Weekly-Torah-Portion

Text Resize

-A A +A

You are here

TETZAVEH - SHABBAT ZACHOR

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 12:00am

Exodus 27:20 - 30:10; Maftir:  Deuteronomy 25:17-19 


BY:  RABBI ANA BONNHEIM for ReformJudaism.org


Each of Us Can Kindle the Light Within


There’s something incredibly powerful about the ner tamid, usually translated as the “eternal light.” Most often, it hangs elegantly in a synagogue just before the ark, right at the front of the sanctuary. (As an interesting aside, the ner tamid was historically placed on the western wall of the synagogue as a reminder that the Holy of Holies was to its west.1) The constancy of the ner tamid was a source of great interest to me as a child. I don’t think I am unique in remembering sitting through services, gazing at the lamp, and wondering whether it really burned all the time, when was it lit for the first time, and who made sure it didn’t go out.

Continue reading.

Terumah

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:00am

Exodus 25:1 - 27:19 


D'VAR TORAH BY:  RABBI ANA BONNHEIM for ReformJudaism.org


Giving Gifts of Free Will


As the Torah continues the Israelites’ dramatic, people-building saga, Parashat T’rumah approaches the story from a new angle. Instead of developing the literary adventures of a no-longer-nascent people or focusing on the striking events at Mt. Sinai, this week’s Torah portion is about the details. And these details are not the specifics of community-building or daily life. Rather, they concern, in painstaking minutiae, the construction of the Tabernacle. This is a parashah about holiness, and in the case of Parashat T’rumah, the holiness is in the details.

Continue reading.


 

Shabbat Shekalim - Mishpatim

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 12:00am

Exodus 21:1 - 24:18 

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky for myjewishlearning.com 


Who’s In, Who’s Out


The ordinances in this portion emphasize issues relevant to society and the interactions among groups.


Rules. Parameters. Boundaries. That’s what this Torah portion is all about.  It’s also about that which sets apart ancient Israel from its neighbors. It is infrequent that the text is so self-evident that the reader can clearly determine whether the various things listed in the Torah are designed to keep Israel in, or those who are not part of Israel out. It actually might be one of the reasons why even those inside the community have trouble determining the extent of their commitment to following these regulations.

These rules seem mundane, especially when compared to the grandeur of the previous week’s scene at Mount Sinai, until close to its completion where we read “And the people beheld the God of Israel….” (Ex. 24:10).

Continue reading.

Yitro

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 12:00am

Exodus 18:1 - 20:23


Rabbi Michelle Missagieh for myjewishlearning.com 


Soul Memories


What actually happened at Mount Sinai?


This week’s portion, Yitro, contains a deep memory of our people: the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

How do we remember this event in our people’s memory? Perhaps it’s the same way we remember family stories – differently.

All of us have sat around a holiday table reminiscing of past times … when, according to Uncle Joe, he fell off his bike while trying to impress a girl … or maybe Aunt Margie’s version was more accurate: The girl he was trying to impress pushed him off the bike. Or possibly it was the memory of when cousin Lucy vomited all over the Thanksgiving table because she ate an entire watermelon … or was Grandma Ethel’s version accurate: that Lucy got sick because she had stayed up all night studying for an exam?

Continue reading.

Beshalach

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:00am

Exodus 13:17 - 17:16 


BY RABBI DEBORAH JOSELOW for myjewishlearning.com 


Singing On The Way


Despite the fear and exhaustion of journeying from a dark, narrow place, we must remember to accompany our arrivals with song and joy.


This week’s Torah portion is Beshalach. From the Hebrew root meaning “to send,” the name of the portion reflects Pharaoh’s decree that the Israelite people may finally leave the land of Egypt.

For over 400 years, our ancestors were physically and spiritually enslaved. Their release was not only cause for joy but, more importantly, the basis of a mandate that continues to inform all of Jewish life and activity. Then and now, freedom for every one of God’s children is our constant and ultimate pursuit.

Continue reading.

Bo

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 9:00am

Exodus 10:1 - 13:16 


Rabbi Suzanne Singer for myjewishlearning.com


Does One Crime Justify Another?


Understanding why God hardens Pharaoh's heart.


God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 10:1 presents a theological problem on two levels. First, if God is the agent of Pharaoh’s behavior, what does that imply about Pharaoh’s free will? Second, if God hardens Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate God’s power, we must ask: At what price the Israelites’ liberation? Indeed, the ultimate result of Pharaoh’s stubbornness is the murder of every first-born Egyptian male. Even if we consider this to be retributive justice, payback for Pharaoh’s earlier order to kill all newborn Hebrew males, we still must ponder: Does one heinous crime justify another? And how do we come to terms with killing innocent children?

Continue reading.

Vaera

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 12:00am

Exodus 6:2 - 9:35


Dr. Sharon Koren for myjewishlearning.com 


The Shechinah: A Supernal Mother


A Kabbalistic interpretation of the suffering of the Jews in Egypt and their ultimate redemption.


The signs and wonders (or “plagues”) described in Parashat Vaera must have been extremely frightening for both the Egyptians who suffered and the Israelites who bore witness to God’s might for the first time. Thirteenth-century Kabbalists believed that when the Children of Israel braved the agonies of slavery and the ten displays of divine might that devastated Egypt, they did not do so alone. Rather, the Israelites knew that the Shechinah, the pre-eminent feminine aspect of God, dwelled alongside them in Egypt. Medieval Kabbalists often portrayed the feminine Shechinah as a loving mother who suffers along with her children Israel in exile. She toils with her children while they are slaves in Egypt and protects them in the wilderness after they are liberated.

Continue reading.

Shemot

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 12:00am

Exodus 1:1-6:1 


Rabbi Michelle Missagieh for myjewishlearning.com 


Stop Making Excuses and Step Up to the Plate


Moses' excuses at the Burning Bush parallel three great human fears.


We often make excuses: “I’m too tired — I’ll just skip exercising this morning” … “It’s been a long week — maybe my co-worker won’t miss me at tonight’s shiva minyan for his father,” … or “It’s been months since I raised my voice to my child — she probably forgot, and I don’t need to apologize.”

Excuses often roll off the tip of our tongue. We’re too tired, frazzled, insecure, unsure, overwhelmed or distracted. Showing up emotionally and physically when we are called upon counts for a lot. Which is why it’s intriguing that Moses and God have such an intense connection at the Burning Bush, and then when God asks for Moses’ help in freeing the Israelites from slavery, the last thing Moses wants to do is show up and help God.

Continue reading.

Vayechi

Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:00am

Genesis 47:28 - 50:26 


Rabbi Laura Geller for myjewishlearning.com 


Blessing Our Daughters


Why did Jacob not bless his daughters before he died?


Vayehi speaks of blessings, of a grandfather blessing his grandsons, a father blessing his sons. Imagine the scene at the end of the Torah portion: Jacob, whose name has been changed to Israel, calls his 12 sons to his deathbed and blesses each one of them. But his real concern, according to our rabbis, is that his sons will abandon his God after he has died. In the Midrash, his sons respond to this unstated fear with words that have become familiar to us: “Shema Yisrael (Listen, [Dad–whose name is] Israel!): Hashem is our God, only Hashem.” Hearing this, the dying patriarch sighs quietly: “Baruch shem k’vod malchuto I’olam va’ed (Blessed is the glorious Name whose kingdom is forever and ever)!” (Midrash B’reishii Rabbah 98-4).

Continue reading.

Vayigash

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:00am

Genesis 44:18 - 47:27 

 

BY RABBI ANDREW BACHMAN for myjewishlearning.com 

 

Achievement And Action


Joseph teaches us to use our material success in the service of those who are needy.


In this week’s Torah portion, we encounter Joseph, at the peak of his ascent in Egypt, long after having been left for dead by his brothers and ransomed by desert traders. Joseph’s purpose, as Judah approaches him, seems to be concerned with wringing repentance from the siblings who abandoned him.

Now a Man
This once-precocious lad was too much for his brothers to bear in their youth; and now, unrecognizable by his brothers, Joseph has come into his own and made himself a man. He is described in rabbinic midrash as wise, learned, as Joseph the Righteous, and indeed the power he has gained over Egypt is deserved. For our generation of readers, Joseph represents a type of materially and morally successful Diaspora Jew. 

 
  •  

Continue reading.

Mikeitz - Shabbat Hanukkah

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:00am

Genesis 41:1−44:17
 
D'var Torah By: Edwin C. Goldberg for ReformJudaism.org

Joseph the Educator

In this week's Torah portion, Mikeitz, Joseph, now the viceroy of Egypt, receives a visit from his brothers who seek relief from the famine in Canaan. While Joseph recognizes them, they don't realize that he is the brother they kidnapped and sold into slavery. This makes sense. They expected him to have died as a poor slave in Egypt long before. There is no reason for them to suspect that the Egyptian VIP who confronts them, speaking through an interpreter, is long-lost Joseph.

Joseph could them kill when he recognizes them. He could embrace them, forgiving them and consoling them to feel no guilt. He does neither. Instead, anticipating King David,1 and later, Hamlet,2 he puts on an act. In his case, he pretends to suspect them of being spies. He imprisons them. Then, he lets them leave and return to Canaan, keeping Simeon as a hostage of sorts. He tells them not to come back without their youngest brother (Benjamin).

Continue reading.

 

 

Vayeishev

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:00am

Genesis 37:1−40:23

D'var Torah By: Edwin C. Goldberg for ReformJudaism.org

Practice Positive Pessimism and Partner with God

 

Most of us have grown up with the power of positive thinking. We've been warned about negative outlooks and what popular psychologists call "catastrophizing." To have a successful outcome when facing a problem, we're told that we need to avoid the bad and focus on the good.

But there is another point of view. The leadership guidebook, Great by Choice,1 discusses the responsible need to practice "productive paranoia." In other words, worry a little bit because there are things that can hurt you. (The book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson, is also useful in its own way, but sometimes the small stuff isn't so small.) Julie Norem, author of a highly counterintuitive book called The Positive Power of Negative Thinking2 suggests that upbeat strategies don't always work. In fact, they may make some people—those who are naturally anxious—more nervous than ever.
 
Continue reading.

 

Vayishlach

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 8:21am

Genesis 32:4 - 36:43 


BY RABBI LAURA GELLER for myjewishlearning.com 


The Silence of Dinah and Other Rape Victims


The Bible focuses on Jacob's and his son's reactions, but not on those of the victim herself.

 

After 20 years, Jacob is coming home. Anticipating that the reunion with the brother he cheated all those years ago will be disastrous, he sends messengers laden with presents ahead to his brother.

But just to be on the safe side, he divides his camp in order to minimize the losses should he come under attack. The story continues: “That same night, he got up, took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his 11 children, and crossed at a ford of the Jabbok [river]. … Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him” (32:23-25). The nocturnal wrestler wounds and blesses him and gives him a new name–our name: Yisrael, one who wrestles with God. Jacob’s wrestling with God is a powerful image and legacy. We never know with whom Jacob is wrestling: is it himself, his conscience, his brother, God, or all of these parts of himself and of his life? Jacob names the place “Peniel,” meaning “Face of God,” for, as he states, “I have seen God face-to-face” (32:31). Somehow, alone, separated from his “two wives” and his “eleven children,” Jacob discovers the face of God in his adversary — and Jacob is blessed.

Continue reading.

Vayeitzei

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 12:00am

Genesis 28:10−32:3

D'var Torah By Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg for ReformJudaism.org

Wherever You Go, There God Will Surely Be

 

We live in a self-indulgent time. One of the best examples of our era's trend toward self-indulgence is the "Travel List Challenge's 100 Places to Visit Before You Die."1 On this Web page, users are asked to check off which of the 100 author-recommended places in the world they have visited. The places range from North American sites like the Smithsonian Museum, the Washington Monument, and the Empire State Building to exotic, faraway destinations like the Taj Mahal in India, Machu Pichu in Peru, and the Great Wall of China. It's an interesting exercise, allowing us to recall some great memories of places we've seen.

But like much of what we find on social media, it's also a way show that our life is OK—maybe even better than OK—in comparison to that of our friends.

Continue reading.

 

Toldot

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 12:00am

Genesis 25:19-28:9

D'var Torah By: Edwin C. Goldberg for ReformJudaism.org

 

What Would You Hold Onto - At Any Price?

The show, Pawn Stars, is a runaway hit on the History Channel. It tells the story of three generations of the Harrison family and their Las Vegas pawnshop. There's Richard, the patriarch (affectionately known as the "old man"); Rick, the son (who really runs the business); and Rick's adult son, Corey (who wants to become a tough businessman like his father and grandfather).

The setup is simple: Every customer who walks through the door, intending to pawn or sell some family heirloom, has a tale. Sometimes the item is worthless, other times priceless. Rick can always tell the difference.

When he does pronounce that the medieval knight's helmet is really a 19th-century reproduction, the item's owner must make a choice: Sell it for less than the asking price or call the whole deal off. Often, customers call off the deal because the item's sentimental value has just exceeded its actual value.
 
Continue reading.

 

Chayei Sara

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 7:53am
BY RABBI KERRY M. OLITZKY for myjewishlearning.com 


Was Abraham’s Second Wife Really Hagar?

 

None of the commentaries questioned the legitimacy of the relationship between Abraham and Keturah.


Following the death of his beloved Sarah, Abraham wed a second time. The Torah records it this way, “Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah” (Gen. 25:1). It is the Torah’s style only to add detail when necessary. Otherwise, it is up to the reader to discern the import of the Torah’s cryptic statements. In this case, there is no extensive discussion or lengthy debate. There is no explanation of Keturah’s lineage. Some suggest that she was Hagar. Others say that she was a different woman entirely.

Taking his lead from a variety of rabbinic sources, the great commentator Rashi boldly suggests that Keturah is Hagar: “She was called Keturah because her deeds were as pleasing as incense and because she tied up her opening [explanations emerging from two rabbinic folk etymologies on her name]; from the day she left Abraham, she did not couple with any man.”

Continue reading.

Did You Know...?

Our new rabbi sent us a video!


Click here to hear a message from Rabbi Spinrad.

 

Let's share our stories and thoughts on Facebook!

 

“Through sharing we all find a common ground, inspiration, hope, meaning, and, ultimately, action.”

https://www.facebook.com/BethElHebrew

 

Are you looking for the perfect gift?

Buy all your loved ones the beautiful Beth El Hebrew 1859 logo T-Shirts!

Beth El Hebrew T-Shirt Order Form

 

Beth El is raising funds for a new playground?

Beth El is getting a new playground!  If you would like to donate towards this very worthy project, simply send your donations to Beth El Hebrew Congregation and notate "Playground."  If you donate on line, the playground fund is first on the list!

 

Lifelong Learning

Wednesdays during the school year
@ 7:00 PM
See calendar for exact dates and subjects

 

ALIVE!

For more information about ALIVE! go to alive-inc.org.

 

Beth El House

For more information go to https://www.bethelhebrew.org/community/beth-el-house

Beth El House enables formerly homeless families to work toward self-sufficiency and confidence.

More

HAMANTASCHEN RECIPE HERE

Please see calendar for baking dates

 

REELABILITIES FILM FESTIVAL

Sunday, February 25 at 4:00 PM

Click here for details
 

brotherhood interfaith dinner

Tuesday, February 27 at 6:30 PM

Please Click Here for Details
Please Click Here to RSVP

 

Beth El Lifelong Learning and JCCNV Joint Program

Sunday, March 18 at 2:00 PM

"Shattering Switzerland's Neutrality Myth:  The Inside Story of
the Investigation of Swiss Banks and Stolen Jewish Assets
During the Holocaust"

RSVP HERE

 

2nd night passover seder

Saturday, March 31, 6:00 PM

Click Here for Details
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


There are activities, meetings, services and seminars at Beth El each week, ranging from service opportunities to Jewish learning and education, drawing members and guests from throughout the Washington, D.C. area.

the full calendar