From my blog:
The following snippets were written as part of a Storahtelling exercise to help us get to know the characters/voices with which we are teaching Torah. We are working with some verses from Parshat Vayera, Genesis Chapter 21, verses 8-10.
In character, we were asked to answer the following questions: My biggest regret is, My happiest moment ever was, This morning I saw, and I cannot die before I tell you this. I share my favourite answers below.
My happiest moment ever was when I held Isaac for the first time. I looked into his blue, blue eyes and felt G!d’s blessing like a blanket, protecting us. When I looked up, the pride and pleasure in Abraham’s face was like the sun. We had done it at last. We made a family. That moment, it was just the three of us and we were everything. Everything I ever wanted. Everything I’d prayed for. Everything I could imagine.
If I were to keep going, the next thing that would happen in the story is that Continue reading
X-posted from Eryn's blog post:
Eryn London (Summer ’06 & ’07, Community Education ’10, Year ’10-’11, Hourly ’11-’12) made Aliya from New Jersey three years ago. She is currently studying in the Manhiga Hilchatit Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum, which is a 5 year advanced Halacha learning program. Beyond learning she also runs activities at a nursing home, teaches theatre, and directs plays on the side.
The brand-new Divrei Mahamal blog is written by the women that are currently studying in the Manhiga Hilchatit Program. The blog should be updated weekly by one of the women. The d’vrei Torah will be written in English, Hebrew or French.
Why is it important to distinguish between things? Twice in this week’s Parsha, Parshat Shimini, B’nei Yira’el are told להבדיל, to create distinctions.
The first time it is mentioned is after we are told that Nadav and Avihu were killed for bringing a “strange fire” into the Mishkan, and the Torah gives a ruling: Continue reading
From my blog:
Ten Characteristics of a Good Pigeon Handler:
- The pigeon handler is moderate in his disposition. A reckless pigeon handler frightens the pigeons.
- The pigeon handler is loyal and responsible and carries out his tasks in an orderly and punctual fashion.
- The pigeon handler is kindhearted and cares for each and every pigeon.
- The pigeon handler is patient and devoted.
- The pigeon handler is tidy and attentive to cleanliness.
- The pigeon handler is strong-willed and maintains discipline over the pigeons.
- The pigeon handler is sensitive in observing and discerning the character and condition of each and every pigeon.
- The pigeon handler is industrious. There is always work to be done in the pigeon loft.
- The pigeon handler is considerate of others. Continue reading
This weekend, Parashat Tetzaveh, Shabbat Zachor is my Bat Mitzvah portion. When I was 12 years old, I wrote a dvar Torah about the maftir and haftarah. The reason this made sense, is that Shabbat Zachor is one of four Shabbatot where the maftir aliyah is from a different place in the Torah. In this case, three psukim about Amalek. Amalek is the people who attacked the Israelites from behind (meaning where the weakest people were), when they were leaving Egypt. We are simultaneously commanded to blot out Amalek from memory and remember what they have done to us.
This transitions into the Haftaorah, where Shaul is commanded by G-d (through Shmuel the Prophet) to inflict a punishment on Amalek and their king Agag. Shaul is told to spare nothing. Yet, he spares Agag and the choicest of animals. That night, Shmuel receives a message from G-d, that Shaul did not carry out the punishment the way it was supposed to happen. He goes and yells at Shaul and ends up inflicting the punishment himself. And no one ever heard of Amalek again….. Continue reading
In last week’s Parsha, Yitro, we left B’nei Yisrael at Mt. Sinai, having just received the Ten Commandments directly from the mouth of God. Most would agree that they are reasonable commandments, which aim to help this newly freed people maintain order and positive values as a newly minted nation. Switching gears immediately from the pomp and circumstance of Yitro to the ostensibly mundane detailed laws of Parshat Mishpatim, we read of Moshe placing the laws before B’nei Yisrael: “And these are the laws that you [Moshe] shall place (תשים) before them.” (Ch 21:1). In a very straightforward manner, Rashi explains that Hashem commands Moshe to place the laws before the people, along with their explanations, just as one would set a table, with all its food ready for eating. In other words, Moshe’s responsibility is to make sure that each person knows the new laws and their underlying principles and meanings, so that the people would be able to apply them properly, and immediately, in various “halachic” situations. For two chapters, the Israelites are presented with dense legal information, and undertake the burdensome task of trying to learn and understand them. They must have been extremely inspired, for why else would they have invested so much time and effort to learning the new lay of the land? The exciting conversations that must have ensued probably sounded a lot like our Pardes Beit Midrash discussions, as the people tried to understand the new laws and their importance.
Then in Chapter 24, Moshe anoints the altar with the blood of a bull and throws the rest of the blood on the people. He reads the Book of the Covenant within earshot of the people, and they proclaim, ונשמע נעשה (we will listen and we will do). Mazal tov! You are now a people. One can almost see them stepping on a glass as the band starts up and the dancing begins. As Moshe, Aharon, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders ascend Mt. Sinai to see God, B’nei Yisrael is left behind to process what has just transpired. Feasting commences, as the 11th verse states that, “…they gazed at God, yet they ate and drank.” According to Onkelos this feasting was favorable, as it enhanced the joy they felt upon seeing the visage of Hashem, and enabled them to physically enjoy the experience. Ramban also comments on what a significant spiritual privilege it was for the people to have been allowed by God to see their redeemer, the master of the universe.
But there seems to be a large imbalance in the Parsha. The Tanach spends two full chapters explaining the laws that B’nei Yisrael must learn in order to be a society, and only half a verse describing B’nei Yisrael looking and gazing upon God. How can such a noteworthy event get such little press? I believe there is a message for us in this purposeful inconsistency, that we modern, halachically-minded Jews should learn. Rules and laws are necessary in order to keep a society functioning through order and structure, that’s a given. As Rabbinic Jews though, we often times get very focused and caught up in the law without simultaneously turning enough of our “gaze” to God. All too often we forget to talk about not just God, but our vision of a personal God, and the status of our relationship with God. I imagine that after B’nei Yisrael sees God, they must have discussed their feelings about the experience to no end, and shared in the joy of this climactic Jewish historical event as a community. Yet the Torah doesn’t write about this.
I have shared a myriad of Shabbat meals with close friends and fellow Jews, the kind of meals that could only be created with an understanding and adherence to the laws of Shabbat. Out of all those Shabbatot, I can count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve had about personal concepts of God and the status of our relationship with God. As a community, I think we would benefit greatly if we learned to discuss our personal perception of the God we envision in our lives. Mishpatim tricks the reader into thinking that the emphasis is on law, when it actually wants to call our attention to B’nei Yisrael’s gazing on Hashem. By minimizing this part of the story, the Torah has actually maximized it. While we are clearly an extremely detail-oriented people, very focused on the laws, we need to remember to turn our focus towards God. By being in a relationship with God (however one defines God) the meaning of the laws maintain clarity and meaning in our lives. Without the infusion of spirituality within law, we run the risk of becoming empty followers who miss out on the bigger picture.
I gave over this dvar at night seder this week:
This week’s parasha is Vayechi, in which, among other things, Jacob dies and we see a scene of apparent reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers. At first, this seems to be an intimate moment in which everyone comes to understand each other, and by the end Joseph seems to be saying to his brothers: “Relax, it’s ok. We can move on. I’ll forgive you.” Though this seems like a fair pshat reading, I’d like to offer an alternative.
One question that is not clearly answered in the text is, does Joseph really forgive his brothers? Leading up to this speech of his, they ask him twice to forgive (pesha) them. Yet nowhere in Joseph’s answer does he say “I forgive you.” Rather, the scene ends like this:
[Joseph]: “Have no fear! Am I a substitute for God? Besides, although you intended me harm, God intended it for good, so as to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. And so, fear not. I will sustain you and your children.” Thus he reassured them, speaking kindly to them (vay-daber al libam).– JPS translation (1999)
It is this last phrase, more directly translated as “and he spoke on their hearts,” that I will explore in this drash. Continue reading
Originally posted on my blog:
Preparatory session for our trip to Hevron (West Bank). Speakers presented about the biblical connection to the region, the historical political background, the view from Breaking the Silence, and from an IDF soldier.
When I was asked to write a Dvar Torah for Parshat Toldot, two memories came to mind:
The first, was from when I was in forth grade, at Solomon Schechter of Bergen County, in New Milford, New Jersey. For certain Parshiot, we were assigned to do a project, Parshat Toldot was mine. I made my mother’s Tomato Lentil soup (with a lot of help) for my class.
My mother’s tomato lentil soup is quite famous (at least among family friends), and due to my mother’s fairly intensive work schedule it was only ever made for Shabbat. In fact, on Friday afternoons, instead of eating (insert your normal snack food name here) for snack after school, my brother and I would occasionally bargain with her for the ability to have her tomato lentil soup before Shabbat dinner. We would say something like, “Sure, we’ll clean our rooms!”, “Of course we will set the table!” After enjoying our snack, we would run off, promises forgotten. That is until about 20 minutes before Shabbat, when we would be called on to make good on our promises. “What do you mean, I said I would clean my room?!”, “When did I promise to set the table?!” We (usually) made good on these promises, our reluctance apparent to anyone observing.
Originally posted on Sept. 19:
Hello friends and family!! I’ve finally started school, and it’s been keeping me so busy I haven’t had time to update my blog. So, here’s the past two weeks in a nutshell: 1)SO MUCH LEARNING 2)SO MANY NEW FRIENDS!
School: It’s been a combination of challenging and rewarding so far. I finally switched my classes around so that I’m happy with my schedule. I’m taking a class on Genesis, the “Megillot” (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther), one morning of Mishna (Jewish Oral Law), Turning Points in Modern Jewish History, a “Parshat HaShavua” (Torah portion of the week) class which is ALL IN HEBREW, AHHHH!, a Rabbinic Thought class, and a Teaching Prayer class. I’m also taking a class on Trope (how to chant the Torah), a Chasidut class, and a class about “Neviim Rishonim” (First Prophets – Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings). Needless to say, I am busy and exhausted and my brain hurts after a long day (sometimes 8:30am-9pm) but it’s been lots of fun so far. As everyone keeps saying, “all beginnings are hard,” but I’m really enjoying myself so far.
Friends and other adventures: We had a Shabbaton (weekend-long retreat) for the whole school and I really bonded with a lot of people over the weekend. Everyone is so nice and so welcoming, and I’m having so much fun. I’ve really been enjoying getting to explore Jerusalem the past few weeks. The Ben Yehuda Street area has TONS to do – bars, shops, frozen yogurt… the essentials. It’s about a 15-minute bus ride from where I live and there’s always a new friend who wants to go hang out down there. There’s also a great street close to where I live, about a 5-10 minute walk, which is a fun place to go and obviously much closer to home. For Shabbat and holidays I’ve been getting to go to lots of different friends’ houses for meals and go to lots of different styles of services, which has been fun.
Sukkot is coming up, which means a nice long break from school. Originally, I was planning on traveling with a few other girls and hoping to get a last-minute deal to Turkey, Spain, Italy, or Greece, but we can’t seem to find anything cheap enough so I think I may end up going to this festival in the desert for a few days just to get out of Jerusalem for a bit. I’m sure whatever I end up doing, I’ll have a good time
Miss y’all so so much, and I’m really wishing I could be with everyone at Doak this weekend to watch the Noles dominate Clemson… but I do know that this is right where I’m supposed to be for the next year!! Wishing everyone a Happy New Year, and GO FSU!!!!