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Drops of Torah from our members (2022-23 / 5783)

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.

A New Focus this year for 5783: Friends, for our drop of Torah this year we are inviting contributors to share an intention, kavannah, or even a short prayer that they are pulling from the Torah we are reading. See the examples below. We hope that this more open form will invite even more contributors to our weekly member-to-member Torah share!

Drops of Torah from Prior Years

  1. Bereishit by Rabbi Nathan
  2. Noah by Rabbi Linda
  3. Lekh Lekha by Mark Rosenberg
  4.  Vayera by Larry Hamermesh
  5. Hayei Sarah by Phyl Perry
  6. Toldot by Naomi Yates
  7. Vayetze by Lynn Cashell
Bereishit (Genesis 1:14 - 31) by Rabbi Nathan  (Return to Top)

May we remember that "dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, animals, all the earth" really is another way of saying deep respect for our interconnectedness with all life to ensure our mutual survival and thriving.

Comment (optional)
This week's Torah reading includes the command by God to have humans rule over all forms of life, something that has justified our destructive environmental behavior in the past. My kavannah is an attempt to help us rebalance our perspective to one of respect and humility towards our created world.  (Return to Top)

Noah (Genesis 6:9 - 11:32) by Rabbi Linda

Noah was considered righteous in his generation but  not considered to be as righteous as Abraham, who lived ten generations later. Why?

While Noah was righteous in that he took care of his family and the animals in the ark, he did not attempt to help the others in his midst and didn't argue with God on their behalf. So the innocent perished along with the guilty. Abraham showed a love for humanity and fought on behalf of others.  

As we study this story, may we set an intention to look out for one another, especially the most vulnerable among us, in order to live a righteous life. (Return to Top)

Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12:1 - 17:27) by Mark Rosenberg

May we remember that Abram and Sarai needed to leave their country because of famine.  Many immigrants today have to get out of their countries due to problems.  Welcoming borders are required for those in need.  It is our responsibility to remember our ancestors needed this then and many others still do today.

This week’s Torah portion shows that immigration may be necessary for survival.  Abram used Sarai to get him him into Egypt alive.  Should we work to make the words of Emma Lazarus  (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) written in 1883 and inscribed on the Statue of Liberty twenty years later still be meaningful today?  Will we still make immigrants lie, cheat, or break national laws for their survival? (Return to Top)

Vayera (Genesis 18:1 - 22:24) by Larry Hamermesh

We have been endowed by G!d with an innate sense of what is just and right, and what is not. Let us use that sense, even - or especially - when it contradicts what others or even we ourselves are telling us is the will of G!d.

In this parsha, immediately after G!d recognizes that G!d has singled out Abraham “to keep the way of יְהֹוָה֙ by doing what is just and right,” Abraham’s first act is to rely on his own endowed sense of right and wrong to question G!d persistently to account for what may be arbitrary and excessive punishment of innocent people for the sins of others. Abraham’s conduct is a model of holiness to anyone who claims to hear the word of G!d and adhere to it unquestioningly. (Return to Top)

Hayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1 - 25:18) by Phyl Perry

May we remember the importance of taking a moment from our busy lives to connect with the bereaved in a loving and compassionate manner, regardless of how well we know them or any disagreements we may have had in the past. 

This week’s story is about how Abraham negotiates with the Hittites for a burial plot for his spouse Sarah who passed away. My kavannah is a reminder that so many people are suffering because they miss a loved one. A smile, kind word, hug or text from a friend or acquaintance can mean a lot! (Return to Top)

Toldot (Genesis 25:19 - 28:9) by Naomi Yates

May we remember as parents to try to treat our children equally and with respect, honoring their unique contributions, so that we do not repeat the missteps of Jacob and Esau's parents.

Rebecca favored Jacob, the studious one, and Isaac favored Esau, the hunter. Their parents did not try to hide their favoritism at all, which made the relationship between the brothers that much worse. If Isaac and Rebecca had treated their children with the same kindness, many problems might have been avoided. This was an episode I felt we can still continue to learn from today. (Return to Top)

Vayetze (Genesis 28:10 - 32:3) by Lynn Cashell

May we always try to move from a stance of judgment to one of understanding when it comes to evaluating the actions of family and loved ones.

Growing up as the youngest and only girl in my family, there was a bit of a double standard. My brothers mowed the lawn and took out the trash, I helped with the cooking and cleaning. The same was true of Jewish rituals. My brothers both had a bris, were given godfathers, Hebrew names, and became Bar Mitzvah. I did not have a Bat Mitzvah or a Hebrew name, but recalled asking my father if I had one, what it would have been. He responded, "Leah," I think because it was close to my own name, Lynn. When I had an adult Bat Mitzvah, I remembered this conversation, so I took the name Leah. 

At that time, I was not as familiar with the Torah as I am now, so when I learned that Laban deceived Jacob by offering Leah and not Jacob's beloved, Rachel, I was not as enamored with my Hebrew name. The text indicates that while Laban was the one who sent Leah in place of Rachel, it feels that Leah was a willing participant in the ruse, and continued to compete with Rachel throughout their relationship.

While there have been times in my life when I was disappointed by the outcome of an event when it was not clear, or the players changed the rules midstride, I have always tried to understand the motivation and find a positive consequence. So I decided to embrace my Hebrew name and the woman who it represents. Leah is a matriarch and the mother of 6 of Jacob's sons. That definitely warrants merit to be raised up. (Return to Top)



Thu, December 8 2022 14 Kislev 5783