(717) 581-7891

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vaera 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vaera 5781
Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

Be Yourself!

It is told about the great rabbi Chaim de Sanz (Sanz, Poland, 1793–1876, a famous Hasidic Rabbi and the founder of the Sanz Hasidic dynasty, and one of the leaders of Eastern European Jewry in his generation) that he once received the visit of a young rabbi. Rabbi Chaim asked the young visitor who he was. The visitor answered, “I am the grandson of the famous Rabbi so and so, who is well known in many countries. Rabbi Chaim replied, “I asked you who you were, and not who your grandfather was.”

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vaera 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Sh’mot 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Sh’mot 5781

Posted on January 6, 2021

Who is a Good Leader?

B”H
Rabbi Daniela Szuster

If you read a book about leadership, what important key points would you find about being a good leader?

You may find that leaders are born into leadership because of their innate gifts. Some theories stress the motivations of leaders to lead. Other theories stress the powers of persuasion and the gift of popularity.

Besides this, you will find that to be an effective leader, you should be confident enough to ensure that others follow your commands. In addition, a good leader should be a good communicator. Words have the power to motivate people and make them do the unthinkable.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Sh’mot 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayigash 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayigash 5781

Serving God Joyfully

Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

Last week’s parasha ended with Joseph demanding his brothers that Benjamin (the youngest among the brothers) remain a slave in Egypt while the other brothers return to their father, Jacob. That was because a silver goblet had been found in Benjamin’s bag. Parashat Vayigash begins with Judah’s plea to Joseph, “if I come home and the youngest lad is not with us, and the soul of the one is bound up with the soul of the other, then it shall come to pass that he (Jacob) shall die in sorrow. Please take me as your slave instead of Benjamin” (from Genesis 44).

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayigash 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Miketz 5781

Parashat Miketz 5781
B”H
Rabbi Daniela Szuster

Joseph: A Talented and Humble Person

Last week, in parashat Vayeshev, and this week in parashat Miketz, we see Joseph as a young dreamer and as a person capable of interpreting other people’s dreams. Would he make a great psychoanalyst in our time!

Every time someone would ask him to solve their confusing dreams, Joseph would agree on the condition they understood the interpretation did not come from him but from God. It is interesting to note that he expressed this more than once.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Miketz 5781

Torah Thoughts: Hanukkah 5781

Torah Thoughts on Hanukkah 5781
Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

Adding Light This Year

Tonight, we will be lighting the first candle of Hanukkah, so the Torah Thoughts for this week are dedicated to this festival.

I want to start with a question: Why do we light one candle the first night of Hanukkah and one additional candle each night, until we have eight candles the eighth night of Hanukkah?

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Hanukkah 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayishlach 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayishlach 5781

An Angel is Created out of each Good Deed we Perform

B”H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

This week’s parashah begins by saying: “Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom” (Bereshit 32:4). Since Jacob left the house of Laban with all his family, and he returned to the land of Canaan, he sent messengers to his brother Esau.

In the Hebrew text it is written “מלאכים” which usually is translated as “messengers” but also means “angels”. What did Jacob really send to Esau?

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayishlach 5781

Torah Thoughts on Parashat Vayetze 5781

Torah Thoughts on Parashat Vayetze 5781
Thanksgiving

By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

For most American Jews, Thanksgiving is a chance to gather with family (well… maybe not this year!) and eat turkey and stuffing, like any other American would do.

The big majority of American Jews regard Thanksgiving as more akin to the Fourth of July than Christmas, since Thanksgiving is considered a civil celebration, lacking religious associations and offering an opportunity to fully embrace a widely observed American tradition.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts on Parashat Vayetze 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Toldot 5781

“Isaac’s blindness and how we can open our eyes and see the big picture”
B”H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

The parasha for this Shabbat, Parashat Toldot, narrates the story of Isaac’s sons. First, Rebecca was barren, and then she was blessed and conceived twins. The Torah continues telling about the personality of each son: “And the boys grew; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; and Rebecca loved Jacob” (Bereshit 25: 27-28).

The boys developed different styles of living: Esau was a man of the field, of dangers and risks, and Jacob a man of the house, of peace and reflection. These are two very dissimilar behavior patterns.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Toldot 5781

Torah Thoughts: Chayei Sarah 5781

Honoring Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l

Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

This week we read parashat Chayei Sarah, which literally means “the life of Sarah.” However, the first verses of this parasha actually tells us about Sarah’s death. Something similar happens with the last parasha of the Book of Genesis, which is called Vayechi, “he lived,” although it tells us about Jacob’s death. 

Our sages learn an important principle from these apparent contradictions. They stated that, צַדִּיקִים שֶׁבְּמִיתָתָן נִקְרְאוּ חַיִּים, “Righteous people are referred to as living even after their death” (Brachot 18:b). This means that righteous people live on through their teaching and living example, even after passing away. 

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Chayei Sarah 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayera 5781

“The “Eshel” (tamarisk) Planted by Abraham and the Different Aspects of Hospitality”

B”H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

In this week’s parashah, parashat Vayera, the Torah tells us that Abraham made a peaceful covenant with the king Abimelech and acquired a well at Beer – Sheba. After that, it is written in the text:

“Abraham” planted a tamarisk (eshel) at Beer-sheba, and invoked there the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.” (Bereshit 21:33)

It is nor clear why Abraham planted this tree there. Maybe he wanted to show his gratitude for acquiring that well.

There is a Midrash that explains the name of the tree “Eshel” saying that the three letters in the word א-ש-ל are an acronym for אכילה- שתיה- לינה that true hospitality involves providing one’s guests with food, drink, and lodging

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayera 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Lech Lecha 5781

The Two “Lech Lecha”

By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

Parashat Lech Lecha begins with the following verse: “And the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). The words translated here as “go forth” are the ones that give its name to this parasha, lech lecha. These Hebrew words can literally be translated as “go to you,” or “go to yourself.” This is not a common expression in the Torah; in fact, it appears only twice in the entire book, both in the book of Genesis. The first time, in our parasha, this expression is said to Abraham by God to command him to go to the Land of Israel.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Lech Lecha 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Noach 5781

“Abraham: The Founder of the Idea of Monotheism as well as an Ethical Person”

B”H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

At the end of this week’s parashah, after the story of Noah and the Tower of Babel, we have a little bit of information about Abraham. It is written in the Torah: “Abram and Nahor took to themselves wives, the name of Abram’s wife being Sarai and that of Nahor’s wife Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren, she had no child. Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan; but when they had come as far as Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah came to 205 years; and Terah died in Haran.”  (Bereshit 11:29-32)

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Noach 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bereshit 5781

Torah Thoughts on Parashat Bereshit 5781

Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

This week we begin anew the annual reading of the Torah. The first parasha of the Torah is Bereshit, which is also the name of the first book of the Torah, Genesis.

In the first chapter of the Torah the creation of the world is described. The Torah tells us the different things God created in each day of the week, namely light, the firmament, the dry ground and plants, the sun, the moon and the stars, the birds and the sea animals, the land animals and human beings. Finally, on the seventh day, the Shabbat, God rested from creating the world.

The Torah does not provide many details about each stage of the creation, nor about the nature of each thing that was created. Rabbis, sages, and commentators in all generations have tried to fill in the gaps. Let’s see a very simple example.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bereshit 5781

Torah Thoughts: Simchat Torah 5781

Torah Thoughts on Simchat Torah 5781

Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

We are celebrating the festival of Sukkot (literally, “huts”). Apart from having our meals in the Sukkah, the other notable tradition of this holiday is to take four species (Lulav, Etrog, Hadas and Aravah), put them together, and say the corresponding blessing each day of the festival (not on Shabbat, though). 

There are many proposals that try to explain what this ritual means. Some say that taking the four species each day provides joy and also a necessary approach to nature. Others say that the movements we do with the Lulav (the “shaking”) express a hope and a prayer for the necessary rains, as well as a wish to avoid damaging winds. There are many midrashim that explain how the four species represent different kinds of individuals among the Jewish people (those who study Torah, or not; those who perform good deeds, or not), or different parts of the human body. As it happens with other symbols and rituals, the Jewish tradition provides us with multiple interpretations. 

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Simchat Torah 5781

Torah Thoughts: Shabbat – Sukkot 5781

Sukkot: A Festival of Hope in the Midst of Adversity
B”H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

This Shabbat we will start celebrating the festival of Sukkot. If you compare this festival with other Jewish festivals, you will find many differences. One of these differences is that most Jewish festivals celebrate a miracle that happened in the past. For example, during Pesach we celebrate the miracles God performed for the people of Israel like the sending of the ten plagues to the Egyptians, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the drowning of the Egyptians into the sea. During Shavuot we celebrate God’s revelation at Mount Sinai. On Hanukkah we celebrate the miracle of the oil, etc.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Shabbat – Sukkot 5781

Torah Thoughts: Shabbat Shuva 5781

Getting Ready for Different Kinds of Occasions
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

This Shabbat we read Parashat Haazinu, which contains the long and beautiful poem that Moses said before he died. Some years, like this one, we read this parashah on Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat that is between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  Some other years we read this parasha on the Shabbat between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. These two special shabbatot fall in the middle of two interesting periods of time.

There are ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  This time is known as “The ten days of repentance”, Aseret Yemei T’shuva.  We need these ten days to spiritually prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During this time we reflect on our past year, ask forgiveness from our friends and also review our good and bad behavior before God. We hope and pray that He will forgive us during Yom Kippur. 

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Shabbat Shuva 5781

Torah Thoughts: Rosh Hashanah 5781

“May this Year and its Curses End and may the New Year and its Blessings Begin”

B”H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

This Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday we are going to start a new year in the Jewish calendar. Without a doubt, this Rosh Hashanah will be very different from other years. We won’t be able to see each other in person and pray together at the synagogue, as we do every year.

This year many of us won’t be able to get together in person with our family and friends and share meals and have a good time as we do every year.

However, we still are able to meet virtually and pray as a congregation, each one from his/her home. Thanks to the technology of our times, we have the opportunity to get together and celebrate and live these holidays in a meaningful and spiritual way. 

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Rosh Hashanah 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashot Nitzavim Vayelech 5780

Being United

By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

This week we read two parashot, Nitzavim and Vayelech. The first of them, Nitzavim, is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. Why is that? It is because this parashah alludes to the Teshuva, return/repentance, and we are encouraged to repent before the High Holidays. For example, we read in this parashah, “and you will return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day you and your children” (Deuteronomy 30:2).

Another reason for reading Nitzavim on this Shabbat is that, at its beginning, it suggests that we are on the eve of the Day of Judgment, as it is written, “You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God…” (Deuteronomy 29:9). As you might know, Rosh Hashanah is called the Day of Judgment.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashot Nitzavim Vayelech 5780

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Ki Tavo 5780

“Mikra Bikkurim” a Ceremony Designed to Encourage Gratitude
B”H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

The book of D’varim, the fifth book of the Torah, describes God in many places as a gracious giver of gifts to the people of Israel. For example, who has given rain and crops, blessings, cattle and sheep, towns, settlements, and the land of Israel.

At the same time, the book of D’varim is also concerned that these gifts could be taken for granted. That the people of Israel won’t feel grateful for them and will forget that God was the one who had given those gifts to them.

At the beginning of the book of D’varim we can find two examples of two kinds of situations where people might not be grateful with God.

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Ki Tavo 5780

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Ki Tetze 5780

Torah Thoughts on Parashat Ki Tetze 5780

By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

This week we read parashat Ki Tetze. Like in other sections in Deuteronomy, we can find in this parasha a paragraph that instruct us on how to improve the society and discipline its members. At the end of some of these paragraphs, especially when an exemplary punishment is described, we can find the phrase, “And you shall wipe out the evil from among you, and all Israel will listen and fear” (for example, in this week’s parasha, on Deuteronomy 21:21). 

In the original Torah text in Hebrew, the “among you” is conjugated in the second person singular (bekirbecha). Therefore, the phrase could be paraphrased as, “first you need to clean out your own evil (singular) and then all Israel will hear and fear.”

Read More...

Comments Off on Torah Thoughts: Parashat Ki Tetze 5780