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April 21, 2018

Our Torah portions this week are called Tazria-Mezorah, and deal primarily with a skin ailment called tzaraat.  Our sages 
explain this affliction by associating it with the sin of gossip or slander—saying that the word metzora was a contraction of the term, motzi ra, “one who gives a bad name.”

I am writing these words as we prepare to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.  We all know that is it common place for celebrities of all kinds to “give a bad name” when referring to Israel  Why do so many find the need to defame our beloved Jewish homeland?  Sure, not every Israeli soldier acts like a saint, and not every Israeli policy is an act of genius.  There is certainly room for criticism, but that should not blind anyone to the fact that despite all the provocations and incitements, despite our enemies deploying the despicable means, despite acts of barbarism and terrorism … despite all this, there is no country on earth more desirous of peace, more willing to compromise for peace, than the people of Israel.

The author of Israel’s National Anthem, Hatikvah, The Hope, Naphtali Herz Imber, once said “kings, earls, cardinals, will all pass away … but I and Hatikvah will remain forever.”

He was right!  The hope remains forever …

“L’hiyot am chofshi b’artzeinu b’eretz tziyon v’Yerushalayim—to be a free people in our land, in the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Chag Haatzmaut Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,


 

April 14, 2018

Our Torah portion this week is called Shemini.  
Our sedra describes the untimely death of Aaron’s two sons Nadav and Avihu. Tradition holds that they lost their lives after intentionally becoming inebriated while officiating as 
religious leaders offering sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish 
people. Our sages take special note of Aaron’s response in recording:

“vayidom Aharon, and Aaron was silent”

Silence is one way in dealing with loss. 
As I write these words on Yom Hashoah v”Hagvurah on Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am reminded that for far too long we have emulated Aaron’s silence when combatting injustices
and atrocities that have befallen our people. Enough is enough. 
How thankful we are that we live in a time and place where we no longer are required to be silent in the face of an inhumane world.


 

April 7, 2018

I hope the matzah is treating you well.

We all know that the Hebrew word Pesach (or Passover) has its origins in the biblical account of the angel of death “passing over” the homes of the Jewish/Israelite households and sparing our first-born sons. There is an obscure rabbinic commentary suggesting another meaning to the name of our holy day. Peh in Hebrew means mouth and siach means dialogue. The combination of these two words is Pesach. At our seders we all use our mouths 
not only to eat all of the delicacies on our table but also to engage in dialogue.

On Passover more Jews observe kashrut than at any other time of the year. So many of us meticulously check everything we eat to determine if it is kosher. As Passover comes to an end, may we continue to keep in mind not only what food and drink goes in our mouths, but
also the words that come out of our mouths.



March 31, 2018

As we gather at the Pesach seder, we celebrate our exodus from Egypt and the receiving of our freedom. But we also celebrate something else. In the words of the Torah: “vayehi sham l’goy - it is there that we became a nation”. 
Ever since that moment 3500 years ago, our people have experienced a saga of homelessness and suffering unlike that of any other people. But we have survived. We have persevered...because we had one another! And because of that, we had another one– the one G-d who has stood by us. 

With full hearts, at this historic time in the lives of our people, let us echo the words of our prayer: “Attah echud v’shimcha echad u’mi k’amcha Yisroel goi echad b’aaretz - G-d is one and G-d’s name is one, and who is like Your people Israel– one nation in the land”.

Chag Peach Sameach and Shabbat Shalom, 

P.S. 3000 years ago we wre slaves to Pharoh in Egypt. Today we are slaves to our smartphones in Canada. Do you think a smartphone should be treated like bread and everyone at the seder should hide it for one night? Wouldn’t that be nice? Isn’t face-to-face better than Facebook? 
 


 

March 24, 2018

This Shabbat promises to be a great Shabbat because of its name... Shabbat HaGadol, which literally means "the great Shabbat".  
 
While we continue our weekly reading of Tsav from our first scroll, our second Torah marks the special designation of ShabbatHaGadol.
 
Shabbat HaGadol is the special Sabbath before the great holy days of Pesach, and Pesach is great because every one of us is included!
 
Regardless of whether you are wise, ignorant, rebellious, simple, rich or poor... Jews and all people are welcome at the Seder table!  There is a place for everyone, and everyone is equally welcome. The Talmud insists that even the poorest of the poor must be treated and fed equal to everyone else. We live in a world where many are not welcome and treated well by others. Pesach presents us with an excellent example of how humanity can treat each other with due honour and respect!
 
On this Shabbat HaGadol...
 Let us appreciate the greatness of the gift of life that we possess.
 Let us appreciate the greatness of our Jewish heritage and do all we can at the Seder and throughout the year to perpetuate that greatness into the future.
 Let us appreciate the greatness of the blessings we have by being mindful to share our blessings, resources, friendship and love with others.
Let us appreciate the greatness of the world by demonstrating large measures of understanding, compassion, harmony and peace as much as possible.
At this spring season of greatness, let us make our Sedarim great, Pesach great, and relish the knowledge that greatness lies within us all!  May each and every one of us do all that we can to make life great for ourselves and for others!
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Pesach Sameach to all!
 


 

March 17, 2018

This Shabbat morning we begin the third book of the Torah.  Leviticus , or Vayikra begins with the word vayikra, which translates as "and He called".  
This Shabbat will also mark the fifth year that we will be hosting a delegation from Wordswap.  Under the auspices of StandWithUs Canada, eight young Israelis of diverse cultures and ethnicities have now arrived and  are touring  in Canada for two weeks. Druze, Bedouin, and Jewish citizens of Israel, with backgrounds that include Indian, Moroccan, Panamanian, represent the beautiful complexity and diversity of Israel. The delegation will tour university campuses, high schools, and speak to community members in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, London, Kingston, and Winnipeg. They will share their unique stories, as they offer coffee and conversation – in Arabic, English, Hebrew. 
I encourage you to make every effort to attend services this Shabbat morning and extend a warm  welcome to Gilad, Tslil, Tom, Lihi, Inbar, and Eyal.
 


 

March 10, 2018

This Shabbat we read from two Torah scrolls. The first follows our weekly reading when we finish the book of Exodus with Vaykhel/Pekudei.
Our second Torah is read to commemorate the special designation of this Shabbat as Shabbat Parah, the Sabbath of the Cow on which we read the biblical commandment regarding the Red Heifer. The mitzvah of the Red Heifer is one that defies understanding. A Red Heifer is slaughtered, some of its blood is sprinkled toward the Tabernacle, the cow is burned and its ashes used for purification. Not King Solomon and not Rabbi Google were able to rationally understand this law.
There is so much we don’t know. As Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Yiddish Nobel writer, once pointed out, “With all our knowledge we still don’t know why a magnet doesn’t work on cottage cheese.” We don’t know that, and so much more. Only G-d knows ... and we must put our faith in G-d, keeping in mind the Biblical words: “Ha-nistaros l’Hashem Elokeinu – that which is hidden is for G-d, but that which is revealed is for us and our children forever and ever.” 



March 3, 2018

This week's Torah portion of Ki Tissa begins with a census of our ancient Israelite ancestors. When instructing Moses to administer the census G-d uses the following words:
"when you lift up the heads of the children of Israel".
The rabbis deduce that G-d is teaching us that when a person is counted - when a person is noticed - it lifts up their spirits.

If you think about it, we too have our spirits lifted when someone recognizes us, when they know our name. As a rabbi, I experience this again and again when I approach someone in shul that I don't recognize and greet them warmly.
I urge you to try it the next time you are in shul. Go up to someone you don't know and say Shabbat Shalom.

You will be lifting their spirits and doing G-d's work.



February 24th, 2018

This Shabbat we add a second Torah reading to ourportion of Tetzaveh. The week beforeis noted as Shabbat Zachor – the Shabbos on which we are commanded toZachor- remember -what our archenemy Amalek did to us.important is this that the same paragraph that starts with thecommandment for us to “zachor - remember” concludes with the words, “lo tishkach– don’t forget.”

Zachor … we have to remember the past.that is not enough.are also told: “Lotishkach– don’t foget.”

What is the difference?

Rabbi Israel Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel and the youngest survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp, points out that “not to forget” refers to what takes place in one’s heart, while zachor – “remember” – refers to

actions that serve to remind people.Rabbi Lau, “The actions that I took to fulfill the zachor – remembering – was to tell the story.”

My friends, it appears that the current Polish government doesn’t want to tell the story and remember … but we must!It’s not enough to simply feel it in our hearts.

Let us take this lesson to heart, and then witness the fulfillment of the words of the Psalmist: “Yitamu chataimmin ha-aretz u’rishaiim od einem– when sinners will be obliterated from the world and the wicked shall be no more.”



February 16, 2018

This week's Torah portion describes the building of the Tabernacle – the forerunner of the Temple in Jerusalem. G-d tells the Jewish people: “V’asu li mikdash v’shochanti b’tochem – And you shall make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell amongst you.” 
The first article made for the sanctuary is that of the Holy Ark, which was to house the tablets containing the Ten  Commandments. The Torah describes in minute detail how the Ark was to be built. In the Bible we are told that the Ark that was made for the Tabernacle had to be covered with gold inside and out. 
The rabbis in the Talmud asked: "we can understand why there had to be gold on the outside of the ark; that’s where everyone would see it and be impressed by its grandeur. But why the need for gold on the inside where it would remain unseen?"
And the rabbis respond that from this we learn that the ideal for a person is to be tocho k’baro – inwardly what they appear to be outwardly. 
The lesson is clear: every time we come to shul and we direct our prayers toward the Ark, the Ark is there to remind us that coming to shul and praying to G-d is not enough if it is not matched by what
is going on inside of YOU! 
Let us take this lesson to heart and do our utmost to be the best we can be.



February 10, 2018

This week's Torah portion of Mishpatim, begins with the 
Hebrew letter "vav" which is translated as "and". This "and" connects last week's sedra with this week's sedra. Parshat Yitro and Parshat Mishpatim are the very core of the Torah. Last week we read about the revelation at Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. In ten simple and eloquent         statements we find the essence of our way of life: belief in G-d, eschewing idolatry, using our words with integrity, observing the Sabbath, honouring our parents, and living an ethical life with respect for all of G-d's creatures. What could be more beautiful or simple than this? Who doesn't believe in the Ten Commandments?

In the Ten Commandments we have a vision of what the world could be, and what it should be.

Parshat Mishpatim is more complicated. This parshah is referred to as Sefer Ha'brit, the Book of the Covenant. It presents us with a collection of laws touching on every aspect of life. This is one stop shopping for the minutiae of daily life. Unlike Parshat Yitro these laws are casuistic; that is, they are not presented unequivocally but in the form of case studies. "If such and such takes place then you shall do the following..."  Unlike the Ten Commandments, which are presented quite directly, "Thou shall," and "Thou shall not," these laws are messy. They acknowledge the complexities of life.
 
It is interesting to note that most of the countries in the Western world borrow many of their civil and criminal laws from Parshat Mishpatim. May we continue to be a light unto the nations. 



February 3, 2018

This week's Torah portion of Yitro, named after the father in law of Moses,  contains the Ten Commandments.  When the Children of Israel camped at Mount Sinai ( the mountain and not the hospital!) the Torah text contains a strange grammatical error .  The word for camped is in the singular when it should have been in the plural.  Previous verses in the same chapter of the Torah uses the word for camped in the plural.   

While it appears that a mistake is made in the text ,  Rashi , the foremost biblical scholar says that this is done deliberately.  Rashi states that when Bnai Yisrael, the Children of Israel, were ready to receive the Torah they were "like one person with one heart" .  Prior to this moment the Israelites were a disgruntled multitude of people.  Now , Rashi states, they were unified like one.

It is my hope and prayer that we at Beit Rayim can emulate the ancient Israelites and be unified as one.  While criticism and different opinions are always welcome at our shul, it is important to realize that we are all unified as one in our mission.  That mission is to continue to foster a Conservative Egalitarian presence in our growing community.

May we be unified in our goal.
 



January 27, 2018

 We all know that it has taken thousands of years for women to find equality with men in serving in a leadership role in our prayer services . I applaud the women of our shul, who in less than a decade as leaders of our Shabbat Shira service, have now invited men to participate as well!

 This special Sabbath is called Shabbat Shira because  in this week's portion of Beshalach, Miriam the Prophetess, leads the women in song and prayer:

"Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels. And Miriam chanted for them: Sing to G-d....."(Exodus 15:20-21)

This Shabbat we honour the women of Beit Rayim who will follow biblical Miriam's example and lead us all in song and prayer. Let our children, the daughters and sons of Beit Rayim establish lasting memories of not only men, but also an....... Eema on the Bima!



January 20, 2018

It is most appropriate and poignant that next week on Shabbat Shira we will have our annual service completely 

facilitated and lead by volunteers. I like to think that if Moshe/Moses was alive today he would choose to daven with us at 
Beit Rayim, for in this week's Torah sedra of Bo, we find an interesting incident 
involving women and prayer. 

Our parasha  begins with Moshe in a heated negotiation with Pharoh. The latter has agreed with Moshe's demand to allow the Israelites to pray in the desert. Pharoh asks: "who will be going?" and Moshe responds "our young and our old , our sons and our daughters."  Moshe seems to be implying that the women, too, needed to come and daven with the men. Pharoh, concerned with Moshe's real intentions, decrees that only the males will be given permission to depart and pray to G-d. Moshe insists on the females being included and the negotiations break down.
From this passage one may deduce that Moses was the first egalitarian Jew.  
Perhaps he would have been comfortable praying with us at Beit Rayim!

May all of our sons and daughters grow up with the ability and the desire to know how to pray as a Jew! 



January 13, 2018

The Torah portion this week is Va’era. “Va’era” means “I appeared”, referring to G-d’s appearances to Moshe encouraging him to go down to Egypt to redeem the enslaved Hebrew nation.

Many events transpire in this week’s sedra including the first 7 of the 10 makkot, or plagues that beset Egypt.

The rabbis: why were the 10 plagues broken up into 2 groups and not all listed within one parsha, like the 10 commandments were in the Torah? Biblical scholar Jonathan Grossman

argues that they fall into 2 separate groups - while the first 7 were designed to admonish the Egyptians and enlighten them as to G-d’s existence, might and will, the last 3 were also

designed to enlighten Israel as to the same. As the plagues intensify, the goal is to get the

Israelites involved in the salvific act and not expect G-d to complete all the work of redemption by G-dself.with the culminating plague of makkat bechorot, the slaying of the Egyptian first-born, Israel still is not redeemed until she participates in her own liberation by offering the paschal lamb, preparing in haste to exit Egypt. From this we learn the wisdom of the adage,

“G-d helps those that help themselves!”

My friends, we learn that what allowed our ancient Israelite ancestorsfinally leave Egypt was their ability to contribute to their own destiny. This week the Torah reminds us that while help can emanate from many sources, the best way to accomplish anything is to realize what we can do for ourselves!



January 6, 2018

This week we begin the second book in the Torah, the Book of Sh’mot or Exodus.
This is also the first Shabbat in the new year of 2018.
May our new secular new year be a year in which we will fulfill the words we proclaim at the end of last Shabbat’s Torah reading: “Chazak chazak chazak v’nitchazek – we will be strong, we will be strong and we will strengthen one another.”
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Solar New Year.

Wed, April 25 2018 10 Iyyar 5778