Many voices. One house.
At Netivot Shalom we pride ourselves on valuing a multitude of voices. Many members of our congregation take advantage of the opportunity to share their thoughts about the weekly Torah portion by giving drashot.
INTRO TO PREPARING, WRITING AND DELIVERING A DRASHA
RABBI CHAI LEVY
GET STARTED: Read the Torah portion and some commentaries.
PRO TIP: What verse grabs you or what idea jumps out at you? What feels alive and calls to you to dig further? What in the Torah is speaking to you? This will help you zoom in on what you want to speak about.
FIND YOUR MAIN IDEA: Read some commentaries on the area that interests you. Find one idea, question about the text, interesting word or phrase, general theme, etc. that speaks to you. Ask yourself: what is the Torah trying to teach us in this portion? Why is this portion part of our sacred text? What message does it hold for our lives? (My personal opinion is that it is preferable to focus on the third of the parasha that we are reading in the current year of the triennial cycle.)
BEFORE you start to write your drash, know your ONE central point that you want to make. Even if you don’t have an absolute answer to a question that you ask (it’s ok and very Jewish to ask questions without knowing the answer), make sure you have ONE central concept or point that people can walk away with (your “take away”). There is a temptation when giving a drash to mention every thought you ever had, but that makes for a jumbled, hard to grasp drash; the best drashot have ONE main idea.
PRO TIP: don’t walk us through your thought process of writing the drash (for example: when I first read the parasha, I wasn’t sure about…, but then I realized…), just give us your end thoughts.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD DRASHA:
Ground your thoughts in the text – it can be a verse, a commentary, or an overall theme from the parasha, but make sure your ideas flow out of the text itself.
Ground your thoughts in the commentaries – your interpretation is part of a long interpretive tradition – How have our ancient, medieval, or modern commentators answered your question? Is your interpretation similar or different to theirs?
Have a beginning, middle, and end. Have a clear “take away” message.
Respect the Torah and the congregation, even if you offer a challenge.
Brief and concise is better than long and rambling. Aim for 10 minutes, 1000 words, or 4-6 typed, double-spaced pages.
PRO TIP: don’t staple your pages, and do include page numbers for your ease. Use a big font for your bimah version. I write my drashot in phrases rather than paragraphs so I can glance at it and not read it and connect more with my listeners.
Practice delivering your drash. Try not to READ it, but speak/teach it to the congregation. It’s ok to speak extemporaneously from an outline IF you are practiced in doing so.
Make an outline before you start to write. Here is a suggested outline, but feel free to be creative and begin with a story, a question or something to grab the attention of your listeners. Also, begin and end with “Shabbat Shalom” and make sure to mention the name of your parasha (portion) in the beginning of your drash.
- Introduction to the portion – give a BRIEF overview of what’s in the parasha. DON’T mention every single thing in the parasha, only what’s particularly relevant to your teaching.
- Raise your particular topic by quoting a verse, citing a commentary, asking a question raised by the text, pointing out a problem in text, etc.
- Develop your topic through: an answer to your question, an explanation of your idea, a resolution to the problem from another textual source, a story or an example.
- Make your teaching relevant to yourself, to the congregation, or to our current world.
- Conclude by reinforcing your main idea – what is the one central thought we are supposed to take away?
Parashat Ki Teitzei.
Congregation Netivot Shalom. Joan Bradus. July 31 2021.
Congregation Netivot Shalom. Rabbi Becky Joseph. July 3, 2021.
Parashat Balak. June 26, 2021. David Mostardi. Congregation Netivot Shalom.
Congregation Netivot Shalom. June 19, 2021. Cynthia Whitehead. Parashat Chukkat.
Parashat Shemini. Marilyn Paul at Congregation Netivot Shalom on April 10, 2021. My name is Marilyn Paul. It’s good to be here. I am honored to be here at this time of awe and re-initiation. Shmini means eighth and it refers to the fact that Aaron prepared for his priestly duties for seven days and…
Parashat Vayikra. Judith Radousky at Congregation Netivot Shalom on March 20, 2021. Shabbat Shalom, This week we start the third book of the Torah with Parshat Vayikra, a Torah portion that introduces the 5 types of sacrifices to be offered in the sanctuary. Back in the Eastern European shtetl, young 4–5-year-old students, among them my…
February 13, 2021. Claude Fischer. Netivot Shalom. Click here to read drash.
INAUGURATION REFLECTIONS: THE POWER OF WORDS, THE RE-SANCTIFICATION OF SPEECH, AND THE TELLING OF THE EXODUS Click here to read Rabbi Chai Levy’s drash. You can watch it here.
Va-Era. Diane Bernbaum. Netivot Shalom. January 16, 2021. Shabbat Shalom. Our parasha this morning, Va-Era, the second parshah in the book of Sh’mot, means “And I appeared,” as God reminds Moses that He appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I really don’t need to tell you the story. You know it well. Just close your…
Click here to see Cynthia Whitehead’s drash.
Saturday November 7, 2020 Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley CA Samuel Crane, Bar Mitzvah Shabbat shalom. Parashat Vayera is a very complicated Parsha, with many pivotal moments. The most important moments that I would like to explore include the following 4 tests that Abraham and Sara undergo. In the first test, three angels come to Abraham…
Monday September 28, 2020 Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley CA Vicky Kelman
Monday September 28, 2020 Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley CA Rabbi Chai Levy Turning this upside-down world right-side up It’s been six months since we last met in person as a community. Remember Purim? The last day our building was fully open? We gathered in our costumes to read the megillah and boo Haman, filling our…
Sunday September 20, 2020 Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley CA Yossi Fendel Rosh HaShana 5781 Day 2 D’var Torah by Yossi Fendel One year, I returned home during Yom Kippur to find a group of teenagers in my house playing a game called “Cards Against Humanity: A Game for Horrible People”. If you’re not familiar with…
Saturday September 19, 2020 Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley CA Nehama Rogozen
Saturday July 12, 2020 Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley CA Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Founding Rabbi Emeritus Chukkat is the parasha that deals the most with the topic of death. In it, Miriam dies and is buried; Aaron dies at the end of an elaborate ceremony and the people mourn for 30 days; and at the very…
L’shana Tova. It is an honor to be in front of you tonight. I hope my drash is worthy of your attention. I have driven by our shul on many a Sunday nights, going hither and yon. The gates have always been closed and I have continued onward. But tonight, the gates were open, and…