Friday, January 17, 2003

Shabbat-O-Gram, January 17, 2003

Shabbat-O-Gram, January 17, 2003

Shabbat Shira (Sabbath of Song), Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Tu B’Shevat, 5763


SHABBAT SHALOMRabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut





Previous Shabbat-O-Grams can be accessed directly from our web site (  For “E-mail from the Front,” go to




Friday Night:

Candles: 4:35 PM 

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

Shabbat morning:

Service: 9:30 AM, Children’s services: 10:30 AM,  (jr. cong. ONLY, for grades 3-6; Nurit’s service for younger children will not be held this week, unless you happen to be at the Nevele)

Torah Portion: Beshallach (the crossing of the Red Sea); Shabbat Shira

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

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. 



Spiritual Journey on the Web







“Jews in Space*”


          Mazal tov to Col. Ilan Ramon, who today became the first Israeli astronaut, lifting off on the Space Shuttle Columbia at 10:39 AM ( for the latest on this breaking story).   Ramon, 48, the son of a Holocaust survivor, was among the Israeli pilots who bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, according to a senior Israeli government official speaking Thursday on condition of anonymity. The Israel Space Agency wanted a military pilot for its first astronaut and, with the Israeli air force's help, picked him for the job in 1997.  Here are some articles that preceded today’s launch:


NASA on Terror Alert for First Israeli in Space - Jacqui Goddard
When Israel's first astronaut, former fighter pilot Ilan Ramon, prepares to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, next week, he will be at the center of an unprecedented security operation by NASA. Ramon will be joining the space shuttle Columbia for a 16-day research voyage. While the fleet is already seen as a high-profile terrorist target, NASA is conscious that a shuttle carrying an Israeli - who took part in devastating combat sorties against his country's Arab enemies - would be the ultimate trophy. (London Times).

Israeli Astronaut Says Space Unifier, Not Divider - Jeff Franks
The man set to be the first Israeli astronaut said Friday he does not expect to become a target of Israel's enemies because space flight is a uniter of people. "There's no better place to emphasize the unity of people in the world than flying to space," said Ilan Ramon, 48, an Israeli air force colonel who was scheduled to launch aboard space shuttle Columbia on Jan. 16 with six other crew members. (Reuters/Akron Beacon Journal).

 Meet Israel's First Astronaut, Ilan Ramon   Israeli Air Force Col. Ilan Ramon, 48, the son of a Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz, will operate an experiment that tracks dust particles from sandstorms blowing through Earth's atmosphere, including those that swirl about the Mediterranean region. Ramon, who flew in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, has logged more than 3,000 hours in various jet aircraft and another 1,000 hours in F-16 jets alone. Jewish astronauts have flown in space before - most notably Judy Resnik, who was lost in the 1986 Challenger disaster. (


            Col. Ramon is not himself observant, but as the first Israeli he will follow various traditions that have always been emblematic of the Jewish people.  He will be the first to eat Kosher meals in space (I suspect the freeze-dried sponge cake might taste more moist than the original).  He will also observe Shabbat according to Houston or Cape Canaveral time, otherwise he’d have to say Havdalah before finishing the Friday night Kiddush.  More discussion of the Halachic issues can be found at and also at  Actually, he won’t be lighting candles, as we discover at, but he will be conducting a combustion experiment during the flight.  We read at that he will drink wine, however, through a straw. Lechayim!


            He is bringing with him a pencil drawing made by a 14-year-old Holocaust victim from Terezin, an image of what the earth would look like from the moon.  You can see the artwork, with some moving commentary, at the Yad Vashem web site:  Though the boy died here on earth in the cruelest of manners, his innocent spirit soared to the heavens, and now his art is soaring too.  This is indeed a moving and historic day, akin to the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea commemorated in this week’s portion.  The waters of the firmament have “parted,” and the Columbia has forged a safe path into the black unknown.


            Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for trees, also falls this weekend.  (A whole bunch of Tu B’Shevat links can be found at: to see more information from Hillel on Tu B’Shevat Seders see The word for tree most often used regarding this holiday, is, coincidentally, Ilan, also the name of the Israeli astronaut.  There is actually a connection between trees and the outer reaches of the universe.  Part of the symbolism behind the Tu B’Shevat Seder is that the medieval mystics saw this is the birthday of the primordial Tree that was in the Garden of Eden.  The tree as a symbol uniting the heavens and earth is something present in many cultures (the Koran refers to the cosmos as a tree – see Jewish mysticism imagines the cosmos to be a manifestation of the divine, which unfolds through ten powers or qualities, which are called the s'firot. The world of the s'firot is pictured in terms of two forms:  a cosmic tree and a primordial human body. For a complete explanation of the Kabbalistic sources on this, go to my Shabbat O Gram of last Sukkot, at


            Ilan the tree, Ilan the astronaut, Ilan the cosmos – and this weekend at our Shabbaton, we will commemorate the first anniversary of the passing of Ilan Mirkov, the Israeli emissary who dazzled us all during his brief time here, and for whom last year’s Shabbaton was his final communal event. His memorial is still online at our Web site,


            Tu B’Shevat is called Rosh Hashanah l’Ilanot, “The new year of Ilanot.”  It is also the time by which we will recall the anniversaries of the Ilanim, two Ilans who aren’t trees: Ilan Mirkov, and our newest Jewish hero, Ilan Ramon.  Gee, if the astronaut goes up to the moon, maybe they’ll name a crater after him.  In fact, they ALREADY HAVE.   See and you’ll see what I mean!


BTW – some excellent Tu B’Shevat material can be found at the new super site, Check it out!


*With apologies to Mel Brooks (,7286,VID-V++++22619,00.html




Required Reading and Action Items









MLK on Zionism:

"I Have a Dream"Text of the historic speech.

Why Jews still embrace Martin Luther King's legacy (1-7-1997)

Two Prophets, One Soul: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. And Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Martin Luther King and the Future of America by Vincent Harding ... (Cross Currents)

Righteous Resistance and Martin Luther King, Jr.




A Holy and Healthy Despair Something ate my cat. Foxes, coyotes and eagles are the most likely suspects. Of course, I’m not sure the cat got eaten. I just know she went out one day and never came back. I liked that cat. She usually curled up on the bed with me at night and was a mild and undemanding creature. The woods were a pleasant playground for her, full of places to climb and hide and stalk. Rather extravagantly, I bowed to her preference for canned food over dry, and I had made the socially responsible trip to the vet for neutering and shots. Ultimately some predator had an expensive lunch. I hope her death was simple and quick. And I do understand that life feeds on life, that all beings are engaged in a great struggle for survival, that the whole course of our existence, no matter how sweet and blessed it is, inevitably contains suffering, fear and loss. Living is a difficult project. None of it is easy...."

Marty: Two Religions Indivisible -- Mark Noll's Magnum Opus




The 2003 Israeli Elections: A Primer

Refugees Forever: An in-depth examination of the Palestinian refugee issue that debunks myths and presents the real story.  From the Jerusalem Post. Read our exclusive report.

Shavit: Reality Bites - An Interview with Amos Oz & David Grossman  "Writers Amos Oz and David Grossman, two of the most prominent members of the Israeli peace camp, meet for a serious conversation about the state of the nation and the situation of the left in particular. Despite differences of nuance, they will both cast the same ballot...."

My Cellphone Saved My Life, Survivor Says - Mati Milstein
Itzik Ya'acobov of Holon owns a restaurant that was five meters from one of the two blasts. He said every diner sitting at his outside tables on the crowded pedestrian mall was wounded. Michael Tataro, 43, was saved by his cellphone. Shrapnel from one of the blasts flew into his jacket just above his waist, but entered the back of the phone and flew out the side, completely destroying it. Yevgeny Schreiber, 53, of Azur, said. "It was lucky I had a big bag on my back. The backpack was completely destroyed." (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Restraint Makes Terrorism More Likely - Jeff Jacoby
The suicide bombings in Tel Aviv this week were the third worst terror attack in Israel in the past quarter-century, and Arafat's spokesman issued a statement in English expressing ''total condemnation of these terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.'' But at about the same time, the Fatah Web site posted another statement - in Arabic - celebrating the attacks: ''With faith in the calling of holy jihad,'' it said, ''two suicide attackers...succeeded this evening to infiltrate the Zionist roadblocks and to enter the heart of...Tel Aviv....We swear before our people that additional suicide operations will occur.''
    To demand ''restraint'' of Israel now - to insist that it voluntarily suppress its right to self-defense - is to make bloody atrocities like last Sunday's not less likely but more so. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Palestinian Authority and the murderers it has supported must be crushed. That is the plain meaning of the Bush Doctrine and the essential first step to peace. (Boston Globe)

Back to Zionism - Matt Rees
For the past decade, Israelis felt they were leaving behind the pioneering days of Zionism, the movement that campaigned to found the Jewish state and create a strong character in its young people, all of whom had to serve in the army. The phrase "post-Zionism" came to describe the country's effort to build an individualistic, high-tech economy. But two years of violence have snapped Israelis back into the mixture of nationalism and fear at the root of Zionism. What used to be a minority view - the conviction that Israel's enemies mean to wipe it off the map and that to make peace is to invite extinction - is now mainstream thinking. (Time-Europe)

The Quartet, the Road Map, and the Future of Iraq: A Realistic Assessment - Gerald M. Steinberg (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

The Politics of Irrelevance - Zvi Bar'el
For a long time Yasser Arafat has been waiting for a phone call from an Arab leader, but the phone hasn't rung. The most senior Arab figure to visit him in recent months was Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian minister of intelligence, and the visit ended with harsh exchanges. Arafat seems to be fading away to the point where talk about possible candidates to replace him is no longer taboo. (Ha'aretz)

From Zainib al Suwaij, Exec. Director of the American Islamic Congress 





===== (1) REUTERS' DOOZY OF THE WEEK =====


A recent Reuters refers to "suicide bombers killed by Israeli forces." Only in the wacky world of Reuters can Israel be blamed for killing Palestinians who commit suicide. Read it here (last paragraph):


Comments to:


For the record, the Reuters article reports that Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the leader of Hamas, has issued the call for suicide operations against Americans. At a rally attended by tens of thousands in Gaza, Rantisi said: "I call on all Arab nations to burn the ground underneath the feet of the Americans in all capitals." Shouting "Death to America," the demonstrators burned U.S., Israeli, and British flags. Rantisi declared: "I call on Iraq to prepare an army of would-be martyrs and prepare tens of thousands of explosive belts... Blow yourselves up against the American army. Bomb them in Baghdad."


Was this reported in your local media?



===== (2) AP'S DOOZY OF THE WEEK =====


After 15,000 terror attacks against Israelis, the Associated Press is -- incredibly -- still heralding Palestinians as peace-lovers. Consider this recent report about candidate for prime minister, Amram Mitzna:  "When I was in uniform, I said you cannot win against the will of 3 million people just by military measures," Mitzna said in the interview. "You have to negotiate, you have to talk."


Then AP adds its own view:


"Palestinian leaders embrace that as a way out of a conflict that in 28 months has cost the lives of more than 2,700 people..."

Which Palestinian leaders is AP referring to? Yasser Arafat? Marwan Barghouti? Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi?

Read the AP article:


Comments to:




They're taking off the gloves in Canada. Norman Spector, Canada's former ambassador to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, has gone public in his criticism of the CBC's Mideast coverage. He says that CBC policy is not to use the word "terrorist" to describe Palestinian suicide bombers, and it pulled a doozy by describing Hizbullah as a "national liberation movement."  Read Norman Spector's scathing letter to Tony Burman, CBC news chief (published in the National Post):  Read a background article on Hizbullah activity in Canada:



===== (4) SAUDIS' SECRET ADS ======


Time magazine (Jan. 20, 2003) reports:  When radio ads critical of Israel ran in 15 U.S. cities last spring, they identified the Alliance for Peace and Justice as sponsor. The alliance was described by its Washington p.r. firm, Qorvis Communications, as a consortium of Middle East -- policy groups based in the U.S. But when Qorvis reported its ad work to the Justice Department last month, it revealed that funding for the $679,000 media buy actually came from another source: the Saudi government.  As home to all but four of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Saudi Arabia had good reason to hide its p.r. offensive. A knowledgeable source tells TIME the alliance was created by the p.r. firm to disguise the role of the Saudis, who pay Qorvis more than $200,000 a month for its services. In a footnote to its Justice report, the firm said Riyadh helped fund the ads with a loan to the alliance, which was later repaid by a council representing Saudi business interests. But the source tells TIME most of the "repayments" came from businesses controlled by or close to the Saudi government and were solicited by Adel al-Jubeir, foreign-policy adviser to the Crown Prince and architect of the Saudi p.r. offensive.



From ACTION ALERT:  Tzfat (Safed) Cries Out


Tzfat, one of Israel's four holy cities, is in economic crisis with a large percentage of families living at or below the poverty line. The following message comes from people in Tzfat:  “As citizens of Tzfat, we are particularly concerned about what is happening in our community. As one of the larger cities in the mountainous region of the Galilee, Tzfat is about fifteen miles south of the Lebanese border.  It has  a population of about 20,000 made up of native Israelis as well as new

immigrants from around the world and especially those from North America, Russia and Ethiopia.  The city's main industry consists of a coffee factory and a small chocolate factory. Tourism has played a very large role but, like most of Israel, our economy too suffers for lack of tourism.  More and more Tzfat families are unable to pay for food. As a result, many small grocery store owners are subsidizing their customers by extending them credit.  Some are even at risk of losing their businesses and personal livelihood. One storekeeper who is personally known to us is feeding 22 families. He has old us that there are probably as many as 100 families who shop at his store who he could help if he had the money. But payments are scant and bills increase.  In an attempt to provide families with sufficient basic food stuffs, an organization called "Lev U'Neshama" (Heart and Soul), is attempting to collect funds to assist Tzfat's poor. This money will be used to help

relieve the mounting pressure of grocery store debts, as well as to provide provide food vouchers.  Our plan is also to open a 'discount store' where families will be able to buy food at a discount allowing them to stretch their budgets.  People who do make trips to Israel, and include a visit in Tzfat, tell us that there are those abroad who are concerned about their Israeli brothers and sisters and their children.  Yet, the donations that they make to large, established Jewish organizations are fine, but funds rarely trickle down to address the everyday needs of our people.  There are no food shortages in Israel, just a shortage of cash.  We are

begging you to please extend your helping hand by making a donation at this critical time.”


Donations of $25 or more can be sent to the PEF Israel Endowment Fund, 317 Madison Ave., #607 New York, NY 10017 with a note that the funds are to be

sent to Tzfat, Israel in care of "Lev V Neshama" to help feed the poor.  The PEF office sends a US Tax Deduction Receipt to donors who send $25 or more.


The PEF office phone is 212-599-1260 for those who wish to verify credibility of "Lev u' Neshama."


A recent update from Tzfat tells of many people, especially the elderly,  unable to provide heating during these colder months. This organization will also work to provide blankets and space heaters.



"The most hip Israel Education material ever."

See it for yourself. Visit  Try your hand at creating your own IsraelVideoMixer. This innovative interactive video is part of our viral marketing campaign to get the word out about Israel Education Month. Once you've completed your personal video, you have the opportunity to mail it on to a friend.

AJC Westchester presents highlights from the 2003 Jewish Film Festival – for info and tickets, click on


Quote of the Week: 

“I’m not running on my faith, but the fact is my faith is at the center of who I am and I’m not going to conceal that.”—U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, following the announcement that he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. If successful, he would become the first Jewish candidate to run for the presidency.











For those remaining in Stamford, Hazzan Rabinowitz will be back leading services that weekend, including a special musical celebration of Shabbat Shira (the Shabbat of Song) on Friday night



Tu B’Shevat Seder


at Temple Beth El


Thursday, January 16th at 7:00 p.m.


Tu B'Shevat marks the New Year of the Trees. The name of this holiday comes directly from the date on which it is celebrated - the 15th day of Shevat.  According to the Talmud, it is the time of renewal of budding in the trees.  Throughout history, Tu B'Shevat became a date to focus on our connection with the Land of Israel; celebration took the form of eating fruits grown in Israel.  Medieval Kabbalists connected Tu B'Shevat to the concept of tikkun olam, repairing the world.  In the 16th century, Kabbalists living in Safed created a Tu B'Shevat seder modeled loosely on the Passover seder.


Join us (and help us to welcome our local Young Jewish Professionals group, who will be here as our guests) as we drink red and white wine, and taste the fruits and nuts of Israel as we celebrate our Tu B'Shevat seder.



Join us for the popular monthly “Learning and Latte" series at Borders – a fascinating interfaith discussion of the stories of the book of Genesis, led by Rabbi Hammerman and Rev. Douglas McArthur.

Next session:

Tues. Jan 28th at 7:30 PM

Topic: The First Murder - Cain and Abel





United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien's Annual Super Sunday event will be held on February 2, 2003 at the JCC in Stamford. Volunteers are needed. Please call the UJF office at 321-1373 Ext.108.







Reading Between the Lines:

Variant Readings on the Bible

with Barb Moskow


In this class we will reinterpret the stories of our ancestors through the use of modern ideas of medicine, sociology, and psychology.


DATES: January 23, 30 February 6, 13

TIME: 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.



What’s all the Fuss About

the new Conservative Humash?”

with Rabbi Joshua Hammerman


We’ll look closely at how our new Humash brings the philosophy of Conservative Judaism to the general public unlike anything before it, and why that was such a shock to people. We’ll closely explore how the commentaries frame the weekly portion and Haftarah in comparison to other biblical commentaries. We’ll also examine closely several of the essays found in the back of the book, written by major thinkers within the movement.


DATES: January 23, 30 February 6, 13

TIME: 8:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.



Torah Cantillation Class

with Cantor Deborah Jacobson


Offered Sundays, 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

An eight-week course starting January 26th

Hebrew reading skills required.


Youth Activities


KESHER (Grades 3-5)

Snow tubing

Monday, January 20th

8:00 a.m.


USY (Grades 9-12)

Sunday, January 26th

To Be Announced





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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