D’var Torah for March 5, 2021

This week we will be reading from Parashat Ki Tisa where we read about the story of the egel zahav, the golden calf. The sin committed by the Israelites and Aaron which led to the destruction of the first set of tablets by Moses upon his descent from Mt. Sinai.

It is also Shabbat Parah, where we have an additional (maftir) Torah reading on the red heifer (Numbers 19:1-22). The reason for this is because the red heifer was used to purify the Israelites after coming into contact with a dead body. This was important because only those in a state of ritual purity could consume the pascal offering during Passover. Therefore this additional reading was to remind the Israelites of their obligations to make sure they were ritually pure in order to celebrate Passover.

Needless to say, there is a lot going on in our Torah readings this week. Traditionally, on this Shabbat, two Torah scrolls are prepared so that the weekly parasha and the maftir can be read without delay.

In addition, there is a special haftarah from Ezekiel that is read this week as well. Ezekiel lived during the Babylonian Exile and many of his visions were centralized around the theme of return to Israel and the restoration of the people. Here Ezekiel proclaims in 36:26, after the exiles return to the land, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you.” 

We too, like our Torah reading this week, have a lot going on in the world. Coronavirus hospitalizations have dropped in the state, but Rockland county’s rates of infection still remain too high. Rates of vaccinations are increasing, but they can still be frustratingly difficult to schedule for those who are eligible. Nonetheless, we are still seeing promises of a return to a life that will not be the same as it was, but will hopefully be better than it currently is. 

Given that it has been a year, we are starting to think about, examine and explore what a modern return from exile may look like. There are still many uncertainties and many questions that still need to be answered; and because of this, there is not a timeline as of yet. That being said, we are starting to have the conversations. We will, of course, keep you informed, even as we all begin to prepare for another year of zoom seders with the prayer that one day, speedily and soon, we will all be redeemed. And as we said last year, this year at home so that next year we can celebrate with family and friends.

In the meantime, please do plan on joining us tonight as we celebrate and thank Dr. David McFarland at our Shabbat evening service for his years of dedication to our legacy congregation TBE and to RTR.

And for our TBT legacy families, at the shiva minyan for Sylvia Avstreih on Sunday at 7pm, we will be honored to be led in worship by Rabbi George Stern who will be joined by Cantor Don Croll and Cantor Elizabeth Goldmann.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff