Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah



February 15, 2018

In Torah portion Terumah, those expected to donate toward the creation of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle in the wilderness, are “kol ish asher yidbenu libo,” “every man whose heart is willing.” (Ex. 25: 2)  It seems like only men are required to contribute because every word in Hebrew is gendered.  “Ish” is man and “isha” is woman.  But in later chapters of Exodus (35 and 36) it is made explicit that women are to contribute as well.  The URJ Women’s Torah Commentary states that this implies that “women had their own resources and control over them.” (p. 453).   But, I wonder….  In ancient times and right up to the present, women have functioned at a decided disadvantage in ownership, resources, agency and more.  Until very recent times, it was rare for any woman to have resources that were truly her own; rather the men in her life may have given her control over some things.  This fact does not diminish the fact that women did what they could to contribute to the Mishkan, and that is something we can celebrate.  But, we should never be satisfied with a society in which women have less control than men over their finances, their philanthropy, or anything else, and too often today gender disparity in almost every realm is still descriptive of our world.


February 8, 2018

As I write this D’var Torah, I am about to head out to a rally in support of the Dream Act and the rights of DACA recipients with a local activist organization, Voces de la Fronterra. You may recall that Beth Hillel’s Leadership Council has passed a resolution supporting immigration rights and giving our Social Action Committee and me permission to speak out on this issue on behalf of the congregation. See the resolution, which is posted at the temple website here: http://bethhillel.net/index.php/programs/social-action. Cited in the resolution, as the basis for Jewish support of refugees and rights for immigrants, is the fact that a law about not oppressing the stranger comes up 39 times in the Torah. The first locus of this law is in parashat Mishpatim: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of a stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Ex 23:9) I will be expounding on this verse in the public square this afternoon in support of immigrants in America. (Wed, Feb 7, 2018)


Feb 1, 2018

At the end of Torah portion Yitro (in which the giving of the Commandments on Mt. Sinai is also found), we have a commandment about the building of the altar within the tabernacle, and the prohibition against using “hewn stones” as materials.  (Ex 20:22)  The idea (which appears also later at the time of the building of the Temple in Jerusalem) is that the metal stone-cutting instruments were like weapons of war that ought not to be associated with worshiping God.  The tabernacle and later the Temple were to be sanctuaries of peace.  The value suggested here is an uplifting one- that this new community in covenant with God is to be a people focused on peace.  That value is enshrined in the very place where the people and God will meet- to serve as a reminder and a symbol when events inevitably impel the community toward violence and war.  What reminders and symbols do we have today in our world, that keep us grounded in peace-making when events seem to tip us toward war? And do those reminders make a difference?  Or is war inevitable, no matter how much we value peace?

During this week in January when we remember the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. local clergy are asked to speak on the subject. Therefore, my sermon tomorrow night will be on the topic of “I May Not Get to the Promised Land,” a paraphrase of words used by King in his last speech, the night before he was assassinated in 1968. That night in Memphis, King stated that if he could live in any age, he would “take (his) mental flight by Egypt, through or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on and toward the promised land.” (April 3, 1968) Later in the speech, he intimates that his death his near, prophesying: “I may not get there with you.” By coincidence, we read the beginning of the moment that King wanted to relive by time travel in Torah portion Bo: “That very day Adonai freed the Israelites from the land of Egypt, troop by troop.” (Ex 12:51)

Early in this week’s parasha, we hear the state of mind of the Israelites described as “kotzer ruach.” (Ex. 6:9) A literal translation is “shortness of breath,” which is how Rashi translates it. But “ruach” is both spirit and breath in Hebrew, which is, in and of itself, interesting. Therefore, we also find translations like “shortness of spirit” (Everett Fox), impatience (Nachmanides) and “dispirited” (Michael Walzer). Those who practice meditation, yoga and breathing know that breath and spirit are indeed intertwined and interdependent. Concentrating on breathing is a way to control, focus and calm one’s spirit. When we are short of breath, we are short of energy and perhaps even seriously ill. When we are short of spirit, we are short of passion, hope, and the ability to act. This is the condition Moses and Aaron found the Israelites in when first approaching Pharaoh to free them from bondage. They needed to learn to breathe and realize that they had a life force yet in them--physically and spiritually.

February FOOD OF THE MONTH: Oatmeal

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URJ Weekly Torah Commentary

Saturday, February 17, 2018
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Saturday, January 6, 2018
Saturday, December 30, 2017
Saturday, December 23, 2017

This Week at BHT

20 Feb 2018
07:00PM - 09:00PM
Israel's Milestones and Their Meanings Class
21 Feb 2018
05:30PM -
Adult Hebrew Beginner Class
21 Feb 2018
06:30PM -
Adult Hebrew Continuing Class
22 Feb 2018
12:00PM - 01:00PM
Lake County “Lunch and Learns”
22 Feb 2018
06:30PM - 07:30PM
Taste of Mussar
23 Feb 2018
07:30PM -
25 Feb 2018
09:45AM - 10:45AM
Mindful Yoga | Low Back Pain-Try Yoga
25 Feb 2018
10:00AM -
Carnival Pur
27 Feb 2018
04:00PM -
Shalom Center Soup Kitchen
28 Feb 2018
05:15PM -
28 Feb 2018
06:30PM -
Erev Pur Family Service/Megillah
02 Mar 2018
05:45PM -
Kabbalat Shabbat
02 Mar 2018
07:00PM -
Share Shabbat Dinner
03 Mar 2018
09:15AM - 10:15AM
Torah Study
03 Mar 2018
10:30AM -
Learner's Minyan | Kitah Gimel and Dalet on bima
04 Mar 2018
09:30AM - 11:30AM
Great Decisions
04 Mar 2018
09:30AM - 10:45AM
Introduction to Judaism