Teachings: Divrei Torah By Portion

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

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

Shimini - Eating as a Spiritual Practice

by Ellen Triebwasser

Rabbi Jonathan (Kligler) has spoken about why we call what we do in religion a “spiritual practice.”

We practice any skill we want to develop, improve or maintain, things like:

An instrument

A sport

An art

Our profession

Our schoolwork

Think about something you’ve either been doing for a long time or something you’ve recently started to learn, and how much better you are at doing it than you were when you started.

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.

Bereishit - 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 also 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.

Beshalakh - Miriam's Song

by Gabby Handler

Gabby Handler participated in Reclaiming Judaism's Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family Adventure Workshop series
which are available to be hosted by congregations and havurot. A new trend is for students to interpret
their Torah portion through the lens of their interests and talents, perhaps art, drama, music and in Gabby's case, beautiful, powerful poetry.

We had been dragging our tired feet along the burning sand
The dread of not knowing where we would end up
tore at our hearts.

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.

Bereishit - Eden: A View from a Westward Window

by Chaia Kaplan

A girl just east of Eden
faced west with winged eye
and roamed around the honey
combing crevices of sky

“perhaps some place
- perched somewhere past
these frightful foreign flights
aloft, just west of Everplain,
a nestling in the heights…”

and at her westward window
(which she elbowed as she gazed)
her eyes upturned to paradise
an azure will to raise

Beshalakh - The Personal Wilderness

by Rabbi Shefa Gold

V’zimratYah is the part of me that knows how to surrender, that opens to the rhythm and
melody of God’s Song and gives itself unconditionally to "what is."
The Blessing