Tidbits of Torah


Shabbat Parashat Balak Ma Tovu

2021-06-25 17:34:35 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Balaam, the non-Jewish prophet who was sent by Balak, King of Moav, to curse the Jewish people, looked over the encampment of the Israelites in the desert in ancient times and was moved to say: “Ma Tovu…” [How lovely are your dwellings, Jacob; your sanctuaries, people of Israel].

Nowadays, these powerful words of blessing appear in almost all siddurim [prayer books] as an introduction to our daily prayers. And, they are often incorporated as a popular “decoration” in many synagogues around the world.

And, I feel the same way about our congregation. We are blessed with a wonderful congregation and with a lovely sanctuary. And, we are all looking forward to praying together in person in our sanctuary as soon as possible. But, above all, we are dedicated to the principles of Jewish living that form the true life-blood of our people.

In our Sages minds, despite the fact that Balaam blessed our people with very powerful words of blessing, it is Abraham who remains our role model for Jewish life and values.

In comparing Balaam and Abraham, our Sages said that a person who possesses a generous spirit, a humble soul, and a modest appetite is a disciple of our patriarch, Abraham. One who possesses the opposite characteristics of a grudging spirit, an arrogant soul, and an insatiable appetite is a disciple of Balaam, the wicked!

As I look over our congregation, I believe that I see within our wonderful congregation and within our lovely sanctuary’s walls, many people who are true disciples of Abraham!

I look forward to seeing many of you at services, at events, and at celebrations, as we move into a new era of growth. I look forward to enjoying a true and renewed spiritual flourishing of the best values of Jewish tradition in our area, and beyond. I look forward to moving ahead, together, as a people who are truly disciples of Abraham. Ma Tovu. How lovely are your dwellings, Jacob, your sanctuaries, people of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Chukat Juneteenth, Father's Day and Us

2021-06-18 15:16:58 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

What do we take to heart from the vast expanse of the Jewish history and of the American history that we study? What do we choose to raise up to the level of a celebration? How do we learn from and celebrate both people and events even when we are aware that they may not have been perfectly reflective of the achievement of our highest goals and ideals?

Today, Juneteenth becomes a national holiday. Recognition of the importance of this day comes along with the realization that there is more work to be done to achieve the freedom and equality that was envisioned in those who celebrated it for the first time in 1865. Yet, today, we celebrate!

Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day. We don’t wait to celebrate this day until all fathers collectively and individually embody the ideal that Father’s Day represents. We celebrate the ideal, and we celebrate the individuals, even though some may have passed away and some may still be less than “perfect.” Yet, this weekend, we celebrate!

We can learn a lot about all of this from our weekly Torah portion of Chukat. In our parsha we learn of the death of Miriam and of Aaron, and of the decision God made not to allow Moses to lead our people into the Promised Land. We are reminded of the humanity, of the frailties, and of the failures of our ancestors and of our leaders. Yet, despite all of that, we rightly remember them as great leaders of our people, as teachers of Torah, as role models (for the most part) for all of us. Thanks to their efforts, we derive our most cherished values and teachings thanks to the efforts of those ancestors who envisioned a world far better than the world they lived in and far better than the world we live in today.

So, this weekend, let us celebrate this Shabbat, Juneteenth, and Father’s Day, with the understanding that great things have happened in the past, that these special days remind us that change is possible, and that we can look forward to more progress in the future, as we build on the lessons learned from our vast expanse of history, both Jewish and American.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Korachodesh Thoughts on Korach

2021-06-11 15:37:41 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Sometimes I truly feel like Korach who rebelled against Moses and demanded that Moses cede his leadership of the people Israel.

What do I imagine Korach was feeling?

I imagine that Korach might have felt, as I too have felt at times – angry, upset, frustrated, wishing that I could make the world around me bend to my understanding of right and wrong…if only people would “put me in charge”.

But then I realize that none of us are really “in charge.” Yet, we are all integral parts of the puzzle.

Korach’s rebellion against Moses was an attempt to tear down Moses as a human being, to deny his good qualities, to destroy his work and, ultimately, to replace him as a leader.

In contrast to Korach, Moses “fell on his face.” Moses took a step back. Moses took a deep breath. Then, Moses did all that was in his power to restore a sense of common purpose among the people of Israel, to re-focus people on the highest ideals of our people, and to restore a sense of connection with God, with Torah, and with the Promised Land.

I am sure that it was not easy for Moses to react with such restraint to the challenges of Korach’s rebellion against him and against God. Nevertheless, Moses make the effort and showed us the way. Rightfully, Moses became, not only our role model, but also the greatest “teacher” of our people.

May we all be blessed with a sense of purpose, of humility and of connection so that, together, we may see the blessings of a brighter future for ourselves and for those around us.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Shelach Lecha Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Next Steps

2021-06-04 15:12:20 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

This Friday night we will be celebrating Teacher Appreciation for our Religious School teachers! Thank you to Gavrielle Bargash, our Education Director, who has done a wonderful job leading us through a very challenging year, and to our teachers who have gone the extra mile to ensure that we are there for our students! Well done!

Additionally, this Shabbat is a true “Shehecheyanu” moment for our synagogue. We will be holding “regular” in-person Shabbat morning services for the first time in over a year! Yes, we will still be limiting our attendance. But, also, yes, we will be live-streaming our service for all who prefer not to attend in person. And, also, yes, we will be taking out the Torah from the Ark and reading from the Torah scroll. Yes, we will have people recite the Aliyot for the Torah reading and very importantly, yes, we will be celebrating Shabbat as we were so looking forward to doing for such a long time.

Yasher koach to the members of the Covid Task Force, and to the RST Board, to our leaders, to our volunteers and to our staff, who are continually monitoring the situation and updating us on the latest developments at our Shul.

Yasher koach to the Ritual Committee for stepping up to the plate to ensure that we have created space for all who asked to attend this first in-person regular Shabbat service and for ensuring that all the service parts and honors will be covered!

And, mazal tov to all of us for taking these “next steps”, and, in particular, to those who will be attending in person for the first time in over a year.

This Shabbat we read the Torah portion of Shelach Lecha. It is the portion that tells the story of the spies, the majority of whom came back from checking out the Promised Land, only to discourage our people from taking the “next steps” toward the Promised Land. It is understandable that when we contemplate taking the “next steps” we may be overcome by uncertainty and by fear. The future, by definition, is unknown. The unknown is sometimes frightening. But, the story of our people helps us to realize that, armed with our ideals, it is our destiny to take the “next steps” forward.

May we be blessed in this Shehecheyanu moment and in all of our “next steps” as we move forward into our shared future.

This Shabbat we will be reciting the blessing of the new Jewish month. Rosh Chodesh Tammuz will be on Wednesday night, Thursday and Friday of this coming week. May it be a month of more “Shehecheyanu” moments, a month of blessing, of health and of fulfillment for us, for all Israel and for all good people everywhere!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat BeHa'a'lotkha Memorial Day Weekend and Us

2021-05-28 16:29:48 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

This weekend we prepare for Memorial Day which will be observed on this coming Monday. Since the Revolutionary War and until today, Jews have served our country in all branches of the military, and many have lost their lives in the process of protecting our nation and our freedoms. We owe them, and their families, a debt of gratitude.

You have received an email regarding opportunities to participate virtually in a National Jewish Community Observance of Memorial Day which will take place on this coming Sunday, May 30th, at 7 pm. I hope that many of us will tune in to pay our respects and to hear some of the personal stories that will be shared by some of our Jewish Gold Star families.

At the same time, we are witnessing the rise of Anti-Semitism in our midst and around the world. We had the opportunity to listen to the Act Against Anti-Semitism program that took place online yesterday. Jews, Christians, Muslims, religious and secular organizations, politicians, and leaders from all walks of life, came together to raise their voices against the rising tide of antisemitic acts. We must not remain silent. We were invited to contact our representatives in Congress to let them know that we expect them to stand up firmly against Anti-Semitism.

All of this comes as we read the weekly Torah portion of BeHa’a’lotkha which includes the phrases we sing as we stand before the ark and prepare to take the Torah out of the Ark:

Va’yehi b’nesoah haAron, VaYomer Moshe [As the Ark was carried forward, Moses would say]:

Kuma Adonai v’yafutzu oyvecha, v’yanusu m’san’ehcha mipanecha [Adonai, rise up and scatter your foes, so that Your enemies flee Your presence].

As long as we keep the Torah and its values at the center of our focus and awareness, we can hope to have our human efforts to combat evil along with God’s help, combine as a powerful force for good in our world.

Let us not forget those who gave their lives for the sake of our people and of our nation. Let us comfort one another on our painful losses. Let us be grateful for the Torah that inspires us to strive for a world, and for a nation, built on principles of justice and of respect for all human beings. Let us continue the inspiring work of our ancestors, of our predecessors, and of our heroes throughout the generations.

And, let us celebrate Shabbat with a sense of true peace, grateful for the divine inspiration and for the gifts of Torah, of life, of justice, and of liberty for all.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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