Teachings: Divrei Torah By Portion

Vayera - I Wasn't about to Put a Pillar of Salt on My Bat Mitzvah Invitation

by Batya Yisraela

Upon preparing for my dvar torah, I came upon a woman worth recognizing and that was Lot’s wife, and I wasn’t about to put a pillar of salt on my bat mitzvah invitation. During my dvar torah you will learn why she is my hero and why she is so important in my heart. Then you will stop focusing on her being nameless, but realize the great deed she has done.

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.

Naso - Being True to Yourself

by Rabbi Shefa Gold

So shall they put my name upon the Israelites and I will bless them.

The Blessing

At this time of Naso we give and receive the great and ancient Priestly Blessing. Our arms are outstretched above the tumult of our lives and our hands imitate the cloven hoofs, invoking the power of the animals of our shepherding ancestors who bless this world through us. Through this blessing, God’s name (which means the Divine essence) rests on us.

Chayei Sarah - The Maids of Rebecca

by Rabbi Jill Hammer

The purpose of this monthly d'var Torah is to alert us to the most hidden and obscure female presences in the Torah, named or unnamed, and to use these hidden voices to understand our inner truths.

“And they blessed Rebecca and said to her:
Our sister, may you grow into thousands!
May your children inherit the gates of their enemies!”
Then Rebecca and her maids arose,
mounted the camels, and followed the man.
So the servant took Rebecca and went his way.”

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.

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.

Toldot - Machalat bat Ishmael

by Rabbi Jill Hammer

The purpose of this monthly d'var Torah is to alert us to the most hidden and obscure female presences in the Torah, named or unnamed, and to use these hidden voices to understand our inner truths.

"Esau realized that the Canaanite women [he had married] displeased his father Isaac.
So Esau went to Ishmael and took to wife, in addition to the wives he had, Machalat
the daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, sister of Nevayot."

Mishpatim - Laws and Love

by Rabbi Alexis Roberts

Parah Adumah: Finding Meaning in the Red Heifer Practice

There is an important opportunity in the red heifer Torah portion.

In the background of news footage, we often see people collecting body parts for preparation for burial; in Israel these are often trained burial society volunteers, chevra kaddishah members.

Toldot - Destiny Rules

by Rabbi Alexis Roberts

In Parshat Toldot, we have a familiar story and a familiar question arises from it: Do we control our own lives, or is everything pre-ordained? The answer is…yes. Here we find people struggling and scheming to bring about what God has foretold. Are they helping or hindering by trying so hard ? Are they promised abundance and given life experiences full of doubt, drought, and jealousy just to test and develop their characters? Is the abundance the real gift, or the faith to trust in it despite appearances? The answer is…yes.

Ki Tissa - Inspired to Lead

by Rachel Ellis Fried, Age 13

"When I pray, there is a feeling inside of me

Parah Adumah - Turning Muck into Luck

I had a really strange dream the other night. I was in a restaurant and had ordered my meal, but when it came it was gross looking. It was hooves of cow, with the legs attached, and they were a deep red colored, like nothing I had ever seen.

“Waiter,” I cried, “this is not what I ordered.”

Waking up, I wondered, what could this dream mean? Then I remembered the very strange story of the red heifer, the red cow, the symbol of this very Sabbath, called Shabbat Parah. Parah means young cow, neither a calf nor a full-grown cow.

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?”