Friday, December 6, 2002

Shabbat-O-Gram, Dec. 6, 2002 and Tevet 1, 5763

Shabbat-O-Gram, Dec. 6, 2002 and Tevet 1, 5763

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut







…And Rosh Hodesh Tevet


Previous Shabbat-O-Grams can be accessed directly from our web site (  Also check out the Web site for photos of our recent Hanukkah Concert

Click on for a cute musical Hanukkah gift from our cantor, Deborah Jacobson…


Don’t forget that next week is our scholar in residence weekend! Details below…


JUST THE FACTS: Services and Such

L’hitra’ot to our fifth graders, who will be attending their class Shabbaton this weekend

Friday Night:

Candles: 4:09 PM  (Hanukkah candles first – all eight, lit from left to right, then the Shabbat candles)

Kabbalat Shabbat services at 7:30 PM, in the chapel 

Tot Shabbat Hanukkah Service with Nurit: 7:15in the lobby


Shabbat morning: Service: 9:30 AM, Children’s services: 10:30 AM, hosted by our 6th graders.

Torah Portion: Mikketz (The story of Joseph continues)

Mazal Tov to Justin Siegel, who becomes Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat

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:  Nehama Liebowitz archives of parsha commentaries:  For a more Kabbalistic/Zionist perspective from Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, go to

Morning MinyanDaily at 7:30 AM, Sunday at 9AM, in the chapel




Spiritual Journey on the Web







Why the Jelly Doughnuts, and other (C)Hanuk(k)ah questions…



I received the following “ask the rabbi” question via e-mail this week from Marc Leferman:


Rabbi, Perhaps you can answer a Hanukkah question that came up last night as we were eating doughnuts.  What is the significance of "jelly" doughnuts versus any other type of doughnut?


This question must be going around, along with the old “Hanukkah” vs. “Chanukah” spelling conundrum.  I’ve heard both from dozens of people this week.  Indeed, why do the sufganiot, that popular Israeli doughnut treat, have to include jelly?  Why not butternut, chocolate or glazed?  Why not Boston Creme, for crying out loud?  I thought about it and responded:


Hi Marc

And so I ask, why the applesauce with the latkes?  I think in both cases it comes down to sweetness.  But then, why the sour cream?  Dairy foods are also customary on Hanukkah.  The word sufgania is from the Talmud and means "spongy dough."  Doesn't sound as appetizing as "Krispy Kreme."  Try having spongy dough without something inside to sweeten it up.  The Talmud says nothing about jelly -- or that the doughnut should even have a hole, for that matter.  It needs more investigation.  A dissertation could be written on this!


Well, maybe not a dissertation, but more investigation for sure.  Does the jelly symbolize sweetness, fruitfulness, stickiness, or what? Why the jelly?


We begin with an argument based on the implicit connection between certain foods that are traditional on this holiday.


We start the journey at a fascinating Web site explaining Jewish symbols, written from a refreshingly liberal perspective (created by the Jewish Women’s project, Kolot, at the JCC of the Upper West Side):  Go to to find Chanukah (they are “CH” people, evidently). Click on “Judith” (or go directly to the summary of this apocryphal tale at and see how the story of Judith ties into this festival and provides it with a unique feminist twist – and also connects it to cheese and dairy products.  To see that connection directly, the entire book of Judith is translated at, and you’ll find a reference to cheese in chapter 10.  Basically, Judith got the evil Holofernes thirsty with the cheese, drunk with (sweet) wine and then cut off his head and saved the Jews.  Anyone know if Saddam likes cheese?


So we now have drawn the line connecting Hanukkah to cheese; but cheese is salty, no?  Well, if you believe this, you haven’t had a cheese blintz lately.  Interestingly, one of the recipes found at the ritualwell site is a Sephardic formula for phyllo triangles with sweet ricotta filling.


Dairy products are frequently tied directly to sweetness.  How often is Israel called the land “flowing with milk and honey?”(see Numbers 13:27 and elsewhere)  In a land where water is so scarce, the taste of milk takes on an even greater sweetness.  Commentators often interpret this as an expression for fertility and fruitfulness.  A super article on milk and honey as fertility symbols can be found at   Interestingly, the prophet Joel (4:18) draws a direct parallel between milk and fruit juice, saying: “fruits pure as milk and sweet as honey.”  The connection is clearly made: sweetness = fruit filling = dairy + honey.  Hence, doughnuts without filling just wouldn’t be complete on Hanukkah.  Eating a mouth-watering strawberry glazed doughnut is the gastronomical equivalent to splashing around in a land flowing with milk and honey. 


Here’s a possible historical argument: In ancient times, the doughnuts had no holes.  Dunkin Donuts wasn’t even invented until 1950 (  But even “DDs” does not have the distinction of inventing the uniquely-shaped delicacy.  Go to (“A Short History of the Doughnut) and you’ll find that…

“…In a house in Rockport, Maine there is a plaque that recognizes Mason Crockett Gregory with the invention of the doughnut hole, in 1847. The reason why? He hated doughnuts with an uncooked center. (Or perhaps he was just particularly impatient-they cook much quicker without a center) Skeptics point out that Gregory was a sea captain, however, and may well have encountered the jumble version of the confection on his travels, and brought the idea home with him. (This would seem to be the truth behind the legend of a sea captain placing the doughnut on the wheel of his ship for safe-keeping, and then just becoming enamored of the idea.) Even if Captain Gregory came up with the idea, John Blondell was awarded the patent for the first doughnut cutter in 1872. Blondell's version was made of wood, but an 'improved' tin version with a fluted edge was patented in 1889.”

No matter how you look at it, the doughnut hole came many centuries later than Talmud, so when the ancient rabbis spoke of the spongy Sufgania, they couldn’t possibly have been thinking of doughnuts as we know them, the ones with a hole.  And if the doughnut has no hole, we all know that it is most likely going to be filled with jelly.  Find more about the history of the doughnut at

Some final facts about jelly doughnuts are warranted.  It is been pointed out that JFK made a grammatical error in his famous speech where he ostensibly said, in German, “I am a Berliner,” but really said, “I am a jelly doughnut.”  This is actually an urban legend (see, but what a great tie in to the Maccabees’ own fight for freedom, were it true!  For some cultural parallels to the Sufgania in other traditions, go to -- but be prepared to drool.  And finally, go to, where you will read what seems the most plausible explanation for the Sufgania’s jelliness:

Polish Jews adopted a local lekvar (prune preserves) or raspberry jam-filled doughnut, called ponchiks (paczki in Polish) as their favorite Chanukah dessert. Australian Jews, many of whom emigrated from Poland, still refer to jelly doughnuts as ponchiks. When the jelly doughnut made its way to Israel, however, it took the name sufganiyot, after a "spongy dough" mentioned in the Talmud. Sufganiyot subsequently emerged as the most popular Israeli Chanukah food, sold throughout the eight-day festival at almost every bakery and market.

So where did the jelly doughnuts on Hanukkah idea originate? In Poland, of all places, the homeland of that holiest food around: the bagel (  Makes perfect sense.  Or at least as much sense as the blizzard that’s happening outside my window right now.

Marc, are you sorry you asked?  Next, you can explore the superiority of the Latke over the Hamentash

As for Hanukkah (h, 2ks) vs Chanukah (Ch, 1k), it’s all about having a total of eight letters.  Eight letters – eight nights.  See for more on that (that site also is packed with top-notch Hanukkah information). 


Required Reading and Action Items










See the web version of the Daily Alert of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs at

Mega-Attack Will Change the Rules - Daniel Sobelman (Ha'aretz)

Ephraim Halevy, chairman of the National Security Council and former Mossad chief, told the conference on national security at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center on Monday:

  • Senior Palestinian leaders who have started to condemn acts of terror against Israel are "sober people who correctly read the regional and international political map, and fear that if the Palestinians continue with terrorism there is a real danger the national Palestinian movement will be wiped out."
  • "There are sprouting signs of Palestinian recognition that the price they are paying and will pay for their crimes will be unbearable if they don't hurry to change direction."
  • The attempt to down an Israeli civilian aircraft in Kenya was "a major escalation that cannot be ignored....If a mega-terrorist incident succeeds, it will at once change a long series of rules of behavior. The essence of the threat is essentially genocide, the destruction of the state, and destruction of its foundations. Against such a threat, Israel has a broad range of capabilities....Presumably, international opinion will understand, accept, and internalize the change in the rules and the levels of action."
  • Every country will have to make its views known regarding the war against terrorism. "Those who are neutral are not neutral."

Tourists as Targets - Editorial
The attacks in Mombasa mark a clear escalation in the war that Islamic extremists are waging on the West. Al Qaeda's aim is to thwart the war on terrorism by involving the Israelis, thus alienating Muslim governments from any fight joined by Ariel Sharon. Israel is likely to respond in a quieter and more deadly way than al Qaeda suspected. Governments the world over will understand that the targeting of tourists will be the ruin of their economies. (London Times)


Iran on the Brink of Regime Change - Jeff Jacoby
The State Department finally came out in support of the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who have been demonstrating for an end to the country's ruthless Islamic dictatorship. It has been nearly a year since Bush labeled Iran a member of the ''axis of evil,'' denouncing the ''unelected few'' - the ruling mullahs in Tehran - who ''repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.'' His words were enthusiastically welcomed inside Iran, where the regime is widely despised and America widely admired. The world's foremost sponsor of international terrorism may be on the brink of collapse. Shouldn't we be doing everything we can to push it over the edge? (Boston Globe)

Visit Jerusalem by Internet
    See the Jerusalem Archaeological Park next to the Temple Mount - a unique visual Internet Experience offered by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

NASA: Israel's First Astronaut Blasts Off on January 16, 2003
The U.S. space agency NASA has announced that Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, will be launched into space in the space shuttle “Columbia” on January 16, 2003. Ramon's space mission has been delayed for half a year. (Globes)


Unity of Vision at the Top - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)


Missile Threat Grows on Israel's Northern Border - Cragg Hines
The Sharon government may be compelled to strike growing stockpiles of Iranian missiles trucked by Syria to Hizballah positions in Lebanon. Initially, the missiles had a range of up to 25 or so miles, then a little more than 40 miles. Now Israeli intelligence sees missiles with a range of at least 75 miles and possibly more, meaning that the port city of Haifa could join the target list. The Israeli government watches the shipments with sophisticated "eye in the sky" surveillance as well as other intelligence assets. "We know where trucks go to. We know license numbers....The longer we wait, the harder we'll have to hit," an Israeli official said. (Houston Chronicle)


Latest Attack on Jews Brings a Deafening Silence - Rosie DiManno
There's no haven for Jews. The earth is stained with their blood: From an El Al counter in Los Angeles to a beach resort in Mombasa. Palestinians the world over aren't hunted down. Arabs the world over aren't targeted for extermination. Muslims the world over aren't murdered in packs. Humankind would not stand for it. It's impossible to disentangle the war against the Jews from the larger Islamist war against the West. They kill Jews. They kill Americans. They kill Australians. They kill Kenyan dancers. They blow up skyscrapers and bring down airplanes. They do all this with Allah's name on their lips. And some day, I fear they'll come for you. (Toronto Star)

Sharon: End Terror Before Negotiations (Prime Minister's Office) Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the Herzliya Conference on National Security on Wednesday: The peace plan outlined in President Bush's speech of June 24 is a reasonable, pragmatic, and practicable one. The U.S. Administration has understood and agreed that the only way to achieve a true peace agreement with the Palestinians is progress in phases, with the first phase being a complete cessation of terror.

The U.S. "Roadmap" - Revised (Al Ayyam/ Jerusalem Media & Communication Centre) As published in the Palestinian press.


Quotes of the Week: 

“A successful terrorist mega-attack [like the attack on the Israeli Arkia plane in Kenya] would instantly change a long series of rules of conduct…It can be assumed that the international community would understand, accept and internalize the changes in the rules of the game and the fields of activity.”—Immediate past head of the Mossad and current chief of the National Security Council, Ephraim Halevy, communicating that had the missiles hit their target, Israeli retaliation would have been far harsher than anything that has been done up to now. (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 2)


“Four years ago, more than 200 Kenyans died when terrorists blew up the American embassy in Nairobi…On Thursday morning, 12 Kenyans and three Israelis died in another terrorist attack which, had things gone according to plan, would have been even deadlier than the 1998 attack…How long shall our people be sacrificed for a cause that does not and cannot concern us? How much blood must be shed by the innocent to assuage a craving for gore by people who simply intend to make a point about events happening thousands of kilometres away in a foreign land? And what, if anything at all, can we do about people who are not afraid to die so long as they paint their message in blood?…[W]e sympathise with the Palestinians who have never known peace since 1948. But now we understand why Israel acts the way it does, a country that is surrounded from all sides by enemies and which can never relax for even a single day for to do so would mean extermination…”—Nairobi correspondent Magesha Ngwiri (The Nation, Dec. 1)

 “…That Bush is willing to risk alienating his evangelical Christian support base (which handed him the Senate in the last election) is evidence of his dogged determination to push the fantasy that we are not fighting Moslems. The president would have us believe we’re at war with a group of fanatics who’ve somehow developed the misguided notion that their religion of peace encourages the murder and oppression of infidels (Jews and Christians)…So where exactly, in the Moslem world, is Islam practiced in a loving and pluralistic fashion? In Saudi Arabia, the fountainhead of the faith, which contains Islam’s most sacred sites? In Saudi Arabia Christianity is strictly verboten. There are no churches…If you conduct a Christian service…in the privacy of your home, you can be arrested and deported…Again, where exactly is this kinder and gentler Islam practiced—the Islam of 100 points of light?…”—Journalist and former Boston Herald columnist Don Feder (, Nov. 20)









Sisterhood Paid-Up Membership Brunch


Ready for a new look for the New Year?  Come to our brunch and get inspired.  December 8, 2002 from ten o’clock to twelve o’clock at Temple Beth El.  Meet Melinda Buchman, consultant for Bobbi Brown cosmetics, from Neiman Marcus.  She will be demonstrating the season’s new looks for 2003.


We would appreciate your R.S.V.P. as soon as possible.


Lisa Arons-323-8436

Kelly Sabloff-322-5281


Admission for Sisterhood members is free.


Pay your dues at the door.


New members are welcome to join.





Sunday, December 8th

6:00 p.m.


a romantic comedy



(Afula Express)


Premiered in 1997 with English subtitles

Winner of 6 Israeli Academy Awards


Israel’s harsh and demanding reality makes the setting of Pick a Card (Afula Express), a romantic comedy about ordinary people trying to fulfill big dreams in the midst of a mundane existence.  Davied, an unemployed car electrician, decides to leave his native town of Afula for Tel Aviv, with his girlfriend Batia.  He wants to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a magician.  But David just hasn’t got what it takes.



Book Review at the JCC, led by Rabbi Hammerman

Revenge: A Story of Hope, by Laura Blumenfeld

This Tues. Dec 10, at 9:30 AM



Scholar in Residence Shabbat


December 13-15, 2002


Seeing the Torah with Eyes Wide Open


Dr. Ora Horn Prouser




Friday evening, December 13th  at 7:30 p.m.:  Join us in welcoming Dr. Horn Prouser at Friday evening services.  Following services, she will speak on “Black and White and Re(a)d All Over:  The Role of Color in the Bible.”


Shabbat morning, December 14th at 9:30 a.m.:  Dr. Horn Prouser will lead us on an exploration of the divergent themes that can be found in a single parasha: “Turn it Around and Around.”


Shabbat afternoon, December 14th at 4:00 p.m.:  The learning continues at Seudah Shlishit with a fascinating look at the trials and tribulations of Hagar and her relationships with Abraham, Sarah and God. Seudah Shlishit, the third meal of Shabbat, will be served. RSVP to 322-6901, extension 306.


Saturday night, December 14th:  Find out “What People are Saying About the Torah,” with Dr. Horn Prouser, at an informal gathering hosted by Norma and Milton Mann in their home.  Come shmooze about the latest controversies such as:  Is it true that there was no Exodus from Egypt? Has Noah’s Ark really been found?, and why did the Conservative Movement think that we needed a new Humash?  Coffee and dessert will be served.  Seating is limited:  RSVP to 322-6901, extension 306.


Sunday, December 15th at 10:00 a.m.:  The Scholar-In-Residence weekend continues as Dr. Horn Prouser helps us “Find Holiness in the Study of Torah.”


      Dr. Ora Horn Prouser is Academic Dean and Professor of Bible at The Academy for Jewish Religion.  She received her Ph.D from the Department of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages and Literature at JTS.  She is also a graduate of the double degree program of List College and Columbia University.  She has written and published in scholarly journals on such topics as literary approaches to biblical study, and feminism and gender issues.  She has worked closely with the Davidson School of Education at JTS to develop curricula and approaches for Bible pedagogy for all levels and learning styles.


Sponsored by Penny and Michael Horowitz…

In loving memory of Bessie Silver




Important Meeting for those wishing to help create our new Friday Evening Siddur:

 “Tehillat Shabbat,”

Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 7:30




Please respond if you are interested ASAP


We are, for the first time, considering having a congregational Second Seder.  Over the years people have been asking for it – now it actually may happen.  The idea is that we all go to our family seders on the first night, and then bring the extended family to Beth El on the second night (April 17), for a community seder led by Rabbi Hammerman, Cantor Jacobson and Barb Moskow, and coordinated by our sisterhood, with active participation by all.  It would be a hassle-free catered event, with costs kept as low as possible, but realistically in the “double chai” range for adults.  It would be incredible fun, with games for the kids and lots of great singing and discussion, fostering a feel of real community.  It would also be of assistance to those (and there are many) who have no family in the area and no Seder to go to. 


This type for program requires lots planning and early commitments to the caterer.  So we have to know very soon whether there is enough interest for this to be a “go.”  So, talk it over, then let us know by Dec. 13


Cut and Paste this and e-mail to


NAME _______________________________________________


TELEPHONE NUMBER AND E-MAIL ADDRESS ______________________________________________










The Accessible Talmud

with Barb Moskow


     In this introductory course, we will spend the first session cracking the secrets of Talmud study before moving on to actual text study.  Each subsequent week will feature a different text, illuminating the diverse styles and ideas represented by sages.  Knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic, Old French and the ability to read Rashi script Not Required!  We will utilize the Steinsaltz English edition of the Talmud for our studies.


DATES:  December 12

TIME:  7:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m.


“What’s a Nice People like the Jews

Doing in a Mess Like This?”

with Rabbi Joshua Hammerman


     This class will trace the roots of the Israeli Arab conflict, with a special focus on understanding the various streams of Zionism. A historical exploration, using video and text, of how the Jewish people returned to Israel and how they coped with what they found when they got there. The class will also discuss ways to become informed advocates for Israel (making the case forcefully and with historical background) while also understanding the nuances, complex, and tragic nature of “the situation.”



DATES:  December 12

TIME:  8:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m.







Sunday, December 15, 2002

4:00 – 6:00 PM

Temple Beth El, 350 Roxbury Road, Stamford


Topic: “Update on US politics and Israel”

Guest Speaker: David Gillette, AIPAC Senior Lobbyist


The Israel Task Force is a co-sponsor with AIPAC.





Kadima Regional Overnight (Grades 6-8)

December 7th - 8th

8:00 p.m.


Kesher (Grades 3-5)

Havdalah & A Movie

Saturday, December 14th

6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.


ATID (Kindergarten-2)

Mother Earth Mining Company

Sunday, December 15th

1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.


USY NIGHT (Grades 9-12)

Sunday, December 15th

6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Pizza will be served.


Kadima (Grades 6-8)

Dinner and a Service

Friday, December 20th

6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.






“I will be collecting children books and donating them to the Boy's and Girl's Club for the holiday season. In order to do this I will be setting up five drop off locations listed below. These drop off stations will be open for two weeks, in which, I hope to collect and reach my goal of 200 books. In addition, I will be building a bookshelf for these books and plan on advertising this collection in the newspaper. As soon as I get permission from the selected locations the book

drive will begin. After two weeks, I will collect these boxes, clean out the books and organize them into different piles according to their size. I will then build a bookshelf for these books. I have chosen this project, because I know myself, that there are many families in Stamford whose kids who have outgrown their early childhood books. As a result, these books are put away in an attic or basement never to be seen again. Many less fortunate kids have very few books to read. When

I donate these books, I will know that I have given many less fortunate children more chances to read.”


Drop off Locations


               1. Agudath Shalom

               2. Temple Sinai

               3. Temple Beth El

               4. St. Bridget

               5. Bethany Assembly of God



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   I also send out mailings to college students, Gen Xers and teens, so let us know if you wish to be placed on any of those lists.  If you wish to unsubscribe, contact