Friday, October 28, 2016

Shabbat Around the Table -- Bereishit

This week we start reading the Torah from the beginning. The first book of the Torah, Bereishit, is also the name of the first parsha. The stories in Bereishit are the ones everyone knows: creation, Noah and the flood, the Tower of Babel, and the journey of Abraham and his family.

This week we read about Adam and Eve. God creates a paradise for them but warns them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Curious and tempted, of course they eat the fruit. In that moment, they become aware of their nakedness and lose their innocence.

I've always thought that this story is a beautiful metaphor for parenthood. We want to provide our children with everything they need to be happy and healthy and safe. We want to shelter them from the harsh realities of the grown up world. But, ultimately, we can't. Our children grow up, explore, take chances, make mistakes. They become their own people and -- eventually -- leave home. It's sad for us, even though we always knew it was inevitable. 

I've always imagined God as the parent here. God realizes God wouldn't always be able to protect and shelter the human souls God had lovingly created, and therefore God lovingly lets them go when the time comes for them to live their own lives. Letting go of our children, whether it's to attend preschool or leave for college, is hard. It's sometimes sad. But it's what we do because we love them.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Shabbat Around the Table -- V'zot Habracha

This week we read the last parsha of the Torah, V'zot Habracha. Moses says good-bye to the Jewish people and then dies on the mountain and Joshua becomes the people's leader. 

midrash (or commentary on the biblical text) teaches us that the last letter of the Torah is lamed, and the fist letter of the first word of the Torah, Bereshit, is bet. Therefore, the last letter and the first letter spell lev, or heart. This is understood to mean that the Torah is the heart of the Jewish people. 

I shared this simple teaching with the children today during our Kabbalat Shabbat/Simchat Torah celebration. Please ask them about how they felt singing songs, dancing with the Torah, and waving their flags and if they remembered that the Torah is always in their heart.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Shabbat Around the Table -- Ha'azinu

In this week's parshaHa'azinu, Moses recites a poem praising God before he ascends Mount Nebo. He knows he will not be permitted to enter the Promised Land before he dies; he will only be able to look upon it from a distance. Moses is very near the end of his life at this moment, and we are very near the end of the Torah.

In our tradition, we celebrate both beginnings and endings. I've always found the final shofar blast at the end of Yom Kippur services to be rather celebratory, almost like a festive acknowledgement of all our hard work. We mark the end of Shabbat with candles, wine, and spices at Havdalah. And on Simchat Torah, after we read the last words of the Torah, we celebrate by immediately reading from Bresheit, the first book of the Torah.

It reminds me of all those times I've finished reading a book to a child and she immediately cries out, "Read it again!" She loved the story so much, or she loved being read to so much, that she didn't want the experience to end. The message for our children, then, is simple. We love the stories in our Torah so much, and we love reading our Torah so much, that we don't ever want it to end. As soon as we finish it, we can't wait to start reading it all over again.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Shabbat Around the Table -- Vayelech

This week's parsha is Vayelech. On Moses's last day on earth, he ensures that future generations will know the Torah by finishing the task of writing it down in a scroll and giving it to the Levites to protect it. He also appoints Joshua as the leader to succeed him.

Moses also says something very powerful: "Gather the people -- men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities -- that they may hear and so learn to revere the Lord your God and to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching. Their children, too, who have not had the experience, shall hear and learn to revere the Lord your God . . ."

"Those who have not had the experience" refers to those who weren't with Moses in the desert for all those years, those who didn't experience the revelation at Mt. Sinai directly. Moses is suggesting that even generations not yet born are blessed with the teachings of the Torah. I can't think of a more profound concept to impress on our children: God knew each of us before we were born, God had faith in us, and God had a most precious gift God was anxiously waiting to give us: the gift of Torah.

Shabbat Around the Table -- The Shabbes Queen

Originally published May 12, 2017 In this week's  parsha  --  Emor  -- God gives Moses the laws pertaining to our most importan...