When Do We Hear the Aseret Hadibberot? Originally published January 18-19, 2019.

The Aseret Hadibberot (עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת), the Ten Pronouncements (colloquially, the “Ten Commandments” or, from the Greek translation of the Hebrew, the “Decalogue”), appear next week in Exodus Chapter 20, in Parashat Yitro.  And as Am Yisrael stood at the base of Mount Sinai, so we also stand to hear the  Aseret Hadibberot chanted as a Read More…

What Is Tu Bishvat? Originally published on January 18-19, 2019

This year the New Year of the Trees, Tu Bishvat (ט”וּ בִּשְׁבָט),  is a celebration of the blossoming of trees.  The fruit of a tree may not be used during the first three years (marked by this date).  In the fourth year the fruit may be used for sacrifices (tithed), but it may not be Read More…

What is Shirat Hayam? Originally published January 11-12, 2019.

Shirat Hayam (שִׁירַת הַיָּם),  the “Song of the Sea” (also known as “Az Yashir Moshe,” which is the first line), appears at Exodus 15:1, which we will read next week in Parashat Beshallah, on Shabbat Shirah.  It praises God in recounting the crossing of the Sea of Reeds (the Red Sea) and the destruction of Read More…

What Is Tahanun? Originally Published January 4-5, 2019.

Tahanun (תַּחֲנוּן) or “supplication” is also sometimes called “nefilat appayim,” which means “falling on the face.”  It is a part of the morning (Shaharit) service and also the afternoon (Minhah) service, falling just after the Amidah.  Differing practices have arisen around this prayer which has its roots in the Bible and is set forth in Read More…

Who Was Leonard Bernstein? Originally published December 28-29, 2018.

The 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein was August 25, 2018.  We think him worthy of mention. Mr. Bernstein was a composer, conductor, pianist, writer, teacher, ambassador, and humanitarian – all with a genuine passion, boundless talent, and skills rare throughout history.  He was born in Lawrence, Mass., and we lost him on Read More…

What is Hazak, Hazak, Venithazzek? Originally published December 21-22, 2019.

As we end the reading of each book of the Torah – Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bemidbar, and Devarim or Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – it is customary to say, “Hazak, Hazak, Venithazzek,” which some say means “be strong, be strong, let us be strengthened.”  As the Torah reader concludes the final words of Read More…

Who Was Nelly Sachs? Originally published December 14-15, 2018.

What would we do without Google, which reminded us to remember Nelly Sachs?  Born December 10, 1891, in Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany, Nelly Sachs was a poet who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1966) and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Nelly Sachs was named Leonie by her parents, Georg Read More…

What Is Gelilah? And Whom Does the Gelilah Hug? Originally published December 7-8, 2018.

As we noted last week, this Shabbat is a day of a lot of gelilah, one of only a few in the year! Gelilah גְלִילָה is not the person honored with binding, dressing, etc., a Sefer Torah; it is the practice of doing all that.  But colloquially some have come to use the term for Read More…

How Many Torah Scrolls Do We Use Next Week? Originally published November 30 – December 1, 2018.

If you’ve always wanted the honor of gelilah, next week is a good opportunity! Next Shabbat is Rosh Hodesh Tevet, coinciding as it often does with Shabbat Hanukkah, one of the few days of the year when we use three Torah scrolls – three sifrei Torah. The parashah next week will be Mikkets, pronounced to Read More…

Who is Naim Obeid, Whom We Welcomed Last Week? Originally published November 23-24, 2018

Last week we welcomed a visit from Naim Obeid, Executive Director of the Akko Center for Arts and Technology in Israel (A-CAT), who visited on Shabbat. The Akko Center has Pittsburgh roots!  Mark Frank, Pittsburgher, founded the Akko Center based on the model of Pittsburgher William E. Strickland, Jr., in the Manchester Bildwell Corporation.  Flourishing Read More…