Dvar Torah from Rabbi Saul I. Grife
"Torah Lives Everywhere!"
Shabbat Shabbaton Shalom everyone!
Parshat HaShavuah, the Torah reading this week if Yitro, from Sefer Shemot, the Book of Exodus 18:1 - 20:23. "Yitro" is the Hebrew name of Jethro, High priest of Midian and Moses' father-in-law. Yitro represents one of the 6 parshiyot that are named after people in the Torah. Of note is the fact that out of the 6, 3 are Jewish and 3 are not! We learn from this that we can learn from every human being, regardless of who they are. Yitro is honored with a sidra named after him because he is a good and loyal father-in-law to Moses and helps him immeasurably when Moshe begins to lead and govern the people after they depart Egypt.
Chapter 18 relates how one day Moshe sat down to hear and decide the disputes that occurred between the Israelites. Yitro observed this and warned Moshe that it was neither prudent nor possible for him to counsel the people alone. Yitro advised him to appoint a series of judges to help him that would serve two positive purposes - one, Moshe 's workload would be reduced to bearable and two, the people wouldn't have to wait forever to get someone to help them. Yitro teaches Moshe and us all that each one of us is a potential leader and also that sharing responsibilities and challenges gives them a greater chance for success!
In chapters 19 and 20, God gives the Torah to Moses and the Israelites upon Mt. Sinai. The question is asked, "Why did God give it to the people in the desert (of Sinai) and not wait until they entered the Promised Land and give it to them in Jerusalem or in another holy place? One answer is that the Torah was received in the wilderness so that no one could claim that God gave it in their domain to show that they were more deserving of it or that they were holier than others because it was revealed in their territory. Judaism wants everyone to understand and feel that the Torah was given equally to all and not primarily to a chosen few. Also, just as Moshe first experienced God at the Burning Bush in the desert, so too God revealed Himself in the desert to show that God, godliness and goodness can be found everywhere! So many people who have felt lost and adrift have come to find goodness, strength and help in the most improbable places! If we can connect to God in the middle of nowhere, how much more so should we find holiness and goodness in our homes, our shuls and everywhere else!
This weekend a sold-out crowd will again gather at Diamond Ridge Camp for BTBJ's Annual Shabbaton. The theme of the weekend mirrors our synagogue's annual theme of "Hazak Hazak Vi'Nitchzek - Be strong, be strong and together we will strengthen each other!" Every year attendees enjoy a spirited fun-filled weekend of community as we celebrate Shabbat, explore Jewish themes and enjoy our heritage together. If we can do all this in the middle of nowhere just like Moshe and the Israelites did in the desert, how much more so should we be able to utilize BTBJ, our homes and the places we frequent to learn and grow Jewishly! Let us not take it for granted how blessed we are to live in a world where we can enjoy all that BTBJ, Jewish institutions and Israel has to offer to us! Let us remember that countless Jews lived deep-seeded Jewish lives in much less accommodating and friendlier worlds! Let us take advantage of the numerous opportunities afforded us to develop strong and educated Jewish souls for the benefit of ourselves and our future. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Holy holy holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole world is filled with God's glory!" (Isaiah 6:3) Therefore, we can find the spirit and be moved anywhere we go - from the desert to the city, from Israel to America and from our homes to BTBJ. Let us never feel that we are outside of God's presence and love and that we are in a place where Judaism is not a factor. Let us seek to introduce Jewish values, love and compassion wherever we go and with whomever we are with. Let us be inspired to bring the best of God and peace into this world wherever we might go. Let us be moved to help fulfill the words of Isaiah that yes, truly, God and goodness, love and peace is never beyond our reach!
The Grateful Dead sang...
Once in a while you can get shown the light... in the strangest of places if you look at it right.
Parshat Yitro teaches us that whether you are standing at Mt. Sinai, in BTBJ, at the Shabbaton camp, in your home or anywhere... you can find God, inspiration, direction, spirit and help if you look for it right... because it's all always there!
Shabbat Shalom everyone!!