Friday, May 3, 2002

Shabbat-O-Gram for May 3-4, Iyar 22, 5762

  Shabbat-O-Gram for May 3-4, Iyar 22, 5762

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut


The Web link for this week's Shabbat-O-Gram is The site is continually updated during the week with corrections and additions. Feel free to forward this link to your friends. People can subscribe to the weekly Shabbat-o-Gram at If you wish to unsubscribe, contact



JUST THE FACTS: Services and Such


Friday Night: Candles: 7:34 PM

Tot Shabbat: 7:15 PM (in the chapel)

Kabbalat Shabbat: 8:00 PM, in the sanctuary, featuring our scholar in residence and both the adult and junior choirs

Shabbat Morning:

P'sukey d'zimra (psalms and meditations) 9:15 and Shacharit: 9:30, featuring our scholar in residence.

MAZAL TOV to Joelle Braun, who becomes Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat morning

Torah Portion: B'Har - B'Chukotai

Read the Masorti commentary at JTS commentary is at: USCJ Torah Sparks can be found at UAHC Shabbat Table Talk discussions are at Other divrei Torah via the Torahnet home page: Test your Parasha I.Q.: CLAL's Torah commentary archive:

Children's Services: 10:30, in the chapel (grades 3 - 6) and downstairs in the Kindergarten room for younger grades. This week's jr. cong. is hosted by grade 3.

Morning Minyan: Daily at 7:30, Sundays at 9:00


Spiritual Journey on the Web: To Eat and be Satisfied

Judaism is a glass-half-full religion; unfortunately, however, most Jews are glass-half-empty people. This paradox is borne out in our weekly portion.

The final portion of Leviticus, B'chukotai, contains a painful list of consequences should the people of Israel not fulfill the commandments. It is known as the "tochecha" (reproach) and is found in chapter 26 ( It is quite painful to read (unless you happen to enjoy disaster movies where people are forced to eat their young -- see 26:29). Among the punishments is one that is rather curious, at the end of verse 26: "V'achaltem v'lo tisba-u," "You will eat, but you will not be satisfied." Compare this to Deuteronomy 8:10, where almost the exact same words are used to convey the opposite meaning, "You will eat, you will be satisfied and you will bless God for the good land God has given you." This last phrase is both found in the Grace after meals (Birkat Ha-Mazon) and is the basis for the commandment to recite that prayer.

The punishment described here is not a lack of food, but a lack of satisfaction. In other words, the punishment is self-inflicted. God isn't bringing about this misery -- it is a direct result of our lack of faith. The Jewish view is expressed by the well-known rabbinic statement, "Who is rich? S/he who content with his/her portion." Jewish prayer is relatively free of petition -- we do not focus on what we lack -- and it is dominated by glass-half-full expressions of appreciation and wonder. Find that famous rabbinic maxim in Pirke Avot 6:6, and a very nice UAHC commentary on it, excerpted below, at

"To be truly joyful with one’s lot in life is wise advice. It is a wonderful way to live, but how easy is it to adopt this attitude? How many of us are truly satisfied with our portion? How do we recognize our own good fortune? All around us the world advertises the goods and services we all seem to "need." Our world is characterized by material acquisition, and to paraphrase a popular game show "who ‘wouldn’t’ want to be a millionaire?

This obsession with our "needs" is not just a contemporary concern. Solomon Ibn Gabirol, an eleventh-century Spanish poet-philosopher taught: "Who seeks more than he needs, hinders himself from enjoying what he has. Seek what you need and give up what you need not. For in giving up what you don’t need, you’ll learn what you really do need" (Mivhar Hapeninim 155,161 as found in The Jewish Moral Virtues, Borowitz and Schwartz, p.164). This is the challenge, balancing what we need and what we want in order to become samayach b’chelko - satisfied with our portion."

I found additional background on this at the World Union for Jewish Students (WUJS) site, at

"The three strongest natural instincts in man are the impulses of food, sex and acquisition. Judaism does not aim at the destruction of these impulses, but at their control and indeed their sanctification. It is the law that spiritualizes these instincts and transfigures them into legitimate joys of life. The first and probably most vehement of the three impulses mentioned is the craving for food; it can easily lead to gluttony, and what is worse, to the fundamentally wrong conception that man "liveth by bread alone." This natural, but dangerous food-instinct, is transfigured by the dietary laws into self-discipline. It is no accident that the first law given to man - not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil - was a dietary law... Self-control and self-conquest must start with the most primitive and most powerful of human instincts - the craving for food. Thus the dietary laws stand at the beginning of man's long and arduous road to self-discipline and moral freedom."

So the "punishment" described here is not a punishment at all, but rather, it can be seen as the natural result of our disregarding the mitzvot, especially those commandments related to the sanctification of our deepest cravings. Just as those who demonstrate self-discipline through dieting feel "good" about themselves, so do those who are satisfied to drink up that half-full glass, who imbue their lives with prayer, wonder and self-discipline, those who look at the world through Judaic spectacles. And the Judaic view of the world is decidedly optimistic

But Jews continue to be weighed down by our glass-mostly-empty history. Take a look at a recent AJC survey of American Jews, at If you go to page 7 (the last page) of that survey, you'll find that only 9 percent of those surveyed think anti-Semitism will decline over the next five years. OK, given how things are in the world right now, that's understandable -- but look at this: Forty percent actually disagreed with the statement, "Virtually all positions of influence in the United States are open to Jews." And this survey was conducted exactly one year after an identifiably Jewish individual nearly became Vice President! How soon we forget! And this pessimism appears at a time when high-ranking colleges are fighting to recruit more Jewish students to their campuses (,,SB102003890421804360,00.html).

Abba Eban called us the people who could "never take "yes" for an answer." The Torah's main goal, in this sense, would seem to be to get us to "yes." We have a long way to go. But that journey begins in the simplest manner -- by being thankful for the food on our plate, and by being profoundly satisfied with the mere fact of being alive.



REQUIRED READING AND ACTION ITEMS,,SB102003890421804360,00.html -- WSJ article (4/29) on how Jews are being recruited by college campuses "in effort to lift their rankings. "Yes, we're targeting Jewish students," Chancellor Gordon Gee told a March 17 board meeting of the Vanderbilt affiliate of Hillel, the nonprofit national Jewish campus organization. "There's nothing wrong with that. That's not affirmative action. That's smart thinking." Mr. Gee, who left the presidency of Brown University for Vanderbilt two years ago, says niche marketing to Jewish students is part of his "elite strategy" to lift Vanderbilt to Ivy League status. "Jewish students, by culture and by ability and by the very nature of their liveliness, make a university a much more habitable place in terms of intellectual life," he said in an interview.


ISRAEL AND THE WAR ON TERORRISM - Jenin, before and after -- IDF aerial maps Elie Wiesel interviewed on NPR's "All Things Considered." When I heard this on the radio, I pulled my car over to the side of the road. Amazing interview.

The Jerusalem Post reports that 3 Armenian monks, held hostage by the Palestinian gunmen inside the Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, fled the church and were rescued by Israeli soldiers, after holding aloft a white cloth banner with the words "Please help." One of the monks, Narkiss Korasian, told reporters: "They stole everything, they opened the doors one by one and stole everything... they stole our prayer books and four [gold] crosses... they didn't leave anything." Israeli officials quoted the monks as saying that Palestinian gunmen had also begun beating and attacking clergymen. (Was this covered in the network news you watched?) (or find it at Bernard Lewis on the dangers of kowtowing to moderate Arabs.

An investigation published in the Boston Globe (April 29) concludes that Palestinian allegations "that a large-scale massacre of civilians was committed [in Jenin] appear to be crumbling under the weight of eyewitness accounts from Palestinian fighters who participated in the battle and camp residents who remained in their homes." In interviews with civilians and fighters in Jenin, the Globe says that "none reported seeing large numbers of civilians killed." On the other hand, referring to the deaths of Israeli soldiers in Jenin, Abdel Rahman Sa’adi, a 14-year-old Islamic Jihad grenade-thrower, said "This was a massacre of the Jews, not of us." The Globe also quotes a spokesman for the Israeli army who says that Palestinians are moving bodies of people not killed in the Jenin fighting into graveyards around the camp "to score points with the UN committee." Online at:

A refreshingly straight article appears in the Globe and Mail (Canada) by Marcus Gee, "What really happened? The myth of Jenin grows" (April 27). Gee writes:" Only after those deaths did the army send in bulldozers to knock down the booby-trapped buildings where terrorists were hiding, and even then it made frequent announcements by loud-hailer that civilians would be allowed to leave, as some did. "That is considerably more than Hamas does when it dispatches killers to blow themselves up in Israeli buses, banquet halls and cafes. Yet militant leaders have the gall to blame Israel for attacking non-combatants." Online at:

The Massacre That Wasn't--VII
Two weeks ago, when Palestinians and British newspapers were claiming the Israeli Defense Forces had killed hundreds of Arabs at Jenin, Israelis estimated the Palestinian death toll at 45 to 55. Now, the Washington Times reports, the Palestinians have revised their estimate downward--to 56. Thirty-three Israeli soldiers also died during the battle. John McCain speech before the Senate

If you have a birthday present or wedding gift or any other to buy (someone's bar mitzvah?), you can find Israeli products in temple gift shops, etc. You don't even have to leave your house - you can go to a non-profit site on your computer that is being updated all the time: - Seeds of Solidarity program -- plant flowers in Israel for Shavuot -- other ways to help terror victims' families are linked to this site.


 THE JOKE DEPARTMENT: Humorist Larry Miller on the Situation.

Life Imitates SatireWire
"Having nearly exhausted its supply of young martyrs, the militant group Hamas today asked a Palestinian court to approve of physician-assisted suicide bombing, arguing that the elderly and terminally ill should be allowed to end their lives with dignity, respect, and catastrophic destruction," SatireWire "reports."


Quotes of the Week:


"After the Holocaust, Jean Paul Sartre came out with that dismal and untrue statement, ‘A Jew is a Jew because he is seen as a Jew.’ Sartre’s disciple, Victor Levy—who began as a Maoist, a revolutionary and then returned to Judaism and now is a great Talmudic scholar in Jerusalem, made Sartre admit that he had made a mistake. We are not now nor have we ever been, defined by those who hate us. We will never, and must never, allow that to happen."—Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, speaking in Jerusalem, where he participated in Yad Vashem’s International Conference on the Legacy of Holocaust Survivors. (Jer. Post, April 22)

"For me, now I know what is a massacre…This is a massacre."--Major Avner Fuxman, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman, expressing horror after seeing the barbarism of the Palestinian assault on the West Bank town of Adora, in which 4 Israelis, including a small child, were gunned down and killed in their beds. (Nat’l. Post, April 29)

"…The psychological structure [of the perpetrator of a suicide attack] is that of an individual who loves life… As a professional psychiatrist, I say that the height of bliss comes with the end of the countdown: ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. And then, you press the button to blow yourself up. When the martyr reaches 'one,' and then 'boom,' he explodes, and senses himself flying, because he knows for certain that he is not dead… It is a transition to another, more beautiful world… The message to Israel is that we will not cease… It is very important to convey this message… The child who threw a stone in 1993 today wraps himself in an explosive belt."--Dr. 'Adel Sadeq, chairman of the Arab Psychiatrists Association and head of the Department of Psychiatry at 'Ein Shams University in Cairo. (MEMRI, April 30, 2002)







Hazzan, Dr. Joseph Levine

May 3-4, 2002

Kicking-off a special weekend honoring Hazzan and Sandy Rabinowitz

Kabbalat Shabbat 8:00 p.m.

Shabbat morning service 9:30 a.m.


We welcome Hazzan Levine at Kabbalat Shabbat services, when his topic will be "Help, Rabbi, I'm Lost." The adult and junior choirs will be participating in the service, joined by singers who have sung with the choir throughout the Hazzan's 32 years at Beth El. On Shabbat morning, Hazzan Levine's topic will be, "The Paradox of Jewish Worship."



House-Hunting Help Needed by the Temple

The Temple needs to rent a three-bedroom apartment or house as interim housing for Cantor Deborah Jacobson and her family, until the Hazzan's Parish House becomes available. The residence will be needed beginning June 15th for three or four months. Furnished preferred but not essential. If you know of any available rental housing for the June-October period please let the Temple office know so that the Hazzan Transition Committee can follow up on it. Your help is very much appreciated.



Friday Night Outdoor Services

weather permitting (otherwise we'll be indoors, but still at 7:00),

May 10, 2002 at 7:00 p.m., the first outdoor service will be led by

Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Keiner



Eighth Annual Elders Day

Shabbat, May 11, 2002

Honoring Norma and Milton Mann,

featuring a special d'var Torah by Rabbi Andrea Cohen Keiner

Services begin at 9:30 a.m.

Congregational Family Luncheon to follow


May 19 - Community Event to Honor Hazzan Sidney and Sandy Rabinowitz

Junior Choir Reunion! Friday, June 14, 2002

The Committee to Honor Hazzan & Sandy is looking for former Junior Choir singers to participate in the upcoming festivities! If your son or daughter ever participated in the Beth El Junior Choir, please call Roz Perlson (323-7328), Kathy Paseltiner (356-9735) or Carol Kalter (968-1075) to give his/her name, address and phone number.



A mission under the direction of Tommy Haendler, going to Argentina, will depart on the night of May 12 and return early on May 16. The cost is approximately $1000. The purpose is to assess the deteriorating economic situation in Argentina and to determine how we can help specific needs there. Contact the UJF office (321-1373) for more information.



Erev Shavuot at Temple Sholom in Greenwich, in Partnership with Greenwich Reform Synagogue, the Greenwich Beit Midrash and Temple Beth El of Stamford.

Begin your celebration of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, in a traditional way. Join Rabbi Hurvitz of Temple Sholom, Rabbi Richard Chapin of Greenwich Reform Synagogue, Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of Temple Beth El in Stamford, and Rabbi Eli Weinstock of the Greenwich Beit Midrash in an evening of study and preparation for the holiday.

7:00 PM Dairy Dinner (* optional), followed at 8 by a traditional/egalitarian Ma'ariv minyan OR Tefillah/ Prayer Workshop, then sessions (with plenty of nosh time) led by the rabbis through the evening, concluding at about 11.

Everyone is invited to attend. Please RSVP by May 10 to Carol Ann at 869-7191 ext. 100 (If you can only attend post-dinner, please let us still know that you are planning on attending.)

*The fee for the optional dinner is $10.00 per person. Please make your check payable to Temple Sholom and mail with the form below to 300 East Putnam Ave. Greenwich, Ct. 06830

If you cannot attend dinner, please join us for the remainder of the evening.



Beth El Cares



Please volunteer to help us refurbish and repair the home of an elderly Stamford resident. No experience needed, though we are also looking for people with painting and home repair experience to assist the group.


Art and Sue Greenwald at (203) 329-1662 or e-mail





Outreach to Young Jewish Singles

So, you’ve come to the Greater Stamford area and you are interested in the who’s who and the what’s what in the Jewish world. Well, you’ve come to the right place to find out. Through a grant provided by Michael Steinhardt, project SHA’AR was developed to provide information about and/or formulate welcoming Jewish educational, cultural and social programs that are geared to the interests of young Jewish singles. SHA’AR is your link to existing Jewish organizations in the Greater Stamford community.

SHA’AR will provide information about the existing Synagogues, so that you can find the one that fulfills your religious needs. A number of programming options will be available to fulfill your Jewish religious and educational desires. Additionally, SHA’AR can connect you to the popular Young Jewish Professionals singles group to accommodate your social interests.

Our program is unique, due to the fact that SHA’AR involves you in the development process of the project and that its coordinator is 26, single and can relate to and understand the needs of the young Jewish single.

For more information please contact Dan Rozett, Coordinator of SHA’AR, United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien.

203.321.1373 ext. 115 or



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