Sunday, July 27, 2014

Abraham Takes the Stage and Saves the World

We learn in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) that there were 10 generations from Adam to Noah, and the generations were so evil, that when Noah came along, Hashem destroyed them all, and kept only the righteous Noah and his family alive.
We learn that there were ten generations from Noah to Avraham, and since the generations were evil, immoral, debased, and so wicked - angering G-d greatly - they deserved to be destroyed, as well.
But when Avraham took the stage, he was not only filled with goodness, he was filled with the willingness to share his goodness, so that Hashem saved all the world because of him.
Why? Why was Avraham’s generation deserving of life? The commentators say that people saw the purity and truth in Avraham’s greatness, and people were anxious to follow his ways and turn to G-d.
Avraham's Gifts
What were his ways?
Here are the first two:
The first was the midda (attribute) most associated with Avraham, the attribute of chesed (deeds of loving-kindness). Yes, he was full of kindness for others. That was his first step. He took others lovingly under his wing. He cared about them, no matter who they were, and he made them understand that the goodness he was sharing with them was because of G-d.
Avraham found this path through his inner search. When Avraham was 70 years, Hashem spoke to him for the first time. Lech lecha, Hashem said.
Go for yourself. Go for your own benefit to the place I will show you. (But that’s for another dvar Torah.)
Another interpretation by the commentators of Lech lecha was “go inside yourself”. And Avraham had been doing that long before these famous words - the words that changed destiny - were pronounced.
Avraham had looked inside himself since he was three years old in search of truth.
So the second attribute that will always be associated with Avraham Avinu is his search for truth. In a world of evil, he searched for G-d and what he knew was G-d’s goodness. He was only three years old, when he started searching, but this attribute of faith that there was something positive out there in the world absolutely changed mankind.
Learning from Avraham Today
Today, frightening realities surround us, but like the children of Avraham Avinu, we can stand up against the evil already, using the first two attributes of Avraham: His loving kindness for others, and his faith in the positivity of life.

I bless all of you (that’s another attribute of Avraham to be explored), I bless all of you with Hashem’s protection during this trying time, with Hashem’s Magen Avraham (Shield of Avraham) and with the faith that IY”H, a positive outcome will come about for our people.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Doing our job again - Our RYS Emergency Call Up

Just as our soldiers have been called into the service until the emergency Tzav Shmona orders, we of the Raise Your Spirits Theatre feel that we have answered the call, as well.
When I founded the Raise Your Spirits theater company in 2001, I did so because terror surrounded us. No matter where we lived, we were afraid to drive the roads and go on with our daily lives. We especially feared Summer Vacation - those long days and nights with nothing to do during the intifada, and no where to go. We were afraid to put our children in the car, to drive somewhere for a visit or fun.
We were a nation held hostage by fears and tears. We never knew when a suicide-bomber would strike, and we repeatedly mourned friends, neighbors and fellow Jews who were murdered by Arab terrorists.
At that time, I founded Raise Your Spirits to give women everywhere, and especially in Efrat and Gush Etzion, a reason to dry their tears, something positive to think about (putting on a show), a reason to look forward to the evening (with its uplifting rehearsals), a sense of hope and anticipation for tomorrow (and the day we would soon go on stage).
The Show Must Go On
In a summer filled with terror attacks, we met in the evening, hugged, recited Tehillim and then got on stage. 
No excuses. No absences. The adage, "The show must go on", is not only about show business, but about life! Life must go on, despite the fears, the tears and the terror around us. We are Am Yisrael - an eternal nation.
So, last night our cast of the upcoming COUNT THE STARS production about the Journey of Avraham and Sara gathered for rehearsal.
My mind returned to 2001. We were under attack again. Once again, we worried about the safety of our fellow Jews and our soldiers. And once again, we had one another to comfort, to join in Tehillim and then in song.
We raise our voices in RYS, not only to learn a new song, but as a show of faith that Hashem will watch over our nation.
Last Night’s Songs
Last night, we heard two significant songs – one from our upcoming show, Sa Na Einecha/Lift Up Your Eyes, the promise of this blessed land to Avraham and to us his descendants, and the second Prayer for the Troops from a previous RYS show JUDGE! The Song of Devora.
Prayer for the Troops, written by our director Toby Klein Greenwald who co-authored JUDGE! with Yael Valier, beautifully expressed the love and concern we feel for all our soldiers, and the unity of our nation. It was sung magnificently last night by the original stars of JUDGE! – Deena Lawi and Gayle Berman, who also serves as our music director.
Together, we cried, we prayed and we went on.
Our Prayers
Our prayers are directed to Hashem for the safety of the soldiers and our nation. Some of our members have sons and sons-in-law that have been called up to fight. May G-d watch over them.

And IY”H, we will continue on together until we can one day raise our voices in pure joy and thanks to Hashem for the miracles He has shown us.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What Timing! Raise Your Spirits and Abraham!

What timing!
This week, Raise Your Spirits Theatre zoomed back into action, auditioning and soon casting its newest production, COUNT THE STARS – The Journey of Avraham and Sara.
The entire search for the perfect folks for each role in Avraham and Sara’s story has been enjoyable (even if we had to listen to “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” ten times) and challenging (How do we choose? Everyone is terrific in her way).
And what about the timing?
Well, precisely this week’s Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) Chapter 5 reminds us how special and pivotal a character Avraham was, contrasting him to the sorcerer Bilam, about whom we read in this week’s portion of the Torah.
Mishnah 19 says, “Whoever has the following three qualities is of the disciples of Avraham Avinu, and whoever has the three opposite qualities is of the disciples of the evil Bilam: A good eye, a humble spirit and a modest soul makes him of the disciples of Avraham Avinu, whereas an evil eye, a haughty spirit and a greedy soul makes him of the disciples of the evil Bilam….”
Our Patriarch Avraham tried to see the good in each person. He took each person under his wing, and taught him the righteousness of G-d’s ways. He opened his tent and his heart to all. Hashem gave Avraham a unique gift, he was made a blessing. Not only could he bless others, all those who blessed him became blessed. (And anyone who cursed him would be cursed by G-d Himself.)
Bilam on the other hand, had an evil eye. The prophet of the 70 nations, Bilam could have been an example of belief in G-d and His ways. He could have been the nations’ “Avraham”. Instead, Bilam used his special talents to curse, instead of bless. He was able to determine the exact instant when G-d is angry, so that he could curse his victim at that moment, and subject him to Hashem’s Divine judgment.
In this week’s parsha, the Jewish People are the object of Bilam’s desired curse, but G-d turned all Bilam’s words into blessings that remain with the Jewish People forever. “Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishkenotecha Yisrael.” (How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.)
Shavua tov. Looking forward to introducing you very soon to the cast of COUNT THE STARS.
STARS was written by Sharon Katz and Avital Macales.
Its staff also stars Toby Klein Greenwald as director, Gayle Berman as musical director, Sara Orenstein as choreographer, and Noa Choritz and Sharon Katz as producers.