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A D'var Torah for Parshat  Lech L'cha titled, "Self-serving or God-serving"

11/08/2019 10:52:09 AM

Nov8

Rabbi Ahud Sela

 
Parshat Lech Lecha

Self-serving or God-serving

It is easy to listen to our inner voice when its dictates are self-serving. Whether we think of that voice as God speaking to us or as our inner moral compass, when it says to do something that benefits us at the expense of others we should pause and think if that is truly what God wants. In this week’s parsha we read that there is a conflict between Avram and his nephew Lot’s shepherds. Their flocks have become so numerous that we might think that this is simply a problem of lack of resources, but Rashi comments that Lot’s shepherds were grazing their sheep in other people’s fields, and Avram’s shepherds rebuked them for doing so. Lot’s shepherds argued that God had given the entire land to Avram and his descendants and since, at that moment, Avram had no children that the land would pass to Lot, so it was really his land. Avram’s shepherds replied that the land had not been given yet, so until that time they were only entitled to land that had been rightfully purchased. Were Lot’s shepherds misguided, or just really faithful in God’s promise? Aside from being faithful there was obviously a self-serving motivation for their claim. Imagine if God had instead instructed Avraham to give away all of his flocks to the poor. Would Lot’s shepherds have been so faithful as to say, Well Avraham owns the land and is head of our master’s clan, so everything belongs to him so we should give away our sheep as well? It is harder to be faithfully devoted to God’s word when it goes against our self-interest. But indeed, most of the time, that is what God desires and lays out in the mitzvot. The Torah does not say that God wants us to be poor or, God forbid, to suffer, but there are many mitzvot that include giving up something that is ours to benefit someone else. Because in reality, a truly faithful person believes that everything belongs to God, and that we are merely stewards who serve God’s interests, not our own.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Sela

Noach

11/08/2019 10:15:55 AM

Nov8

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat Noach - Better to be a Jew  

 

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A D'var Torah for Parshat Noach titled, "Illumination"

11/01/2019 10:02:32 AM

Nov1

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Illumination

As a Rabbi I think a lot about the words that I use. I love Mark Twain’s saying, “Better to keep silent and have people think you a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” No matter the size of our foot, or our mouth, we often find interesting and creative ways to stick our foot in our mouths when we don’t speak carefully. Yet, when we do choose our words carefully they can have tremendous power. In this week’s parsha we read about Noach and the Flood. When God instructs Noach to build the Ark God gives him many details about its construction, but one word sticks out, Tzohar. Noach is told to put a Tzohar in the Ark, but that word is only used once in the Torah so its meaning is mysterious. Most commentaries understand it to be a window, something to let light in. The Ba’al Shem Tov takes it a little further and says that it simply means illuminating. Then he plays with the word for Ark, Teivah, which also means word, and translates the whole phrase, not as “Make a window in the Ark”, but rather as “Illuminate the word”. When we choose our words carefully we can truly illuminate a concept for someone, giving them understanding that they did not have before. When we choose gentle, kind, and complimentary words we can brighten someone’s day, or remove a burden that was like a black cloud hanging over them. It doesn’t take much, a compliment, a quick call, even a text message, to give someone a ray of sunshine. Try it, illuminate your words and see the power that they have to illuminate the world.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Sela

Bereishit

11/01/2019 09:20:32 AM

Nov1

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Bereishit - Rest on Shabbat   Bereishit - Believing vs Knowing  

 

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A D'var Torah titled, "Pittsburgh"

10/25/2019 11:52:55 AM

Oct25

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Pittsburgh

The holidays are over and it is time to get back to our regular schedules, but there is a tragic anniversary that is coming up in a couple of days.  On October 27th we will mark the one year anniversary of the worst mass murder of Jews in America as we remember the lives of the eleven Jews who were murdered in Pittsburgh in their synagogue on Shabbat morning.  It is a black day in Jewish history, it is a black day in American history.  Why were those people killed?  Firstly, they were killed because they were Jews and the delusional murderer hated Jews and believed that Jews are ruining America.  But there are lots of Jews in America, there are lots of Jews in Pittsburgh, so why those Jews?  The vile murderer also hated immigrants.  Whipped up into a frenzy by talking heads and even people in the highest positions of power and influence in our country to think that our country was being invaded by hordes of murderous immigrants who were also going to destroy our country, the depraved murderer learned that Jews were supporting immigrants and that on Saturday they were holding an event for them, Refugee Shabbat, sponsored by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.  And why were they killed that day in a synagogue?  Because that is where you can find Jews.  Since then many Jews have been afraid to go to synagogue, afraid to be Jewish in public, because the façade that we are safe in America has been broken.  But abandoning our synagogues and schools, retreating behind walls, is not the answer.  The Jewish Federations of North America are sponsoring Show Up for Shabbat this weekend, because if we let the haters and antisemites and terrorists scare us away from our Jewish institutions, then they have already won.  So Show Up for Shabbat.  And this Sunday at 2pm in Los Angeles there is an Interfaith Solidarity March beginning at Valley Beth Israel Synagogue, with over a dozen different faiths and organizations participating.  There is no better way to fight hate, then by coming together in love.  May the memories of the Pittsburgh 11 always be for a blessing, and may we all overcome hate with love.  I look forward to seeing you this Shabbat at TRZ, Friday night at 7:30pm and Saturday morning at 9am. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Sela

Sukkah Embrace

10/25/2019 11:49:50 AM

Oct25

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Sukkah Embrace  

 

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A D'var Torah for Sukkot titled, "Refreshing"

10/18/2019 11:46:56 AM

Oct18

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Shabbat Sukkot

Refreshing

On Sukkot we celebrate the end of the harvest season, and the end of the planting season, and on the final day of the holiday, Shemini Atzeret, we pray for rain so that our crops will take root and grow over the next few months.  Even though the vast majority of us are not farmers or even backyard gardeners, we know the importance of rain for our sustenance.  In the ancient Temple the importance of a good rainy season was emphasized through a great celebration called Simchat Beit HaSho’evah, the festival of the Drawing House, meaning the place where you draw water.  In Israel, it does not rain much, so when it does, water is captured in underground cisterns and is later drawn up for use.  This festival was part of their Sukkot celebration and was considered the party of the year, complete with music, dancing, and feats of acrobatics.  If only our joy could ensure a good rainy season, but maybe we need more than just physical sustenance?  We are familiar with the song from the verse in Isaiah, Sh’avtem Mayim Besason, Mimynay HaYeshu’ah, “You shall draw water in joy, from the waters of salvation.”  I know how to draw water in joy, but what are the waters of salvation?  Many Chassidic Rabbis read “waters of salvation” as referring to Ruach HaKodesh, God’s spirit.  Just like water revives us physically, God’s spirit revives us spiritually.  But it doesn’t just happen to us, as the verse says, we must draw the water.  We must bring God’s spirit to us in order to feel God’s spirit.  And we do that through serving God with joy.  Doing mitzvot, doing the right thing, being good all the time, it can be hard, but when we do it with joy it makes us feel refreshed with God’s spirit, like a cold drink on a hot day.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Same'ach,

Rav Sela

Ha'azinu - Confronting Evil

10/18/2019 11:32:15 AM

Oct18

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Ha'azinu - Confronting Evil  

 

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A D'var Torah for Ha'azinu titled "Poetry"

10/11/2019 12:00:36 PM

Oct11

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat Ha'azinu

Poetry

I wandered lonely as a cloud/That floats on high o'er vales and hills,/When all at once I saw a crowd,/A host, of golden daffodils;/Beside the lake, beneath the trees,/Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

That is the opening stanza to a poem by William Wordsworth that my mother made me memorize while driving to school in the mornings.  I still remember it to this day.  While there are facts and figures stuck in my brain, names, dates, emails and phone numbers, the words to certain songs and poems will always be in my memory.  Connecting words to music, melody or rhythm gives them a stronger hold on us.  This week we read the penultimate parsha of the Torah and it is almost entirely a poem that Moshe recites for the Israelites to hear and to learn, to memorize.  He has just reviewed hundreds of mitzvot, but he knows that while the Israelites will learn those over time, the average person is not going to memorize a code of law.  However, he is hopeful that they would learn this poem by heart and thus it would be a guiding light for them throughout their lives, something that they could go back to if they ever needed reinforcement in their faith.  The poem does not spell out specific mitzvot, but reminds the Israelites of God’s greatness, of their redemption from Egyptian slavery, of God’s blessings they receive, and warns them against rebelling against God.  It doesn’t have an easy rhyme scheme or iambic pentameter, but it was something for the Israelites to take with them in their heads wherever they were.  Like me and the daffodils.  What words are in your memory that serve as guiding lights?

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Same'ach,

Rav Sela

Vayelech - Never Too Late

10/04/2019 01:35:26 PM

Oct4

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Vayelech - Never Too Late  

 

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Sun, November 17 2019 19 Cheshvan 5780