophets – a vision of universal peace, of justice, of respect and of kindness.

Yet, along the way, we celebrate and we recall the promise of the Exodus, especially as we read the time honored words of the Haggadah.

There are, as you know, four traditional questions in the Haggadah which children (or adults) ask during the Seder.

This year, I suggest that we add four new questions to our Seder, and that we take the time to discuss them on Passover:

In the Haggadah, we say: Every one of us should see ourselves as if we were redeemed from Egyptian slavery.

First Question: This year, in what ways am I personally, or are we, communally, free? In what way/s am I, or are we, still enslaved.

In the Haggadah, we say: We are telling the story of our people beginning with the difficult stuff, and we end up by telling of our successes.

Second Question: This year, where would I place myself, or my community, on the continuum that stretches from enslavement to true and lasting freedom?

In the Haggadah, we say: Dayenu – it would have been enough.

Third Question: This year, what am I personally, or are we, communally, able to say with a full heart that I/we am/are grateful for?

In the Haggadah, we say: Next year in Jerusalem.

Fourth Question: This year, what step/s can I/we envision for ourselves to bring us closer to our vision of Jerusalem, to a place of wholeness, to a place of true and lasting peace?

I hope you enjoy thinking, considering, and discussing these questions, either as part of your Seder or throughout the entire Passover holiday. And may our Passover celebration bring us to a spiritual place of greater strength, greater hope and greater fulfillment this year and in years to come!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach – a kosher, and a sweet and a very happy Passover to you and to your loved ones!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Posted in: Tidbits of Torah Read more... 0 comments

Shabbat Parashat Vayikra Filling in the Blanks (and see "Pesah Tips 5781" below) March 20, 2021 - 7 Nisan 5781

2021-03-19 15:02:53 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

We are used to having to fill in the blank on so many forms that we use both online and offline. The forms exist. They are prepared for us. All we have to do is fill in the blanks.

“Filling in the blanks” is often a thoughtless process – one that we do by rote – or by using “autofill” options. But, at other times, filling in the blanks can be a very thought provoking process. It can be frustrating when it is difficult or it can be pleasing when it is effortless. It can be earth shattering when we are forced to contemplate questions we have been ignoring. Or, it can be life affirming when we realize the vast options that lie before us. The act of “filling in the blanks” can be so much more than mechanical.

Our Sages taught us that there is wisdom in our Torah portion’s physical “layout.” In this week’s Torah portion of Vayikra, there are significantly noticeable blank spaces between the various teachings about the sacrifices.

Why so many blank spaces?

It has been suggested that without the blank spaces, we would simply read the Torah’s instructions without taking the time to contemplate their deeper meanings! The blank spaces are there to remind us to take time to think, to use our minds, to open our hearts, to engage with the Torah in real time in our own lives. The blank spaces are as holy as the written letters and words of Torah. They are there to enable us to connect with our tradition, bringing ourselves and our lives, our experience and our questions, our fears, our hopes and our dreams, in contact with the eternity of Torah.

I am so grateful that we have blank spaces in our world, in our prayerbooks, and in our Torah. And, as we approach Passover, and the Seder experience, it is my hope and prayer that we notice the blank spaces in our Haggaddahs!

Let us breathe life into the re-telling of the story of our Exodus, filling in the blanks of the Haggaddah, and taking advantage of those blank spaces to personalize and to uplift our Passover and Seder experience, for ourselves and for our children, for our elders and for our guests. Let us enjoy and share the joy of “filling in the blanks” for the best Seder ever!

On this Shabbat and on every day, for the gift of sharing our experiences and mingling them with the experiences of our ancestors, I give thanks.

Reminder: See Pesah Tips 5781 below….

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

Pesah Tips 5781

Dear Friends,

 Following are some tips on traditional Passover observances:

 In preparation for Passover, please remember that you should not risk your life or endanger the lives of others in order to fulfill a mitzvah.

Please see the updated Rabbinical Assembly Pesah Guide https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/2021-02/Pesah%20Guide%205781.pdf.

To sell your Hametz this year please use the Rabbinical Assembly website.  Please go to https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/webform/sale-hametz.  And, please note that the RA form for sale of Hametz will only be available until 8:00 a.m. on Friday, March 26th.


Because the first Seder begins on Saturday night, there are some changes in the timetable of observances leading up to Passover. So, for instance, this year the Fast of the Firstborn (which is usually observed on the Eve of Passover) will be on Thursday, March 25th, two days prior to Passover because we do not fast on Shabbat, nor do we fast on Friday!

Thursday morning, March 25th!

Ta’anit Bekhorim (Fast of the Firstborn) – This daytime fast applies to the firstborn of either a mother or father. If you participate in a siyyum, completion of study of a tractate of rabbinic literature, this may be followed by a se’udat mitavah, a meal accompanying the performance of a mitzvah. Here, the performance of the mitzvah is the completion of study. All firstborn in attendance at a siyyum are then permitted to eat! 

If you would like to join a virtual siyum on Thursday, March 25th at 8:00 a.m., please sign up in advance on the RA website for Rabbi Mordy Schwartz’s Siyum Behorim on [ insert subject] by clicking on the following url: https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/civicrm/event/register?id=1331&reset=1

Thursday Evening, March 25th

Bedikat Hametz – (Search for leaven): This is customarily done on the night before Passover immediately after sunset, but because Passover begins on Saturday night, it is done a day earlier than usual!

This ritual is especially effective and enjoyable for children…This is what we do:

a) Make sure all Hametz has been removed or locked away, with the exception of    what will be needed for the morning for early breakfast…

b)Place several pieces of bread (of visible size) in various locations throughout the house.

c) Make the following blessing: Baruch ata Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al biur Hametz. Then, proceed (traditionally with lighted candle, feather or brush and a box or cloth for the bread collected) to look for any leaven that may be found in the house.

d) After all the bread pieces are found and gathered, make the following declaration: “All manner of leaven that is in my possession which I have not seen or have not removed, or have no knowledge of, shall be null and disowned as the dust of the earth.”

Friday Morning – March 26th

Biur Hametz (Disposing of the Hametz)–The container of hametz, gathered the evening before, is to be burned. The burning of the hamtez should be completed by the fifth hour after sunrise. No blessing or nullification is recited on Friday. Instead, a modified version of the nullification will be recited on Saturday morning before the fifth hour after sunrise. (See Saturday Morning details below.)

Please note: If you are unable to safely burn the Hametz, dispose of it in the trash bin outside your home.  

Shabbat before Pesah:

For the Shabbat evening and afternoon meals, recite hamotzi over 2 full pieces of egg matzah (just as you would normally over 2 loaves of challah). Eat egg matzah as desired throughout the meals. You may continue to eat egg matzah throughout Shabbat until 5/6 of the daylight period has passed.

Saturday Morning – March 27th

Before the fifth hour after sunrise, a slightly modified version of the formula for nullification of hametz is recited, as follows: “Any leaven that may still be in the house, which I have or have not seen, which I have or have not removed, shall be as if it does not exist, and as the dust of the earth.”

Preparation for Yom Tov:

On Yom Tov, kindling a new fire is not permitted; however, the use of an existing fire for cooking or other purposes is permitted. To light candles for Yom Tov (Saturday and Sunday nights) ensure that you have a fire burning before candle lighting time for Shabbat that will continue to burn until after dark on Saturday, and one that will continue to burn until after dark on Sunday. You may use a burning candle that lasts for more than 25 hours or a pilot light on a gas range.

On Saturday night light the candles after Shabbat ends. When lighting the candles, we recite the blessings: “Barukh Attah Adonai eloheynu melekh ha-olam asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Yom Tov” and “…Shehecheyanu…”

On Sunday night, after dark, light the candles from the existing fire. Recite the blessings: “Barukh Attah Adonai eloheynu melekh ha-olam asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Yom Tov” and “…Shehecheyanu…”

Most importantly, have a wonderful, happy, healthy and kosher Pesah and may this year be a year of true redemption and peace for us and for all of Israel and for all peoples everywhere!

Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy and Kosher Passover!

Posted in: Tidbits of Torah Read more... 0 comments