Mishpatim is a very special parashah for me. It is also known as Shabbat Shekalim and it was on Shabbat Shekalim that I read Torah for the very first time in 1993. I am attaching a link to a podcast from R. Alex Israel who is with PARDES, who speaks about the history of the half-shekel: https://elmad.pardes.org/2018/02/the-half-shekel/
Boker tov, dear friends,
As you come into the JCC these days, you may see our new notice board on the side window of the library. We are trying to keep the general Jewish population of Victoria aware of our activities in all manner of ways – including old fashion printed posters.
Boker tov, dear friends,
This week we are walking through the seas – with all the rain we have been having, perhaps also, unfortunately, wet basements. B’Shallach is a particularly gorgeous parashah visually when we come to the Song of the Seas –
Many of us have had a very emotional week: Today, Monday marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Rabbi Victor Reinstein journeyed back to Victoria from his home in Boston to speak at the presentation on Sunday at the JCC. He titled his words, Defying Hatred. What does it mean to defy what has been directed towards us for millennia? Sometimes reviewing our history can be devastating – a litany of expulsion and exiles, accusations of blood libels and desecrations. Language reflects our very unique experience of Jew-hatred with specific words: blood libel, pogroms, ghettos, Shoah. The Shoah was preceded by massacres in every century going back to the destruction of the Temple by Rome. And yet. We survived.
Busy days and getting busier at Kolot Mayim! Orders are coming in for Chumashim which is truly rewarding. And we have had a most generous offer from a friend to buy a sturdy bookshelf for our new Chumashim, the set of Talmud I have ordered, and various study manuals/books that will all enhance our learning. There is a most enthusiastic group of people learning in the Intro to Judaism class as well. Thank you to everyone who in every way – be it coming to services, engaging in Torah learning, helping on committees and the Board, offering to help drive some of our elders as will be needed, helping me on the Religious Services committee, and more – all of this participation is re-building Kolot Mayim into a most engaged and caring community. I feel very blessed to be amongst you – even when I look at a long list of tasks and appointment for the day! All this is testament to a profound willingness and desire for building connection. So yasher koach, may we all be strengthened together.
Shavua tov, everyone. One of our members, Johannes Denee will be leaving for Holland this coming week for a very significant event. Johannes grew up in a Holland, in a country ravaged by WWII. He has been haunted for many years by the knowledge of how many Jews from his country were murdered. One of the camps, Camp Westerbork, was known as ‘the foyer of Hell’ during the Second World War. It was a transit camp to concentration camps like Auschwitz and Sobibor. The camp was built in 1939, when it was first used as a refugee camp. Eventually, 102.000 Dutch Jews were sent to their deaths in Sobibor and Auschwitz through the Westerbork transfer camp.
Shavua tov. This is an exciting and somewhat daunting week. I have begun to enter into the cycle called Daf Yomi – a cycle where “we” learn a page of Talmud a day. It takes 7 ½ years to complete reading each page in Talmud. I decided to jump into the sea before too many more years went by! For those of you who might be interested, see My Jewish Learning: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/9-things-to-know-about-the-daf-yomi-daily-page-of-talmud/ . You can also have access to a free online site called Sefaria, which has all manner of our traditional texts available. See: https://www.sefaria.org/ My FB page is now flooded with commentaries and questions by people from all over the world who have started learning too. Here is a wonderful interactive site from Eliezer Segal at the University of Calgary: https://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/TalmudPage.html
As we tuck away our menorahs for another year, and tidy up the aluminum foil, dreidels and extra candles, I hope we have also tucked some of that candlelight within ourselves. There have been too many (once is too many) serious incidents of anti-Semitism this past week, many in New York, in London England, throughout Europe. Yet again, we struggle with the question of what to do in the face of such threats. Security at the door is a defensive measure, albeit an increasingly necessary measure. But security at the door is insufficient. Can we learn anything to help from within our tradition, perhaps from this week’s Torah reading, Vayigash?
Shavua tov, everyone,
This week I thought I would use this opportunity for a little housekeeping.
Several people who have known me for many years have asked what they should call me, now that I am a rabbi. The question brings to mind a beautiful section of a wedding ceremony I recently conducted. The bride was from China and within her culture, as a bride, she becomes part of her husband’s family. Part of acknowledging this status is a formal recognition within the wedding ceremony that she will now no longer call them by their first names, but will now address them as her mother and father. Zhen did so, and then her in-laws, recognizing they were now formally her parents, gave her a parental blessing. It was a lovely addition to the chuppah blessings.
Shavua tov, everyone,
We had a wonderful Hanukah party on Friday night, December 13th – a packed house, lots of wonderful singing and good food. A big thank you to Leah Kinarthy, Deb and Richard Weiss, Carolyn Hergt and Sam Margolis who helped make the evening very special. And a very big thank you to Amber Woods and Gary Cohen for their music which was really a highlight for our celebration. Hanukah begins the evening of December 22nd with our lighting a first candle. A candle of hope.