Serving Lewisville, Carrollton, and the Dallas Metrocrest since 1984
“and thou shalt command the children of Israel. . .to cause the lamp to burn eternally.”

Cantorial Notes - Previous Columns

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September 2017

(This was written by Anonymous “on September 13, 2008, out of a desire to help” motivate friends.) I thought it was particularly appropriate for us as we move into Yamim Nora-im - our High Holy Day season.

“Hello, World!

Beginning today I will no longer worry about yesterday. It is in the past and the past will never change.

Beginning today I will no longer worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will always be there, waiting for me to make the most of it. But I cannot make the most of tomorrow without first making the most of today.

Beginning today I will look in the mirror and I will see a person worthy of my respect and admiration. This capable person looking back at me is someone I enjoy spending time with and someone I would like to get to know better.

Beginning today I will cherish each moment of my life. I value this gift bestowed upon me in this world and I will unselfishly share this gift with others. I will use this gift to enhance the life of others.

Beginning today I will take life one day at a time, one step at a time. Discouragement will not be allowed to taint my positive self-image, my desire to succeed or my capacity to love.

Beginning today I will open my mind and my heart. I will welcome new experiences. I will meet new people. I will not expect perfection from myself or anyone else: perfection doesn’t exist in an imperfect world. But I will applaud the attempt to overcome human foibles.

Beginning today I will learn something new; I will try something different; I will savor all the various flavors life has to offer. I will change what I can and the rest I will let go. I will strive to become the best me I can possibly be.”

Does Gd. ask anything more of us?

Shannah Tovah

Cantor Patti

August 2017

It seems impossible, but as we begin our study of D’varim (Deuteronomy) this month, we are actually entering our 10th year of studying Torah. It has been my delight to watch each person who attends our study sessions turn it and turn it and turn it, trying to grasp the meaning of the words we read. And what’s even more delightful to me is to see how the meaning and understanding changes from session to session and year to year – not just for my students, but for myself, as well.

I look forward with great anticipation to this next year of study, as we begin to expand our learning by studying Ne-vi-im – the Prophets. We will start our study with the Book of Joshua, after the High Holy Days. Our studies will be interspersed with verses from Torah and the Writings to help further our understanding of the prophets.

When I read this, it addressed so many of my own thoughts and feelings at this time not only in Israel, but also here in our country and in the world at large.

A Hard Truth for the 3 Weeks - Aryen Ben David - July 25, 2017

“The hard truth I need to face during these 3 weeks is that I have become someone that I don’t want to be. “I have fallen into an unhealthy spiritual routine. I have become full of anger, judgment, and self-righteousness. I have endless knee-jerk judgments. These responses are shallow, unnecessary, and do not help me become the person I aspire to be.

“What happened to me? The horrible terrorist attack on Shabbat in Halamish made my blood boil. Jews killed only because they were Jews. I fumed with anger that the brutal attack was barely covered in world media. And this anger cooks within me and flavors everything I do; everyone I see.

“And it’s not only the attack. I seem to be drowning in hope-draining news. When I ask people what makes them lose hope, the most common answer I receive is: “Listening to the news”. I worry that I have become one of those people. And then I read the talkbacks to seemingly neutral and nice articles and feel infected by the vitriol and spite of their tone.

“I feel intense anger – and my anger offers me an illusory moment of control. A fantasy of what I would do and say to right the wrongs all around me.

“But the sad truth is that most solutions are beyond my control. My anger is only a false intoxicant.

“Today, it is not in my power to solve the centuries old problems of the Middle East. I don’t have a magic wand to dispel the animosity between the denominations of Judaism. I struggle even to solve the parking problems of my neighborhood.

“But I can still become the person I want to be. I can remember that the person next to me is also broken and carrying more than I will ever know. I can remember that my friend is on a different path than me, and that I can honor and respect this difference.

“I’m working hard now during the three weeks to remind myself that I don’t need or want to carry my anger. My judgments are a sad excuse to make my life easier.

“During these 3 weeks I can remind myself of the wisdom of Rav Kook: “It doesn’t matter how much people know or how observant they may be, when one becomes angry they are forgetting God.” Even Moshe was punished and not allowed to enter the Promised Land because, for a moment, he spoke in anger toward the Jewish People.

“We need to build a nation from people who each have a different soul and journey. Our first step is to remember that we really don’t know each other. I cannot let myself fall into the easy habit of judging people for how they look, where they live, or the little I see them do. I don’t know what their parents or grandparents did to them; I don’t know how they grew up; and I have no idea what they are carrying. If I could see inside their souls and taste their brokenness, would I be so quick to judge?

“Years ago I wrote that for several days I walked around and tried to imagine the “sparkle” everyone had inside. My kids thought I was nuts but it helped me imagine the beauty and power of a soul and who these people truly were.

“Now, my challenge during these 3 weeks is — to try to imagine the brokenness within all the people I see. We are all carrying brokenness. It is the plight of the human being. God created the world through the breaking of the vessels and we still live in a broken world. The Kotsker’s truth still rings deep: “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart”.

“During these 3 weeks we live in the shadow of Moshe breaking the tablets, the 10 Commandments. It is a time to become especially aware of our brokenness and live with greater humility and compassion.

“It doesn’t help me solve the problems of the world. It doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility to address these problems. But it helps me not become the person I don’t want to be. It has been helpful for me to write down the hard truth I need to face during this reflective time.

“What would you write? What is your hard truth that is so humbling to accept?”

May we always be looking inside ourselves to find the answer to these questions as well as others that will help us bring peace to this world so torn by hatred and violence.

Cantor Patti

July 2017

I have a collection of sayings I have seen on billboards or have seen on Facebook that have spoken to me at various times in my life and for various reasons. During these days I have turned to them to soothe my soul, to make me smile, to make me laugh, and to remind me of hope and the goodness of people.

I would like to share some of them with you in hopes that if you are in need of any of the above listed reasons to read them; you will find what you need.

We need to talk -

Gd.

Feeling down? Just look up!

Gd.

Lost? The map is in My book –

Gd.

If you must curse, use your own name -

Gd.

Do you know where you are going?

Gd.

Will the road you’re on get you to My place?

Gd.

Don’t fear the future. I am there.

Gd.

Faith in Gd. changes everything.

Gd.

Life is short. Eternity is forever.

Gd.

I made you on purpose for a purpose.

Gd.

I know what I am doing. Do you?

Gd.

They are commandments – not suggestions.

Gd.

Gd. wants full custody, not just weekend visitations.

Nothing is too hard for Gd.

Self-worth is more than net worth.

An error doesn’t become a mistake until you fail to correct it.

You may be disappointed if you try, but you’ll be doomed if you don’t try.

The way to the top is to get off your bottom.

Gd. answers prayers with yes, no, and wait.

Exercise daily:

walk with Gd.

You can’t get caught in places you don’t go to.

Where will you be sitting in eternity?

smoking or non-smoking?

April 2017

We are fast approaching Pesach. Soon, if not already, we will be emptying our homes of chametz – anything that has leavening in it – no bread, cereal, cake, cookies, pizza, pasta or beer unless it’s Kosher L’Pesach.

So, what to do with all these no-no foods for Pesach? According to Jewish law, they must be destroyed or disposed of, or they may be sold to people who are not Jewish. However, this must all be done before Pesach begins. Once Pesach begins, we are not permitted to touch anything that is considered chametz.

One of the things that is interesting is that there are different foods that are considered chametz for Ashkanazi Jews and Sephardic Jews. While Ashkenazi Jews do not eat kitniyot, the Sephardim do. So what is kitniyot? Kitniyot include foods such as legumes, beans, peas, rice, millet, corn and seeds.

What is the problem for the Ashkinazim? Kitniyot can be ground into flour and then baked, which could give the appearance of eating chametz. In addition, kitniyot could be stored close to the chametz which is not eaten by the Ashkenazi community.

With that being said, there are some rabbis who say we should be able to eat kitniyot, including the Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides). These rabbis ruled that it is permitted (and perhaps even obligatory) to do away with this “foolish custom.”

Why?

It detracts from the joy of the holiday by limiting the number of permitted foods.

Causes exorbitant price rises.

Emphasizes the insignificant (legumes) and ignores the significant (the avoidance of chametz)

Can cause people to ridicule Jewish ritual in general and the prohibition against eating chametz.

Can even cause divisions between the World’s Jewry’s ethnic groups.

Rabbinic responsa is that the desire to observe the custom of refraining from kitniyot, can be seen as the desire to preserve an old custom. However, the Reform Movement allows us to choose whether we want to observe the Ashkenazi custom of not eating kitniyot or observe the Sephardic custom of eating kitniyot.

Whichever custom you choose, let’s be respectful of each other’s custom.

May your Pesach be happy & filled with much joy as we celebrate our path to freedom.

Revised from Reform Judaism article.

Chag Sameach.

March 2017

This month, we will celebrate the holiday of Purim. The holiday is celebrated on the 14th of Adar. However in walled cities (created during the time of Joshua), it is actually celebrated on the 15th of Adar.

The word “Purim” means “lots” and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre of the Jewish people. On this holiday, we remember the defeat of a plot to exterminate the Jews. These plots have, unfortunately, continued throughout the years, and yet we have been saved against these efforts.

Purim is considered a minor holiday and is not subject to the restrictions of Shabbat, but it is preceded by a minor fast, commemorating Esther’s 3 day fast before approaching the king. Some will also avoid doing work, in commemoration of the holiday.

There are many customs and mitzvoth for celebrating Purim. The primary mitzvah is to hear the m’gillah, known as M’gillot Esther. (There are by the way, 5 m’gillot – Esther, Ruth, Song of Songs, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes). M’gillat Esther is to be read publically and, of course, we “blot out” the villain’s name each time it is said with groggers, feet stomping, yelling, etc.

We are commanded to eat, drink and be merry. The Talmud says we are to drink so much that we cannot distinguish between “cursing Haman” and “praising Mordechai”. Of course, for those who cannot or should not drink, they are exempt from this obligation.

Another commandment for Purim is the giving of gifts of food or drink (sh’lach manot), and to make gifts to charity.

There is also a custom to hold carnival – like celebrations. We perform plays and parodies, called shpiels. We also wear costumes, which here in America, has been associated with Mardi Gras.

One of the things we should notice about M’gillat Esther is, unlike all other books in the Tanakh, Gd.’s name is not mentioned. From this we can learn that sometimes Gd. works in mysterious ways – coincidence, if you will (but as Gibbs says – “There is no such thing as coincidence!”). One of my professors told us, “Coincidence is Gd.’s way of remaining anonymous”.

The idea of omitting Gd.’s name is also associated with “hester panim” (“the concealed face of Gd.”). However, some say that Mordechai does make an indirect reference to Gd. by saying to Esther: …if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis, (Esther 4:13-14).

Another explanation for the omission of Gd’s name is “since the book was written in scroll form and sent to Jews throughout Persia, the name was omitted in case the scroll was desecrated in anyway.”

We invite you to attend our Purim celebration on Friday night, March 10th, where we will hear the M’gillah read, see a great Shpiel, and celebrate with much merry making!

Cantor Patti

January 2017

I found this on FaceBook quoting Ben Stein’s discussion on CBS Sunday morning in regard to the White House referring to Christmas trees as Holiday trees. I found it particularly interesting:

“My confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas trees. It doesn’t bother me one little bit when people say “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating a happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my house in Malibu. If people want a nativity scene, it’s just fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like being pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in Gd. are sick and tired of being pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly an atheist country. I can’t find it anywhere in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship Gd.? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew, went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different. This is not intended to be a joke; it is not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How can Gd. let something like this happen? (regarding to hurricane Katrina). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, ‘I believe Gd. is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling Gd. to get out of our schools, to get out of our government, and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect Gd. to give us his blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events…terrorist attacks, school shootings, etc., I think it started when Madeline Murray O’Hare (she was murdered and her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscious, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves. Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash Gd. and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of Gd. is suppressed in school and the work place. Are you laughing yet? Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you are not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it. Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of than what Gd. thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it…no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best regards, honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein”

My hope is that we will all think long and hard about these words and apply them to our own lives as fits in with our own thinking.

December 2016

Hanukkah is quickly approaching. The first candle will be lit Saturday night, December 24th.

Julie Wiener, managing editor of My Jewish Learning, posted 9 things about Hanukkah that some of us may or may not be aware of. Some of them I knew, and some I didn’t. How many do you know?

1. Gelt as we know it is a relatively new tradition — and no one knows who invented it.

While coins – “gelt” is Yiddish for coins, or money – have been part of Hanukkah observance for centuries, chocolate gelt is considerably younger. In her book On the Chocolate Trail, Rabbi Deborah Prinz writes that “opinions differ” concerning the origins of chocolate gelt. Some credit America’s Loft Candy Company with creating it in the 1920s, while others suggest there were European versions earlier that inspired Israel’s Elite Candy Company. Prinz notes, as well, that chocolate gelt resembles a European Christmas tradition of exchanging gold-covered chocolate coins “commemorating the miracles of St. Nicholas.”

2. The first Hanukkah celebration was actually a delayed Sukkot observance.

The second book of Maccabees quotes from a letter sent circa 125 BCE from the Hasmoneans (the Macabees’ descendants) to the leaders of Egyptian Jewry, describing the holiday as “the festival of Sukkot celebrated in the month of Kislev rather than Tishrei.” Since the Jews were still in caves fighting as guerrillas on Tishrei, 164 BCE, they had been unable to honor the eight-day holiday of Sukkot, which required visiting the Jerusalem Temple; hence it was postponed until after the recapture of Jerusalem and the rededication of the Temple. Many scholars believe it is this – and not the Talmudic legend of the cruse of oil that lasted eight days – explains why Hanukkah is eight days long.

3. The books of Maccabees, which tell the story of Hanukkah, aren’t included in the Hebrew Bible – but they are in the Catholic Bible.

There are different theories explaining why the first-century rabbis who canonized the scriptures omitted the Maccabees, ranging from the text’s relative newness at the time to fears of alienating the Roman leadership in control of Jerusalem at the time.

4. Marilyn Monroe owned a music-playing Hanukkah menorah (the Marilyn Monroah?).

When the Hollywood star converted to Judaism before marrying Jewish playwright Arthur Miller, her future mother-in-law gave her a menorah as a conversion gift. The Hanukkah lamp, which the menorah’s current owner says Mrs. Miller brought back from Jerusalem, has a wind-up music box in its base that plays Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. It’s featured in the Jewish Museum in New York City’s exhibit “Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn,” but sadly you can’t wind it up.

5. The game of dreidel was inspired by a German game played at Christmas time, which is itself an imitation of an English and Irish one.

Our Eastern European game of dreidel (including the letters nun, gimmel, hey, shin) is directly based on the German equivalent of the British totum game: N = Nichts = nothing; G = Ganz = all; H = Halb = half; and S = Stell ein = put in. In German, the spinning top was called a “torrel” or “trudl.”

6. Oily food (think latkes and sufganiyot) isn’t Hanukkah’s only culinary tradition.

Traditionally, Hanukkah has included foods with cheese in recognition of Judith, whose liberal use of the salty treat facilitated a victory for the Maccabees.

7. On Hanukkah, we celebrate a grisly murder.

The aforementioned Judith had an ulterior motive for plying Assyrian general Holofernes with salty cheese: making him thirsty so he would drink lots of wine and pass out, enabling her to chop off his head and bring it home with her. The beheading – particularly the fact that a woman carried it out – was said to have frightened Holofernes’ troops into fleeing the Maccabees.

8. The largest menorah in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records is 32 feet high and weighs 4,000 pounds.

The Shulchan Aruch stipulates that a menorah should be no taller than about 31 feet. Incidentally, Guinness lists at least three other Hanukkah-related records: most dreidels spinning simultaneously for at least 10 seconds (734), most people simultaneously lighting menorahs (834) and largest display of lit menorahs (1,000).

See you at Hanukkah celebration on Shabbat evening, December 30. This year we are having a non-dairy potluck dinner. Please be sure to respond to the e-mail to let us know what you are bringing, so we have something from each food group. In addition, remember to bring your Chanukiah, candles, and best singing voice with lots of ruach!

Chag Sameach!

February 2016

Happy Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish New Year of the trees.

Although we just celebrated our Tu B'Shevat seder, I found some interesting thoughts on Chai Mitzvah’s web site for keeping us engaged in the purpose of Tu B’Shevat throughout the year.

Thank you, very much Brittni, for all you did to prepare to lead the seder. It was beautifully done.

Like a Passover seder, we drink four cups of wine and eat foods that are symbols of the holiday. And, like a Passover seder, we use a book to guide us. The first text that was used for a Tu B’Shevat seder was P’ri Etz Hadar, which means Fruit of the Goodly Tree. Each of the four sections of the original Tu B'Shevat haggadah is connected to one of the four basic elements: Earth, Water, Ruach (air, wind, spirit) and Fire.

The Torah compares a person to a tree: A person is like the tree of a field... (Deut. 20:19)

Jewish scholars tell us that a tree requires the four basic elements in order to survive, and that human beings need the same basic elements.

EARTH (SOIL): In order to stand tall, trees need to be planted firmly in the earth. This is true of people as well. A person can appear successful on the outside, with “full branches” (expensive clothes or a large house). But if the roots are shallow, if there is little connection to community and heritage, then a strong wind may uproot the tree (life’s challenges may become impossible to withstand). A person connected to community and heritage will be as strong as a tree with healthy, deep roots.

WATER: Without water, a tree will wither and die. In Jewish teachings, the Torah is compared to water. Torah, like water, keeps the Jewish people alive.

RUACH (AIR, WIND or SPIRIT): The Torah (Genesis 2:7) tells us that God breathed life into the form of a man. The Hebrew word for breath is n’shima, and the Hebrew word for soul is n’shama. This illustrates the connection of spirit and air.

FIRE (SUN): Of course trees also need fire (sunlight) to grow and perform photosynthesis. Humans also need fire, the warmth of family, friendship, and community, to thrive.

Here is some food for thought during this Tu B'Shevat season: Who or what in your life gives you roots, and gives you structure, so that you are free to grow? In what directions do you want to grow during the new year?

May we all have a fruitful and inspired re-awakening to our potential in this New Year of the Trees.

- Cantor Patti Turner

January 2016

Happy New Year!

At the end of December, we celebrated as we finished reading B’reishit again, with a siyum (party). Marcy Prager prepared a delicious Kiddush luncheon for us. We had six Torah readers, and all did a fabulous job. Thanks to all of you who read.

I hope this year will be the year other members in the congregation will step forward and take the challenge to become one of our regular readers. I am always available to help you learn a part. It can be as few as 2-3 verses or as many as you want.

We all know that Moses faced one of his greatest fears when Gd. told him to return to Egypt to free the Israelites. He pleaded with Gd. saying to Him, “…Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither yesterday nor the day before, nor since you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” And the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Is it not I the Lord?” “Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall say.”

Just like Moses, we can overcome our fears, and learn to read from Torah. Please let me know, if you are willing to read this year. You, too, can become a Torah reader extraordinaire!

Come study and celebrate with us. All are welcome.

- Cantor Patti Turner


December 2015

As we all know, Chanukah is quickly approaching. The first candle will be lit Sunday night, December 6th.

Julie Wiener, managing editor of My Jewish Learning, posted 9 things about Chanukah that some of us may or may not be aware of. Some of them I knew, and some I didn’t. How many do you know?

1. Gelt as we know it is a relatively new tradition — and no one knows who invented it.

While coins – “gelt” is Yiddish for coins, or money – have been part of Hanukkah observance for centuries, chocolate gelt is considerably younger. In her book On the Chocolate Trail, Rabbi Deborah Prinz writes that “opinions differ” concerning the origins of chocolate gelt: Some credit America’s Loft candy company with creating it in the 1920s, while others suggest there were European versions earlier that inspired Israel’s Elite candy company. Prinz notes, as well, that chocolate gelt resembles a European Christmas tradition of exchanging gold-covered chocolate coins “commemorating the miracles of St. Nicholas.”

2. The first Hanukkah celebration was actually a delayed Sukkot observance.

The second book of Maccabees quotes from a letter sent circa 125 BCE from the Hasmoneans (the Macabees’ descendants) to the leaders of Egyptian Jewry, describing the holiday as “the festival of Sukkot celebrated in the month of Kislev rather than Tishrei.” Since the Jews were still in caves fighting as guerrillas on Tishrei, 164 BCE, they had been unable to honor the eight-day holiday of Sukkot, which required visiting the Jerusalem Temple; hence it was postponed until after the recapture of Jerusalem and the rededication of the Temple. Many scholars believe it is this – and not the Talmudic legend of the cruse of oil that lasted eight days – explains why Hanukkah is eight days long.

3. The books of Maccabees, which tell the story of Hanukkah, weren’t included in the Hebrew Bible – but they are in the Catholic Bible.

There are different theories explaining why the first-century rabbis who canonized the scriptures omitted the Maccabees, ranging from the text’s relative newness at the time to fears of alienating the Roman leadership in control of Jerusalem at the time.

4. Marilyn Monroe owned a music-playing Hanukkah menorah (the Marilyn Menorah)?

When the Hollywood star converted to Judaism before marrying Jewish playwright Arthur Miller, her future mother-in-law gave her a menorah as a conversion gift. The Hanukkah lamp, which the menorah’s current owner says Mrs. Miller brought back from Jerusalem, has a wind-up music box in its base that plays Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. It’s featured in the Jewish Museum in New York City’s exhibit “Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn,” but sadly you can’t wind it up.

5. The game of dreidel was inspired by a German game played at Christmastime, which is itself an imitation of an English and Irish one.

Our Eastern European game of dreidel (including the letters nun, gimmel, hey, shin) is directly based on the German equivalent of the British totum game: N = Nichts = nothing; G = Ganz = all; H = Halb = half; and S = Stell ein = put in. In German, the spinning top was called a “torrel” or “trudl.”

6. Oily food (think latkes and sufganiyot) isn’t Hanukkah’s only culinary tradition.

Traditionally, Hanukkah has included foods with cheese in recognition of Judith, whose liberal use of the salty treat facilitated a victory for the Maccabees.

7. On Hanukkah, we celebrate a grisly murder.

The aforementioned Judith had an ulterior motive for plying Assyrian general Holofernes with salty cheese: making him thirsty so he would drink lots of wine and pass out, enabling her to chop off his head and bring it home with her. The beheading – particularly the fact that a woman carried it out – was said to have frightened Holofernes’ troops into fleeing the Maccabees.

8. The next “Thanksgivukkah” (sort of), is only 55 years away.

In 2013, the convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah on Nov. 28 inspired everything from turkey-shaped menorahs to a giant dreidel float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. While experts say a full day of Hanukkah won’t coincide with the fourth Thursday in November for thousands of years, the first night of Hanukkah will fall in time for Thanksgiving dinner (assuming you have the meal at dinnertime rather than in the afternoon) on Nov. 27, 2070.

9. The largest menorah in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records is 32 feet high and weighs 4,000 pounds.

The Shulchan Aruch stipulates that a menorah should be no taller than about 31 feet. Incidentally, Guinness lists at least three other Hanukkah-related records: most dreidels spinning simultaneously for at least 10 seconds (734), most people simultaneously lighting menorahs (834) and largest display of lit menorahs (1,000).

See you at Chanukah celebration on Shabbat evening December 11. Remember to bring your Chanukiah, candles, dinner, and best singing voice with lots of ruach!

Chag Sameach!

- Cantor Patti Turner


November 2015

Let me begin by saying that I am appalled at myself for not knowing until two weeks ago that our beloved country of Israel was under savage attack. I do not often watch the world news, mainly because I am at work when it comes on, but I will also add that I do not watch it because it is too depressing!

Last week, in our parasha, Lech L’cha, we attempted to understand, like many sages before us, why Gd. chose Avraham. I found a new take on that question in this month’s Reform Judaism magazine. Rabbi Edwin Goldberg, suggested that Avraham Avinu was chosen because he asked the right question, “Who is there, and does anyone care?”

Rabbi Goldberg suggests that Avraham Avinu was referring to the injustices he was seeing around him. I think that applies to what is happening in Israel, not only today, but throughout the ages. In my readings, I found on Chabad’s website, a list of 7 things we can do outside Eretz Yisrael to help. 1. Take up a “call to arms.” For those who want, don tefillin, whose spiritual potency is foretold in the Talmud to help instill fear and deterrence in the enemy. 2. Share the Power of Light. Lighting Shabbat and holiday candles ushers light and peace into the home and the world. 3. Check Your (Spiritual) Security System. The mezuzah is called the “guard” of the Jewish home and the guardian of the Jewish people throughout the ages. 4. Pray. The power of prayer, especially when we pray as a people, increases the chances for our prayers to reach the gates of heaven and plead with the Almighty to make things better. 5. Be Financially Supportive. Give charity! The protective strength of charity is considered to be particularly strong. Consider in part also an Israel-based charity. 6. Nurture Your Faith. It has kept us going for thousands of years. Amid all crises, the faith and knowledge that Gd. is with us and protects us. 7. Join the Unity Torah Scroll. The Torah is the common denominator that unites all Jewish people. Special Torah scrolls are being written in Israel, in which every single Jewish person may purchase a letter to become part of the Torah and unite together. Besides for fulfilling (at least in part) the Biblical commandment to write a Torah scroll, having a letter in these scrolls connects you and Jewish people all over the globe, in Israel and the diaspora, into one Torah-created unified entity. We can purchase letters for yourself and your family members, and encourage others to do the same.

The link to do this mitzvah can be found on the Chabad website in the Oct 9 issue, under the heading of “7 Things You Can Do For Israel Today.” (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3087579/jewish/7-Things-You-Can-Do-for-Israel-Today.htm)

Rabbi Goldberg summarizes his article with this thought: “And hence the call of Abraham becomes the call to Abraham. The world, sadly, is still burning. Does anyone care?” And I say, Eretz Yisrael is under siege. “Does anyone care?” Will the call to Abraham Avinu be our call to fight the injustice that is going on in our time?

- Cantor Patti Turner


October 2015

Happy New Year to all. Our holiday season is fast approaching its conclusion. I do think it is particularly appropriate that we end the season with Simchat Torah, the joy of Torah.

We will finish reading D’varim (Deuteronomy) and then immediately begin reading from B’reishit (Genesis). And thanks to many of you who helped us purchase our second Torah, we will begin to read from B’reishit IMMEDIATELY this year, instead of having to take the time to reroll the Torah.

Finishing the Book of D’varim and beginning the Book of B’reishit, as I mentioned during the High Holy Days, is considered by some to be proof that Torah is to be our constant companion, and not a historical epic.

There is no better time than now, when we finish the final Book and begin the first Book again, to join us in our lively discussions on the meaning of Torah and how the words apply to our 21st century world.

Please come join us each Saturday morning and discover the words that have kept the Jewish people alive through the centuries.

- Cantor Patti Turner

September 2015

We are in the month of Elul in the Hebrew calendar. It began on August 15th in our secular calendar, and will continue through September 13th, erev Rosh haShannah.

The web site Judaism 101 contains the following information about Elul:

“The month of Elul is a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Tradition teaches that the month of Elul is a particularly propitious time for repentance. This mood of repentance builds through the month of Elul to the period of Selichot, to Rosh Hashanah, and finally to Yom Kippur.

“The name of the month (spelled Alef-Lamed-Vav-Lamed) is said to be an acronym of "Ani l'dodi v'dodi li," "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine," a quote from Song of Songs 6:3, where the Beloved is G-d and the "I" is the Jewish people. In Aramaic (the vernacular of the Jewish people at the time that the month names were adopted), the word "Elul" means "search," which is appropriate, because this is a time of year when we search our hearts.

“According to tradition, the month of Elul is the time that Moses spent on Mount Sinai preparing the second set of tablets after the incident of the golden calf (Ex. 32; 34:27-28). He ascended on Rosh Chodesh Elul and descended on the 10th of Tishri, at the end of Yom Kippur, when repentance was complete. Other sources say that Elul is the beginning of a period of 40 days that Moses prayed for G-d to forgive the people after the Golden Calf incident, after which the commandment to prepare the second set of tablets was given.”

"Customs of Elul: In Conservative and Orthodox congregations, “the shofar is blown after morning services every weekday during the month of Elul, from the second day of Elul to the 28th day. However, the shofar is not blown on Shabbat, nor is it blown on the day before Rosh Hashanah to make a clear distinction between the rabbinical rule of blowing the shofar in Elul and the biblical mitzvah to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Rambam explained the custom of blowing shofar as a wake-up call to sleepers, designed to rouse us from our complacency. It is a call to repentance.

“I have even heard a midrash that the reason we don’t blow the shofar the day before is to keep the “accuser” from knowing when Rosh haShannah is beginning, so our attempts at asking Gd.’s forgiveness won’t be thwarted.

“Elul is also a time to begin the process of asking forgiveness for wrongs done to other people. As we know, according to our tradition, Gd. cannot forgive us for sins committed against another person until we have first obtained forgiveness from the person we have wronged. This is not an easy task for most of us. This process of seeking forgiveness continues through the Days of Awe.

“As the month of Elul draws to a close, the mood of repentance becomes more urgent. Prayers for forgiveness called selichot are added to the daily cycle of religious services in the Conservative and Orthodox movements. Selichot are recited in the early morning, before normal daily shacharit (morning) service.”

The Chabad web site includes the following information:

“The Zohar explains that at the beginning of Elul we are achor el achor, meaning “back to back,” and by the end of Elul we are panim el panim, “face to face.” But how can it be that we are back to back? Wouldn’t that imply that Gd has His back turned to us as well? How can we say such a thing, when this is the month in which—as chassidic master Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi teaches us—“the King is in the field”? Is it not the month when Gd is more accessible than ever, when He is waiting for us to greet Him, when He is there for us in the “field” of our everyday lives?

“The fact that we are described as “back to back” and then “face to face” is an incredible lesson. Often, when we feel angry, hurt, abandoned, whatever the root of our pain may be, we turn our back. When our back is turned, we have no idea of the state of the other. And it is often easier to believe that we are not the only one with a turned back. It is easier to think the other also turned around, that the other isn’t facing us at all, because if that is the case, then even if we turn around it won’t help, so why bother. Why make that first move only to turn around and see the back of the other?

“But this rationalization is the cause of many unsettled arguments, hurt feelings, and broken relationships. How classic is the scene, played out endlessly in movies, of the couple who walk away from one another. At some point the man turns around, wanting to call her name, ask for another chance, to beg for forgiveness. He is about to speak, but realizes that her back is turned. She is walking away. He tells himself that it is too late, she just doesn’t care. So he turns back around. Seconds later, she turns to look at him. She doesn’t want this to end. She wants to say something, but can’t garner the courage, doesn’t have the strength. And why, why should she, when his back is turned? The month of Elul teaches us the necessity of being willing to turn around. She looks at him longingly, but it just doesn’t matter—she assumes he couldn’t care less as he continues to walk away from her. And we, the viewers, sit on the edge of our seats, hoping that maybe they will both turn around at the same second that they will finally realize that the other does care, that even though they appear to be back to back, they really want to be face to face. Sometimes that fairytale ending does happen; other times they simply continue to walk in opposite directions, right out of each other’s lives.

“It is the month of Elul that teaches us the necessity of being willing to turn around. The King is in the field, our Creator is there, and no matter how we may feel, He has never had His back turned. All we need to do is turn ourselves around to realize that He is there and waiting for us. The “back to back” that we experience in the beginning of the month is based on our misperceptions, our fears, our assumptions. Only when we turn around do we realize the truth, the inner essence, and then we are “face to face,” which does not only mean that we can finally look at each other, but more so, that we can look in each other—for the root of the word for face, panim, is the same as pnimiyut, which means ‘innerness.”

Our Selichot service will be held on Saturday, September 5th. I invite you to join us as we begin to “turn ourselves around,” and have the courage to ask forgiveness from those we may have hurt during the past, whether inadvertently or otherwise. Please let me know if I have hurt you, in any way, so I can ask your forgiveness, panim el panim – face to face.

May we all learn to ask forgiveness, as well as to be forgiving. Remember – “The heaviest load we can carry is a grudge.”

- Cantor Patti Turner

August 2015

Eight years ago, when I. D. Freed (of blessed memory) stepped down from being the spiritual leader of Congregation Ner Tamid due to illness, I stepped up and took over the position, as spiritual leader and cantor. It was eight years ago, that we began studying Torah together. We started our study sessions with the Book of D’varim (Deuteronomy).

So when we met last weekend (Jul 25th), we began where we started.

It has been so exciting and rewarding for me to watch the members of this congregation and study group grow in their thinking and understanding of Torah and Gd.’s will for us. It seems that each and every year we find something new, even in words we have read before.

Sometimes, we get through 3 words, sometimes through 8 lines or so, and sometimes we make through the whole portion, but I can assure you, there is rarely a dull moment!

This week’s Torah portion, “V’etnachtan,” we hear the warning, again to keep Gd.’s commandments, as well as a repetition of the 10 Commandments. But there is a difference in this telling of the 10 Commandments and the 1st telling in Sh’mot (Exodus).

In Sh’mot, we are told “v’zachor et haShabat” – remember the Sabbath. Here in D’varim, we are told “shamor et haShabat” – to guard (or keep, as we say) the Sabbath.

Why the difference? Did Moses make a mistake when he restated them? Did he forget? He was, after all, 120!

On the web site, Judaism 101, we read:

Shabbat involves two interrelated commandments: to remember (zakhor) Shabbat, and to observe (shamor) Shabbat.

Zakhor: To Remember

Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it (Hebrew: Zakhor et yom ha-Shabbat l'kad'sho) -Exodus 20:8

We are commanded to remember Shabbat; but remembering means much more than merely not forgetting to observe Shabbat. It also means to remember the significance of Shabbat, both as a commemoration of creation and as a commemoration of our freedom from slavery in Egypt.

In Exodus 20:11, after Fourth Commandment is first instituted, G-d explains, "because for six days, the L-rd made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and on the seventh day, he rested; therefore, the L-rd blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it." By resting on the seventh day and sanctifying it, we remember and acknowledge that G-d is the creator of heaven and earth and all living things. We also emulate the divine example, by refraining from work on the seventh day, as G-d did. If G-d's work can be set aside for a day of rest, how can we believe that our own work is too important to set aside temporarily?

In Deuteronomy 5:15, while Moses reiterates the Ten Commandments, he notes the second thing that we must remember on Shabbat: "remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the L-rd, your G-d brought you forth from there with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm; therefore the L-rd your G-d commanded you to observe the Sabbath day."

What does the Exodus have to do with resting on the seventh day? It's all about freedom. As I said before, in ancient times, leisure was confined to certain classes; slaves did not get days off. Thus, by resting on Shabbat, we are reminded that we are free. But in a more general sense, Shabbat frees us from our weekday concerns, from our deadlines and schedules and commitments. During the week, we are slaves to our jobs, to our creditors, to our need to provide for ourselves; on Shabbat, we are freed from these concerns, much as our ancestors were freed from slavery in Egypt.

We remember these two meanings of Shabbat when we recite kiddush (the prayer over wine sanctifying Shabbat or a holiday). Friday night kiddush refers to Shabbat as both zikaron l'ma'aseih v'rei'shit (a memorial of the work in the beginning) and zeikher litzi'at Mitz'rayim (a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt).

Shamor: To Observe

Observe the Sabbath day to sanctify it (Hebrew: Shamor et yom ha-Shabbat l'kad'sho) -Deuteronomy 5:12

Of course, no discussion of Shabbat would be complete without a discussion of the work that is forbidden on Shabbat. This is another aspect of Shabbat that is grossly misunderstood by people who do not observe it.

Most Americans see the word "work" and think of it in the English sense of the word: physical labor and effort, or employment. Under this definition, turning on a light would be permitted, because it does not require effort, but a rabbi would not be permitted to lead Shabbat services, because leading services is his employment. Jewish law prohibits the former and permits the latter. Many Americans therefore conclude that Jewish law doesn't make any sense.

The problem lies not in Jewish law, but in the definition that Americans are using. The Torah does not prohibit "work" in the 20th century English sense of the word. The Torah prohibits "melachah" (Mem-Lamed-Alef-Kaf-Hei), which is usually translated as "work," but does not mean precisely the same thing as the English word. Before you can begin to understand the Shabbat restrictions, you must understand the word "melachah."

Melachah generally refers to the kind of work that is creative, or that exercises control or dominion over your environment. The word may be related to "melekh" (king; Mem-Lamed-Kaf). The quintessential example of melachah is the work of creating the universe, which G-d ceased from on the seventh day. Note that G-d's work did not require a great physical effort: he spoke, and it was done.

The word melachah is rarely used in scripture outside of the context of Shabbat and holiday restrictions. The only other repeated use of the word is in the discussion of the building of the sanctuary and its vessels in the wilderness. Exodus Ch. 31, 35-38. Notably, the Shabbat restrictions are reiterated during this discussion (Ex. 31:13), thus we can infer that the work of creating the sanctuary had to be stopped for Shabbat. From this, the rabbis concluded that the work prohibited on Shabbat is the same as the work of creating the sanctuary. They found 39 categories of forbidden acts, all of which are types of work that were needed to build the sanctuary:

Sowing Plowing Reaping Binding sheaves Threshing Winnowing Selecting Grinding Sifting Kneading Baking Shearing wool Washing wool Beating wool Dyeing wool Spinning Weaving Making two loops Weaving two threads Separating two threads Tying Untying Sewing two stitches Tearing Trapping Slaughtering Flaying Salting meat Curing hide Scraping hide Cutting hide up Writing two letters Erasing two letters Building Tearing a building down Extinguishing a fire Kindling a fire Hitting with a hammerTaking an object from the private domain to the public, or transporting an object in the public domain. (Mishnah Shabbat, 7:2)

All of these tasks are prohibited, as well as any task that operates by the same principle or has the same purpose. In addition, the rabbis have prohibited handling any implement that is intended to perform one of the above purposes (for example, a hammer, a pencil or a match) unless the tool is needed for a permitted purpose (using a hammer to crack nuts when nothing else is available) or needs to be moved to do something permitted (moving a pencil that is sitting on a prayer book), or in certain other limited circumstances. Objects that may not be handled on Shabbat are referred to as "muktzeh," which means, "that which is set aside," because you set it aside (and don't use it unnecessarily) on Shabbat.

The rabbis have also prohibited travel, buying and selling, and other weekday tasks that would interfere with the spirit of Shabbat. The use of electricity is prohibited because it serves the same function as fire or some of the other prohibitions, or because it is technically considered to be "fire."

The issue of the use of an automobile on Shabbat, so often argued by non-observant Jews, is not really an issue at all for observant Jews. The automobile is powered by an internal combustion engine, which operates by burning gasoline and oil, a clear violation of the Torah prohibition against kindling a fire. In addition, the movement of the car would constitute transporting an object in the public domain, another violation of a Torah prohibition, and in all likelihood the car would be used to travel a distance greater than that permitted by rabbinical prohibitions. For all these reasons, and many more, the use of an automobile on Shabbat is clearly not permitted.

As with almost all of the commandments, all of these Shabbat restrictions can be violated if necessary to save a life.

As we know, there is no Temple, today, and many Reform Jews do not refrain from work. However, it is my hope that we will, somehow, choose to make this time of the week, different from the rest of the week. It may to attend services, study Torah, take a nap in the middle of the day, or as I once heard – just do something that you wouldn’t ordinarily do during the week because of time constraints.

Shabbat Shalom!

July 2015

I belong to a blog called “Daily Emunah” by Rabbi Ashear. It is a blog about developing faith – faith that Gd. is in control. Faith that everything happens for a reason, and that with heartfelt prayer, Gd. will take care of everything, even if it is in Gd.’s own time.

For me personally, I have always believed in Gd., even when I didn’t understand why things happened the way they did. In the darkest of times, I still believed in Gd. In the best of times, I still believed in Gd. I still do.

Most recently, I have been working on developing my “emunah” – expanding my belief that Gd. will take care of everything, will provide what I need, and when I need it. If something doesn’t happen the way I think it should…it wasn’t supposed to happen – and there’s a reason, even if I don’t understand it, I must believe it is Gd.’s will. As I am developing it, I am developing a greater sense of peace and calm inside.

This is an example of one of the readings:

Everybody has challenges in life. We all have our ups and downs, but life moves on. Things pass. Problems we faced three years ago are long forgotten. We all enjoy years of serenity and endure years of difficulties. But the way we respond during the hard times determines our level of greatness. If we feel sorry for ourselves and complain, then we are squandering an opportunity. The problems will soon pass, and then we'll already be onto the next stage. We must seize the opportunities when they present themselves. When a person is struggling, he can tap into a vast resource of divine assistance. He must remain loyal to Hashem, praise Him, thank Him, and accept everything He does. This is what makes somebody great.

The Rambam lived for about 70 years. The first half of his life was filled with struggles and hardship. When he was just 13, a hostile army invaded his hometown and forced the Jews to either convert or be exiled. Together with his father and brother, the Rambam left and spent the next 12 years on the run. They settled in Morocco, but there, too, they endured persecution. At the age of 30, the Rambam settled in Eretz Yisrael with his family, but they were forced to leave due to the difficult conditions there. The family moved to Egypt, and six months later, the Rambam's father died. A year later, his two children died, and then his wife died. Soon thereafter, his brother, who had been supporting him, died. He was now left alone without any family or money. Unwilling to accept money for learning Torah, he used his medical knowledge to make a livelihood. Finally, at the age of 35, his life turned around. He got remarried, became the most prominent doctor in the kingdom, and became the Rabbinical leader of Egyptian Jewry. He had more children, including his son, Rabbi Avraham ben Ha'Rambam, who became a great Rabbi.

The Rambam experienced years of struggle and years of peace. The Hafetz Haim noted that the Rambam's magnum opus, his colossal work Mishneh Torah codifying all the halachot in the Talmud, was composed during the first half of the Rambam's life, amid his struggles, wandering and persecution. Specifically during the difficult years, the Rambam received great divine assistance and composed one of the great masterpieces of Torah literature. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he gave the world one of its greatest treasures which is now found on bookshelves in homes, synagogues and yeshivot throughout the Jewish world.

We all have the ability to write our own "books," the story of our lives. We want to be able to look back and say, "Wow, what a treasure! I can't believe I did that." Let us strengthen ourselves regardless of the situation we face. We can give Hashem so much joy by overcoming our challenges by keeping the proper perspective and approaching them with the proper attitude. The problems will soon pass. In the meantime, we must rise to the challenges that come our way.”

May our own “book” become our treasure and light the way for others.

Please come and join us for Torah study, every Saturday morning. We look forward to having your input in our discussions.

- Cantor Patti Turner

June 2015

This past week we read B’midbar (Numbers) parashat Naso, which outlines the duties of the Leviim, charged with taking care of the Tabernacle, the laws concerning the korban asham (sin offering), the laws concerning a sotah (a women accused of adultery by her husband), the laws of a nazir (someone, male or female, who takes a vow of abstinence – the most famous nazir being Samson), the birkat cohanim (the priestly benediction), and finally the dedication of the ceremony of the mishkan.

One of my favorite parts of this parasha is the birkhat kohanim, the priestly benediction. This is a blessing that is said at all life cycle events as well as many holidays and during the morning service in conservative and orthodox services. Gd. commands the kohanim to bestow a blessing on the nation, serving as a “vehicle through which Gd. can bless the nation.”

In the conservative and orthodox movements it is done with great reverence and ceremony. A member who is descendant from the kohanim covers himself with his tallit (so that it does not appear as though he is the one blessing the people), holds his arms out with fingers creating a “V” and says the following words:

Y’varechacha Adonai v’yish’m’recha (May Gd. bless you and keep you.)

Ya-er Adonai panav eilecha vi’chunecka (May Gd. make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.)

Yi’sa Adonai panav ei’lecha v’yaseim l’cha shalom (May Gd. lift up His countenance upon you and grant you peace.)

In Torah, these words are followed by the following verse:

And they shall put My name upon the people of Israel; and I will bless them. (B’midbar, Parashat Naso 6:27).

What better blessing can we have than being blessed and kept by Gd., given success by Gd., and given the greatest gift of them all – the gift of shalom - peace.

It is my greatest hope and wish that you will all receive great benefit from these words, as you make your way throughout your day.

Please come and join us for Torah study, every Saturday morning. We look forward to your input.

- Cantor Patti Turner

May 2015

This month we will finish reading Vayikra (Leviticus). Some of us might wonder, “Why,” do we even study this book in Torah. Why is it even included in Torah? After all, it seems, at first glance, to be a “how to” book for the priests.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken - Director, Project Genesis - Torah.org in an article about its relevance, wrote:

“The Book of VaYikra, Leviticus, begins with an unusual phrase that seems redundant: "And He called to Moshe, and G-d spoke to him from the tent of meeting, to say. " Why does G-d first call to Moshe before speaking to him?

“Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch zt"l explains that this phrasing emphasizes the Torah's statement that it is, in its entirety, Divine Revelation, transmitted to Moshe "as one man speaks to his friend" [Exodus 33:11]. Unlike the other prophets, who experienced dreamlike visions which they then recorded in their own words, Moshe spoke with G-d like we speak with people standing around a corner (or on a telephone), unseen but clearly heard. As Rav Hirsch says, it was a revelation to Moses, not a revelation in Moses.

“This is, of course, a crucial message. It changes our understanding of the Five Books "of Moses" entirely. But still the question arises: why here? Why now? If we have heard this message previously, and its restatement is not more explicit, why is it important to place it here, at the beginning of the third book?

“I (Rabbi Menken) would suggest that there is a second message here: that we need to be paying special attention now.

“VaYikra was called "Leviticus" in Latin because it concerns itself with the sacrifices offered in the Temple, as well as many things pertaining to the Kohanim, the Priests, and the other members of the tribe of Levi. Sacrifices, voluntary offerings, incense, Tzara'as (the spiritual ailment discussed in Parshas Metzorah and elsewhere) -- all of them are found here. And because there is no Temple standing now, because we are not all united in our land, and because we are not on the spiritual level necessary to experience Tzara'as, almost none of the aforementioned laws are applicable today. It has been said, though I have not seen this myself, that the Reader's Digest Bible simply omits Leviticus!

“Needless to say, we must take a different approach.

“Simply because a law is not applicable today, that doesn't mean it is irrelevant, or has nothing to teach us. The Torah is teaching us to elevate ourselves, to become more Holy, to emulate the Divine. In these cases it may not be obvious to us what lessons we are to learn, as we cannot put them "to practical use" or witness the Kohanim doing so. But if simply skimming the surface will leave us uninspired and unmoved, the answer is not to look away, but to look deeper.”

I invite you to join us on Saturday mornings to “look deeper” into what might seem irrelevant to us today, so as “to become more Holy,” not more so than anyone else, but to improve ourselves each and every day, so that we can become a light to the nations that Gd. intended us to be.

- Cantor Patti Turner

April 2015

Chag Sameach!

I belong to a blog list called Emuna Daily, by Rabbi David Ashear. It is a daily blog about developing emunah – faith. I really enjoy reading it. Even though I do not have issues with emunah, I still get so much more by reading it every day.

On a recent Friday Rabbi Ashear asked "the question that I am sure many of us might ask ourselves. We are commanded in Torah to tell the story of Yetzi’at Mitzrayim – the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah teaches us that this mitzvah applies afilu kulanu chachamim –even if each and every participant in the Seder is a Torah scholar and already has thorough, detailed knowledge about the story of Yetzi’at Mitzrayim. Moreover, the Haggadah states . . . the more one speaks about the events of the Exodus, the more ‘praiseworthy’ he is.

“The question is why is there a mitzvah to tell a story that we already know? One explanation is that Pesach is Chag Emunah – the Holiday of Faith. The purpose of gathering together and talking about Yetzi’at Mitzrayim is to reinforce and bolster our emunah, our belief that HaShem runs the world and is constantly assisting us. And when it comes to emunah knowledge is not the main thing; it’s the feeling that matters. A person can hear the same story several times over, but each time it penetrated deeper into his soul and strengthens his emunah even more.

". . .We are to speak repeatedly of the wonders HaShem performs, because each time we hear about them our faith is enhanced. Moreover, even if we have already heard a certain story or message, it can have a great impact when we hear it at a different stage of life or under different circumstances. [Each one of us who has been studying Torah on Saturday mornings over the past eight years can identify with that statement!] Even if it is the exact same idea, we hear it and approach it from a different perspective at different times. A story which did not strike as especially relevant the first time we heard it may be profoundly relevant and meaningful now.

"At the night of the Seder, when we have the matzah and marror in front of us on the table, we receive special divine assistance in bringing emunah to ourselves and others. This is precisely why we are commanded to tell the story of Yetzi’at Mitzrayim on this night. We have a golden opportunity to reinforce our emunah, and the more we speak about the Exodus, the more we capitalize on this opportunity, the greater its impact, and the more 'praiseworthy' we are.

"[However, o]ne does not have to be a great Torah scholar to properly fulfill this mitzvah. Even sharing simple ideas that make HaShem more real to people fulfills this mitzvah at its highest standard.

"It was once revealed to the Ba’al Shem Tov that a certain simple Jew from a small village brought HaShem as much satisfaction on the night of the Seder by telling the story of Yetzi’at Mitzrayim as the Ba’al Shem Tov did. The Rabbi was curious to know how this Jew achieved such a lofty stature, and so he went to visit him and asked how he told the story of Yetzi’at Mizrayim on the night of the Seder.

"Well, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do,” the man said, “but when I came home from the synagogue I desperately wanted to do this mitzvah, the best I could. So I sat down with my family and told them that there was a very evil king named Pharaoh who caused the Jews a lot of pain and suffering, and HaShem, our Gd., came and saved His people from this wicked man. I told my family, ‘Let us thank HaShem and praise Him for helping us.’ We all drank a cup of wine. I then said the same thing again with even more feeling: ‘There was a very wicked, cruel man who tortured our forefathers. HaShem saved us from all the pain and suffering that we went through and made great miracles to take us from Egypt. Let’s drink to that.’ And we drank again. I did this two more times, and this was my Seder.

"This brought HaShem so much gratification because it made HaShem real, and the more real we make HaShem to our families and tell the people around us, the loftier our achievement is, and the greater our Seder is. May HaShem help each and every one of us to fulfill this mitzvah properly and infuse ourselves and all the people around us with firm, genuine emunah. (Not only during this season of celebrating our freedom, but during the whole year, as we strive to become a 'light unto the nations.').”

Chag Sameach

- Cantor Patti Turner

March 2015

I was told last week that a new personal trainer was hired to work at my gym 2 days a week. His name is Saed. I immediately thought to myself, he is Muslim. I was then asked, “Will you have a problem working with him?” I immediately answered, “No, not all Muslims are bad. In fact, most of them are good people.”

When Saed came to work, I found out he had been asked the same, “Would you have trouble working with someone who is Jewish?” He said he responded similarly.

Saed saw the page of the Tikun I was using to practice my Torah portion for our Torah service this month. He asked me about it, which lead to a conversation about radical people that give all of their peoples a bad name. I found out he was from Hebron, which we went to visit on our last trip to Israel. He showed surprise and delight that I had been there. We talked about the fact that there is room for all of us in this world, that all are accepted into the hereafter, if we have lived life to the best of our ability. And then he asked if I would mind if he went and prayed.

My very dear friend, Cantor Sharon Hordes, posted an article she read in the Times of Israel by Bassem Eid. I would like to share some excerpts from the article:

“I am a proud Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp and raised a large family. I want peace and prosperity for my people. I want an end to the misery and the destruction.

“After 66 years of mistakes and missed opportunities, it is time for us Palestinians to create the conditions peace and to work for a better future. It is time we stopped pretending that we can destroy Israel or drive the Jews into the sea. It is time that we stopped listening to Muslim radicals or Arab regimes that use us to continue a pointless, destructive, and immoral war with Israel.

“Let’s be realistic. We Palestinians are not doing well.

” In Gaza, our schools are controlled by Muslim fanatics who indoctrinate our children, and Hamas uses our civilians as human shields in a losing battle against Israel. Hamas maintains power through violence, and it ensures that money is spent on its arsenal rather than on making the Palestinian’s lives better….Abbas has absolutely no ability to stop Hamas from provoking Israel.

” …the only good jobs are with Israeli companies, and the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment) movement is doing its best to take those jobs away from us. Abbas runs a corrupt dictatorship that uses international funds to consolidate its own administration rather than to develop the Palestinian economy.

” In East Jerusalem, the PA is so mistrusted that most Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli rule, than under PA rule, and yet some of us seem unable to live in peace with the Jews…

” Despite what we tell ourselves, Israel is here to stay. What’s more, it has a right to exist. It is the nation of the Jews but also a nation for Israeli Arabs who have better lives than Arabs anywhere in Arab countries. We must accept these facts and move on. The anti-Semitism promoted by Hamas, Fatah, and the BDS movement is not the answer for us Palestinians.

“The answer is to live in peace and democracy, side by side with Israel. We missed many opportunities to do that… in 1947… in 1948 and 1967…. We missed again every time after that when we refused a two-state solution presented to us.

” Yet we know that Israelis want to live in peace, and that the vast majority of Israelis are friendly and neighborly. We know that Palestinian violence results in Israelis being discouraged…. We know that the soft approach works with Israel, and yet we continue to use violence and extremist rhetoric.

” To make peace with Israel, we need to change our approach. We need to accept that the right of return will be resolved through financial compensation that will allow Palestinians refugees to settle either in Arab countries or Palestine. We need to accept that Israel’s security is a key to any solution. We need to accept that East Jerusalem may have to remain part of Israel.

” …we need a democratically elected and secular government that responds to the needs of our people… there won’t be peace without democracy…

” What we Palestinian’s need is a strong civil society and strong democratic institutions, and we need an end to human rights violations, including those perpetuated by Palestinians and other Arabs….There is no doubt much work is needed, but at the very least we need to reverse the current trend that is causing Palestinian society to drift even further towards corrupt and brutal rule, both in Gaza and the West Bank. Ironically, it is only in East Jerusalem, under Israeli rule, that most Palestinians feel adequately represented by their politicians.

” Despite our current predicament, I believe that our future will be bright if we do what is needed to achieve peace. We can have a secular democracy that pursues our own best interests. We can live in peace with Israel and the Jews, and we can benefit from Israel’s economic success and democratic values. We have it within our power to transform a long-time enemy into a friend. We have a choice, and we can exercise that choice towards a better future for our people.”

[Downloaded from a Times of Israel blog: Bassem Eid 2/12/2015 click HERE]

When I finished reading the article, I immediately thought about my own personal prayer for that I say every day:

“May You, who make peace in the heavens on high, help us mere mortals to create peace here on earth. Guide the leaders of the nations and the peoples of the earth to keep their egos out of the peace process and do what is necessary to create peace. Help us realize there is room for all of us here on earth. No one people is better than another. Let there be peace on earth…and let it begin with me.”

Amen v’amen.

I invite you to join us in studying the Torah, as we struggle to learn what we must do to become a goy kadosh and become a “light unto the nations”.

- Cantor Patti Turner


February 2015

In the first week of February the Torah parsha (portion) is Yitro. This is one of the Torah parshiot named after someone who is not Jewish. Yitro is Moses’ father-in-law. It is through Yitro that Moses learns about creating a chain of command to help him with the issues that arise between the Jewish people, so he is not overwhelmed with having to make all the decisions. He creates a hierarchy of judges to hear the problems between the people and he hears the ones that are too difficult for decisions at the lower levels.

Although this is important, I think many would say it is the giving of the Ten Commandments that is the most important part of this parsha. And while I certainly agree with this, there are other words that speak to my heart in this parsha.

In Chapter 19, Moses is instructed to say to the people of Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own treasure among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation… (19:4-6)

The imagery of being carried on “eagles’ wings” is very powerful to me. It is said that eagles carry their children on their wings, where other birds carry their young in their talons, so that even the arrows of archers shooting at them cannot harm their young. In addition, eagles can fly very quickly. So, when the time was right, Gd. freed us from slavery in Egypt, He did so with great speed and with protection.

And while the imagery of being carried on the wings of eagles may be beautiful, becoming a “mamlechet cohanim” (a kingdom of priests) and a “goy kadosh” (a holy nation), is not a guarantee. It comes with obligations. “If” we obey Gd.’s voice and “if” we keep the covenant, “then” and only then will we be Gd.’s own treasure.

I invite you to join us in studying the Torah, as we struggle to learn what we must do to become a goy kadosh and become a “light unto the nations”.

- Cantor Patti Turner


January 2015

This month, we begin the book of Sh’mot (Exodus), which in Hebrew means “names.” It is called this because the first words are, “And these are the names….” It could be said that in this book begins the development of the Jewish people into a nation that is to be the light to all other nations in the world.

In this book, we also get introduced to Moshe, the man selected by Gd. to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt to begin becoming the Jewish people.

In this parasha, I am particularly drawn to chapter 3. Gd. introduces Himself to Moshe.

“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moshe said, ‘I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt’. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, Gd. called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said, ‘Moshe, Moshe’. And he said, ‘Hineini.’ (Here I am.) And He said, ‘Do not come any closer; take off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.’ (Sh’mot 3:2-5)

I am drawn to these verses because Gd. had to do something to catch Moshe’s attention. What if Moshe hadn’t seen the burning bush? What if he hadn’t seen the sign? What if we are not paying attention to the signs that Gd. is sending us? What if we do not listen to the “small, clear voice” that is present in each one of us? What if we miss Gd.’s calling for our lives?

It is my sincere hope that as we enter this new secular year, that we all hear the “small, clear voice” that is in us, guiding us in our life’s path. May we always be aware that wherever we stand, we can be standing on “holy ground” and act in a manner that reflects that potential for holiness, no matter where or what situation we might find ourselves.

- Cantor Patti Turner

December 2014

This week’s Torah portion is Ya’yeitzei. It begins with Ya’akov leaving Beersheva and going toward Haran.

“And Jacob went out from Beersheva and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and remained there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and laid down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of Gd. ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord Gd. of Avraham your father and the Gd. Isaac; the land on which you lie, to you will I give it, and your seed; And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done that about which I have spoken to you. And Jacob awoke from his sleep, and he said, Surely Gd. is in this place; and I knew it not.” B’reishit 28:10-16

It’s interesting that “angels were ascending and descending on it.” That would imply that angels were already here on earth. Rabbi Meir Goldberg turns to Rashi and Ramban to answer the question, “Why were the angels ‘coming down and going up?’”

Rashi explains that the angels going up were the angels of the land of Israel taking leave of Jacob, while the one’s coming down were the angels of the Diaspora coming to welcome him.

Ramban’s (Nachmanides) commentary explains that G-d was showing him that regular people didn’t have direct divine providence by G-d, rather G-d watches them with angels. So angels were going up as if to tell G-d what is happening here, and coming down to do His will, as it were. G-d however, was on top of this ladder to show that Jacob was so great that G-d would watch him directly without angels in between them.

The idea of angels “coming down to do Gd.’s will” makes me think of something the mother of one of my friends once said to me. She said, “You never know when someone you meet might be your guardian angel.” That’s as good of a reason to be kind to everyone I meet, as ever I have heard!

May we always be kind to one another, both our friends and the stranger amongst us, so that we too may know that no matter where we are, Gd. is in that place and is watching over us.

- Cantor Patti Turner

November 2014

L’chi lach – to a land that I will show you Lech l’cha – to a place you do not know L’chi lach – on your journey I will bless you And you shall be a blessing You shall be a blessing And you shall be a blessing, l’chi lach.

This is the way Debbie Friedman (z/l) understood the verses spoken by Gd. to Avram (Abraham) in preparation for the creation of the Jewish nation.

Imagine being told that, and not even being told where you are to go to. Most of us, I dare say, would at least like to know where we are going when we leave the familiar behind, and if not that – at least have the map. Imagine the faith it took to do that.

One of the things many of our sages struggled with is, “Why did Gd. choose Abraham?”

We know that Noach was chosen because “he was righteous in his time”, meaning of course that he may not have been all that righteous, but he was a sight better than others! But Torah gives us no reason as to why Gd chose Abraham. It simply says, “Gd. spoke to Avram, saying “Get out from your country…”

In the story that precedes the introduction of Avram in Torah, we read the story about the Tower of Bavel. Rabbi Menachem Leibtag at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies suggested that “Apparently, God had higher expectations for mankind, hoping they would harness their God-given talents and potential towards loftier pursuits. Instead, they established an anthropocentric society, devoting their energies towards MAKING A NAME for THEMSELVES.”

God could not allow this project to continue. But in contrast to the corrupt generation of the Flood, the builders of the Tower did not deserve destruction - rather they required ‘re-direction'.

Towards this goal, God will now choose Avraham Avinu to establish a nation whose purpose will be to REDIRECT mankind - to channel those very same qualities of unity and creativity towards a more altruistic end.

The aftermath of the Tower of Bavel incident provides the thematic setting for God's startling challenge to Avraham Avinu: "And I will make you a GREAT NATION.... and through you ALL the families of the earth will be blessed." (12:1-3)

Avraham Avinu is CHOSEN FOR A PURPOSE: to direct mankind back in the proper direction. Towards this goal, He is also promised a special land, not as a REWARD, but rather as a VEHICLE to fulfill that purpose.

May we all be blessed in the tasks we have been called to do.

- Cantor Patti Turner

October 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR 5775 !!

Cantor Patti wishes everyone a Happy, Healthy and Wonderful New Year.

Please come and join us for Torah study, every Saturday morning. We look forward to having your input into our discussions.


September 2014

In last week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, we read about establishing a national central place that Gd. would show us, where we were to bring our sacrifices. This week’s parasha, Shoftim, begins with the establishment of a national leadership. This includes: The Shofet (a judicial system), the Levi (the religious and civil servants), the Navi (religious guidance and national direction), and the Melech (national leadership).

At the beginning of the parasha, we are given the commandment – “tzedek, tzedek tirdof” – “justice, justice shall you pursue”. We learned that “tirdof” is much more emphatic than “pursue”. It would be more accurate to say, “justice, justice shall you chase.” (Thank you Michael!) In other words, we must make every effort, even beyond every effort, to find justice, and not just for some, but for all – no matter their place in society. All are to be treated as equals. This applies to our interpersonal relationships, as well as in society at large.

The parasha ends with the law of “eglah arufah,” a ritual done by the elders of the town, should a corpse be found outside the town. In this ceremony they must make a public “vi’dui”, a declaration that they were not guilty – that they did not know – were unaware. The Torah requires atonement for one “not being aware.” They must request Gd.’s atonement. Then they will be doing what “is good in the sight of the Lord.”

This month, Chodesh Elul, is the time we begin to prepare ourselves for Yom Kippur (yes, it is here!). One of our challenges is to be constantly aware of our personal actions, the actions of our community, and the actions of our nation. It is this constant state of awareness that will lead to positive action and the establishment of a just society at all levels. As Gd.’s special nation, our focus must always be on our responsibilities, more than our request for special privileges. (Rabbi Menachem Leibag – Pardes: Institute of Jewish Studies).

May we all do what is “right in Gd.’s eyes”, not only as we enter into these days leading up to Yamim Nora’im (the Days of Awe), but everyday throughout the year.

- Cantor Patti Turner

August 2014

I’m k’velling!

This month as we begin the Sefer D’varim (the Book of Deuteronomy), we also begin our 7th year of Torah study as a congregation. We started with 5 or 6 people and bagels, lox and cream cheese! We still carry on that tradition, only now we range from 12-18 attendees on a regular basis, sometimes even more. We have “turned it and turned it” and are still learning from it. We have lively discussions, and not everybody agrees with everybody, but that’s the great thing about studying Torah together. We can each have our own opinion, express it freely, and enable each other to grow in understanding of our most precious of gifts.

D’varim is both the name of the book, as well as the name of the first parasha.

It begins, “Ei-leh d’va-rim asher di-ber Moshe el kol Yis-ra-el.” “These are the words Moshe spoke to all of Israel.” This begins the retelling of the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Rather than just a listing of where they travelled, it serves as a rebuke of the times the Israelites k’vetched against Moses and against Gd. Moses is, in a paraphrase of Rashi’s interpretation by Mendel Kamelson, indicating that the “pit stops” along the way were not “pit stops” at all, but rather “pitfalls.” They are the places the Jews fell short, and angered Gd.

How do we know that? “In the wilderness” alludes to the time the Israelites angered Gd in the desert, by saying, “If only we had died by the hand of the Egyptians.”

And yet, when Moshe “rebukes” them, he does so in a veiled way. As Kamelson writes: “Thus, it was a warm and tender truth, packaged in an embrace, laced with sensitivity, and graced with compassion.” While these words of rebuke were absolutely necessary, when speaking them, Moses made sure to allude instead of accuse, to beat around the bush rather than burn it down, in order to open, rather than close, the hearts and minds of the people he addressed.

He avoided hurt with heart. Moses taught that to humiliate is to annihilate. No matter the transgressor or transgression.

Sometimes it’s our responsibility to admonish, to rebuke. When that happens, we must ensure that there’s no bite in our bark. It will be picked up by the recipient, and the rebuke will be discarded.

May we all learn that when the time comes to rebuke someone, to take the lesson that Moshe taught us to heart – and do so with compassion and tenderness.

Please come and join us for Torah study, every Saturday morning. We look forward to having your input into our discussions.

- Cantor Patti Turner

July 2014

There are times when I really have to struggle with Torah. We read about one of those times this past week. In parashat Chukat in B'midbar (Numbers) we read that Moshe is not to "bring this congregation (Israel) into the land which I have given them (Chapter 20 vs 12). I have always struggled with fact that Moshe did all the work he did and then was denied the right or privilege of entering the Promised Land. And maybe it's because I, too, have been in a position where I did everything I needed to do, and yet was denied my opportunity. I suppose we have all had this experience in one way or another.

I finally found some kind of peace about this issue from a shiur (lesson) written by Menachem Leibtag, a rabbi and teacher at PARDES, in Jerusalem. Most of us would say that Moshe is punished because he hit the rock twice, when he was told "speak to the rock before their eyes and it will give forth his water." And while that is true, upon a deeper reading, we have learned that there are actually five things Gd commanded Moshe to do: 1) take the rod, 2) gather the assembly, 3) speak to the rock, 4) take water from the rock, and 5) give the congregation and their beasts drink.

Moshe did indeed, 1) take the rod, 2) he gathered the congregation, and 5) the congregation drank and so did their beasts. The problem seems to come between the 3rd and 4th commandment. In verse 10, Moshe speaks to the congregation rather than the rock: "Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?" As far as the 4th commandment, how does one take water from a rock?

And then upon deeper reading, what we found was not that Moshe could not go into the land, but rather in vs 12: "...Because you did not believe me to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not BRING this congregation into the land which I have given them." In other words, because Moshe and Aaron had failed as political leaders they were not allowed to LEAD the people into the Promised Land. They were not punished as individuals, but rather as failed political leaders.

Somehow or other this gives me some peace in what I feel is a terribly unfair thing to happen. Moshe might not have gotten to enter the Land, but he was a tzaddik (a righteous man), non-the-less, and to this very day, there has never been a prophet like Moshe to arise in Israel whom The Lord knew face to face...

May the struggle continue for us all, as we strive to understand our Torah...our teaching.

- Cantor Patti Turner