Yom Kippur 5781 ~ September 2020"It’s our national shame.” That’s how Dr. Nathan Stahl, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital, who grew up at Beth Tzedec, described the impact of COVID-19 on older adults in Canada, especially those in nursing homes. And he’s right, it is a national shame.The numbers speak for themselves: 81 percent of all COVID deaths in Canada occurred in nursing...
Yom Kippur 5781 ~ September 2020As Canadians, we are known for a few things. BeerMooseJustin Trudeau’s socksBagged milkMountiesSaying 'Eh'And saying I’m sorry Apologizing is hard. We have to be really vulnerable when we do it. It is a little scary. It is not fun. And there is always the chance that our apology won’t be accepted. To illustrate, there is a ẖasidic...
Kol Nidrei 5781 ~ September 2020In her book So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo recalls a conversation she had on Twitter with a white Canadian after she shared an article on racism in the US. “You should move to Canada,” he tweeted, “we aren’t racist here.” Of course, we know that that’s not true. “A 2006 University of Toronto study found that black people in...
Kol Nidrei 5781 ~ September 2020Most of us have experienced the death of loved ones in our lives. The day of the funeral and that week of shiva are emotional roller coasters. What were the sounds during that ride from the funeral home to the cemetery? Or maybe you are recalling graveside funerals. Was there snow? Sun? Rain? Take a moment and remember what it was like when the...
Rosh Hashanah 5781 ~ September 2020The word "essential" has been used more since March than I can remember. Who is an essential worker? What is essential travel? Which stores are essential and must stay open? Mark Wafer owned six Tim Hortons franchises in Scarborough. Mr. Wafer, who is hearing impaired, didn’t think he did anything extraordinary when he hired Clint, a young man with...
Rosh Hashanah 5781 ~ September 2020As Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Yehoshuah were leaving Jerusalem, Yehoshuah turned around and saw the city aﬂame. The Temple, a wonder of the Roman world and perhaps the largest building project of the 1st century B.C.E., and the City of Gold were in ruins. Rabbi Yehoshuah started to cry. If you’ve been to Jerusalem, to the Southern Wall...
Rosh Hashanah 5781 ~ September 2020Moshe locked himself out of his car on a hot day. As many of us did before electronic clickers, he managed to find a wire coat hanger and returned to the car to open the lock. This is a skill that older people probably remember.As he wiggled the wire through the slightly open window, his wife Sadie began to tell him what to do."Moshe, move it more to the...
Dvar Torah ~ Devarim ~ 4 Av 5780 / 25 July 2020Intertextuality is a term that describes how one part of the Bible interprets, explains and responds to another part of the Scriptures. While the Rabbis of Talmud read the Bible as if it were one text, we are better served to read the Bible as a compilation of books and spiritual perspectives that collectively become a divine symphony (Knohl)....
Pinẖas ~ 19 Tammuz 5780 / 11 July 2020Usually Torah lettering must be perfect. Here, in the word shalom, a letter (vav) is cracked.The context is a plague caused by a flagrant violation of the norms of public worship, an association of sexual activity and idolatry. Pinẖas stops the plague and, acting as a vigilante, executes the guilty Israelite man and Midianite woman.I see that...
An old man met a young man who asked:
“Do you remember me?”
The older man said no.
The young man told the older man that he had been his student.
The teacher asked:
“How do you spend your days?”
The young man answered:
“Well, I became a teacher. In fact, I became a teacher because you
inspired me to be like you.”
The older man, curious, asked the young man...
In a mishnah in Pirkei
Avot, Ben Bag Bag states "Hafoh ba hafoh ba, de'kula
ba - Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it."
The words of the Torah may remain the same, but we
are different each time we return to them. We can always reinterpret the
ancient words anew.
Parashat Beha'alotkha calls our attention
to many themes and ideas from the period of the Israelites...
Since February, a determined and mighty group from the Beth Tzedec community has been studying a page of Tanakh every day. It is a small 929 day project. Currently we are in the middle of Sefer Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus.
Earlier this week, we studied the first chapter of parshat Aharei Mot, chapter 16, which is intimately connected to Yom Kippur, as it describes the High Priest’s...
Although most of us focus attention on
the plea of Yehudah and the reunion of the family of Yaakov, the conclusion of
the weekly reading directs us to consider the relationship of Yosef’s extended
family with the resident population of Egypt.
Notice that Yosef “acquired all the
land of Egypt for Pharaoh,” excluding only the lands of the Egyptian priests. Egypt
was transformed into an...
From Friday through Tuesday, I was in Boston,
though I could have been in any large hotel anywhere in the world. I was there
as a delegate at the 20/20 Judaism conference, a collaboration between the United
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly. My participation
served two purposes.
I was there to learn and bring back to Beth
Tzedec skills and best practices,...
In this week’s parashah,
we read at the beginning of chapter 24, “Abraham was old, advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed Abraham in
Commentators go in all directions with this verse.
Rashi looked to gematria and said that the word had the same numerical value as
“ben”, so he understood this verse to mean that God blessed Abraham with a
little boy or a son....