Friday, December 3, 2004

December 3, 2004 and Kislev 21, 5765


December 3, 2004 and Kislev 21, 5765

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut

Shabbat Shalom


Happy Hanukkah

and make plans to join us at next week’s super spectacular

multi-media Hanukkah concert  featuring Cantor Jacobson, our choirs and special guests and surprises (and of course, latkes!)

Sunday, Dec. 12 @ 3 PM


You are cordially invited…

Our Junior Choir will also be participating in the annual Hanukkah celebration at Stamford’s Government Center, this Wednesday, December 5, at 2:00 PM


Send your friends and relatives the gift of Jewish awareness

a Shabbat-O-Gram each week, by signing them up at


The Rabid Rabbi


OK, so maybe the title of this new feature is a wee bit melodramatic, but rabid isn't always so bad.  In truth, rabies has given the term "rabid" a bad name.   To the extent that the term simply means “very passionate, leading directly to action” I’ll take rabid anytime.  There are things in this world that just jump out at us and deserve our attention – along with a rapid, rabid response. 


To be Jewish is to be passionate about things.  Hence the Rabid Rabbi.


Here are four items that jumped out at me this week:


1)  The Kashrut Scandal.  Read Thursday’s Times article on the disgraceful way animals are being slaughtered in the name of Kashrut. It’s at The scandal is limited to one plant and one supplier of Kosher meat, Aarons, at least for now.  But they have set back the humane principles of Judaism’s supreme value of Kindness to Animals (tz’aar ba’ale hayyim).  Read about this sacred principle as it relates to Kosher slaughter at  To quote Maimonides: "There is a rule laid down by our Sages that it is directly prohibited in the Law to cause pain to an animal…but the object of this rule is to perfect us, so that we should not acquire habits of cruelty and should not inflict pain gratuitously without any utility, but we should be kind and merciful to all living creatures, except in case of need…. We must not kill animals out of cruelty or for sport" (Guide of the Perplexed 111, 17; see Sefer Hahinnuch, Mitzvah 186).


2)    I’m rabid about this so-called new December mishmash called “Chrismukkah.”  It all started as a joke a few years ago during the Wall Street merger mania, about a major holiday merger  -- and it was funny (see for yourself at  Some crafty entrepreneurs saw an opening – and perceived a real need to reach out to interfaith families who so often feel alienated by the religious institutions around them, so they created some cards.  The popular Fox show The OC picked up on it, and voila, the interfaith holiday of Chrismukkah has suddenly become a phenomenon that even the Advocate covered this week.  Read about it yourself at  My problem with it is NOT the appeal to interfaith families.  I have long believed that dual faith families need to be embraced warmly and non-judgmentally by the Jewish community, and indeed we try to do that here (and have made great strides in recent years).  My problem is that Chrismukkah trivializes and cheapens BOTH holidays to the point where the merged holiday is no longer the joke; Judaism and Christianity become the joke.  Look at the cards.  The one that offends me the most is not the Kosher fruitcake, or even Rudolph with a menorah on his head.  It’s the one that juxtaposes “Joy” with “Oy.”  Guess which one is the Jewish contribution to this merger!  All I can say it, if the creators of Chrismukkah can see only the “Oy” in Judaism, we’ve all got a problem.  And that problem makes me a rabid rabbi.  (Their problem is that they haven’t been to TBE lately, where we’ve got LOTS more JOY than OY!)


3)    I’m rabid about the unfair anti-Israel stances taken by some Presbyterians in this country ( but equally rabid about the fact that some Jews have threatened them (  Things seem to be calming down on that front and it is encouraging to see vigorous debate on this issue taking place among the Presbyterians themselves (


4)    Finally, I’m rabid about the fact that so many Jews seem so oblivious to the miracle of Jewish survival over the past half century.  Want to do something very moving this Hanukkah?  Spend a few hours at the new Central Database for Shoah Victims' Names found at the Yad Vashem Website (  About half of the six million martyrs are listed there, many with accompanying biographical information.  Spend some time there, and you will soon begin to grasp the enormity of the loss – and the equally enormous gift of life that we have been given.  The question then becomes, what are we going to do about it?


…and a happy Hanukkah to all, from The Rabid Rabbi



UJF Super Sunday

This year, Super Sunday, our Annual Community Campaign, is this Sunday, December 5.  When your phone rings please “pick it up” and give generously.  The gift you pledge, no matter how big or small helps Jews in our own community, around the state, as well as abroad.  Giving tzedakah is a mitzvah and to know you may help a child attend summer camp, provide lunch services to a senior, or help an Ethiopian family in Afula/Gilboa is a great feeling. Some volunteer help is still needed in the late afternoon.  Please contact the UJF office if you wish to help.





Friday Evening Candles: 4:09 PM (fear not! This is the earliest it will get!).  For candlelighting times, other Jewish calendar information, and to download a Jewish calendar to your PDA, click on

L’hitraot to our Seventh Grade, headed to their Shabbaton at Camp Sloan! I’ll be privileged to join them for part of their weekend, as has been my custom in recent years.

Kabbalat Shabbat: 6:30 PM in the chapel. 

Tot Shabbat – the Tot Shabbat Oneg will be sponsored by Cheryl and Stephen Goldblum in honor of their son Evan's first birthday.  Mazal tov also to Evan's sister Rachel and brother Danny and thank you to the entire family.

Shabbat Morning: 9:30 AM

Who knows what the Rabid Rabbi will talk about!

Children’s services: 10:30 AM

Torah Portion: Vayeshev: Genesis 37:1 - 40:23

1: 37:1-3
2: 37:4-7
3: 37:8-11
4: 37:12-17
5: 37:18-22
6: 37:23-28
7: 37:29-36
maf: 37:34-36

Haftarah: Amos 2:6 - 3:8

See a new weekly commentary now available from the UJC Rabbinic Cabinet, at  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:  World Zionist Organization Education page, including Nehama Liebowitz archives of parsha commentaries: For a more Kabbalistic/Zionist/Orthodox perspective from Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, go to For some probing questions and meditations on key verses of the portion, with a liberal kabbalistic bent, go to or, for Kabbalistic commentaries from the Zohar itself, go to To see the weekly commentary from Hillel, geared to college students and others, go to For a Jewish Renewal and feminist approach go to .  For a comprehensive Orthodox viewpoint from the Israeli rabbi, Yaakov Fogelman, go to the Torah Outreach Program at


Morning Minyan: Sundays at 9:00 AM, Weekdays at 7:30 AM – IN THE CHAPEL


We usually, but not always have a minyan of ten at our morning services. If you have a yahrzeit coming up and wish to ensure that there will be at least ten present, drop the rabbi an email at and he will e-mail to the congregation a “Guaranteed Minyan” request.  Indicate the date of the yahrzeit and whether it would be OK to use your name in making that request.













Minyan Mastery


Now you can become more comfortable with our minyan, and find out all about it at…


Hanukkah begins this Tuesday evening

Here are some of the Basics…

• The Story • Traditions • Chanukkah Music  • Recipe for Latkes

• List of Dates  Chanukkah Blessings  and an online Dreidel Game

(for a zillion more links, see below)


Required Reading and Action Items

Three excellent digests of Israeli news:

Israel Insider -  non-partisan online publication that aims to provide an "inside perspective" on the latest news, analysis and commentary from and about Israel.  Maintained six days a week and updated as news breaks, Israel Insider publishes original articles and information about the people, events and places in the Israeli news, while collecting, organizing and linking to a wide range of external information resources.  Israel Insider focuses on creating information packages on key issues combining insightful articles from multiple sources with high quality interactive maps, graphs, photos and streaming media.

Israel - one of the most comprehensive Israel News directories on the web, providing up to the minute Israel news is a website devoted to the dissemination of news and commentary about the Middle East situation. is operated on a private volunteer basis 

Prof. Jonathan Sarna’s landmark book “American Judaism” has been named the 2004 National Jewish Book Award's Everett Family Foundation Book of the Year.  Sarna will be our scholar in residence here at TBE on the weekend of April 8-10, in honor of the 350 anniversary of American Jewry.  SAVE THAT WEEKEND!!  A recent review of his book and an interview from the Jerusalem Post can be found at

New Database of Holocaust Victims - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post) Yad Vashem on Monday will inaugurate the on-line Central Database for Shoah Victims' Names - an Internet database listing the names of three million Jewish victims of the Holocaust


DF: 70% Decline in Palestinian Attacks in the Territories Since Arafat's Death - Amir Rappaport, Amit Cohen, and Osnot Shostack (Maariv-Hebrew, 26Nov04)
    IDF data shows that during the past two weeks, the number of attacks and shootings in the territories has declined by 70%.
    "In practice, this is practically a hudna (ceasefire)," said one senior IDF source.
    However, security sources emphasize that it is too early to announce the death of the intifada.
    There are still 40 warnings of impending attacks, and there are many parties interested in carrying out attacks against Israel.
    Senior political sources explained Thursday that "Israel is also restraining itself and acting as if there was a 'semi-hudna.'"
    They emphasized Israel's efforts to limit offensive operations that would heat up the atmosphere among Palestinians and complicate the upcoming PA elections.
    Due to the many warnings of impending terrorist attacks, it was decided to continue the hunt for terrorists.


Peace is Nowhere in Sight - Zev Chafets
After the death of Arafat, a reasonable Palestinian leadership, led by the moderate Mahmoud Abbas, seemed briefly to arise. Then Abbas went to Gaza where gunmen tried to assassinate him. So Abbas went back to the West Bank, announced that he would follow in Arafat's footsteps, and declared himself an unshakable champion of the Palestinian "right of return" that demands that Israel agree to absorb millions of Arabs. A great majority of mainstream Palestinians reject any possible peace deal that relinquishes this "right."
    For Israel, the Palestinian "right of return" means annihilation. Millions of hostile Arabs (or even friendly ones) flooding in would quickly put an end to the world's only Jewish state. Today, most Israelis agree that the Palestinians can have a country next to Israel - borders to be negotiated - but not on top of it. Survival trumps everything else. If Abbas lives long enough to reach the elections scheduled for Jan. 9, it will be as a weakened, frightened man, unable - or unwilling - to put down terror and deeply committed to the goal of dismantling Israel through demography. (New York Daily News)


The Fear Born of a Much Too Personal Look at Jihad - Richard Bernstein
About a month ago, Doris Gluck (a pseudonym) published a book in Germany, I Was Married to a Holy Warrior, in which she described how she fell in love with an Egyptian, married him, and then watched, appalled, as he became progressively more militant and, finally, fully engaged in jihad. (New York Times)
    See also A Young Saudi Jihadist's Journey - Mohamad Bazzi
The story of the transformation of Fahd - the 24-year-old son of a Saudi middle-class family, from a quiet seminary student to a jihadist willing to die in a country he had never even visited - highlights how Iraq has become a magnet for Islamic militants. "We cannot be separated from Iraq. The victory of religious extremism in Iraq would mean the victory of extremism in Saudi Arabia," said Abdulaziz al-Qasim, a former Saudi religious judge who is now one of the kingdom's leading moderate Islamic activists. "The victory of democracy in Iraq would mean the victory of democracy in Saudi Arabia." "The entrenchment of militant Islamic groups in Iraq is a great danger to all countries in the Gulf," al-Qasim said. (Newsday)


Israel Helps Palestinians Fight Locusts (UPI/Washington Times)
    Israel Friday provided the PA with insecticides to kill swarms of locusts that have entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt, an army spokesman reported.

Sharon, Abu Mazen Ready to Meet After Jan. 9 PA Elections - Lally Weymouth (Newsweek)

Prime Minister Sharon said in an interview:

  • I have met Abu Mazen many times and he was against terror, because he did not think it would bring a solution to the Palestinians. Now it depends on whether the [new Palestinian leadership] can bring an end to terror and incitement. Then there might be a window of opportunity.
  • I am going to make every effort to coordinate our disengagement plan with the new Palestinian government - one that can assume control over areas we evacuate.
  • There are things they can do immediately - stopping incitement in the Palestinian broadcasting and the press. But that did not replace my demand for a cessation of terror.
  • We will take all the necessary steps to enable them to conduct their elections with as little interference as possible - by opening the roads and taking our forces out of their towns.
  • Close to 80 percent of all terrorist activity in Samaria [the northern West Bank] was directed and financed either by Hizballah or the Iranians. Iran continues to increase its involvement in terror attacks inside Israel, particularly through a small but radical minority of Israeli Arabs which Iran supports and directs.

    See also Interview with Abu Mazen - Lally Weymouth (Newsweek)
Abu Mazen: Our goal is to cool down the whole situation, to stop all kinds of violence and terror.

Palestinian Incitement Lessens But Hatred Continues
The Palestinian media has scaled back its incitement to violence against Israel, but the hatred continues, said Yigal Carmon, head of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an Israeli monitoring group. "Ten years of incitement on top of many, many years of incitement, it's not going to end in a year or two," Carmon said, noting that PLO Chairman Abbas' order for the Palestinian media to stop incitement appeared in a London-based paper rather than a local one. Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, said that while incitement to violence has stopped, the Palestinian media continues "pumping people up" with a message of hatred. (CNSNews/Townhall)
    See also PA Weighs Ending Media Incitement - Lamia Lahoud
PLO Chairman Abu Mazen met recently with the head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Authority and asked him to prevent the broadcast of inciting material, a Palestinian official said Monday. However, they stopped short of an order to stop incitement in the Palestinian media - a key Israeli demand - the official said, with Palestinians and Israelis differing over what constitutes incitement. (Jerusalem Post)
    See also PA Denies End of Anti-Israel Media Incitement (UPI/Washington Times)


IDF Investigation: Palestinian Was Not Forced to Play Violin at Checkpoint (IDF)
    Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski, the head of Central Command, conducted an investigation into a filmed incident reported widely in the media of a Palestinian man shown playing a violin at the Beit Iba checkpoint.
    The investigation found that the Palestinian arrived at the checkpoint and was asked by the soldiers to open the violin case.
    He opened the case and started to play the violin of his own volition. Several moments later, he was asked by the liaison officer to stop playing.
    The investigation was based on testimony of the soldiers at the checkpoint, footage filmed by the women of "Checkpoint Watch," and a letter written by members of the group which supports the soldiers' testimony that the man was not asked to play the violin.


Fatal Failure: UN Won't Recognize Connection between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism - Anne Bayevsky
The UN General Assembly held another emergency session in July to condemn Israel for building a wall to prevent terrorism, but not to name and condemn Palestinian terrorists, their PA patrons, or their state sponsors. This fall, another 20 anti-Israel resolutions are in the process of adoption at the regular session of the General Assembly. Another of the annual UN-sponsored NGO conferences "in support of the Palestinian people" was held at UN headquarters in September.
    A damage register was created for alleged victims of Israel's security fence, but nothing for victims of Palestinian terrorism. The chief of UNRWA, Peter Hansen, gave a spirited defense of employing Hamas members. And then there was the expert report on racism and xenophobia that blamed Israel for the rise of anti-Semitism, but that was still studying whether "alleged" ethnic motivations had anything to do with the genocide and displacement of more than a million people in the Darfur region of Sudan. (National Review)


Palestinian Priorities After Arafat: Palestinian Unity or Peace?- Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)


Jewish and Israeli Links…




Israel Defense Force,
Israel Government Gateway, links to Government Ministries,
Israel Knesset,
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Israel Prime Minister's Office,
Israel Central Bureau of Statistics,
Israel Tourism Ministry, North America,
Buy Israeli Products,,
Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies,
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies,
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,
One Jerusalem,
Twenty Facts about Israel
Myths & Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Jerusalem Archaeological Park,


Israel Info Center - Israel Activism Portal,
US White House,
US State Department,
US Senate,
US House of Representatives,
THOMAS (search for US Legislation),
United Nations Watch,
Embassy of Israel - Washington, D.C.,

Media-Related Links:

Jerusalem Post,
Jewish Telegraphic Agency,
Ha'aretz English Edition,,
Independent Media Review and Analysis,
Maariv English Edition,
Middle East Media Research Institue (MEMRI),
Palestinian Media Watch,
Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre,
Israel Insider,
Jewish World Review,
America's Voices in Israel,
@The Source Israel,


Other Jewish Sites


The best Jewish kids' site on the Web is , with games, virtual tours and “J-Pod” downloads, kids of all ages will LOVE it. 


Another superb educational site is -- you can be a self-taught “maven” on all things Jewish!


See the contents of nearly the entire Babylonian Talmud, in translation at


A Jewish Guide to the Internet:


On Jewish Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: (hey, you KNEW I’d put this one in)


How many Jewish hockey players are there? (None right now…there’s a lockout).  Find out at


Glossary of Yiddish Expressions:  )Please be patient, this page is farshtopt with information)


You can find an online Hebrew dictionary at


Nice Jewish parenting site  Jewish Gates is an amazing site, filled with material on Jewish history, ritual and culture. Go straight to the linked index at and go to town!  The Jewish Super Site; a similar site is and my personal all-time favorite,


The sourcebook for Jewish history (all periods) can be found at

Online Texts Related to Jewish History.  All the primary sources “fit to print.”


Israel Campus Beat – to get all the latest information on Israel relevant to students on college campuses




Spiritual Journey on the Web


Hanukkah Exotica

On the Origin and Development of Some Hanukkah Customs

by Prof. David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Read the full article online (including footnotes) at


Most of the laws of Hanukkah are related to the lighting of the menorah or hanukkiya1 and are described in detail in the tractate of Shabbat and in the standard codes of Jewish law.2 In this article we shall describe some of the customs of Hanukkah. The main difference between laws and customs is that laws stem from rabbinic interpretations of the Torah and Talmud which then filter down to the Jewish people, while customs usually start with the people and filter up to the rabbis. Through customs, the Jewish people have shown their love for God and tradition and immeasurably enriched all aspects of Jewish observance.3

We shall begin with one well-known Hanukkah custom and then proceed to describe four lesser-known customs. In each case we shall try to trace the origin of the custom and some of its permutations throughout Jewish history.

I) The Dreidl4

The dreidl or sevivon is perhaps the most famous custom associated with Hanukkah. Indeed, various rabbis have tried to find an integral connection between the dreidl and the Hanukkah story. The standard explanation is that the letters ,'נ'ג'ה'ש which appear on the driedl in the Diaspora, stand for "נס גדול היה שם"  "a great miracle happened there". In Israel the dreidl says ,'נ'ג'ה'פ  which means "a great miracle happened here". One nineteenth-century rabbi went one step further; he maintained that Jews played with the dreidl in order to fool the Greeks if they were caught studying Torah which had been outlawed.5

Others figured out elaborate gematriot6 and word plays for the letters 'נ'ג'ה'ש. For example, 'נ'ג'ה'ש in gematria is 358, which is also the numerical equivalent of משיח or Messiah! 'נ'ג'ה'ש is also the gematria equivalent of the sentence "God is king, God was king, and God will be king"!7 Finally, the letters 'נ'ג'ה'ש are supposed to represent the four kingdoms which tried to destroy us: N = Nebuchadnetzar = Babylon; H = Haman = Madai; G = Gog = Greece; and S = Seir = Rome.

As a matter of fact, all of these elaborate explanations were invented after the fact. The dreidl game originally had nothing to do with Hanukkah; it has been played by various people in various languages for many centuries. The permutations of the dreidl game are outlined in the chart which follows8:


Name of the Game

Take All 

Take Half 

Put in More 

Do Nothing 

England, Ireland
ca. 1500

(in Latin)





England 1801




P=Put down


France 1611






Sardinia, Italy







Torrel, Trundel



S=Stell ein


Hebrew or Yiddish






Furthermore, even among the Jews, this game has been called many different names. The Jews of medieval France and Italy seemed to have called this game - which was apparently not connected to Hanukkah - תם וחצי = whole and half; תם וחסר = whole and missing; or תם וכס = whole and half.9 In German, the spinning top was called a torrel or trundl and in Yiddish it was called a dreidl, a fargl, a varfl [= something thrown], shtel ein [= put in], and gor, gorin [= all]. When Hebrew was revived as a spoken language, the dreidl was called ,גלגלן, חזרזר, כרכר גלגלון and סביבון, and the latter name is the one that caught on.

Thus the dreidl game represents an irony of Jewish history. In order to celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah, which celebrates our victory over cultural assimilation, we play the dreidl game - which is an excellent example of cultural assimilation! Of course, there is a world of difference between imitating non-Jewish games and worshipping idols, but the irony remains nonetheless. ------------
V) The Scroll of Antiochus31

There is one custom which we would expect to find on Hanukkah which is missing - the reading of a scroll in public. After all, on Purim we read the Scroll of Esther every year in order to publicize the miracle. Why don't we read a scroll on Hanukkah in order to publicize the miracles which God wrought for our ancestors in the days of Matityahu and his sons? The result is that most Jews only know the legend about the miracle of the cruse of oil (Shabbat 21b) and not about the actual military victories of the Maccabees.

The answer is that, in truth, there 
is such a scroll which was read in private or in public between the ninth and twentieth centuries. It is called "The Scroll of Antiochus" and many other names and it was written in Aramaic during the Talmudic period and subsequently translated into Hebrew, Arabic and other languages. The book describes the Maccabean victories on the basis of a few stories from the Books of the Maccabees and Shabbat 21b with the addition of a number of legends without any historic basis whatsoever. The scroll is first mentioned by Halakhot Gedolot, which was written by Shimon Kayara in Babylon ca. 825 c.e.: "The elders of Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel wrote Megillat Bet Hashmonay [=the scroll of the Hasmonean House]...".32 Rav Sa'adia Gaon (882-942) calls it "kitab benei hashmonay", the book of the sons of the Hasmoneans, and he also translated it into Arabic.33 Rav Nissim Gaon (North Africa, 990-1062) calls it in Arabic "the scroll of the sons of the Hasmoneans".34

Furthermore, we know that this scroll was read in public at different times and places. Rabbi Isaiah of Trani (Italy, ca. 1200-1260) says that "in a place where they are accustomed to read Megillat Antiochus [=The Scroll of Antiochus] on Hanukkah, it is not proper to recite the blessings [for reading a scroll] because it is not required at all".35

In Mahzor Kaffa, which was published in the Crimea in 1735, the Scroll of Antiochus is printed in Hebrew and preceeded by the following instructions: "It is customary to read Megillat Antiochus during minhah [=the afternoon service on Shabbat] after kaddish titkabbel [=the reader's kaddish] in order to publicize the miracle [of Hanukkah]...".36

Rabbi Yahya ben Yosef Zalih, who was the leading rabbi in San'a, Yemen ca. 1715, says "that some read Megillat Antiochus on Shabbat [of Hanukkah] after the haftarah. This is not required; it is only a general mitzvah to publicize the miracle among the Jewish people".37 But Rabbi Amram Zabban of G'ardaya in the Sahara Dessert viewed this reading as a 
requirement. In his Sefer Hasdey Avot published in 1926, he states:

Megillat Antiochus according to the custom of the holy city of G'ardaya, may God protect her. The cantor should read it in public in the synagogue after the Torah reading on the Shabbat during Hanukkah. And he reads it in Arabic translation so that the entire congregation should understand [in order to] publicize the miracle which was done to our holy ancestors, may their merit protect us...translated from the Hebrew from Siddur Bet Oved of R. Yehudah Shmuel Ashkenazi [Livorno, 1853].38

This is a fascinating passage. Rabbi Zabban translated Megillat Antiouchus from Hebrew into Arabic in 1926 so that the entire congregation would understand it. He seems unaware that Arabic translations already existed. He also presents this custom as a required activity, despite the fact that he seems to have made it up! Perhaps he had heard that this was an accepted custom in other communities and wished to imitate them.

The Jews of Kurdistan, on the other hand, used to read the Scroll of Antiochus at home during Hanukkah.39 Rabbi Yosef Kafah (1917-2000) reports that his grandfather Rabbi Yihye Kafah (1850-1932) used to teach it to his pupils in Yemen in the Aramaic original along with the Arabic translation of Rav Sa'adya Gaon.40

It would seem that there is no point in reviving the specific custom of reading the Scroll of Antiochus in public, because that work is legendary in nature and not a reliable source for the events of Hanukkah. But we do possess such a source for those events -- the First Book of Maccabees, which was written in Hebrew in the Land of Israel by an eyewitness to the events described therein.41 Therefore, we should thank Rabbi Arthur Chiel who published the First Book of Maccabees, Chapters 1-4 as a separate booklet over twenty years ago under the title "The Scroll of Hanukkah".42 It is intended for reading in public or in private during the holiday. We should adopt this beautiful custom and begin to read those chapters in public every year on the Shabbat of Hanukkah after the haftarah. By so doing, we will be reviving the custom of reading a "scroll" on Hanukkah but, more importantly, we will thereby disseminate the oldest surviving account of the "miracles and triumphs" which God performed for the Jewish People "in those days at this season".











December 3, December 17 and December 24, and the 1st, 3rd and 4th Fridays of every month at 6:45pm. 


Tot Shabbat is a warm, casual, and family-friendly Friday night service geared especially for children ranging in age from preschoolers to kindergarten.  Older siblings are always welcome to participate.  


Join us for songs, prayers, games and fun led by Nurit Avigdor who always provides a wonderful evening with her vast repertoire of songs, stories, warmth, and a special way with children.  Each Tot Shabbat is followed by a special Oneg.


On December 3, the Tot Shabbat Oneg will be sponsored by Cheryl and Stephen Goldblum in honor of their son Evan's first birthday.  Mazal tov also to Evan's sister Rachel and brother Danny.


On December 17, the Tot Shabbat Oneg will be sponsored by Stacye and Stuart Nekritz in honor of the birthdays of their children Jason and Hannah. 


Temple membership is not required to attend Tot Shabbat.


For more information, please contact our Temple Office at 203-322-6901 or the following members:


Sheryl Young:  203-975-1990

Stuart Nekritz:  203-322-0872

Deb Goldberg: 203-323-3307


Please register to be on our Tot Shabbat mailing list located on the Temple website at


We look forward to seeing you and your friends at TOT SHABBAT!



Temple Beth El’s

Gift Shop


Hanukkah begins Tuesday, December 7


Between now and Hannukah the normal gift shop dates and hours will be:


Sunday, November 21         10:30am – 1pm

Tuesday, November 30       4pm - 6pm

Thursday, December 2        4pm – 6pm

Sunday, December 5           10:30am – 1pm


Along with the Religious School, the Gift Shop will be closed on Tuesday, November 23 and Sunday, November 28.  This only leaves 4, count them 4, regular shopping days until Hannukah or please call Mia Weinstein at 595-0528 if you would like to set up an appointment.


Visit the Gift Shop for all of your holiday needs

at 15%-20% off of retail prices!!!


menorahs:                 modern, traditional, juvenile

           brass, silver, electric (great for college kids)

candles:                     assortment of different styles

dreidles:                    plastic, wood, musical, toy

chocolate gelt:          50 cents a bag

party supplies:          decorations, grab bag ideas, crafts


and for all of your gift needs:


                    collectible menorahs:        sports, bears, crystal, decorative

                    collectible dreidles:           crystal, silver, wood with decorative box

                    toys, music, crafts:             Hanukkah and general themes

                    books for all ages:              Hanukkah, coloring books, coffee table

                    hostess gifts:                       Hanukkah candles in a basket,

             candy dishes, keepsake boxes, frames, wine coasters


Lunch ‘n Learn:  “Hot Button Halacha”

Meets monthly on the second Wednesday of the month


What does Jewish law teach us about today's most controversial issues, including Gay Marriage, Tattooing and Body Piercing, Stem Cell Research, Assisted Suicide, Domestic Violence, Surrogate Parenting and Smoking in Public Places?  Recent opinions of the Conservative Movement's Committee of Law and Jewish Standards will be discussed.  Meets at:  Benjamin Gold, P.C., 350 Bedford Street 4th floor (parking is available behind the building).


Next session: THIS WEEK!

December 8 - Assisted Suicide




The Men's Club of Temple Beth El will be meeting this Sunday, December 5 immediately after the 9:00 AM morning Minyan in the Choir Loft (opposite the chapel) to discuss its future.The agenda is a simple one -- will the Men's Club come back to life this year or not?  If so, a few officers and board members will be needed to get it moving again.Please attend and also forward this note to all of the TBE members you know that may be interested in seeing the Men's Club come back to life.




at Border’s Book Store

High Ridge Road, Stamford, Connecticut


Meets monthly on the second Tuesday evening of the month.

7:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.





Rabbi Joshua Hammerman - Temple Beth El

Rev. Douglas McArthur - First United Methodist Church

Dr. Behjat Syed - Stamford Islamic Center


Next session: Dec. 14 – Why Worship?  The Purposes of Prayer in Different Faith Traditions.




Enthusiastic and Energetic Volunteers Needed!!


To create a kosher keepsake Cook Book for our Beth El family and friends using our very own recipes.


Please join our cookbook team and bring your special ideas and talents to the team. 


All are welcome!!  No experience is necessary, just your interest in the project!


Call Beth Silver at 967-8852 or email: if you are interested. 


Profits will be donated to the kitchen/ballroom renovation projects.


Sponsored by the Temple Beth El Sisterhood.


Please join us for a kick-off meeting on Sunday, December 5th at

11:00 a.m. at the Synagogue. Stop by on your way if volunteering for Super Sunday or call to join the committee.  Please call Beth, 967-8852, to R.S.V.P. 




Israel Task Force*

Special Preview Presentation


Building The Jewish Homeland


Monday, December 6, 2004

7:00 PM in the Family Place

at the JCC

Palestine, Summer 1914. 


Jewish pioneers live in thriving settlements, successfully farm the land, speak modern Hebrew, and operate a self-defense militia.  Europe is on the brink of war; and the pioneers face an uncertain future. 


Come hear the exciting, heroic story of how the Jews harnessed the military, diplomatic, and political opportunities
of their times to realize their dream – founding the modern State of Israel.


The Preview Presentation is one part of a stimulating, enriching six-part series, Israel: Building The Modern State, to be presented at the JCC in Spring 2005.  Over two years in development by the Education Committee of the Israel Task Force, the series is designed to expand your knowledge of Israel’s history, and to discover Israel’s people, culture, and outstanding achievements.  Based on historical facts and perspective, the series provides evidence of Israel’s continual efforts for peace, and highlights Israel’s relationship with Palestinian Arabs. 


For information, contact Dana Horowitz

(203) 321-1373, ext. 108; email:


*Program of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan, and Darien.




A Long Way for a Falafel


A Journal of their recent trip to Israel

By Barbara and Marvin Gold




On Sunday we leave for Haifa; we've rented a car. 


(Site: A visit to the historic ruins of Caesarea National Park, an ancient city built along the Mediterranean.  There we see the remnants of a palace; we sit on the seats of the amphitheater; I stoop for tiny pieces of pottery shards, and I imagine Victor Mature fighting gladiators or maybe Charlton Heston driving his chariot to victory down the Hippodrome.)


In Haifa we are staying at the Nof Hotel, situated high on hills in the Carmel area.  Many of the Baha'i faith are staying at this hotel which is located close to the Baha'i World Center and includes the Baha'i shrines, terraces, and gardens.


On Sunday evening we eat dinner at Ruby's friends, Isabelle and Eli.  They moved to Israel when their children were young and now both Isabelle and Eli teach at the University of Haifa.



We walk down the Haifa hills towards the shipping docks.  We buy cheese and bread and nibble the fresh food as we walk along and enjoy the hustle of this neighborhood shopping area.  I break my promise to my family about taking public transportation; we decide to return to the hotel using the Carmelit, an underground subway system.  Our handbags are inspected before entering the system and the train is inspected before we board; I relax and enjoy this new adventure.


During our stay in Haifa, Marvin and I often walk through the busy streets.  We go in and out of a shopping mall, to the laundry, and to a small café where we enjoy hot tea made with fresh peppermint leaves.  By now I am tossing around my "shaloms" and "todas" and getting used to door checks.



Today, we visit Gene's Aunt Judith (Yehudit) who lives on Kibbutz Sha'ar ha'amakin.  Ruby and Gene lived on this kibbutz in 1972.  In 1934, Judith, originally from Germany, was one of the early founders of this kibbutz, now housing about 600 people.  The main products of this kibbutz are hot water heaters and solar panels, many sold to the European market.  In older days their agricultural business was larger and included dairy, wheat, and even beef.  Judith requires more care now and, therefore, she lives in the senior care center on the kibbutz.


Across from the kibbutz we walk through a small cemetery to pay respects to members of Gene's family.  We also see graves of kibbutz boys who were lost in Israel's wars.


(Site: A stop at Tel Megiddo National Park, located Southeast of Haifa, a vital strategic site throughout history and the scene of mighty biblical battles.)



On Wednesday we hire a guide to take us through the Golan Heights.

We drive around the Sea of Galilee, through Tiberias, past memorials to Israeli soldiers, cross the Jordan River and begin the steep climb to the Golan Heights.  The ascending roads wind around the curves.  I feel small against the vastness.  Nothing but mountains, valleys, and the Jordan River in sight, and still we climb.  On the sides of the narrow roads we see signs, in English and in Hebrew, to warn of mines that have not been removed from the war.  On the top of the Golan we are surprised by the flatness of the land – "good land for farming" our guide says, "grain, cotton, potatoes, cows for beef, all built since 1967".  We absorb the magnitude of breathtaking scenery and the view of Israel below from this look out which once was Syria.


(Site: We visit Qasrin, an ancient Jewish settlement with a beautifully decorated synagogue.  And since, by email, I have just learned of the loss of my first cousin, Rozzie, I stand within the ruins of this synagogue and remember her.)


On the way back, our driver stops at a goat farm on which there is also an olive press.  The floor is wet with oil and we need to watch our step.  We watch a woman unload sacks of black olives mixed with leaves and twigs into the vat and we see her olives pass through cleaning and pressing processes to become pure oil.



We visit Gene's cousins Norit and Yahuda who live in a planned Israeli community in Mitzpa Aviv.  Their backyard overlooks fields and mountains and in the distance an Israeli Arab settlement.  The grounds of the house are thick with fruit trees – kumquat, quava, apple, lemon, clementine, and olive which her son planted.  Norit makes jam from the fruits, and there on her kitchen counter are jars of marinated olives.  She has just brought her olives to be pressed into oil.  Norit tells me her recipe for marinating olives.*


* (Just in case you plan someday to marinate tree-ripened olives:)

Fill a glass jar with water

Add salt and one raw egg in its shell

Continue to add salt until the raw egg floats
        (Norit said that she learned this trick from an Arab.)

Add olives, cover the jar tightly, and marinate for about 3 weeks

Change the brine several times

Rinse the olives

Add just pressed olive oil, salt, bay leaf, hot pepper, and garlic

Marinate at least 2 days before serving



Yasser Arafat has died.  Tomorrow, we leave for Jerusalem.



A Zillion Hanukkah Links – Guaranteed to Last for Eight Nights (and then some)!

Nice articles on the spirituality of lighting the candles: and

Listen to (and watch, via streaming video)) Israel’s song in the 2002 Eurovision contest, “Light a Candle,” sung by Sarit Hadad.  It’s half in English and half in Hebrew, and in its simple yearning for hope captures beautifully the mood in Israel today:

CLAL Holy Days: Hanukah By Joseph Telushkin 

This Ritual Life CLAL Faculty on Rededicating Your Home at Hanukah

Links and lots of material:

Educator Cherie Kohler Fox's eight ways to celebrate Hanukkah meaningfully:

Chanukah educational links, coloring books, songs, etc

Hanukkah @ JTS

Virtual Jerusalem - Chanukah Megasite Real Audio (blessings, classes, songs)

Chanukah Fun & Coloring Book (Torah Tots)

Kidskourt Hanukkah Coloring Pages

Kid's Domain Chanukah Coloring Pages

My Hebrew Dictionary - Chanukah Related Words

Akhlah for Kids (includes blessings)

Everything Jewish: Hanukah

Being Jewish: Chanukah Gateway Chanukah

Jewish Holiday Consumer - Chanukah

Project Genesis - On-Line Menorah

ORT's Hanukkah section

Torah From Dixie Chanukah Articles

NCSY: Chanukah Articles

Neveh Zion Chanukah Pages

Halacha sheet for Chanukah

Darche Noam Chanuka Page

Israel Museum: Galleries of Menorah (English & Hebrew)

Machon Chagim: Chanukah (English)

Machon Chagim: Chanukah (Hebrew)

Jewish Agency: Chanukah (Easy Hebrew)

Judaism 101: Chanukkah

Chanukah Gateway

JIS: Online Chanukah Course

Chanukah on the Net

Nishmas: Customs of Chanukah

For Every Jew: Chanukah

DundaWare ShockDreidel (req. Shockwave)

CleverMedia: The Hanukkah Dreidel Game (req. Shockwave)

ZigZag Hannukah Lights (req. Java)

Chanukah Word Search (req. Java)

Not Just for Kids: Hanukkah Certificates

Hanukat: Celebrate Hanukkah with the Kids

It's not your Father's Hannukah (Yet it is...)

Billy Bear's Hanukkah

Surfing the Net: Hanukkah Coloring Book

History Channel: Amazing Hanukkah Feats (largest...)

Hanukkah in CyberSpace

ICJI: Chaunkah

Misrash Ben Ish Hai (Sepharadim customs)

WZO - Holidays with a Twist (Humor, 1996)

Virtual Chanukah (Russian, 1999)

Clipart for Hanukkah Clipart

Free Graphics Chanuka Graphics

Bitsela Hanukkah Clipart

Hanukah - Jewish Agency Pedagogic Center

JOI Hanukkah Activities

Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song (Humor)

Chanukka Midi Music

Chanukka Humor

RFCJ: Hanukah Recipes

Epicurious: Chanukkah Recipes

Blue Mountain Animated Greeting Cards

Care2 Animated Greeting Cards

123 Greetings

Sealing Wax Greeting Cards

Awesome Animated Greeting Cards

Judaic Greeting Cards by Raz

Greetz Greeting Cards Greeting Cards



Previous Shabbat-O-Grams can be accessed directly from our web site (



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, where you can also find some of my other writings and sermons. You can also check out my recent books, : Seeking God in Cyberspace and I Have Some Questions About God.  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  

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