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A D'var Torah for Parsha Ki  Tisa

03/13/2020 09:35:07 AM

Mar13

Rabbi Ahud Sela


Shabbat Shalom. As you know, in order to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus, we are canceling all events at TRZ, including the ELC, for the next 2 weeks. We will still have Shabbat services, but they will only be available through livestream on the TRZ facebook group. If you have not yet joined the TRZ facebook group, please do so before Shabbat. Shabbat services will be at 6pm tonight and 9am tomorrow morning. We will have a minyan of people at services, and this allows you to pray along with us at TRZ and say the Mourner’s Kaddish from home.

The spread of the Coronavirus is scaring a lot of people. And it is scary. But it is important to not give in to our worst fears. The spread will continue, but we can take steps to slow the spread. People will get sick, but we have access to great medical care. Children will be out of school and some parents will be off of work, but we have homes to be safe in and are part of loving families.

If all of the anxiety about this situation is stressing you out, please know that I am here to be a listening ear and a calming presence. You can call me anytime, except Shabbat. If all of the closings and cancelations are a financial burden on you, please contact me as I have resources to help you.

I am glad that Shabbat is almost here, and I hope that it can provide a respite from all the anxiety and stress. It is a time to breath and get centered again. In the parsha we read the famous verses, VeShamru Bnai Yisrael Et Shabbat, and the Children of Israel shall observe Shabbat, and it ends by saying that we observe Shabbat because God rested on the seventh, Uvayom Shevi’I Shavat, Vayinafash, and God was refreshed. Shabbat is our opportunity to be refreshed as well. So take this Shabbat seriously. Turn off the electronic devices, and just put on some of your favorite music. Read a book or read with someone you love. Call a family member or friend that you haven’t spoken with in a while. Cook some really good comfort food. Breathe. Meditate. Stretch. Do yoga. We will get through this.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Rav Sela

A D'var Torah for Purim titled, "Challenge or Opportunity"

03/06/2020 09:24:45 AM

Mar6

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Purim

Challenge or Opportunity

When I lived in New York City I would see the homeless all over the streets of the city and on the subways.  In LA, where hardly anyone walks, we see the homeless under freeways, in alleys, or begging at freeway offramps or intersections.  This morning a homeless person was begging at the entrance ramp to the shopping center I was exiting, so I reached out and gave him one of these.  Over winter break my family and I prepared a few dozen of these bags.  They contain food, water, socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste.  The man was so happy he said, “This is great, I can’t tell you how much I need clean socks.”  One of the mitzvot of Purim is Matanot La’evyonim, gifts to the poor.  We are commanded to give two kinds of food to at least two different people.  Of course, we can give tzedakah any day, but in particular on Purim we are commanded to take care of the poor in our area.  I know that many people feel hesitant to give money to the homeless because you are unsure if they will spend it on food instead of drugs or alcohol.  So I encourage you to all make a supply of these bags and keep them in your car.  A modern way of fulfilling the mitzvah of gifts to the poor can be two kinds of hygiene products to two different people.  In addition to the things that I mentioned, if you want to make gender specific bags for women that include feminine hygiene products, that would be a great thing to do.  We are not going to solve the problems of homelessness or poverty by ourselves, but our hearts should always be open to those in need.  And giving someone some food and hygiene products, and especially clean socks, can make a real difference.  Have a great, happy, healthy, generous, and hygienic Purim!  

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Sela

Parsha Terumah

03/06/2020 09:24:41 AM

Mar6

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parsha Terumah: Giving Gifts

 

A D'var Torah for Parshat Terumah titled, "Pure Light"

02/27/2020 11:44:31 AM

Feb27

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parsha Terumah

Pure light

There are lots of ways to get what we want, but most of us realize that immoral or illegal means can forever taint any good that we do. The Mishkan or Tabernacle that is described in this week’s Parsha is a beautiful tent that housed the most precious religious items to the Israelites, including the Ark of the Covenant and the Menorah. Part of the design specifications of the Menorah is that it had to be built from one piece of gold, Mikshah Achat, and that the gold had to be pure, Zahav Tahor. Rabbi Mordechai ben Dov asks, which was more difficult for the Israelites, to use one piece of gold, or for the gold to be pure? He answers, that physically it is much more difficult to construct the Menorah out of one solid piece of gold, than to find pure gold. But spiritually, he says, it is much more difficult to find pure gold. He explains that it is because the purity of the gold is not the purity of its metallic content. The purity of the gold is its source. And the gold came from the Israelites. It had to have come from people who were good. People who did not have even a hint of dishonesty or pride. It had to be donated out of love, without any thoughts of how it will make them look to their friends. That kind of gold from that kind of person, he explains, is much harder to find. But it is necessary because the Menorah literally lit up the Mishkan and served as an example for the Jewish people. The light of the Menorah had to be pure, so the Menorah had to be pure gold, Zahav Tahor. So too with us, when we shine a light for others, we had best be pure so that our light will be pure.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Sela

Parsha Mishpatim

02/27/2020 11:44:27 AM

Feb27

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parsha Mishpatim: Enemies into Friends

 

A D'var Torah for Parshat Mishpatim titled "Learning From Thieves"

02/21/2020 09:40:05 AM

Feb21

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat Mishpatim

Learning from Thieves

Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshiska was sitting and studying Parshat Mishpatim with his Chasidim, and they came to the verse, “When a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.”  These penalties are obviously meant to deter theft, but one of his Chasidim jokingly asked Reb Simcha Bunim, “Is there anything positive that we can learn from a thief?”  Reb Simcha Bunim paused in thought for a moment and then replied, “Indeed there are actually three positive things that we can learn from a thief.  First, a thief is not lazy.  He will work at night, even in the cold and rain.  Second, a thief does not give up.  If he is not successful in his first attempt at stealing he will keep trying until he has gotten something.  And third, a thief doesn’t have an ego or think that some job is below him.  He will steal anything, even something small.”  Now I am certainly not recommending becoming a thief because of these important character traits, but I appreciate how Reb Simcha Bunim turned a klutz kasha, a silly question, into a serious answer.  When going about our business, we shouldn’t be lazy or afraid to work in non-ideal situations.  Sometimes we have to shoulder a burden and make the best of a bad situation.  And we shouldn’t let one failure convince us that we are a failure.  Not everything works out great the first time.  The key is learning from our failures or mistakes and doing better the next time.  And we shouldn’t think any task is below us.  If it is for the sake of fulfilling our larger goal then we should be willing to do any task.  I have moved chairs in the sanctuary, washed dishes in the Sisterhood kitchen, and swept the floor all in the name of having a successful synagogue.  So be hardworking, persistent, and humble like a thief, just don’t steal anything.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rav Sela  
 

Parshat Yitro

02/21/2020 09:40:00 AM

Feb21

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat Yitro: World Zionist Congress Elections

 

A D'var Torah for Parshat Yitro titled "Leave the Past Behind"

02/14/2020 09:39:56 AM

Feb14

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat Yitro

Leaving the Past Behind

Even though as a Rabbi I have to “work” on Shabbat I still love Shabbat because it is a day of rest. On Shabbat I am leading services, I am teaching Torah, I counsel people, but I am able to leave all my other work behind until after Shabbat. Rabbi Baruch Epstein comments that this is essential to celebrating Shabbat properly.  In this week’s parsha we read the Ten Commandments, which includes the commandment to observe Shabbat.  But the commandment doesn’t simply say observe Shabbat. It goes on to say, “Six days of the week you shall do all of your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God.” Rabbi Epstein explains that it is rarely true that we have gotten all of our work done during the previous six days.  But even if we have work hanging over us, in order to celebrate Shabbat we have to feel like we have finished all of our work.  We have to forget about our work on Shabbat and not think about it. We have to leave our worries and concerns behind. If we bring those into Shabbat then we will not be able to focus on Shabbat activities, like spending time with our family and friends, making time to pray and sing, studying Torah and deepening our connection to God.  When we leave our work week worries behind we create a space on Shabbat that we can fill with all those wonderful things. So leave your work behind as Shabbat begins, don’t worry it will be there on Sunday or Monday, and create the mental space to celebrate Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Sela

A D'var Torah for Parshat BeShallach titled, "Taking Care."

02/07/2020 12:52:09 PM

Feb7

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat BeShallach

Taking Care

When I visit someone in a rehabilitation facility, I will often ask them if there are any creature comforts that I can bring to them.  It is different than a hospital visit because the person is not in acute distress.  They often just need time and physical therapy in order to recover.  So aside from the pastoral side of my visit I also try and take care of their other needs by offering to bring them something to help pass the time.  In this week’s parsha the Israelites cross through the Sea of Reeds.  When we imagine this, we typically only think about the miraculous nature of the water being like a wall on either side of them, but the Midrash imagines another miracle.  Rabbi Nehorai taught that God also provided fruit to eat, apples and pomegranates, in the water that the Israelites could take.  He explains that a woman was carrying her son and he began to cry so she reached out her hand, grabbed a piece of fruit and it calmed her son.  Why did God do this?  It says in the psalms that God led them through the water like God led them through the desert.  Just like God took care of all their needs in the desert including food, so too God took care of all their needs while walking through the sea, even feeding them.  When taking care of someone, it is important to see them as a whole person.  They might need medicine for their disease, and also a hug for their emotional comfort.  And also a prayer for their spiritual well being.  And also some really good chocolate or a magazine to help them feel normal or not have to focus on their illness for a little while. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rav Sela

Move On  of the Century

02/07/2020 11:52:15 AM

Feb7

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Move On of the Century

 

Mon, November 30 2020 14 Kislev 5781