Teachings: Divrei Torah By Portion

Midrash Matters

by Rabbi Joyce Reinitz
 

For Shavuot. This imagery is inspired by the writing of Judith Plaskow in her book,"Standing Again at Sinai." Plaskow is troubled by the absence of women’s voices from our recorded history and tradition and calls for us to fill in the white space between the letters. These exercises are a means toward creating modern midrash that will speak to and for our entire people.

Ancient Eternal Words

Yitro - A Revelation of Love

It was 1978, and I was tormented by an internal dilemma. Both daughters had chosen on their own to prepare for Bat Mitzvah, and I, I did not know why. Nothing in my Jewish upbringing had given me an answer to the fundamental question—why be Jewish. No experience in synagogue had given me a clue as to why the rituals and rites of reading Torah compelled Jews to pass this on, generation to generation, for over three thousand years.

B'haalotecha - Torah: The Mirror on the Wall

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" That famous line from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" spins through my mind. The wicked queen had a daily practice, a meditative practice you might say. Each day she peered into her magic mirror to see how she was doing in life.

Terumah - The Stones of Shoham

And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to the children of Israel that they bring me an offering…
avnei shoham (stones of onyx), and stones to be set, for the ephod..." Exodus, Shemot, 25:17

Ancient words, ancient garments, a call from the past. The avnei shoham, stones of onyx, were chosen to be the home for the tribes of Israel. The names of six tribes were inscribed on one stone, and the other six on the second stone. These stones of onyx were were worn by Aaron and his sons, the first priests or Kohanim of Israel.

Ki Tissa - Inspired to Lead

by Rachel Ellis Fried, Age 13

"When I pray, there is a feeling inside of me of love and serenity, of radiance, and of sparks."

Devarim - The Spiral Journey

Summer is a time of travels, and it reminds me of what I learned at my father’s feet-- to be a good map reader. You find where you are, you locate where you are headed, and you try to figure out the best way to get there. Usually, it’s the shortest road, or the one with the most highway, the fastest way.

Vayeitze - How Awesome is Now

It’s 4:54 on a wintery afternoon. I walk into my study, which has windows facing west. It’s been a typical day, some work, some errands. Nothing special. My attention is grabbed by spectacular colors outside the window.

"Alan!" I yell to my husband. "It’s the most amazing sunset. Grab your coat and let’s run outside before it changes."

It was the most amazing sunset- shocking bright pinks and subtle purples, in colors and shades I had never in my sixty-one years seen before. How is this possible?

Va-Etchanan - Unending Love

This Shabbat we begin the cycle of love; seven special Torah readings leading up to our New Year, Rosh
HaShannah, seven weeks in which we open to the experience of G-d’s love for us, and G-d’s yearning to have us draw closer.

This week we also commemorated the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av, which marks the destruction of the First and Second Temple, as well as other tragedies for the Jewish people.

Miketz - Worlds Apart

by Rabbi Alexis Roberts

The themes of this Torah portion sound painfully relevant: how are brothers with a long history of mistrust and violence supposed to make peace? How will the victim act when he finally is in a position of power? How much can be risked or compromised for survival? Can people who have grown so very far apart, and live in different worlds ever come back together? Against all odds, but with the help of God, all ends well.

Ekev - You Shall be Satisfied

Deut. 8:10
V’achalta v’savata u’vayrachta
And you shall eat
and you shall be satisfied
and you shall bless …
 

Last week I was teaching at a Jewish retreat center, Elat Chayyim, where the food was abundant and every meal was buffet style. Sure enough, when I returned home I had gained 4 pounds. Not only had I gained spiritual nourishment, I had gained water and fat!

Miketz - The Hero and the Addict

Elohim ya’aneh et sh’lom Paroah.
God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace. Gen. 41:16

I don’t think it is just coincidence that my chosen Hebrew name, Shohama, from Shoham, onyx, is the stone of the tribe of Joseph. There is something in the heroic tale of our forefather that speaks to me of the life I lived during the three decades that I was married into a family plagued by multiple addictions and multiple addicts.

Ki Tavo - My Mothers and Father Were Wandering Arameans

Ki Tavo- My Mothers and Father Were Wandering Arameans

People are always asking me about my background. “Where did you grow up? What were your parents like? Were they religious?” It seems to be part of a getting-to-know-you ritual. This sense that roots matters seems to be programmed into us, like a spiritually genetic piece of DNA. Judaism understands this well: in fact it commands us to remember our origins—in our daily prayers, in our Shabbat and holiday prayers, and through our rituals.

Shemot - And These Are the Names

Our Torah portion this week begins this way, “And these are the names.” In beginning the history of the Jewish people in Egypt, Torah recounts the names of all the sons of Jacob, the heads of the tribes, who came into Egypt with him. These names are from more than 3000 years ago.

Simchat Torah - Endings and Beginnings

Simchat Torah is the one of the happiest days in the Jewish calendar, but for me it has an undercurrent of sadness, because my beloved father passed away three days after, in 1990. The weeks before his passing were also painful, and my body remembers this year after year, as I spend one day weeping for no conscious reason, usually between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur.

Bereishit - In the Beginning There was Healing

Bereshit bara Elohim et ha shamayim v'et ha aretz

Book of Ruth - The Torah of Ruth and Naomi

The year after my Bat Mitzvah at age 36, I longed to study as much about Judaism as I could. In those days, there were no "Introduction to Judaism" classes in almost every synagogue, as there are now. The only class that met my needs was one offered to prospective converts— "The Conversion Class," it was called. In that class, no question was too simple, or too naïve. All questions were welcomed. I felt at home.

In the Beginning: Fruit from the Tree of Life

by Rabbi Joyce Reinitz
 

God sprouted from the earth every tree that is pleasant to see and good to eat.
The tree of life was in the midst of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
This visualization can be read aloud to a group during a Tu Bi-Shevat seder for the fourth dimension of the seder experience, reaching into Atzilut, the realm of Essence.

Vaeyra - Finding God's Name

"And G*d spoke to Moses, and said to him: "I am Adonai (YHVH), and I appeared to Abraham to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El Shadai, G*d Almighty, but by My name Adonai I made Me not known to them." Exodus, Shemot 6:2.

Have you ever wondered what the Torah means when it says, And G*d spoke..?" As in the quote above, the second Torah portion in the book of Exodus, Va-ayra, begins this way.

Receiving a sacred message

Tazria - After Birth: Separation

by Rabbi Shefa Gold
 


The Blessing

These parshiot are concerned with the delicate times when one’s condition necessitates a period of separation from communal life. How does that separation happen and how is that person re-integrated into the community?

Shir haShirim - Finding and Keeping Love

Last week my husband and I went to spend a day with a psychologist who has made a career of helping men and women have more loving and lasting relationships. The room was filled with hundreds of people—some single, some young marrieds, some who had been married for twenty or thirty years. All had come because they found it hard, if not impossible, to sustain the intense feelings of romance that had pulled them together in the first place.