From the Rabbi – Esther, Hidden One

Esther, Hidden One

Rabbi Hannah Dresner
Purim 5777

The name “Esther” means “hidden one,” and our Chassidic Masters interpreted the theme of concealment and revelation in the Purim Megillah as pointing to God’s own hidden-ness from us, and God’s desire to be sought out and revealed. They turn to the Talmud, where the rabbis ask: “Where is Esther revealed in the Torah?” She is revealed in Deuteronomy, as God says: ‘Ve-astir et panai.’ ‘And I will surely hide my face.'”

The Torah commentary, Ituray Torah, tells that Rabbi Dov Baer of Mezritch and his disciples were once out for an evening stroll. They came upon a little girl hiding in an alcove, weeping. “Why are you crying, little girl?” asked the rabbi. “I was playing hide-and-seek with my friends,” replied the little girl, “but they didn’t come looking for me!”

Tears sprang to the eyes of the Rebbe; he sighed, and turned to his students saying: “In the sorrow and the frustration of this little girl, I hear the weeping of the Shechinah: “ve-astir et panai” – “I have hidden myself, but no one comes looking for me…”

It is, indeed, our task to seek God out and invite God in – in all Her forms, releasing Her from all the places in which She is hidden in us, amongst us, and in the world.

If you were present at Or Shalom this past Tuesday evening for our multi-faith devotional service, United in Compassion, perhaps you felt, as I did, a revelation. Godliness filled us and our sanctuary as we opened to receive the energy of faith leaders and participants from a diversity of religious paths. What was revealed both filled us and unfolded us in hope. And with our offer of engagement, we honored a fuller awareness of God in her totality. We allowed God to be a bit more fully seen.

I like to think that just as we were a comfort to one another, we were a comfort to God – seeking Her, and finding her there, right in our midst, in all her prismatic diversity.

In the spirit of embracing a lonely God, a God who longs for us to find her in the game of hide-and-seek that life can sometimes be, let’s be aware, noticing, and appreciative. Let’s reveal God, waiting to be discovered in our neighbors, in our environment, and in our tasks.

Good Purim to all, and Shabbat Shalom!

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Come On Over 2017

Over the past two weekends, about 75 Or Shalomniks attended 9 various dinners and brunches, raising several thousand dollars to support our shul, and building new connections and friendships. Here are some pictures of the various festivities.

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Harley Rothstein’s Psukei D’zimrah and Shacharit online

Missed out on Harley’s Intermediate Davenning class? Want to learn to lead Shabbat services at Or Shalom but don’t know where to start?

Harley has kindly made available the recordings of Or Shalom’s traditional Shabbat morning prayers and songs, and are available online here on our web site.


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From the Rabbi – Parashat Trumah

V’asu li mikdash, v’shachanti b’tocham.

Make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”

Menachem Mendel of Kotzk asked: “Where does God dwell?” His Chassidim answered: “The whole world is filled with God’s glory!” Menachem Mendel corrected them saying, “God dwells anywhere we let God in.”

 So, where do we let God in?

We let God into our experience of natural wonder. As Abraham Joshua Heschel says, “We can never sneer at the stars. We can never mock the dawn.  The sublime grandeur evokes unhesitating, unflinching awe.” When we’re removed from nature, immersed in our tasks, or in the politics of life, or cloistered in our own self-absorption, we may well become cynical and sour, “but standing between earth and sky, we are silenced by the sight.”

We let God into our great life cycle moments, knowing the sacred as a baby emerges into the world, and knowing the power of God just as well when a beloved takes his or her last breath. We sense divine beauty under the wedding canopy and in special milestone moments of gratitude throughout life.

But where do we let God into our everyday?

The Talmud provides this beautiful image: “Before every human being, as he moves through the world, walks a bevy of angels, who herald his coming, crying out: ‘Make way for the icon of the divine!  Make way for the image of God!'”

Can we rise to the challenge of seeing God in every human face we encounter?

Can we rise to the challenge of releasing Godliness from the places in our world where goodness is trapped in selfishness or greed?

I say, yes, we can!

Nachman of Bratzlov teaches that we begin with a nekudat tuvah, one drop of good we have done in the world. We start by identifying that tiny moment in which we know we’ve let God in, and build from there, action by action, smile by smile.

When we provide for a shiva home, welcome our refugee families, sing hymns of praise together in authentic joy, or stop to notice spring beginning to bloom, we let God in. When we begin a meal with motzi, enter our homes with mezuzah, commence each day with mode ani, we let God in. When we begin each conversation aware that we are talking to an image of God, we let God in.

Let’s build from here, from what we’ve already accomplished, from who we are in this moment, knowing that we have the capacity to fashion ourselves as sanctuaries, make a sanctuary of our community, and, ultimately, of the world.

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