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…

Why are There Four Aliyot on Rosh Hodesh? Originally Published on November 16-17, 2018.

Even on days when we do not usually read Torah at morning services, if it is Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of the new month (on the Jewish calendar), we read Bamidbar (Numbers) 28:1-15. Let’s start from the beginning.  We read Torah in the morning on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, all from the same parashah (portion) Read More…

What Happened to Minhah? Originally published November 9-10, 2018.

One night last week you attended services at 7:00 at Beth Shalom, and there was no detectable Minhah service?  So is it still an official yahrzeit observance for your departed loved one? During the darker months, when the sun sets earlier, since we begin all our weekday evening services at 7:00, it is too late Read More…

What Are the Apocrypha? Originally published October 26-27, 2018.

We seem to mention the Apocrypha fairly often.  The answer to what they are is not simple.  From the Greek (meaning “obscure”) through Medieval Latin (where it meant “secret, or non-canonical”), the word refers to a set or sets of texts the origin of which is doubtful or unknown.  (“Canonical” refers to being ordained by Read More…

Do We Always Say “Amen” at the End of a Berakhah? Originally published October 19-20, 2018.

The leader is repeating the Amidah, at the Fifth Berakhah, which contains “Modim Anahnu Lakh.” Just before “Modim,” the leader says, “Barukh Atah [Hashem], hamahazir shekhinato leTzion.” Do we say “amen” after that berakhah?  Or do we all say together “Modim Anahnu Lakh.”  Technically we should do both.  We say “amen” after a berakhah when Read More…