Friday, February 14, 2003

Shabbat-O-Gram, February 14-21, 2003, I Adar 13-20, 5763

Shabbat-O-Gram, February 14-21, 2003, I Adar 13-20, 5763

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut


Shabbat ShalomHappy Valentines Day and Happy President’s Day

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



Aside from all these American holidays that we celebrate this weekend, it’s also just one month before Purim – in fact, this weekend is called “Purim Katan,” the “Little Purim,” since it is a leap year, and this is the same time in Adar 1 that Purim will fall during Adar 2.  if you can figure that out, you definitely are ready for Purim!  And we need you to help us plan our second annual “Purim for Adults” Megilla reading and program on Purim night.  If you have any ideas on how to make it as raucous and fun as possible, let me know at One idea that has emerged is to have people write funny Purim lyrics to popular songs.  If you have a particular talent at parody and humor, let’s see what you can do!  BTW, you can see more about Purim Katan at, and




“E-mail from the Front” 

I keep hearing from people who are enjoying reading my correspondences with my sister in Israel.  As these fateful weeks continue, more new “E-mail from the Front” keeps coming in.  Go to and scroll down to the most recent entries.



An Important Message About Homeland Insecurity…


This week, a student of mine (an adult, studying for conversion), commented that he was having trouble understanding how it was so possible for so many to hate Jews so viciously.  And then he heard what is being said about Americans by so many millions in the Moslem world and in Europe, and he understood.


Just when we thought we could begin to overcome all the negative reasons to be “proud and Jewish,” history has conspired to throw us back in a funk.  Now, not only does everyone call us terrible things, but also we’re afraid to go to our synagogues to discover the more positive truth.  The Code Orange alert has singled out Jewish places of worship as a possible terrorist target.  So how can we find that comfort that we all seek, right here in our sanctuaries?


To that I have but one response: Come here and find out.


More than ever, we need you here.  We need a Miracle Minyan, not to wallow in our misery, nut to lift us from our woes.  Yes, we need your presence here to show defiance in the face of terrorist threat, but not merely for that purpose.  We need you here to celebrate (and this week we do have lots to celebrate), to partake in the wonder of simply being alive.  We need you here to help us all transcend the week that that we have just gone through, and the trying weeks that are to sure come.


We need you here – and you need to be here.


So be here, this Friday night and Shabbat morning.  Through the horrors we have experienced over the past few years, and in the forecast of an uncertain future, I invite you back to a place of comfort and respite: the synagogue.  

Come here and you’ll quickly discover that Judaism is at its best in a foxhole.  Our prayers remind us, now more than ever, that all of life is precarious, and that any semblance of control is illusory. There simply is no excuse for boredom.  Angry at God? Fine. Despondent? Understandable. We’ll all be struggling to find meaning in the words we utter. But if you are bored, you’re on another planet.

The uncertainties of the moment do test our faith, but the Jewish spirit has always soared highest when put to such a test Hold a neighbor’s hand.  Wipe a stranger’s tear.  His son might be headed toward the front.  Her nephew might live in harm’s way.  Come to think of it, don’t we all?  Imagine the poets of the prayer book, who endured similar traumas when composing their masterworks. Hear their pleas, amidst the fire, the hated massacres. Hear the bombs. Hear the cries.  Here their psalms.  And make their words our own.

Then maybe, just perhaps, from the pit of the foxhole, you’ll hear yourself praying.




Friday Night:

Beginning this week, I’ll be incorporating more explanations of the prayers into the weekly Kabbalat Shabbat service

Candles: 5:09 PM  

Tot Shabbat: 6:30 PM, in the lobby

Kabbalat Shabbat: 7:30 PM, in the lobby


Shabbat Morning:

Service: 9:30 AM

Mazal Tov to Harrison Shapiro, who becomes Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat morning

Children’s services: 10:30 AM

Torah Portion: Tetzaveh  

Read the Masorti commentary at JTS commentary is at: USCJ Torah Sparks can be found at UAHC Shabbat Table Talk discussions are at Other divrei Torah via the Torahnet home page: Test your Parasha I.Q.: CLAL's Torah commentary archive:  Nehama Liebowitz archives of parsha commentaries:  For a more Kabbalistic/Zionist perspective from Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, go to

Morning MinyanDaily at 7:30 AM, Sunday at 9:00 AM in the chapel (Monday, Presidents Day, at 9:00 AM)

Reminder of our “No School No Shul” policy: On days when Stamford public schools are cancelled or delayed, morning minyan is also cancelled.  On Sunday, when our religious school is cancelled because of weather, minyan is also cancelled.   Friday night and Shabbat morning services are never cancelled, but people are asked to use their own good judgment (we call it “sechel”) on days when the weather is very bad.




Please note: USCJ has established a new listserv,, for families of our Jewish active military.  TheBrave@USCJ is a new listserv established and hosted by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism for the families of  Jewish active duty military.   Our servicemen and women face the uncertainties of the coming months ; those who love them are discovering the need to be brave, just as those who serve.  This listserv provides a place for family members to feel
connected to others who understand this unique challenge.  To subscribe to the list, simply send an E-Mail message to with NO SUBJECT (some providers demand one so use a "," or a SPACE) and type "subscribe the brave Your Name" as the message.  
Or join the list via the web at:




Spiritual Journey on the Web 







Light, Truth, Tetzaveh and Yale University


A quickie for this week:


This week’s portion, Tetzaveh, introduces the concept of an eternal light that was lit continuously in the sanctuary in the wilderness.  It brings to mind some interesting questions regarding Jewish customs having to do with light.


According to the Shulchan Aruch (16th century code of Jewish law), it is customary to have twelve windows in the synagogue, corresponding to the 12 tribes of Israel.  The most famous example of that is the Chagall Windows at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, which you can see at The famous “Old/New” Synagogue in Prague also has 12 windows (   Fittingly, we have the 12 tribes depicted as stained glass windows, above the ark.  Of course, we have numerous other windows in our sanctuary, plus replicas of the 7-branched menorah of the ancient temple, as well as the eternal light. 


Then Hebrew word for “light” is “or,” and, coincidentally, the portion also speaks of the Urim and Thummim “light and truth,.” the ancient oracles by the ancient Cohanim.  Read about them at  At that site you’ll also find out how Urim v’Thummim became the official motto of Yale University (as seen from a bridge over the Wilber Cross Parkway, and at “By choosing to translate Urim V'Thummim as Lux et Veritas, it seems -- in contrast to the one-dimensional approach of Harvard -- Yale insisted that its college offered the essentials of proper learning: the "light" of a liberal education and the "truth" of an old New England religious tradition...." It always comes back to Harvard doesn’t it? 


What did these oracles look like?  Light colored, rocks, according to one Yalie’s conjecture – at








Required Reading and Action Items 






For those in need of a lift form all the code orange = winter dolrunms, spring training is indeed upon us.  Fellow Yankee haters might be interested in this little tidbit from the Onion:

Code Orange Puts US Jews On Alert (Jewish Week)

The French Disconnection (the Jewish Week)

HonestReporting Communique 06 February 2003 "PETER JENNINGS: THE ABC'S OF BIAS" and

For Sharon, A Narrowing Of Choices For Coalition (the Forward)

Harsh Iraqi Reaction Expected
Faced with a U.S. invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein would likely launch missile and terrorist attacks against Israel and U.S. facilities abroad, preemptive strikes against the Kurds in the north, and a "scorched-earth strategy" in Iraq "significant enough to stop a military advance," Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday. (Washington Post)

Remember Why Israel Was Created - Piero Ostellino
Israel represents the Jews who are no longer willing to let themselves be killed by totalitarian regimes, religious fundamentalism, and racism. The State of Israel represents those Jews who have learned to defend themselves. Its governments, whatever their political inclination, are the democratic and free expression of the sovereignty of the people. As Italians, we say that we stand with the Jews, but point out too often that the Jews and Israelis are one thing and that Israel and its government, particularly when we disagree with it, are another. Is the distinction between Jews and Israel, people and government, politically accurate and morally acceptable? I think not. The distinction implies a moral denial of the reasons behind the birth of Israel, the political disavowal of its international recognition and of its internal democratic character, and of the legitimacy of its government. (Italy Weekly/International Herald Tribune)

Israel to Host International Match for First Time in Over a Year
Israel's national soccer team is scheduled to host a 2004 European Championship warmup Wednesday against Armenia, the first such international match in 16 months, because of a drought imposed by UEFA due to security concerns. Armenia coach Andranik Adamyan said he didn't understand why other teams refuse to travel to Israel. "Of course we are not afraid, otherwise we wouldn't be coming here," he said. Despite the UEFA ban, European basketball teams have been going to Israel throughout the tense period, leading one Israeli comedian to observe, "Apparently soccer is more dangerous than basketball." (AP/FOX Sports)

Inspections Are a Total Waste of Time - Khidhir Hamza, former director of Iraq's nuclear-weapons program
In the two decades before the Gulf War, I played a role in Iraq's efforts to acquire major technologies from friendly states. In 1974, I headed an Iraqi delegation to France to purchase a nuclear reactor. It was a 40-megawatt research reactor that our sources in the IAEA told us should cost no more than $50 million. But the French deal ended up costing Baghdad more than $200 million.   Germany was the hub of Iraq's military purchases in the 1980s. Our commercial attache, Ali Abdul Mutalib, was allocated billions of dollars to spend each year on German military industry imports. German firms have provided Iraq with the technology it needs to make missile parts. Mr. Blix's recent finding that Iraq is trying to enlarge the diameter of its missiles to a size capable of delivering nuclear weapons would not be feasible without this technology transfer. (Wall Street Journal)

U.S.-EU Crisis is Death Blow to "Road Map" - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz) The crisis between the U.S. and Europe will have profound implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, undermining the Quartet's effort to impose a solution to the conflict on Israel, and strengthening the Sharon government's opposition to the Quartet "road map" and the prime minister's view that the "Bush framework" is the only relevant diplomatic arena for a political peace process.

Evidence Implicates Iraq in U.S. Anthrax Attacks - David Rudge (Jerusalem Post) Accumulated evidence, albeit mostly circumstantial, is nonetheless sufficient to implicate Iraq in the wave of Anthrax incidents in America in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, according to former IDF intelligence officer Dr. Danny Shoham, writing in the latest edition of the International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence.  Shoham believes that the proximity of the two events is no coincidence and that both were perpetrated by al Qaeda and sponsored by Iraq

Hamas on the Rise
Palestinian analysts say the strength of the Islamists is at a historical high: Hamas is already thought to be more popular in Gaza than Arafat's Fatah group. Some Hamas leaders now talk about translating that might into political power. Mahmoud Zahar, one of the group's leaders in Gaza, asserted last week that Hamas had the infrastructure to take over leadership "politically, financially, and socially." (Newsweek)

Palestinians Fear Loss of Gaza - Amos Harel
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Israel Radio recently that if the Kassam rocket fire from Gaza continued, Israel would consider reoccupying the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians noted it very carefully. "The Palestinians are developing a real fear of losing the Strip," said a senior General Staff officer. "Mofaz made them worry that what has already happened in the West Bank will happen in Gaza as well. PA senior officials have much to lose if their reign there collapses."  In addition, there is now unanimity among Israel's top officials to expel Yasser Arafat. One mass-casualty attack on Israel, and he will be gone. Such an attack is not unlikely since both money and orders for attacks have been arriving at an accelerated rate recently - mainly from Iran, but also from Syria and Iraq. (Ha'aretz)

Smiley: An Interview with Michael Dyson on Vatican's Release of a "Somewhat Positive" 90 Page Report on New Age and Alternative Spiritualities -audio link (from NPR's Tavis Smiley Show) (02-07-03)

Holy See: A Christian Reflection on the "New Age"  (02-07-03)

S.Greenberg: The Need to Belong (02-07-03) “I have been musing lately about community, what makes it work, and why it so often doesn't.   So many people feel that they have not found a Jewish community they like.  Often they mean by this that they haven't found the synagogue that suits them.  They may attend this one or that one, but they complain that they just don't feel they belong in those places, or worse, since they have not found a place to which to belong, they have dropped off the map of Jewish affiliation altogether.   The rather commonplace dissatisfaction people seem to express with these various expressions of Jewish (non-) belonging makes me wonder:  What does belonging mean?   What is it that people want when they say that they wish they had a community?   Is there a difference between a good synagogue and a good community?..."    (CLAL)

Iran's Nuclear Program: Gathering Dust or Gaining Steam? - Michael Eisenstadt
Russian officials recently announced that the first reactor at Bushehr (Unit I) may be completed this year. Although not ideally suited for the purpose, Bushehr could become a source of plutonium for weapons. For example, during a protracted crisis or war, Tehran could run the reactor at economically inefficient low fuel burn-up levels to produce weapons-grade plutonium or, alternately, separate reactor-grade plutonium from spent fuel awaiting reshipment to Russia. Although reactor-grade plutonium is not ideal for bombmaking (radioactivity makes it dangerous to work with, while its isotopic composition makes for an inefficient and unreliable weapon), the U.S. demonstrated the military utility of such plutonium in a 1962 underground nuclear explosive test. Iran could produce plutonium by 2005. Weaponization could take another six to twelve months. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

The Rafah Terror Tunnels - See Photos (IDF)
    Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the IDF retained control of a thin strip of land (100 meters in width) dividing the southern tip of the Gaza Strip from the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.
    After 1993, the Palestinians constructed a complex network of tunnels underneath the Egypt-Israel border in the Rafah area of the southern Gaza Strip to smuggle weapons, cigarettes, drugs, and people from Egypt into Gaza.

Gaza Terrorist Planned to Bomb Hospital Helicopter Pad, Negev Tour Bus (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli security services Wednesday revealed the arrest of a Palestinian from southern Gaza with links to Arafat's Fatah movement, who planned to set off a bomb on a helicopter pad at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba and attack a tour bus in Mitzpe Ramon

Steinfels: Restoring Trust in Religion

 Post-Saddam Peace Prospects in the Mideast - Martin Indyk
(New York Times/Council on Foreign Relations) There will be new opportunities created by the removal of Saddam Hussein, assuming we can succeed in that task fairly quickly, with fairly limited casualties, and be able to stabilize Iraq in the aftermath.

Most Arab Leaders Want Arafat Out, Security Chief Says - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)Most of the region's leaders would like to see Yasser Arafat replaced, National Security Council chief Ephraim Halevy told the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy on Sunday.  Halevy predicted that the PA chairman would indeed be ousted in 2003.

 On the Editorial Page BY MICHAEL LERNER Peace protest organizers tolerate no dissent. (Wall Street Journal); also see, from then Forward. Leftist Rabbi Claims He's Too Pro-Israel for Anti-War Group

Rethinking Israel Education

As teen travel to Israel continues to decline, Jewish educators look for new ways to help youths develop a connection to Jewish state (Jewish Week)

 Historical Jerusalem Maps Now on Web Some 250 historical maps of Jerusalem are now on the Internet. (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Debate on Gays Roiling Conservative Rabbinate (Forward)

Seminary Bans Torah Columns in Gazette (Forward)

Yenta In An Internet World

In the high-tech Jewish dating-service universe, is there room for old-fashioned matchmakers a la ‘Fiddler? (Jewish Week)


Televised segments of Friday sermons from throughout the Middle East are now available at as streaming video. The subtitled video includes sermons focusing on subjects such as U.S. policy and the Arab world's desire to acquire nuclear weapons. Excerpts from the videos include:

FROM BAGHDAD MOSQUE: "Who are you, oh Bush, you little dwarf, to threaten Muhammad, and the sons of Muhammad?!" - Sheikh Bakr Abd Al-Razzaq

Al-Samarai (Nov. 8, 2002)

FROM GAZA MOSQUE: "Reject and condemn what Bush has done, this crazy man -- Allah, wreak vengeance on the Jews and the Americans." - Sheik Ahmad

Abd Al-Razek (Oct. 4, 2002)

View the 10-minute video: Read the transcript:







Quotes of the Week 




 “The new government will have to complete the campaign against terror, remove the terrorist leadership, and create the conditions for the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership with which it will be possible to make real peace… Whoever wants peace must join the government or bear responsibility for his refusal.”—P.M. Ariel Sharon, who has 40 remaining days to put together his governing coalition, re-articulating his desire to form a unity-government that would include the Labor party. (New York Times, Feb. 10)


“The crisis between the U.S. and Europe will have profound implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, undermining the Quartet’s [U.S., Europe, Russia, the U.N.] efforts to impose a solution to the conflict on Israel, and strengthening the Sharon government’s opposition to the Quartet ‘road map’… For Israel, the crisis over Iraq is proof that European and European Union thinking is tendentious, based on irrelevant considerations that can complicate problems rather than solve them. It will now be much easier for Israel to persuade Washington that European representatives cannot be given overdue influence…in solving the Middle East conflict…”—Editorial (Ha’aretz, Feb. 12)


“[The United Nations, by allowing Iraq to violate 17 Security Council resolutions over more than a decade and by allowing Iraq to become chairman of the UN Commission on Disarmament and selecting Libya to lead its Commission on Human Rights] showed that the institution seems not to be even struggling to regain credibility. That these acts of irresponsibility could happen now, at this moment in history, is breathtaking. Those acts will be marked in the history of the UN as either the low point of that institution in retreat, or the turning point when the UN woke up, took hold of itself, and moved away form a path of ridicule to a path of responsibility.”—U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was also critical of France, Germany and Belgium for what he said were “inexcusable” actions to postpone NATO planning to defend Turkey in the event of a war with Iraq. (N.Y.T., Feb. 9)




















March 17, 2003

Megillah Reading in the sanctuary 6:00 p.m.

followed by our Purim Carnival

Purim for Adults in the Chapel 8:00 p.m.








Friday, March 7, 2003 at 7:30 p.m.

Fractured Religions:

The Dangers of Diversity within the Major Faiths

Benjamin Weiner's career spans three professions, four decades and five continents.  At age 20 he fought in Korea in one of the first Korean-American integrated combat units, where he was awarded the Bronze Star.  As a Foreign Service officer he served in Southeast Asia, Western Europe and Washington, as well as on presidential delegations to Africa, Latin America and the Vatican.  He is the recipient of the Department of State's Superior Honor Award.

 Mr. Weiner is known for his early warnings on the spread of terrorism (1973), and for his early recognition of growing religious and ethnic violence (1979).  He has organized conferences with the United Nations, the Department of State, the World Trade Institute, Yale Divinity School, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the Asia Society and the Middle East Institute.



What is a Hevra Kadisha (literally "Sacred Fellowship")? And what is it doing in Stamford???

Everything You've Been "Dying" to Know...

About the Mitzvah that is called "The Greatest Act of Kindness" and the volunteers who perform it.

Find out at a special program on Sunday, March 23rd at 9:30 a.m.

Guest speaker:  Jan Simblist


Jan has been a member for twelve years.  She is a medical technologist with experience both in the research and clinical areas of laboratory science.  She has been a consultant to nursing homes in Connecticut on infection control issues for Quest Diagnostics.  She is a former board member of Agudath Sholom who, last year, was elected as vice president of the Hevra Kadisha. 

 The men and women who serve as volunteers in our community would like the rest of the Jewish community to know that there is such a service available.  Here's Beth El's chance to find out all about it.





Thursday, April 17th (second seder)

7:00 p.m.

This will be a COMPLETE SEDER led by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Cantor Deborah Jacobson and Barb Moskow, and coordinated by our sisterhood, including a catered sit-down dinner, at least 10 plagues plus the AFIKOMEN!



Youth Activities









On March 15, our teens will lead the main service,

 reading Torah,

leading prayers,

opening the ark,

having aliyot,



Contact Ilana Ginsberg-322-2003 or

Ariel Savransky- 329-2990

   Or me (Rabbi H) at






Tuesday, February 18th

Trip to see the Sound Tigers Game



Thursday, February 20th

Snow tubing



The Web link for this week's Shabbat-O-Gram is - - The site is continually updated during the week with corrections and additions.  Feel free to forward this link to your friends. People can subscribe to the weekly Shabbat-o-Gram at   I also send out mailings to college students, Gen Xers and teens, so let us know if you wish to be placed on any of those lists.  If you wish to unsubscribe, contact  


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