Passover celebrates a formative moment for the Jewish people - the crossing of the Red Sea. It was literally formative because it formed us - or rather, it transformed us into a free people. Avadim hayinu, we sing. We were slaves; now we are free.
Rabbi Weill's blog
As we gather with friends and family for our Passover seders, may we be grateful…
Grateful for America, where we freely and proudly exercise our religion. Dayenu!
Grateful for our Sages, who created this ritual of telling, re-telling, and interpreting our miraculous freedom story. Dayenu!
Grateful for Israel, the destination of our journey from Egypt, and still our home. Dayenu!
Grateful for ridding ourselves of chametz, and for clearing our emotional and spiritual pathways. Dayenu!
Our sages wondered why the commandments regarding sacrifices in this week’s Torah portion begin with “Tzav – Command!”-- an unusual use of the word in Torah. Rashi explains that G-d, with this strong word, sought to encourage enthusiasm for sacrifices. “Ain lo elah lashon zeiruz,” wrote Rashi, “It is nothing less than the language of encouragement.”
וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה אֶֽת־כָּל־עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
Moses assembled the entire Israelite community (Exodus 35:16).
So begins this week’s double Torah portion, Va’Yakheil-Pikudei. Why does Moses assemble the entire Israelite community? For a very good purpose: to engage the Israelites in the building of the Mishkan, the holy sanctuary that we carried with us through the desert.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address this week to Congress was politically controversial, but powerful. Witnessing our senators' and representatives' boisterous support for the prime minister of Israel brought tears to my eyes.
"Amazing" is an overused word, but I really am amazed at the work members of our community have put into this year's Purim Shpiel, "Li'l Orphan Esther". The talent, the sets, the costumes, the script, the directing, the music, the lighting, and the countless (literally) hours of rehearsal -- all amazing. When you settle in to watch the show, you will see (and hear) the fruits of their labor.
God says to Moses in Terumah, this week’s Torah portion, “Let them build me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). Then follows verse upon verse upon verse of instructions concerning how to build that sanctuary, the Mishkan, which the Israelites carried through the wilderness.
A midrash asks, “When [did G-d] speak this verse about the Mishkan to Moses?” The answer: “On Yom Kippur itself” (Tanhuma Terumah 8).
This week's Torah portion is Mishpatim, "Statutes." These are statutes with a loving spirit, for they protect the vulnerable -- the widow, the orphan, and the stranger who dwells among the Israelites.
Important elections affecting the Jewish people are on the horizon. The first is the special elections for Israel's government. This March election is exciting, as polls show the Zionist Union and Likud in a virtual tie. We eagerly watch the campaigning and await the results -- from the sidelines.
The other election is for the World Zionist Congress, which we need not watch from the sidelines. We can vote.
Twenty-one years after the bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, an 86th victim died. That victim is Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who for years investigated the bombing, the worst terror attack in the western hemisphere before 9/11.
Nisman, 51 was found dead of a gunshot wound on Jan. 18, just hours before he was to present evidence that Argentine President Cristina Kirchner covered up Iran's role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.
Sometimes we delve into our sacred literature and a word, verse or story enthralls us. This is how I felt today when our congregation’s Bible class came to Joshua’s bold command to the sun: “Stand still, O sun, at Gibeon!” (Joshua 10:13).
But the Hebrew verb in this verse is not usually understood as “stand still.” Rather וַיִּדֹּם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ can be understood as “Keep silent!” Why would Joshua call for the sun’s silence? After all, he was in the midst of battle and his goal was more daylight.
Our holidays are not merely points on a calendar; they are interlinking narratives. On Purim we feel precariousness; a month later we celebrate G’d’s redemption. Passover’s redemption climaxes with Shavuot’s revelation of Torah. Yom Kippur’s vulnerability is capped by Sukkot’s belief in divine providence.
This Shabbat evening we will distribute our Ad Book, a tribute to Rabbi Neil Brief and his beloved Erica, may she be remembered for blessing. We thank Judy Frank, Ada Rabinowitz, and Debbie Reich for their hard work in making this Ad Book a reality.
Each week brings challenges: professional, personal, financial. You may feel besieged by others. You may feel your old patterns (the bad ones) returning. You may feel nervous or confused.
And then that awesome exit sign appears: "Shabbos: Next Right". Or perhaps, "Shabbos: Tomorrow Night!"
Yes, the week may weary us, but Shabbat surely refreshes us. Please join us tomorrow evening, 7 pm, for Koleinu, our musical Shabbat evening service with guitars, djembe, and, of course, koleinu, " our voice".
An unusual idiom appears in this week’s Torah portion, Va’Yetzei.
וַיִּשָּׂא יַֽעֲקֹב רַגְלָיו וַיֵּלֶךְ אַרְצָה בְנֵי־קֶֽדֶם
And Jacob lifted his feet and went on to the land of the Easterners (Genesis 29:1).
Torah has many examples of someone lifting his or her eyes, but it is unusual to find someone lifting his or her feet. Rashi suggests that Jacob “lifted his feet” because he was still elated – as in, walking on air – after his theophany, his vision of God, at the side of the road.
We mourn once again. Terrorists killed five Israelis – four rabbis and one Druze police officer – in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue this week.
We are appalled by these brutal murders of the Jews and the Druze – Rabbi Mosheh Twersky, Rabbi Kalman Levine, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, and Officer Zidan Sarif, who left behind a six-month old baby girl. This is not an isolated event. In the past month, several other Jews have been killed by Palestinian terrorists, including a three-month old girl.
There they go again. I refer to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which once again is targeting Israel for one-sided, discriminatory treatment.
In this case, the Human Rights Council has established a commission to investigate Israel's conduct during this summer's Operation Protective Edge. Among the 48 states on the Human Rights Council are China, Congo, Cuba, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia -- states not well known for stellar human rights records. And yet they obsessively focus on Israel.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransport, the nine month effort to bring Jewish children from Europe to England, to safety. That humanitarian project began shortly after Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass."