I've Always Wondered
What Is a Ḥevrah Kaddisha? Originally Published January 20-21, 2023.New!!

A ḥevrah kaddisha (חֶבְרָה קַדִּישָׁא, literally “holy society”) is a group of individuals who collectively tend to the bodies of our deceased, preparing them for burial and tending them until funeral and burial rituals take place.  They cleanse the body and dress it in a shroud, all a part of the ritual of tohorah (טׇהֳרָה) […]

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I've Always Wondered
What Is the Steckel Torah? Originally Published December 30-31, 2022.

Our member Alan Steckel has generously placed on indefinite loan to Congregation Beth Shalom a sefer Torah which has been in his family for approximately 100 years.  It was commissioned by Alan’s grandparents, Jacob and Hannah Kruger Steckel, on the occasion - family lore has it - of their daughter surviving polio.  It resided at […]

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I've Always Wondered
We Lost Stephen Sondheim a Year Ago? Originally Published December 9-10, 2022.

The first yahrzeit of Stephen Sondheim (z”l) (22 Kislev) will be December 16, 2022 , and so we remember him here, singing a few of his songs:  “Another Hundred People,”  “Somewhere,” “Ladies Who Lunch,” “That Dirty Old Man,” “Comedy Tonight,” “Send In the Clowns,” and “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid.” Stephen was born in […]

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I've Always Wondered
What is a Gabbai? (Reprise) Originally Published December 2-3, 2022.

Since we suggest that anyone concerned about the manner of being called to the Torah consult the gabbayim ahead of time, we thought we would reprise the information below. Generally speaking, a gabbai (feminine:  gabba’it) is appointed to serve to distribute honors for a service and to conduct (stage manage) some of the ritual, in […]

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I've Always Wondered
What Influential Jewish Fellow Was Born November 27, 1874? Originally Published November 25-26, 2022.

Here is a hint to the answer to our question for those who have heard the story over morning minyan breakfast:  this person was first cousin to the mother of our friend Joe Charny. Dr. Chaim Azriel Weizmann was born in Motol, Belarus, to Ozer & Rachel Leah Weizmann.  He would study biochemistry in Switzerland […]

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I've Always Wondered
Snippets. Originally Published November 18-19, 2022.

Here we address a few questions we have received whose answers do not necessarily require a full column. When do we begin counting sheloshim, the 30 days after someone passes away?  The day of the funeral (the day of burial) is Day 1.  This is also how we count shiv’ah, the seven days of mourning. […]

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I've Always Wondered
Can Humor Elevate a Soul? Originally Published November 10, 2022.

We have already discussed how study can elevate the soul of a lost loved one, doubly if we say the Kaddish DiRabbanan after studying since the Mourner’s Kaddish is embodied therein. Some say that a similar path toward elevation is fond remembrance of time together.  This year, your correspondent has been remembering the eleven we […]

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I've Always Wondered
What Was that about the Origins of the Zohar? Originally Published July 22-23, 2022.

Last week we mentioned the sparsely living and greatly studying Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai whose mysticism was carried forward through the Zohar.  He was one of Rabbi Akiva’s precious few disciples who survived the revolt (or the plague), and it is said that later, after continuing to rail against Rome, he had to flee and […]

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I've Always Wondered
What is the Zohar? Originally Published July 15-16, 2022.

A while back we were discussing what is Lag BaOmer, and we mentioned the plague among Rabbi Akiva’s students, and that some scholars feel it was really referring to the students who participated in the revolt led by Bar Kochba against the Romans.  So as not to become targets of the Romans, they may have […]

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I've Always Wondered
Who Was Henrietta Adler? Originally Published July 8-9, 2022.

Born either on July 14, 1870, or on December 1, 1868 (sources conflict), Henrietta “Nettie” Adler was the granddaughter of the Chief Rabbi of England Nathan Marcus Adler, and her father Hermann Adler would serve in the same post (he was deputized when his father’s health declined, and was later elected).  Ms. Adler was interested […]

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