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Suburban Temple-Kol Ami is a warm, welcoming Reform Jewish community building a vibrant Jewish future rooted in acceptance, spirituality, and creativity.

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FIRST TRIMESTER: 2019!

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A SIGN OF GOD’S PRESENCE

This past week at camp we received the donation of a “new to us” Torah.  As Rabbi Druin, our sofer (scribe), explained the Torah was about to be declared beyond repair and buried.  But then generous donors gifted camp with this Torah and Camp Wise helped bring it back to life. 
 
The visit with Rabbi Druin was incredible for so many reasons, not the least of which, was that every camper and staff member had the opportunity to participate in the restoration of the Torah by helping to write a letter.  Rabbi Druin explained that the Hebrew word for letter, ot, also means wonder, miracle and sign.  Just like every human being is a wonder, a miracle, a sign of God’s presence in the world, and the world would not be the same or as rich without any one of us, so to every letter of the Torah holds deep meaning and the Torah would not be the same or fit for use, without every letter being restored to its best. 
 
I couldn’t help but think how perfect it was that our Torah dedication fell on the week we read Parshat Balak, which is all about the importance of words.  In this week’s portion Balak, King fears that the Israelites are too powerful to defeat in battle, so he sends messengers to summon the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites so that the Moabites can defeat them.
 
Balaam sends the messengers back with the reply that God has told him not to curse the Israelites, for they are a blessed people.  Once again Balak sends dignitaries to plead with Balaam.  This time, God agrees to let Balaam return to Moab with the understanding that he will only be able to speak the words God puts in his mouth once there.
 
The next morning, as Balaam is on his way to Moab, his donkey sees an angel of God barring the way.  Each time the donkey balks at moving forward, Balaam beats her, until finally God gives her a voice and words with which to scold Balaam.  Perhaps this scolding is really Balaam scolding himself because he knew he should not go on the journey.  
 
Once in Moab, each time Balaam goes to curse the Israelites as Balak desires, only words of blessing come from his mouth.  The most famous of these words are “Ma tovu ohalecha Ya’akov, mishkenotecha Yisrael – How lovely are your tents oh Jacob, your dwelling places oh Israel.”
 
Each one of us is a miracle, every letter of the Torah is a wonder, every word we speak is a sign of God’s presence in our world. We have the choice of how we will use our words. Will we use them to damage, denigrate and destroy; or will we use them to elate, empower and encourage?  Words are among our most powerful tools.  We are what we say, and what we say matters.  Let us use our words, every letter, to continue the miracle the wonder, the be a sign of God’s presence.


Rabbi Shana Nyer

 
Tue, July 23 2019 20 Tammuz 5779