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Drops of Torah from our members (2023-24 / 5784)

We all have the capacity to share our wisdom and reflections about the Torah texts we read each week. The Congregation Beth Israel Drops of Torah project provides an opportunity for people to share a brief reflection or short insight about the week's Torah portion. These short pieces are written by our members with support from our rabbis (as needed). Our plan is to have members reflect on 1/9 of a Torah portion each week so that in nine years we will have commented on the whole Torah! Beth Israel follows the Israeli Torah reading calendar which sometimes differs from the Conservative and Orthodox Torah reading calendar outside of Israel but will always sync up before the end of the Torah reading year. Consider signing up for a drop of Torah. For more information, contact Rabbi Nathan Martin.

Drops of Torah from Prior Years

  1.  Preparation for Yom Kippur
  2.  Psalm 27
  3.  Simchat Torah to Bereishit
  4.  Poems and Prayers for Israel, and Psalm 27
  5.  "Mima'amakim" by Joey Weisenberg
  6.  "The Narrow Bridge" by Nefesh Mountain
  7.  "Karov" by Batya Levine
  8.  "Min Hameitzar" by Deborah Sacks Mintz
  9.  A Thanksgiving Prayer by Rabbi Naomi Levy
  10.  Vayishlach by Yehuda Weinmartin
  11.  Hanukkah by Reisa Mukamal
  12.  Joseph's Coat, Interpreted by Daniel Silverstein and Andrew Lloyd Weber
  13.  Vayigash by Rabbi Nathan
  14.  Vayehi by Rabbi Nathan
  15.  Shemot by Rabbi Nathan
  16.  Vaera by Robin Schaufler
  17.  Bo by Daniela Eskenazi
  18.  Beshallah by Alicia DePaolo
  19.  Yitro by Randy Tiffany
  20.  Terumah by Linda Cohen
 
Preparation for Yom Kippur

As we prepare for Yom Kippur, we offer this contemporary version of "Ki Hineh Kahomer," for we are like clay sculpted in the hands of the sculptor, remembering our fragility and dependence on others and the Divine in this process of teshuva. (Return to Top)

Psalm 27

We continue to offer Psalm 27 through this holiday. Enjoy this musical rendition(Return to Top)

Simchat Torah to Bereishit

Friends, please enjoy this short GodCast video written by Sarah Lefton connecting the holiday of Simchat Torah to Bereishit! (Return to Top)

Poems and Prayers for Israel, and Psalm 27

Friends, we offer two different "drops of Torah" to hold this particular moment. The first is the sharing of the recording of a Ritual Well session held on October 12th on Poems and Prayers for Israel and the second is musician Aly Halpert's prayer song from Psalm 27 asking that all we seek is to dwell in God's house, a house of peace and wholeness. (Return to Top)

"Mima'amakim" by Joey Weisenberg

This week as we still hold the challenge and heartbreak with the war in Israel we share this piece by Joey Weisenberg which translates to "From the depths I call to you God; God hear my voice". (Return to Top)

"The Narrow Bridge" by Nefesh Mountain

This week, we would like to offer this song by Nefesh Mountain, titled "The Narrow Bridge". (Return to Top)

"Karov" by Batya Levine

Friends we share two pieces of Torah this week. First, all are welcome to view the procession of nearly fifty sefer Torah scrolls that survived the Holocaust and that were gathered together last evening in a special Kristalnacht - survivor scroll gathering. And also, we include a short piece by singer Batya Levine, Karov - which includes the lyrics "God is close to those who cry out to Her, she answers those who plead." May the Divine hear our pleas as well. (Return to Top)

"Min Hameitzar" by Deborah Sacks Mintz

We share this musical rendition from the psalms for "Min Hameitzar", from Psalm 118: “From a narrow place I called out to YAH; God answered me within the expanse.” (Return to Top)

A Thanksgiving Prayer by Rabbi Naomi Levy

We are particularly grateful for the release of the first group of hostages from Gaza. And we also share this brief Thanksgiving prayer written by Rabbi Naomi Levy. (Return to Top)

A Thanksgiving Prayer
Rabbi Naomi Levi

For the laughter of the children,
For my own life breath,
For the abundance of food on this table,
For the ones who prepared this sumptuous feast,
For the roof over our heads,
The clothes on our backs,
For our health,
And our wealth of blessings,
For this opportunity to celebrate with family and friends,
For the freedom to pray these words
Without fear,
In any language,
In any faith,
In this great country,
Whose landscape is as vast and beautiful as her inhabitants.
Thank You, God, for giving us all these.  Amen.

Vayishlach by Yehuda Weinmartin

(Inspired from his bar mitzvah dvar Torah) 

Intention
May we strive to rebuild our damaged relationships, even ones that seem beyond repair.

Comment
In this week’s Torah portion, even after twenty years of estrangement, Jacob and Esau find a way to forgive each other and reconcile. And even though they went their separate ways, one could tell from the story that they still cared for one another. (Return to Top)

Hanukkah by Reisa Mukamal

At this fraught time in history, let's remind ourselves that the proper response is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle. That’s the wisdom of Hannukah. (Return to Top)

Joseph's Coat, Interpreted by Daniel Silverstein and Andrew Lloyd Weber

The age old story of Joseph and his brothers' jealousy has inspired much art over the years. I'm including a couple of pieces of interpretive Torah, including a hip hop piece by Daniel Silverstein on GodCast, and of course, Andrew Lloyd Weber's version from Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Enjoy! (Return to Top)

Vayigash by Rabbi Nathan

Intention
During those times that we distant from God/our spiritual self, may we remember that the possibility to reconnect is ever present.

Background
A Hasidic reading of Judah's approaching the Egyptian Viceroy (Joseph in disguise) suggests that when Judah starts his speech with the words "Bi Adoni"  (Please My Lord) that this phrase can also be read as Bi Adonai - God is in me, a reminder that the sacred presence of the divine accompanies us throughout our life's journey. (Return to Top)

Vayehi by Rabbi Nathan

Intention
As we start new beginnings, even if they are challenging, may we bring the resources of our connections and traditions with us.

Commentary
As we conclude the book of Genesis we traditionally recite the words, "Hazak, Hazak, Venithazek" meaning may we go from strength to strength. As we start a secular new year, we can draw upon these words to remind ourselves to draw from the wisdom of our traditions to give us strength to face these difficult time. (Return to Top)

Shemot by Rabbi Nathan

Intention
May we always remember the fire within that leads us to seek wholeness in the world.

Commentary
In this week's Torah portion Moses is drawn to a bush that is aflame but not consumed by the fire. From this lowly shrub emerged the voice of the Divine. May we too remember the fire within us and that we too can hear the voice of the Divine calling for wholeness in the world. (Return to Top)

Vaera by Robin Schaufler

Intention
Let the plagues in the time of Moses be a warning to learn how to work with nature rather than try to dominate it.

Commentary
This week's Torah portion describes the first seven plagues that befell Egypt. Can we interpret the plagues in light of modern ecology?

Perhaps the water turned red like blood from algal blooms caused by runoff of excess fertilizer. Maybe the pests were provoked by poor agricultural and irrigation practices. Boils and loss of firstborns may have resulted from poor sanitation or crowding, or both.

A plausible explanation of the hail and fire plague, number 7, is that a wildfire may have created its own weather. The heat of a severe fire causes an updraft, sending the particulates into the atmosphere, where atmospheric moisture can freeze around the ash particles, forming hail. The heat and wind also cause a thunderstorm with lightning. If irrigation drained an area of moisture, the result may have been similar to drought conditions, leaving dry vegetation standing as kindling. Such draining may have been an effect of the same practices that bred frogs, lice, and flies, and whatever sickened the livestock.

Days of darkness are a little harder to parse. It could have been a solar eclipse, which has nothing to do with ecological failure. But since the hail and fire plague happened earlier, there may have been more wildfires beyond the borders of interest, sending up smoke that darkened the skies like what New York and parts of Pennsylvania experienced from the 2023 Canadian wildfires.

If the time of Moses was a culmination of great and widespread agricultural intensification, that intensification could have induced either global or regional climate change. We know that the Amazon creates its own weather. Raze the tropical rainforest, and the rain will stop, converting the land to dry savannah or possibly dessert. The Exodus phenomenon wasn’t that extreme, but could hint at anthropogenic effects to come. (Return to Top)

Bo by Daniela Eskenazi

Intention
Just as God in the story of the Exodus does not give up fighting for Her people, may we too internalize that same fierceness and persistence in our struggles to better ourselves and the world.

Commentary
In my own life I have been thinking about how important persistence is in the face of long difficult struggles, whether this is the struggle to maintain one's health or the struggle to create more just and equitable communities in Greater Philadelphia. The story of God's persistence - throwing plague after plague against the Pharaoh can be seen in a positive light and going the extra mile for something we care about! (Return to Top)

Beshallah by Alicia DePaolo

Intention
On this Shabbat Shirah, may we feel the beauty and power of joining our voices in song as we work together towards liberation.

Commentary
This week's Torah reading features the "Song of the Sea," an ancient poem celebrating the Israelites and God's victory over the Egyptians who were pursuing them. As we listen to the Song of the Sea this week, may we draw inspiration from Moses and Miriam's bravery and leadership, and may we move forward from our own narrow places. (Return to Top)

Yitro by Randy Tiffany

Intention
As liberal Jews may we look towards tradition for guidance but also trust our own ethical sense as we work towards living our fullest lives.

Commentary
In this week's portion, Yitro, we reach the dramatic moment of revelation on Sinai.  But looking more closely, divine revelation occurs throughout Tanakh and, in the post-biblical period,  the rabbis assign to themselves the role of arbiters of revelation. As liberal Jews,  we are guided by tradition but we assume responsibility as individuals and as a community the difficult but essential task of determining how our lives can best contribute to a higher purpose. (Return to Top)

Terumah by Linda Cohen

Intention
A community thrives when each member contributes their time, resources, and unique talents.

Commentary
In Parshat Terumah, God instructs Moses to fashion a sanctuary to hold the Tablets. He asks foran offering from each community member: everything from gold and silver to goat hair, oil and spices. By creating the Mishkan in this way, the result was not just a beautiful Ark, but the communal experience of investing and creating something together. (Return to Top)

Sun, February 25 2024 16 Adar I 5784