Friday, May 18, 2007

May 18, 2007– Sivan 2, 5767


Happy Shavuot


Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, StamfordConnecticut


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Contents of the Shabbat O Gram:

(Click to scroll down)


Just the Facts (service schedule)  

The (Occasionally) Ranting Rabbi

Mitzvah/Tzedakkah Opportunities

Ask the Rabbi

 Spiritual Journey on the Web

    The Beth El Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary

Required Reading and Action Items (links to key articles on Israel and Jewish life

 Announcements (goings on in and around TBE)

Joke for the Week



Thus far, there have been 768 views of my initial foray into YouTube immortality:

Gates of Jerusalem, Gateways to Judaism

Thanks to those who have helped me with their comments.  I’m planning to work on sprucing up the “studio” and getting my mouth to move with the words, among other things.  Still it was nice to see that someone even “favorited” me! (OK, so it was my son…).  More YouTube features will be forthcoming, and I’d love to hear your ideas as to how we can use this tool.  For instance, someone suggested that families might want their bar mitzvah kids to put their speeches on our YouTube site, so the relatives living Far Far Away (the Shrek family, for instance) can see them.  Sounds good to me! 


Our Shavuot Schedule


On Shavuot eve., Tuesday at 8:oo PM here at TBE (note the change of location), we’ll prepare to receive the Torah yet again, with meditative and spirtual music and interpretive prayer, followed by dessert.  Then we’ll delve deeply into the timely topic of the grandeur that was Shavuot in ancient Jerusalem "Heavenly or Earthly: Will the Real Jerusalem Please Stand Up?"  The Tikkun Leyl Shavuot should rap up at about 10.

On Wednesday morning, the first day of Shavuot (at 9:30, as usual), we’ll be delighted to involve our students, in particular our day school students, in this service. We’ll also hear the traditional Akdamut prayer (see Shavuot links below for more info) We’ll have children’s services as well with Nurit (at 10:30) and at the end we’ll all come together to unroll a Torah so that each person, young and old, can personally receive the Torah. 

Then….we’ll have a scrumptious Shavuot Lunch featuring those well-known traditional dairy dishes: BLINTZES and PIZZA. I think it was Rabbi Akiva who recommended pizza… (please let me know if you would be interested in co-sponsoring the lunch).

On Thursday morning again at 9:30 (and again with Nurit at 10:30), our service will feature selections from the book of Ruth and then, after the Torah reading, Yizkor prayers, which will take place sometimes between 10:45 and 11 (I mention that knowing that many will be breaking away from other activities to join us).




Quote for the Week




"The Summer Day"
by Mary Oliver


Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?







Candle lighting: 7:42 pm on Friday, 18 MAY 2007.  For Havdalah times, other Jewish calendar information, and to download a Jewish calendar to your PDA, click on  To see the festivals of other faiths as well, go to  The United Synagogue has updated its candlelighting information. To learn more, click here.


Friday Evening:


Third Grade Shabbat Dinner – 6:30 PM


Tot Shabbat: 6:45 – in the chapel


Kabbalat Shabbat (including Third Grade Siddur Ceremony):

7:30 PM – in the SANCTUARY


Shabbat Morning:


Service begins at 9:30 AM




Children’s Services: 10:30 AM


Our Torah Portion for Shabbat Morning

Parashat Bamidbar

פרשת במדבר

Numbers 1:1 - 4:20

1: 3:14-20
2: 3:21-26
3: 3:27-39
4: 3:40-43
5: 3:44-51
6: 4:1-10
7: 4:11-20

Haftarah: Hosea 2:1 - 2:22

If you liked Storahtelling, Storahtelling’s new weekly blog about the Torah portion is at  Also check out Torahquest at  ORT Navigating the BibleRashi in EnglishBibleGateway: Useful for comparing different translations: Note- this is a Christian site.What’s

 Bothering Rashi (BonchekEach week, one example from the parashah is deconstructed. See a weekly commentary from the UJC Rabbinic Cabinet, at  Read the Masorti commentary at  University of Judaism,  JTS commentary is at: USCJ Torah Sparks can be found at: UAHC Shabbat Table Talk discussions are at are at  Other divrei Torah via the Torahnet home page: Test your Parasha I.Q.:’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  Also, try  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  Guided meditations for each portion by Judith Abrams at For online Parsha quizzes from Pardes in Israel, go to Torah for Kids:  Weekly Lesson of Popular Israeli Rabbi Mordechai Elon - and his parsha sheets:   From Bar Ilan University:


100 Blessings: Download information about the grace after meals (see Birkat Ha-mazon explained in Wikipedia and in the Jewish Virtual Library)  The actual prayer can be downloaded at Birkat Hamazon [pdf]

Morning Minyan

7:30 Weekdays, 9:30 Sundays







Ranting Rabbi


Conservative Movement at a Crossroads


          Join me this Sunday, May 20, at 10 AM in the chapel, for a discussion of the recent happenings in the Conservative Movement regarding inclusiveness in sexual orientation.  At that time I’ll explain recent law committee rulings and changes in JTS admissions policies, and what it all means for us at TBE.  While these changes have been years in the making, for many they seem earth-shaking.  As we absorb these shifts, lots of questions have come up. I would be delighted to answer any questions you may have and respond to your concerns, whether at this event or more privately.




At an adult ed class I was teaching last week, we were discussing roles people play in their work, and one of the participants happened to have with her a copy of an article I wrote 17 years ago for the now defunct Stamford Trader, for which I was a columnist (which is not why they are now defunct).   Although I wrote it at a completely different stage of life (0 kids, 1 dog), it is as relevant now as it was then, and not just for clergy but for everyone.




By Joshua Hammerman


                Lately, an unusual number of people have been asking me how I’m feeling.  I have Dr. Leslie Freedman to thank for that.  He’s the Stamford psychologist who conducted a survey that received front-page attention not long ago.  His results, made known a while back to rabbis, indicate that mine is a stress-inducing profession.  No kidding.


            Mr. Freedman backs this up with the revelation that the level of stress rabbis feel every day is measurably greater than that felt by inhabitants of Three Mile Island at the time of the nuclear accident in 1979.   After considering a move to Three Mile Island to relieve the stress, I’ve decided instead to confront this career meltdown issue head-on, before I become ground zero.


            According to Mr. Freedman, the primary factor behind this stress is the inability to separate the person from the role.  As he states, “A wide range of familial problems ensue when a man doesn’t keep clearly in mind the differences between being a husband, a parent, and a rabbi.”  The same holds true for clergy of all denominations and sexes, including Catholic priests, who, while they may have no spouse and children, have other family and most certainly have the need for a private life.


            No one is immune to role-related stress.  Like all professionals, rabbis must be able to draw the line clearly separating office from home.  One who preaches the necessity of spending more time with family must also create such opportunities for himself.  Mr. Freedman’s research shows that the rabbi who doesn’t take vacations and regular days off, thereby erasing that fine line separating his personally and congregational families, is heading for professional burnout and personally misery – and fast.


            But that doesn’t mean that the rabbi at the office and the parent or spouse at home have to be two different people.  On the contrary, he should be exactly the same person wherever he is.  And that is where I part company with Mr. Freedman’s conclusions.


            The conventional wisdom states that professional stress leads to career burnout.  I believe, conversely, that it is burnout which brings about the greatest stress.  The problem is not so much that a professional shouldn’t bring his role home with him as that he shouldn’t become that role, either at home or in the office, and lose himself in the process.


            Don Marquis, the American humorist, wrote, “There are two sorts of truth in all of us, that which the world sees, and that which we know.  Our deeds, which are known to all men, too often appear to us to be strange, inexplicable libels on ourselves.”


            Burnout occurs when our deeds become libels on ourselves.


            It occurs when a job becomes routine and tedious, when the vision that brought us to a particular calling is lost.  For a doctor, burnout happens when a patient becomes “the gall bladder in room 502”; for a rabbi, when a 13-year-old human bundle of complexity becomes “the Bar Mitzvah on the 12th.”  Burnout occurs when a given workday becomes exactly like the previous one, or, for a rabbi, when two consecutive services are exactly alike (and congregants begin nodding off with alarming regularity).


            A rabbi is to a large degree a professional human being, a seeker of truth, hired to keep others seeking, to keep them from burning out.  In a dehumanized world, mine is one of the few jobs left that brings out the human side of people.  That can only happen when the human being who happens to have the title “rabbi” is fully present.


            Burnout can occur in any profession at any age; it has little to do with dashed expectations and blunted idealism.  Professionals learn to adjust.  It has much more to do with sacrificing uniqueness for the sake of an assigned role.  The day I become the rabbi others expect me to be, the moment I become a symbol, a title, anything other that who I really am, that will be the day my career meltdown begins.


            It hasn’t happened yet, and I hope it never will.  But, for those who are concerned about my physical state, not to worry.  I feel fine.  A few sunny days off in the Bahamas last week did wonders for my stress level, even though Paradise Island was actually my second choice.  Three Mile Island, to my chagrin, was already fully booked.








Mitzvah/Tzedakkah Opportunties


Inreach and Outreach

Beth El Cares
Cathy Satz (968-9191;
Cheryl Wolff (968-6361;
BETH EL CARES co-chairs



Room Rental Requested


Lillian Wasserman is loved by so many of us through her many years of service to the Bi Cultural day school.  Lillian is looking to rent a room locally so that she will not have to commute from her daughter Rivka’s home in Westchester (which is logistically very difficult).  If you have a spare room available – maybe a child is leaving for college? - contact Rivka at




Is anyone interested in a social group or network that is geared toward Singles and Empty nesters?  

If so, please e-mail me at


Jeremy Simon’s Mitzvah Project


Jeremy Simon’s mitzvah project is collecting toys/games for children in the pediatric unit at Stamford Hospital.  When a child enters the hospital for day or in-patient surgery, they are given the opportunity to pick a toy from “David’s Treasure Tree Toy Closet”.  It is theirs to keep and gives them comfort while they are in the hospital.  The toys/games can be for younger kids through teenagers, preferably something they can play by themselves.  If you are interested in donating something, there is an orange container outside the temple office.  Please feel free to drop items in it and Jeremy will be delivering them in person to Stamford Hospital.  It is his hope that by doing this mitzvah, he will be making a small difference in someone else’s life.


A message from Bat Mitzvah student Emily katz


The holocaust was to "never happen again".  Yet today a genocide continues unnoticed in Dafur.  As we speak over 3.5 million men,women and children are left starving and homeless everyday. That is the reason I, have started to raise money for the people of Darfur.  Please help the people Dafur put out this genocide, so we know there will never again be another holocaust. Please go to this website and donate money for those people in Darur, every penny counts.  All money will be greatly appreciated.  Thank You!

Click on



Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Bennett Cancer Center Walk, Run & Ride


The Walk, Run & Ride will be on June 3, 2007 in the morning. Each year, more than 50 TBE members participate together to raise money for local cancer patients and their families.  Please join our team for 2007! 


We welcome ALL new and past walkers to the Sisterhood’s TBE Walk Team.  We always have a great time for a great cause.  You can walk at your own pace and you will have other TBE members to walk with!  Although there is no set amount for personal fundraising, please try to raise $100 in sponsorships.


2007 - New Start Location and Route: We will gather at Mill River Park in Stamford to walk/run a 5K route down Main Street, to Atlantic Street, up Bedford Street and down Summer Street.  The RIDE will feature a 50K and a 100K that loops through Stamford, New Canaan, Darien and back.


Important Information:  To participate please do the following:


§         Register on-line:  go to the new web-site  Follow the instructions to “register with an existing team”. 

§         Register by mail:  call Beth Silver for a participation form.

§         All participants receive an event t-shirt.  If you would like the TBE logo on the event t-shirt, you MUST contact Beth Silver before May 15 to place your order (even if you marked a t-shirt size on-line or by paper registration.  Beth doesn’t receive information about your TBE logo t-shirt order unless you contact her). 


Call or email Beth Silver for details at 967-8852, or  If you are unable to join the team this year, please consider donating or sponsoring the TBE team.  We will walk on your behalf!


Looking forward to having YOU on the team!    


Thank you!


Sisterhood of TBE

Free Them Now


Ehud Goldwasser         Eldad Regev            Gilad Schalit

 Kidnapped Israeli Soldiers


 Click for more information

 Sign the petition at



The Highest Level of Tzedakkah

(career opportunities)

 Wanted for 12 hours per week - busy audiology office.  Mostly mornings can be flexible.

Some office experience would be helpful.

Fax resume to 203-329-2449

Any questions, please call Bette Estes at 203-536-4760 ( only for TBE inquiries)



About the Foundation


The mission of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) is to support and foster the provision of healthcare services, healthcare education, and, when reasonable and appropriate, medical and scientific research, and to respond to the medical, custodial and other health-related needs of elderly, underprivileged, indigent and under-served persons in both the Jewish and general community throughout Western Pennsylvania. 


The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) was established in 1990 with proceeds from the sale of Montefiore Hospital, a healthcare institution financed and founded by Pittsburgh's Jewish community. The hospital opened in 1908 to meet the healthcare needs of a Jewish population that was both expanding and underserved at the time. It became a respected teaching institution, pioneering advancements in medicine and public health benefiting the total community, and providing medical care in a compassionate environment and with an understanding of Jewish people and their needs. Renamed Montefiore University Hospital, the institution is today part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.


The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) continues to establish educational programs, pioneer advancements in medicine, and public health advocacy and be actively involved in community. To learn more about the Foundation visit their website:


Vice President for Workforce Development


The Vice President will report to Karen Feinstein, President, JHF and will develop and manage program activities dedicated to aligning workforce needs in the health sector with workforce availability.  Building the quality of the health workforce requires new curricula in professional education, a steady stream of qualified new entrants, workforce retention strategies and on-site training in work process improvement. Foundation grants and programs supplement standard academic curricula with new methods in quality improvement, care giving, information technology and safety science. 


Specifically, the Vice President will direct Health Careers Futures (HCF). HCF aims to revitalize the regional healthcare workforce by aligning the supply of and demand for workers and supporting regional economic development. HCF strengths are information and resource gathering and distribution, and healthcare workforce innovation. HCF programs increase regional recruitment and retention capacity and provide better support for training in health careers. HCF is the hub of regional health workforce initiatives and acts as the Healthcare Industry Partnership Coordinator for Southwestern Pennsylvania.


The Vice President will be responsible for shaping significant grant making and policy initiatives in the area of regional healthcare workforce development. Specifically, the Vice President will review the current status of the field; formulate strategies to increase workforce related performance of the public, private and non-profit sectors; prepare recommendations for funding; and work with a very broad range of private and civic organizations within both the economic development and education sectors. This is a full time senior staff position with a unique philanthropic organization that makes and receives grants in the areas of health workforce development, quality and safety, public health.


The broad goals for the Vice President include:


·         Directing Health Careers Futures (HCF) a supporting organization of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation dedicated to aligning workforce needs in the health sector with workforce availability and supervises staff assigned to HCF projects;


·         Establishing a new Center for Complementary Learning within HCF that builds school/work partnerships;


·         Interfacing with major public and private entities such as the workforce Investment Board, Public Schools, health employers;


·         Supervising a staff of health educators, program developers, researchers; and


·         Communicating issues and challenges relative to the crisis in the health workforce to the media and key stakeholders - familiarity with health, education and labor force sectors.


Professional Qualifications and Personal Attributes


·         Ability to inspire trust, organize people into teams, and motivate them to work well together, including those that cross racial, ethnic and cultural lines;


·         Ability to perform effectively under pressure and to practice strong organizational skills when faced with multiple, time-sensitive priorities;


·         Possessing an entrepreneurial spirit and an ability to think strategically, tactically and creatively;


·         High intelligence and decisiveness, along with good humor and a high energy level;


·         10 years professional experience including grant development and management;


·         Excellent writing, presentation, research and evaluation skills; and


·         Graduate degree in health sciences, public health, business, public policy, education or related field.




Compensation for the Vice President for Workforce Development includes a competitive base salary, and an excellent employee benefits package.


To Apply:


Please send a cover letter and resume in confidence to:

Daniel A. Sherman


Explore Company







What is Pirke Avot?

Pirke Avot, also known as “Ethics of the Fathers (or, gender-neutrally, “Ancestors,”) is part of the Talmud, but a unique literary unit unto itself.  It was composed in the first couple of centuries of the common era (and the rabbinic era) as a means of solidifying the rabbi’s influence over the people.  It is also an instruction manual for the rabbis themselves.  It contains some of the most well-known and significant values of Jewish life, including aphorisms like “If I am not for myself, who will be for me… and If not now, when?”  Each one is attributed to a rabbi of that time and a chain of tradition is established going all the way back to Moses at Sinai (that’s the part where the rabbis try to justify their role as natural leaders of the Jews) but focusing on the early rabbinic period itself, beginning with sages like the great Hillel.

It is customary to study chapters of Pirke Avot (which literally means “chapters of our ancestors”) during the period between Passover and Shavuot, as we prepare ourselves spiritually to receive the Torah.  A nice web site where this practice is being followed is the Reconstructionist Federation – see it at  This week’s commentary is based on chapter 4, verse 25,



"Elisha ben Avuyah taught: That which one learns in youth is like ink written on clean paper; that which one learns in old age is like ink written on blotted paper."

The questions raised there focus on the difference between knowledge and wisdom and the issue of how “wise” can we really be when we are young?  Here is the link to the Pirke Avot text online, from the Gutenberg Project, ( which seeks to make famous texts in the public domain accessible on the Internet (everything from the Bible to Alice in Wonderland):


Chapter 1
   Chapter 2
   Chapter 3
   Chapter 4





Spiritual Journey on the Web


Here’s some good Shavuot material from the JTS Website…

What is a Jew? Shavuot

 In "What is a Jew? Shavuot

," Rabbi Ismar Schorsch and Larry Josephson discuss Shavuot.

 Shavuot Together is an interactive guide to the holiday. Study Torah with us! We also have a kids and parents page translated into Spanish.

 Previous year essays by Chancellor Schorsch5754575957605762, and 5763.
Previous year essays by The Rabbinic Fellows: 5762, and 5763.
We also have a special commentary on Yizkor.

 In "'And the two went on': Ruth as Daughter, Wife and Friend," Dr. Eliezer Diamond discusses his love affair with Ruth.

Learn the who's, what's, where's, when's, and why's for Shavuot.

 In "Thou Shalt Eat Blintzes," Johanna Ginsberg discusses the traditional Shavuot menu and its meaning.

 In "Shavuot: Rededicating Ourselves to Battling Jewish Illiteracy," Chancellor Ismar Schorsch issues a call to action to reinvigorate Jewish knowledge of Hebrew.

 If your tastes run towards Torah and treats, grab a tanakh and an apron, and prepare our Bible Cake. Or, Nora K's Cheesecake is a delicious recipe for a traditional Shavuot dessert.

 In All-Night Learning for Shavuot: You Can Do It!, Esther Kustanowitz gives some advice on how to stay awake through your tikkun leil Shavuot.

 Color in the page for Shavuot. Our Holiday Coloring Book shows everyone enjoying and celebrating Shavuot.

The Shavuot Guide is a multi-faceted way to learn about Shavuot with the whole family, created by JTS graduate Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner.

 In "First Fruits," Rabbi Allan Kensky discusses the meaning of Shavuot and its connection to Passover.


And From…(



Overview: Shavuot Themes & Theology

The festival of Shavuot transformed from a purely agricultural into a historical and religious holiday. Originally mentioned in the Torah as a harvest festival, over time it took on new meanings so that now--like the other pilgrimage festivals--Shavuot has an agricultural, a historical, and a religious significance. These meanings contain a number of themes, including counting and marking time, a period of sadness leading to a time of explicit joy, and the mystical idea of marriage between God and Israel.

 The themes are reflected in the numerous names for the holiday. The agricultural is apparent in "Hag HaKatzir" (Harvest Festival) and "Yom HaBikkurim" (festival of first fruits); the marking of time is apparent in "Shavuot" (festival of weeks) and "Atzeret," a name from the Talmudic period meaning a cessation of something or a solemn assembly; and the historical and religious are apparent in "Zeman Matan Torateinu," the time of the gift of Torah.

Shavuot is a festival that marks the end of counting (sefirah) that began on the second evening of Pesach (Passover). This span of time bridged the barley and wheat harvests when people were supposed to bring offerings of both to the Temple. The agricultural origin of the festival is still remembered and highlighted in the Book of Ruth that is read on Shavuot. The story takes place during the seasonal harvest associated with the holiday. Ruth, a Moabite woman who chose to join her mother-in-law Naomi's people, is seen as the paradigmatic convert to Judaism. In a sense, she was the first to reject her own ancestral faith and willingly take on Jewish law and tradition. In this way, the book reflects both the agricultural and the historical significance of the festival.

In post-biblical times, the rabbis calculated that the sixth of the month of Sivan, the day of Shavuot, was the day the Israelites received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. Thus, Shavuot became the festival marking the reception of Torah, when the Israelites had experienced Revelation. Shavuot was consequently transformed into a festival that not only had agricultural significance, but also marked the birthday of the covenant between God and Israel. For traditionalist Jews who believe in "Torah min hashamayim" (direct revelation of God to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai), Shavuot marks a specific historical anniversary. All branches of Judaism view the Torah as a divine gift--whether inspired or revealed. Thus, for every Jewish denomination, Shavuot is a festival that highlights the fundamental truth and importance of the moral law of Torah.

Jewish mysticism has also influenced Shavuot. For mystics, God is like a groom and Israel is like a bride. Shavuot then becomes the anniversary of the marriage between God and Israel. Other mystical parallels are made. Marking the material wheat harvest on Shavuot, the people were to bring two loaves of bread as an offering in the Temple. This mirrored the spiritual "harvest" of Shavuot, the two tablets of the Law. The counting or "sefirah" (the 7 x 7 weeks of the omer) also has mystical implications. The number seven equals the days of creation. The word "sefirah" is also the word for each of the levels of divine emanation in Jewish mysticism. Of the ten levels, the lower seven are believed to be within human apprehension.

During the second century, the omer period leading up to Shavuot changed from a time of happiness of anticipation of the harvest, to one of sadness. There are a number of reasons given for this. The one most frequently mentioned is the legendary plague that purportedly killed 12,000 of Rabbi Akiba's students. However, other theories posit that once Shavuot was recognized as the anniversary of Revelation, the period leading up to it necessarily became one of apprehension and trepidation. Another interesting theory relates the apprehension to the agricultural harvest itself. The omer period was when fruit ripened, and thus the fate of the season's crops was determined. Indeed the Talmud views Shavuot as the day when the world is judged regarding the fruit of the trees. There also is a logical historical reason for the fact the omer period became a time of sadness. After the Temple was destroyed in the first century CE, the people could no longer bring their offerings. Jews would still mark the time, however. The time was now sad because of the need to commemorate the festival "l'zekher lamikdash" (in memory of the Temple) rather than at the Temple itself.

Shavuot is a day of great joy, marking the end of the sadness and commemorating the joy of receiving the Torah. Consequently, for a few hundred years Shavuot has been the time when young children begin their study of Torah. The joy of Torah learning is often demonstrated physically by giving children candy or allowing them to lick honey off the page being studied.



The Beth El Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary



Excerpts from Alyssa Gold’s D’var Torah on B’har


My portion summarizes the book of Leviticus and contains a number of important guidelines for being a better person.   In preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, I have examined these rules in light of the wisdom I have gained in all of my 13 years of life.


My friends are often asking me for advice, on matters ranging from math problems to hair.  Now, with the help of my portion, I’ve come up with my own personal Talmud for Teens, a listing of laws that come from my portion that apply to the everyday life of the average teenage Jew in 2007. 


Welcome to Alyssa 101:


Rule number one: Take care of your room if you want to live in it.  My portion commands us to take care of the land, for it belongs to God.  For a teen, this means, clean up your room – for your room belongs to your parents.  My parents will attest to the fact that my room is ALWAYS very clean.  Right mom and dad? (wait for parents to answer)

Rule number two: Don’t be afraid to lend something to someone.  This happens to teens all the time.  When a friend asks to borrow your ipod, shirt, bracelet, or anything else, share it. My portion instructions us to share what we have and not to let anyone, including strangers or slaves, go hungry.


Rule number three: Give your time, energy, and money to less fortunate people. This relates to my Torah portion because it states that poverty and slavery are not to be perpetuated. I incorporated this concept into my mitzvah projects.  By donating the stuffed animals on the bimah to Beit Hayeled, a home in Israel for abused or orphaned children, I am hoping to bring a little happiness to these children’s’ lives.  I was told that many of these children have nothing, not even a stuffed animal to sleep with at night. I am also sponsoring a girl, named Shira, who lives in Beit Hayeled, so she can become a bat-mitzvah too. I can share a milestone with her that she would not be able to enjoy otherwise.  We are planning to spend time together when I visit Israel next month.


By donating at least 10 inches of my hair to Locks of Love in a few weeks, I will be helping a child who has lost her hair to chemotherapy because of cancer or other illnesses. I will be donating something very precious to me to someone who needs it more than I do.


Rule number four:  My portion speaks of the special holiness of the land of Israel, where even the land got to rest every seventh year.  Everywhere is beautiful, but Israel is the most beautiful place of all. I traveled to Israel once before, 3 years ago with our temple trip, and I plan to return next month, where I will read torah at the Western Wall.  Next to camp, Israel is my favorite place in the world, and I’m so glad that it is mentioned in my Torah portion.


Rule number five: Don’t take advantage of or oppress anyone.  I interpreted this to include things that teens often do, like going into stores to try on clothes you do not plan to buy.  Why is this considered oppressing someone?  Because the sales person could have made a sale while she was helping you when you had no intention of ever buying the clothes.  

Rule number six: Take care of everyone, but put your family first.  In my portion, it says that if a person is poor, then his family should come to redeem him.  I’ve always felt that family is very important – and I’m glad that my family has always been there for me.


 So there you have it:  Alyssa 101 – Six Rules for Teens in 2007, straight from the Torah and Alyssa Gold herself. 

I would also like to welcome the Tzahal soldiers. It is so special to have them here. My family hosted a soldier four years ago. Her name is Karen and she is still in the military as a major. We plan to see her when we return to Israel. Personally, I feel very connected to the program. My mother co-chaired the program for two years, and it was fascinating to meet the soldiers and listen to their individual stories in the army. I encourage you to help provide a special welcome to them to our temple and our community.


Last, I would like to thank Rabbi Hammerman, Cantor Littman, Bracha Moshe, and all of my Hebrew school teachers over the past years, a very special thank you to Mara Hammerman for putting up with me. Thank you to all of you for sharing this special day with me. It means a lot to my family and me.




Required Reading and Action Items



Some GOOD NEWS from Israel 21c,,

 and other sources



An article about – an Orthodox website making the case for sexual abstinence among teens:


Novel airline seat eases 'economy class syndrome', helps reduce risks of deep vein thrombosis  
About 200,000 Americans die of complications due to DVT (deep vein thrombosis) every year, and about half of these deaths are thought to be related to air flights. Nicknamed the 'economy class syndrome', DVT is the formation of a blood clot in one of the deep veins of the body, usually the legs, and occurs mostly in people who have been immobile for long periods, such as a flight. A new study has shown, however, that the NewSit, an Israeli-developed airline seat that allows air travelers to move their legs more freely during a flight, could reduce the risk of DVT in air travelers "After sitting on the conventional seat, volunteers saw the venous volume of their leg swell by about 26 percent, while after sitting on the NewSit swelling increased by just 3%. This means that the blood circulation was close to normal," says NewSit inventor Arnold Jonas. More...


Technology | Israel's IAI tapped by EU to develop environmentally friendly air travel  
Israel's aviation giant, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is taking part in a new EU-funded research and development project to find ways to radically improve the impact of air transport on the environment. The company, which is considered a major source of innovative technology, is the only one outside the EU to be invited to become a major partner in this new initiative. IAI's role in the program is to help build environmentally friendly parts for aircraft, increase the life of aircraft structural parts, and recycle aircraft by-products that cannot be discarded. More...


Technology | IBM Israel helps small businesses solve daily tasks  
Thanks to the research department at its Israel headquarters, IBM has released a free Web application development tool made to allow people without technical skills in small businesses and other organizations to create applications that solve daily tasks. The Development Engagement Service (DevEngage) requires no programming skills and easily develops online forms for any small business' tasks, including Human Resources, Finance, Sales or Marketing, that automate common manual processes, such as the collection and analysis of information. By giving users easy tools to create simple applications themselves, this eliminates wait time required when a typical employee issues an application development request through an IT department. More...


Culture | Donna Karan sets her designs on Israel  
International fashion guru Donna Karan recently returned to Israel to reacquaint herself with the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design - the country's top design institution. Besides teaching a master class, setting up a scholarship and opening an exhibit on her work, Karan ended up being so enthralled by the work the school's textile department that she shipped all the designs she saw to her office in New York, and even invited a student to work for her this summer. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate these young designers," said Karan. "It's truly an honor to be around such inspiration." More...


Technology | Israeli researcher discovers new fungus that could provide low-cost alternative fuel  
As concerns over global warming grow, the world is searching for new environmentally friendly fuels to replace polluting oil. One of the most interesting alternatives is bioethanola petrol derived from sugar cane and corn biomass. The only problem is that currently production is expensive and wasteful. Now an Israeli researcher has found the solution - fungus. Dr. Amir Sharon's transgenic fungus is strong enough to convert even the most resilient plant parts into bioethanol, leading the way forward for industry to create an efficient, low-cost alternative fuel from plants. More...


Jerusalem Day Parades - May 15-16, 2007 - 585 Pictures - Jacob Richman


Israel to Join OECD (Israel Foreign Ministry)
    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Council, meeting in Paris Wednesday, approved a decision to open accession discussions with Israel.
    The decision attests to respect for the Israeli economy and constitutes international recognition of the State of Israel's achievements as a democratic and developing country, and of its ability to contribute to the global economy.



now for the rest

 Prime source: Daily Alert of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs


Unity Fractures as Palestinians Battle in Gaza - Steven Erlanger
At least 19 Palestinians were killed on Wednesday - more than 40 have been killed over the past four days - in fighting between Fatah and Hamas as their unity government fractures and rage rises on both sides. Hamas attacked symbols of Fatah power in Gaza; after a mortar attack, 200 armed men of the Hamas occupied the home of the chief security commander. He was not there, but six bodyguards were killed. (New York Times)
    See also 
Gaza City: "A City of Corpses and Ghosts" - Sakher Abu el-Oun
"Even during the Israeli occupation the situation wasn't this terrible," says Um Mohammed, praying for an end to the lethal Palestinian infighting raging outside her Gaza City home. Fear reigns throughout the city, deserted but for prowling groups of armed men, loyal to rivals Hamas or Fatah, living on a daily diet of ambushes, kidnappings and assassinations. Dozens of snipers on the rooftops of the tallest buildings open fire seemingly on anything that moves. "We can't go near the window, let alone on the balcony. We have all become targets," says Um Mohammed. "This is a city of corpses and ghosts." (AFP/Yahoo)
    See also 
AP Reporter in Gaza: "This Is the Worst It's Been" - Ibrahim Barzak
On Wednesday, I saw several people shot in front of my building, I heard the screams of terrified women and children in a burning building, and I argued with gunmen who tried to take over my home. I have seen a lot in my years as a journalist in Gaza, but this is the worst it's been. (AP/Washington Post)
    See also below Observations: Solution for PA Anarchy? - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News); 
Salvation in Occupation - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)

U.S. Urges Sanctions Against Tehran - David R. Sands
The U.S. Tuesday called for tough international action against Iran after reports that international inspectors have concluded Tehran has made major technical strides in recent days toward processing nuclear fuel. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the Bush administration is prepared to press for a new round of UN sanctions if Iran defies resolutions calling on it to halt the enrichment of uranium. "What is obvious to everyone is that Iran has continued to act in defiance of the wishes of the international community," Casey said. "We need to continue to apply pressure and increase pressure with an additional Security Council resolution if they don't comply." (Washington Times)

New Bill Would Allow Iran Energy Divestments - Chris Baltimore
U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday introduced new legislation that would protect fund managers and state pension programs from shareholder lawsuits if they divest stakes in energy companies that do business with Iran. Rather than taking punitive action, the new legislation would authorize state and local governments and private fund-managers to divest assets for companies that invest over $20 million in Iran's energy sector, which the U.S. government would publish in a list every six months.
    The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2007 was introduced in the Senate by Illinois Democrat Barack Obama and in the House of Representatives by Democratic Reps. Barney Frank and Tom Lantos. Fund managers that choose to divest could do so "without breaching their fiduciary responsibilities to their investors," and thus dodge class-action lawsuits from disapproving investors, Frank said. A report by the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service found more than $100 billion in energy investments in Iran since 1999 by such foreign firms as France's Total, Royal Dutch ShellItaly's ENI and Inpex of Japan. (Reuters/Washington Post)
    See also 
U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Intensify Economic Pressure on Iran, Syria - Dan Robinson
Tom Lantos, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asserts the divestment measure will also encourage moderate elements in Iran opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies. "This will strengthen their hand, it will weaken the Iranian economy, and it will contribute we hope peacefully to undermining this regime which has been so negative, both in terms of the freedom of the Iranian people internally and Iran's global position." Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced a bill last week to strengthen existing U.S. sanctions against Syria and support what it calls a transition to a democratically elected government in Syria. (VOA News)

Palestinian Rocket Hits Israeli High School, Wounds Two - Shmulik Hadad
A high school in Israel was directly hit by a Palestinian rocket
 Thursday. Two people were lightly wounded in the attack, and several others suffered from shock. The rocket landed on an unfortified classroom, which was empty at the time. (Ynet News)
    See also 
Palestinian Bombardment of Sderot Continues Thursday
Kassam rockets continued to bombard Sderot on Thursday. By 9 a.m., four rocket hits had been reported. On Wednesday night, a Kassam rocket hit a four-story apartment building in the city. Another rocket hit a transformer, knocking out electricity in parts of the city. Earlier Wednesday, the Sderot Municipality prepared to temporarily evacuate 4,000 residents, 16% of the city's 24,000 residents. (Jerusalem Post)
    See also 
Sderot: Woman Wounded in Palestinian Rocket Barrage - Shmulik Hadad
As Palestinian terror groups launched over thirty Kassam rockets at Israel in 24 hours, a 70-year-old Israeli woman was evacuated to Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon on Wednesday in moderate-to-serious condition with injuries to her limbs and stomach. A second resident was lightly wounded. (Ynet News)
    See also 
Constant Terror in Sderot - Masha Rifkin
As I write this, Kassam rockets are hitting Sderot. Children are screaming, mothers are collapsing in despair, and doctors are pulling shrapnel out of the bodies of Jews. Cornell University junior Masha Rifkin of Newton, Massachusetts, is a volunteer at the Mishol social work office in Sderot. (Jerusalem Post)

IDF Bombs Hamas Offices in Retaliation for Rocket Barrage - Amos Harel
Israel Air Force jets bombed a Hamas headquarters in Rafah, the first such air strike against a Hamas target in more than six months, killing four Palestinians and injuring 20 others - all Hamas militants.
 The air force also killed a Hamas rocket crewman on the outskirts of Gaza City. (Ha'aretz)

Death Rattle of Another Mideast Plan - Matthew Kalman
Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton has joined a growing line of American mediators who have come up with intelligent and far-reaching security plans for the Palestinians, only to see their blueprints mown down in a barrage of automatic weapons fire. Dayton's benchmarks, circulated to Israeli and Palestinian leaders last month, called for a phased easing of restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and their goods, the removal of Israeli checkpoints, and the opening of a safe passage across Israel from Gaza to the West Bank. Israel was also to supply weapons and equipment to security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinians were to stop smuggling weapons, explosives and ammunition across the Gaza-Egypt border and to stop firing rockets at Israeli towns from Gaza. Dayton's plan - like those of his well-meaning predecessors - makes sense on paper, yet has proved to be far detached from the grim reality on the ground. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Springtime for Iran - Editorial
It's spring in Iran, a time when a hard-line Islamic regime's thoughts turn to repression and crackdowns. These days the Modesty Police roam the streets of Tehran, stopping women who dress inappropriately. Their targets: women who wear small head scarves or short, tight coats or cosmetics or bright nail polish or large sunglasses or short socks ... just about anything that may be deemed un-Islamic. Most get a warning, which is better than it was in the early days of the Islamic revolution. Then, violators were fined, jailed and flogged.
    We can understand why the rulers of Iran are sensitive. They're driving the country deeper and deeper into isolation - with two sets of UN sanctions in place and more likely coming - all to keep an outlaw nuclear program going. Despite the country's oil wealth, the Iranian economy is feeble; the good times promised by Ahmadinejad haven't materialized, and never will without serious market reforms. (Chicago Tribune)

Next Target for Palestinian Rockets May Be Ashkelon, Defense Officials Warn - Ronny Sofer (Ynet News)
    Ashkelon could be the next target of Palestinian rocket attacks, defense officials warned during a security consultation at the Prime Minister's Office Wednesday.
    The defense establishment and the civil authorities were instructed to prepare for the possibility of long-range rocket attacks, which may come in response to Israel's decision Wednesday to discontinue its policy of restraint in the Gaza Strip.
    Officials said Hamas was trying to drag Israel into Gaza to force the battling Palestinian factions to unite and redirect their hostilities against Israel.
    Terror groups in Gaza have Soviet-made Grad (Katyusha) rockets with a 22-km. range.

Solution for PA Anarchy? - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)  



MYTH #263

"East Jerusalem should be part of a Palestinian state because all its residents are Palestinian Arabs and no Jews have ever lived there."


Before 1865, the entire population of Jerusalem lived behind the Old City walls (what today would be considered part of the eastern part of the city). Later, the city began to expand beyond the walls because of population growth, and both Jews and Arabs began to build in new areas of the city.

By the time of partition, a thriving Jewish community was living in the eastern part of Jerusalem, an area that included the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. This area of the city also contains many sites of importance to the Jewish religion, including the City of David, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. In addition, major institutions such as Hebrew University and the original Hadassah Hospital are on Mount Scopus — in eastern Jerusalem.

The only time that the eastern part of Jerusalem was exclusively Arab was between 1949 and 1967, and that was because Jordan occupied the area and forcibly expelled all the Jews.

This article can be found at

Source: Myths & Facts Online -- A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard.




TBE’s own Lisa Bloch Rodwin (daughter of Larry and Steffi Bloch) will be appearing for the second time on Oprah Winfrey Show, next Wed., May 23.


Now serving as Bureau Chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau of the Erie County (BuffaloNew York) District Attorney’s office, Lisa won a case that attracted national attention.  Last year she appeared on Diane Sawyer’s “20/20” program describing the case.  Oprah, a crusader against domestic violence, invited both the victim and Lisa to appear on her national show on May 8th.  On May 23rd, Oprah has asked Lisa to reappear in Chicago to discuss this case and the subject of domestic violence.


Lisa, who was a member of Beth El’s Confirmation class of 1973, graduated from Douglas College of Rutgers University (Magna cum Laude) in 1979.  After moving to Buffalo she graduated from SUNY – Buffalo Law School, and joined the D.A.’s office I 1985.  A decade later, as the Domestic Violence Bureau was being created, Lisa was asked to take charge.


Among the thousands of cases handled annually by this office, a recent case came to national attention.  The assault was carried out in front of the victims two sons, age 13 and 8.  The husband asked his son to video tape the beating, and the tape was shown to the jury.  After the verdict of guilty, the defendant was sentenced to 36 years at Attica State Prison.  This was the longest sentence ever passed in a domestic violence case in New York State.


Parts of this video plus interviews with both the victim and Lisa were included in the May 8th program.  As a result of tremendous interest in the program (via e-mails and computer ‘hits’) Oprah has invited Lisa and the victim’s children to reappear on May 24th @ 4:00 PM.


Lisa and her husband Michael Rickert, a cancer researcher at Roswell Institute, live in Amherst, New York.



Support our Temple Gift Shop! 


Please join us in a Parlor Meeting

Come learn about the formation of a Jewish pluralistic High School in Southern Connecticut and the benefits of a Jewish high school experience for students and their community. This meeting is for everyone interested in Jewish education.

Our guest speakers will include:

Rabbi Danny Lehmann  Head Master of  Gann Academy / The New Jewish High School in Greater Boston who will share his insights and experiences as he celebrates the school’s 10th anniversary and

 Dr. Doug Lyons Director of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools.

Graciously Hosted by Betty and Ronaldo Steinberg


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Dinner will be served (dietary laws observed)

Please RSVP to Susan Birke Fiedler at or call 203-389-5888



The Fairfield County Jewish Couples 20s/30s Meetup Group

Meet other local Jewish couples. It is always nice to have one thing already in common. We are not religion pushers or ultra-religous people. We are just a group of couples looking to find a social network in Fairfield County.

You know that stage, college is over, the real world began. Yet you aren't in the children phases yet. How do you meet people? Dinner parties, Drinks, Friends to share and celebrate your birthday with...


Saturday, June 16, 2007, 7:00 PM 2007


(A location for this event hasn't been chosen yet)


Join Us for our very first Meetup! We are thinking of having everyone over to our house. A BBQ just to get to know everyone. No specific activities. Nothing is set in stone-so if you have any ideas bring them on!

Looking forward to meeting everyone!





USY is Having
a Scavenger Hunt in the
Palisades Center! 










COST: $30!

WHEN: Sunday, May 20th

TIME: Meet at Temple Beth-El at 1pm

Plan to be picked up at 7pm


Don’t forget to bring spending money!

We’ll have one hour to shop.


Please RSVP by emailing

And by bringing in a check + a signed waiver to the

Hebrew school office no later than Wednesday May, 16th.




The world’s only “blintz joke,” in honor of Shavuot


A Jew was walking on Regent Street in London and stopped in to a posh gourmet food shop. An impressive salesperson in morning coat with tails approached him and politely asked, "May I help you, Sir?"

"Yes," replied the customer, "I would like to buy a pound of lox."

"No. No," responded the dignified salesperson, "You mean smoked salmon."

"Okay, a pound of smoked salmon."

"Anything else?"

"Yes, a dozen blintzes."

"No. No. You mean crepes."

"Okay, a dozen crepes."

"Anything else?"

 A pound of chopped liver."

 No. You mean pate."

"Okay," said the Jewish patron, "A pound of pate. And," he added, "I'd like you to deliver this to my house next Saturday."

"Look," retorted the indignant salesperson, "We don't schlep on Shabbos."



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

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