Teachings: Divrei Torah By Portion

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?

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.

Miketz - Worlds Apart at Hanukkah

by Rabbi Alexis Roberts

The themes of the Torah portion for Shabbat Chanukah 2001 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.

Vayakhel-Pikudei - Experiencing the Shabbat Moment

A visualization by Joyce Reinitz

In the final two chapters of the Book of Exodus we witness the actual building and dedication of the Mishkan. The imagery is rich, the colors are vibrant and the details are mesmerizing. This is the description of the place where God's Presence will dwell among the people.

Vayakheyl begins with Moses reiterating the commandment of Shabbat:
"On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest."

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 - Power Within

by Rabbi Shefa Gold

The Blessing

Vayakheyl - Building with Our Lives

by Rabbi Alexis Roberts

An old story is told about a medieval architect traveling to a city where a great cathedral is under construction, in order to study it’s design. He arrives as the day’s work is done. He meets a craftsman on his way home and asks about his work.

“What is it you are doing?”

“I am carving an ornate pair of doors, covered with figures representing Biblical stories.”

Next he meets a stone mason and asks about his work.

“What is it you are doing?”

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.

Pikudei - A Crown of Holiness

"And they made the…holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it…HOLY TO THE LORD" Ex. 39:30

My favorite kippah, or sacred head covering, is black velvet, with a burnished gold woven headband, and Hebrew words inscribed on its metallic clasp. When I place it on my head, I feel some of the awe and power ascribed to the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest described in Exodus 39:30. "And they made the plate of of the holy crown of pure gold and wrote upon it a writing, like the engravings of a signet: Holy to the Lord."

Ki Titzei - The Way of Kindness

The title of this week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, is "When you go out" while the title of next week’s is "When you come in." Goings and comings, comings and goings, are a theme that runs through all of our lives, as well as through all of Torah.

Summer, for many of us, is a time of travel, of going out and coming in. "Where did you go?" is a frequently asked question.

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.

Pikudei - Opening to Mysery

by Rabbi Shefa Gold

The Blessing

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.

Finding Your Torah Portion

The Torah, also known in book form as the Chumash, meaning “Five” Books of Moses, is studied and chanted aloud in weekly segments known as the parsha, or “portion.” This annual process ends and starts all over again on the holy day known as Simchat Torah, which is a day of “Rejoicing in the Torah.”  Since Judaism follows a lunar cycle, with certain years containing leap “months,” one year’s Jewish calendar does not help with the next. For the same reason, in some years two portions will be assigned to one date. On festivals and holidays special portions are read that go out of order with the sequence of the year.  

Vaeyra - Realizing God in Our LIves

by Rabbi Alexis Roberts

Moses is now trying to get Pharaoh to let the people go, and it's not going well. His first request was rebuffed and the workload increased. In anguish, Moses turns to God to ask why the people are even worse off than before. As this week's portion begins,
God reaffirms the purpose of Moses' mission and restates the covenant between God and the people. God forewarns Moses of

Shimini - Strangers

by Rabbi Alexis Roberts

The word "Holocaust" comes from root words meaning "entirely" ("holo-") "burned" ("caust"), completely consumed in fire. Before World War Two, the word was commonly used as a way to describe certain ancient sacrifices detailed in Leviticus. Some were partially burned up and the rest of the animal was eaten, but some were "holocausts," entirely consumed by fire and in that way, entirely given to God.

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