Why Are The Israelis Reading a Different Parashah This Week? Originally Published July 19-20, 2019.

This week we are reading Parashat Balak, but our friends and relatives in Israel are reading Pineḥas.  What gives? Well!  It was very sharp of you to catch that difference!  It has to do with the celebrations of the various festivals.  When a festival falls on Shabbat, we read the Torah portion associated with that Read More…

Who Is Rob Menes? And Why Are We Saying Goodbye? Originally Published July 12-13, 2019.

Rob Menes, a man of many titles, began as the Executive Director of Congregation Beth Shalom on the same day Rabbi Seth Adelson began here.  Both are also hazzanim (they knew each other in cantorial school), both are also engineers, and both graduated from Cornell.  As Rob heads back to Vancouver after four years at Beth Shalom, Read More…

Who/What Is a Sheliah Tzibbur? Originally Published July 3, 2019.

Deriving from the word for “sending” or “messenger,” and the word for “community,” the sheliah tzibbur is the person who leads the congregation (the tzibbur) in prayers.  Sometimes the sheliah tzibbur is considered to be fulfilling obligations on behalf of the congregation. The Shulhan Arukh states that the person must be “appropriate,” which has been Read More…

Who Is Mimi Maizlech, and What Does She Say as We Bid Farewell? Originally Published June 28-29, 2019.

Mimi Maizlech has been gracing our reception desk for the past year, piloting at the helm of our ship on the hill, floating through the sea of newcomers in to the building, tactfully tacking against those who were reluctant to be screened on entering, and firmly steering us into the future of warm welcome and Read More…

Who Was Billy Wilder? Originally Published June 21-22, 2019.

Born Samuel Wilder on June 22, 1906, in Sucha, Galicia, Austria-Hungary, which is now Sucha Beskidzka, Malopolskie, Poland, Billy Wilder would go on to become a world-renowned filmmaker, director, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist.  His parents ran a cafe in Sucha’s train station.  His mother, grandmother, and stepfather would die in the Holocaust.  His brother Read More…

What Is the Shekhinah? Originally Published June 14-15, 2019.

Deriving from the Hebrew for “presence,” Shekhinah has been used to indicate the presence of God in the world.  Early on it was used in the Aramaic, “Shekhinta” (as found in Targum Onkelos), and was used as a substitute for a part of God — “you cannot see My face and live” would become “you Read More…

Torah Tidbits. Originally Published June 7-8, 2019.

Over the course of investigating for this column, miscellaneous points have jumped out.  Here are some of them. The use of letters of the Hebrew alphabet to represent numbers is not found in the Bible.  The first traces of it are found on Maccabean coins. Some persons honor a lifted Sefer Torah by holding one Read More…

Back to Ethiopia? Originally Published May 30 – June 1, 2019.

A couple weeks ago we were discussing Kush and where it was and is.  28 Iyyar, corresponding this year to Sunday, June 2, 2019, is Remembrance Day for Ethiopian Jews.  The date was already (since 1968) Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Unification Day, celebrating the reunification after the Six-Day War in 1967.  The remembrance is for the thousands Read More…

Was Maimonides Really a Physician? Originally Published May 24-25, 2019.

We often study the work of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, known as Maimonides or Rambam, who lived from 1135-1204.  Born in Cordoba, Spain, he was part of a long line of scholars.  As he reached his 13th birthday, Cordoba fell to the Almohads in Spring 1148, and under the resultant religious persecution the family was Read More…

What Is “Shomer Shabbat”? Originally Published May 17-18, 2019.

“Shomer Shabbat” (שׁוֹמֵר שַׁבָּת)  is a term used to describe a person who “keeps” the Sabbath.  In Ashkenazic Hebrew the name of the seventh day may be pronounced “Shabbos.” You may recall a few weeks ago when we discussed the term “shamar” as meaning to guard, protect, keep.  This is another usage of it. There Read More…