Tidbits of Torah


Shabbat Parashat Lech-Lecha Be A Blessing!

2021-10-15 14:28:04 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

I so appreciate it when I hear the words: Have a blessed day! Truly, I appreciate it. Especially since Covid changed our lives so much, I have grown to appreciate the simplest kindly human interactions as enormously precious.

Still, the phrase “Have a blessed day” often is meant to imply that blessing is bestowed upon us from some external place or from some external power and, no doubt, it may, at times, be so.

Yet, in our weekly Torah portion of Lech-Lecha, God says to Abraham: V’heyeh beracha [You shall be a blessing!]. What an awesome thought! Rather than depend on some external place or power to bestow blessing upon us or hope that it will be so, we, as Abraham’s descendants, are blessed to “be a blessing.

What does that mean?

To my mind, to “be a blessing” means to greet each person, each opportunity in life, each moment, with a realization that our attitude makes a huge impact on the world around us. If we make the effort to speak in kindness to others, if we reflect our appreciation of the opportunities that are presented to us, if we meet the “moment” with a combined sense of humility and of awe then we, ourselves, may hope to truly be a blessing!

I hope we will take God’s words to Abraham: “You shall be a blessing”, as a gift to each and every one of us, and may we all be blessed “from above” as well as “from within.”

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot Ending on a High Note and Beginning Again!

2021-09-27 18:47:54 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

If this is Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot (the Intermediate Shabbat of Sukkot), then Simchat Torah must be right around the corner! And it is!!!

On this coming Tuesday morning we will gather for our Shmini Atzeret service and Yizkor, and that night, on Tuesday night, we will gather for our evening Simchat Torah service. And….Our morning Simchat Torah service will take place on Wednesday of this coming week.

Simchat Torah will wrap up our High Holy Day season and we will end the annual Torah reading cycle and begin anew on that special holiday!

Did you realize that Simchat Torah (Rejoicing with the Torah) is the latest Jewish holiday to be added to our Jewish calendar (except for Israel Independence Day and Holocaust remembrances)? There is no mention of Simchat Torah as a holiday in the Bible. There is no mention of it in the Talmud. It is a later (Rabbinic) addition to our Jewish calendar. Yet, in our generations, Simchat Torah is the one Jewish holiday that was almost universally known to Jews in the Soviet Union and was celebrated as a symbol of Jewish identity!

This year, we will celebrate Simchat Torah in person with a Zoom option for those who choose to celebrate from home. We will modify the service in the Sanctuary so that those who choose to celebrate in person will feel safe in community. We will not process with the Torah. We will sing songs (in place) for the seven hakafot, and we will demonstrate our love of Torah and our flexibility and resilience by doing so! We will end the High Holy Days on a High Note and we will Begin Again!

I am happy that we have been able to provide in person services while keeping our congregation safe. Jews throughout the world and throughout the ages have survived as a people thanks to their ability to meet challenges, to overcome obstacles, and to stay connected. Most of all, we have survived thanks to our ability to rejoice in the blessings of Jewish living!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Ha'azinu More Holidays? Sukkot Tips!

2021-09-17 17:30:45 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

From Yom Kippur, we race right into Shabbat, and then right on into Sukkot! On the High Holy Days our liturgy was exceptionally lengthy. It gave us time for introspection. It gave us time to contemplate our lives.

But change is in the air! Now that the High Holy Days are over…everything moves more quickly! As opposed to the lengthy services on the High Holy Days, our Shabbat service and the weekly Torah portion of Ha’azinu are both brief. The bulk of the Torah portion it is poetry. It assures us that no matter how off the mark we may be, as individuals and as community, God loves us and will always be in loving relationship with us.

And, we have to be moving quickly to set up our Sukkah, to procure our Lulav and etrog, and to celebrate this most particularly joyous holiday of Sukkot!

Sukkot begins on Monday evening and lasts for a full week.

It is a mitzvah to eat all of our meals in the Sukkah, except when the weather is inclement. However, all week long, we may eat snacks or have a beverage indoors.

It is a mitzvah to be joyous during the full seven days of the holiday of Sukkot! I hope we will all do our best to make that happen!

Candle lighting on Monday night should be at least 18 minutes before sunset: Recite 2 blessings, as follows:

Baruch Attah Adonai, elohaynu melech haOlam, Asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Yom Tov.

Baruch Attah Adonai, elohaynu melech haOlam, Shehecheyanu v’kiyemanu v’higianu laZeman haZeh.

On the second night of Sukkot, light candles at least 25 minutes after sunset and recite the same two blessings as on the first night.

Wave your lulav and etrog each day of Sukkot, except for Shabbat. The blessing for the waving of the lulav is as follows:

Baruch Attah Adonai, eloyaynu melech haOlam, asher kiddeshanu v’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al netilat lulav.

Join us for services this Shabbat and on Sukkot! Join us for Sukkot meals in our Sukkah!

Have a great time for seven full days!!!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Vayelekh Shabbat Shuvah Strength and Courage

2021-09-10 15:41:08 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Shabbat Shuvah is the Shabbat of Repentance or, some might say, it is the Shabbat of Return. In any case, this special Shabbat helps us bridge the gap between Rosh HaShana, when we pray for life, and Yom Kippur, when we pray for greater insight as we move forward into the new Jewish year.

However we may choose to translate Shabbat Shuvah, it is clear that in order to move forward in a constructive way, we would be well served if we could come to terms with the past. If we remember our difficulties, we can hope to carve out a present of contemplation and then prepare a path for our future.

This Shabbat, in addition to our individual difficult moments, we also remember 9/11.

How do we deal with painful memories? How can we move from memory to renewed purpose?

Our weekly Torah portion, Vayelekh, offers some valuable insight.

In our Torah portion, Moses is at the end of his life. He is looking for a way to bridge the gap between the story of our people in the desert, his impending death, and the continuation of the story of our people when they enter the Promised Land. Moses instructs Joshua, who will take over the leadership of the people upon Moses’ death: Chazak v’Ematz – be strong and have courage. Moses also tells the people: Chizku v’Imtzu – be strong and have courage.

When we need strength, we can turn, or return, to God, to Torah, to community and to our Jewish values to find wisdom and guidance. But, sometimes, we are still unsure that we have sufficient strength to confront our challenges. That is when we need courage. Courage gives us the ability to move forward even when we do not feel sufficiently strong.

Our Penitential Psalm (Psalm 27), recited daily through the Jewish month of Elul and beyond, until after Sukkot, echoes the same theme:

Kaveh el Adonai, chazak v’y’ametz libecha; v’kaveh el Adonai” – Place your hope in Adonai, be strong and have courage; and place your hope in Adonai.

Moses knew that we don’t always feel strong. He, himself, did not always feel strong and confident. Yet, he found enough strength and courage to lead our people for 40 years and then to pass on the leadership to Joshua with the same advice: Be strong and have courage. This is Moses’ wisdom, and this is the wisdom of Torah.

Remembering and coming to terms with the past, contemplating our present, and constructing a plan for our future is the path of healing that will help us all deal with painful memories as we craft our spiritual pathways forward for the new Jewish year of 5782.

As we move forward through the Ten Days of Repentance, through Shabbat Shuvah, and on to Yom Kippur, may we and our loved ones all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim Shana Tova!

2021-09-03 16:16:15 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

It’s the last Shabbat of the Jewish Year! I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a Shana Tova u’Metuka – a good and a sweet New Year, filled with joy, health, and happiness!

It is also Labor Day weekend, so I hope you will enjoy this weekend too as we approach the holiday of Rosh HaShana which begins on Monday evening!

Our Torah portion of Nitzavim includes a verse in which we read the following seemingly redundant message: “…choose life, so that you and your children may live…”.

Our Sages taught us that this seemingly redundant message is actually full of meaning….Choosing life is the first step. “That you and your children may live” is another step forward after we have chosen life. Our Torah portion is reminding us that, on Rosh HaShana, while we pray for life, we also pray that our life should have meaning and purpose. Choosing life and praying for life is the beginning. Praying and doing what we can to fill our lives with meaning and purpose is the continuation of our spiritual journey.

May we choose life, and may our lives and the lives of our loved ones, be filled with meaning and purpose as we move into the new Jewish year of 5782!

Shabbat Shalom and Ketiva va’Chatima Tova [may we be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year]!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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