Tidbits of Torah

 

Shabbat Parashat VaEra Looking Ahead

2021-01-15 16:23:39 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join us tonight as our Zoom services as we celebrate Shabbat along with our Religious School students.

When we include our students, we are looking ahead. When we look ahead, as Jews who are commanded to look back. We are commanded to “remember” – to find inspiration in our tradition, in our Torah as well as in our communal and personal histories.

This weekend we mark MLK weekend even as we read the continuation of the Exodus story. In our weekly Torah portion of VaEra we read about many of the plagues that were visited upon the Egyptians, as the Egyptians and the Israelites struggled with the realities of oppression.

What can we learn from this story? To find the message, let’s look back to last week’s Torah portion.

In Exodus 2:23-25 we read that God heard, God remembered, God looked, and God knew the suffering of our people. These four action verbs contain a powerful message. Had people – the Egyptian people – or the Israelites themselves – understood the message these four action verbs – the message of God hearing, remembering, looking and knowing – perhaps the severity of the plagues could have been prevented!

And, what is the message for us today?

Today, looking ahead, when we sense oppression, or injustice around us, perhaps we, human beings, should endeavor to be like God. Perhaps we should emlate God’s hearing, remembering, looking and fully knowing in order to diminish the reach of evil in our midst.

If we took the time to hear the stories of our neighbors, to remember them, to examine the situation, and to know that we are obliged to do tikkun olam [to respond with compassion and with caring], perhaps then we could eliminate, or at least alleviate, the plagues that afflict our society today.

MLK strove to model a peaceful way forward without bowing to oppression and discrimination. He heard, he remembered, he looked and he crafted a way forward toward redemption. MLK started a process.

Now, it is up to us to look ahead and to be guided to take part in the on-going work of tikkun olam by what we see and learn from the past.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Shemot Prayer for Our Country Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh

2021-01-08 16:59:45 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Today, more than ever, we need prayers for our country. We need prayers for the renunciation of violence as a way of resolving differences of opinion. We need prayers for a restoration of the art of listening, of the art of respectful dialogue, and of the art of building relationships in good faith. These are the core values of our Jewish faith.

Parashat Shemot tells the story of a transition in which relationships were needlessly discarded and destroyed. The Torah tells us that a new Pharaoh came into power and did not remember Joseph. A new Pharaoh came into power and good relationships were dissolved. Trust was eroded. Violence erupted. And people suffered.

The good news is that after many years of suffering, the story of the Exodus is also told. After much suffering, the Exodus enabled our people to create a new atmosphere, to receive Torah at Mount Sinai, and to believe that we can be partners in making our world a better place.

The story of our people is a story for all times. It is eternal. And it is relevant for us today.

As we each listen to this week’s news and interpret it in our various ways, let us not forget the value of respectful relationship. We belong to one another. We care about one another. We are responsible for one another. We may disagree, but let us not forget how to stay in respectful relationship.

The message of “Kol Yisrael Chaverim” [we are all interconnected], which we say when we recite the prayer for the upcoming new Jewish month, as we do this Shabbat, is also a message for all of us beyond the Jewish community. The work of staying in respectful relationship is not easy. It is an ongoing challenge. That is why we need to remind ourselves each month that “Kol Yisrael Chaverim” – that we are all interconnected. But, the nature of our relationships is determined by our actions.

Rosh Chodesh Shevat will be this coming Wednesday night and Thursday. May the upcoming Jewish month of Shevat be a month of great blessing – a month of respectful dialogue, a month of peaceful transition, a month of increased friendship, and a month of health and of healing for one and all.

As we pray for our country, we also pray for the coming days, weeks and months to be a time of blessing.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Vayechi Chazak Chazak - Strengthening One Another

2021-01-04 13:23:37 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

This week we conclude the reading of the first of the Five Books of Moses, the book of Genesis. As we conclude the reading of each of the Five Books of Moses, we customarily recite: Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek [Be Strong, Be Strong, and we shall strengthen one another].

In the spirit of Chazak Chazak, I share with you my thoughts for our transition from 2020 to 2021.

As we usher in the new year 2021, we pray for physical and for spiritual healing and for the on-going and improved health of all our members, our friends, our loved ones, and of our broader community. We mourn the losses we have suffered during 2020 and we celebrate the strength of community that helps us meet the challenges of the day.

Despite our need to reinvent ourselves in so many ways, we are nevertheless connected. We are here for one another. Our powerful, ancient, and eternally relevant tradition helps us to look toward the future with creativity, with hope and with faith.

As the Covid-19 vaccine is rolled out in Virginia, I share with you two prayers recently published by the Conservative/Masorti Movement in Israel where the vaccine rollout is moving ahead full steam. The first prayer is to be recited by those administering the vaccine. The second prayer is to be recited by those being vaccinated.

These two prayers exemplify the depth of Jewish tradition, our ability to apply our traditional Jewish sources to the present day, and the continued creativity of our people within our tradition.

Please feel free to use these prayers as you see fit. You may want to adapt them, to shorten them or to augment them with language that flows from the depths of your heart.  You may simply want to read them and allow yourself to absorb their message.

No matter how you use these prayers, my hope is that they inspire us all to do our part and to hold fast to our magnificent Jewish tradition – for in it we, along with previous and subsequent generations, may find a tremendous source of strength, of courage, and of hope.

Here are the two prayers, and may we be inspired to continue to help one another and to connect with one another as we enter 2021!

Prayer Recited by those Administering The Vaccine:

“I praise the ETERNAL with all my heart

in the assembled congregation of the upright” (Psalm 111).

God who answers in times of distress and saves,

“Healer of broken hearts who binds their wounds” (Psalm 147),

Who shares divine wisdom with flesh and blood

and has given us understanding, science and discernment to create this vaccine:

May it be Your will that through the power of this act

 I will merit healing and saving lives of all the living,

and be able to fulfill the teaching,

“whoever saves a single life… saves an entire world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5)

as it is written:

 “I am going to bring her relief and healing” (Jeremiah 33).

Praised are You who brings healing to all flesh and does wonders.

 

Prayer for People Being Vaccinated

God who answers in times of distress and saves,

“Healer of broken hearts who binds their wounds” (Psalm 147),

who shares divine wisdom with flesh and blood

 and has given us understanding, science and discernment to create this vaccine:

May it be Your will that through the power of this human effort

 aided by God who graciously grants humans knowledge

 and teaches mortals understanding, science and discernment

 that I merit health and resilience

 so that these verses may be fulfilled for us:

“I have removed illness from your midst”

“for I the ETERNAL am your healer” (Exodus 23; 15).

“Let them praise the ETERNAL

for God’s steadfast love and wondrous deeds for humanity” (Psalm 107).

Praised are You who brings healing to all flesh and does wonders.

 

To these prayers, I add: Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek [Be Strong, Be Strong, and we shall strengthen one another]!

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to 2021!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Vayigash Happy and Healthy 2021

2020-12-28 12:06:16 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy 2021!

2020 has been a trying year for all of us. As we experience difficulties ourselves, we can relate to the difficult times that we read about in our weekly Torah portion of Vayigash. We can relate to the difficulties that Jacob experienced when, for twenty two years, he thought that he had lost his son, Joseph. We can relate to the difficulties that Joseph dealt with when he was expelled from his family of origin and was forced to live as a servant, to serve time in prison, and then to work his way up to new status, to new family, and to new power. We are sensitized to difficulties in life.

But, we can also learn resilience from our parsha.

The Torah tells us that God assured Jacob that he God would still be with him when Jacob leaves the Land of Israel and goes to Joseph in Egypt. Our Sages tell us that God comforted Jacob with the knowledge that just as Joseph rose up out of the depths of the pit and of prison, to the heights of his new stature, so too Jacob’s descent into Egypt will result in the flourishing of a nation that will be a “kingdom of priests and a holy community.”

What is the message?

Our paths in life may be fraught with difficulties, but God is always with us. Torah is our guide and our compass in life. Hope is the vehicle that keeps us moving forward and helps us to envision path toward the ultimate redemption.

Wishing you and yours a 2021 filled with many blessings and with good health.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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Shabbat Parashat Miketz Gratitude

2020-12-18 17:02:42 RST Web Admin

Dear Friends,

Mitketz is such a tumultuous Torah portion. Dreams abound. Plans are fomented. Hopes are fulfilled or dashed, depending on the circumstances. And all of this comes on the heels of Chanukah – the Festival of Lights – the holiday that speaks to our resilience in the face of whatever tumult surrounds us.

What message stays with us after Chanukah is over?

For me, it is a sense that we must stay grounded in the present, even as we look toward the future. We must remember that each and every day of life is a precious gift from God. As we recited in Hallel in our prayers each morning throughout the eight days of Chanukah:

Ze haYom Asa Adonai, NaGila v’nism’cha vo [This is the day that God made, let us rejoice in this day].”

For all the tumult that surrounds us, let us not forget to give thanks for each day and for the blessings it presents to us. Gratitude. That’s the message of Chanukah and it is all the more important when the festive celebration is over.

Thank you to all who participated in our various wonderful Chanukah services and programs and to all who assisted in planning them, in organizing them, and in making them so successful. I am so grateful for all of you!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror

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