Friday, January 24, 2003

Shabbat-O-Gram, January 24, 2003, Shevat 22, 5763

Shabbat-O-Gram, January 24, 2003, Shevat 22, 5763


Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut






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


Look for pictures of our incredible Shabbaton (the rave reviews are coming in) at our Web site,



Kashrut News:


The Bakery at Stop and Shop in the Ridgeway Shopping Center is now KOSHER.  Most products are dairy and are so labeled.




A Sad Anniversary:


Today, Jan. 23, marks the one year anniversary of the brutal kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was later tortured and murdered, because is was a Jew.  You can remember Daniel by going to the Simon Wiesenthal Center site at and lighting a “virtual candle” in his memory.





Friday Night:

Candles: 4:44 PM 

Tot Shabbat (in the lobby) 6:30 PM (NOTE THE NEW TIME )

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

Shabbat morning:

Service: 9:30 AM; Kahal (lay led service), with a special d’var Torah by Barb Moskow!

Children’s services: 10:30 AM (the older service will be led by our 6th graders)

Torah Portion: Yitro  (The Ten Commandments are read)

A community luncheon follows the service…

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. 

Don’t forget on Sunday morning we are having a special breakfast for BCDS students at 9:00 AM, and for all students at 10, another spectacular concert featuring the Jewish Rock Group “Ma Tovu.”  Up to a thousand Jewish students from all over the area are expected here – it will be quite a happening!




The Highest Level of Tzedakkah


Once again, is looking to find suitable employment for a fellow Jew in need.  Today I am looking for help for a refugee from the former Soviet Union who came to this country about a decade ago.  Here are excerpts from his letter of introduction.  If you would like to see more information and a resume, contact me at  Thank you.


Dear recruiter:


I’m mechanical drafter / designer / engineer with extensive experience in the design (and manufacturing) of mechanical systems.  My expertise encompasses precision mechanisms and assemble equipment (with hands and automatic) for different types of machinery. Throughout my career, I have been involved in all the various development phases of mechanical equipment (casting, making dies, machining, stamping, assemble, etc.).

I created number innovations and applied for two patents.

I am experienced with AutoCAD 14&2000, Pro-Engineer, SDRC I-DEAS and SolidWorks.

I am motivated and eager to learn, dedicated and hard working.

Would appreciate the opportunity to discuss my qualifications and relevant experience with you.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.






Spiritual Journey on the Web






The Annual Super Bowl Prediction

(Based on Jewish Sources)



A few years ago, I began devising big game predictions based on Jewish sources and methodologies.  It all began innocently enough.  The problem was, I kept getting it right.  Recently, I’ve escorted the Ravens, Diamondbacks, Patriots and Angels to the winner’s circle, often coming astoundingly close to the final score.  (See the most recent World Series prediction at, and last year’s Super Bowl prediction at


Each time I’ve confounded the so-called experts with my simple Jewish logic: How could they pick the Rams by 14 last year, when everyone knows that the Patriarch (an etymological sibling of Patriot) Abraham slaughtered the Ram?  And how could anyone pick against the Angels, given the fact there are two Jewish players on the Angels (plus David Eckstein, whose name sounds Jewish) and none on the Giants?


So what began as an educational venture has now sent more than one congregant rushing to Las Vegas, based on a “tip from my rabbi.”  There is something un-kosher about that scenario, I know.  So, with the disclaimer that this insider information is being disseminated purely for educational purposes (notice that I include no point spreads) here goes:


The Raiders and Buccaneers pose a unique challenge in that they are mirror images of one another.  Their logos look alike and the nicknames are equally menacing.  My first tack was to look for Hebrew words sounding like the English name.  “Raider” comes close to the Hebrew verb “la-redet,” “to descend,” and “Buc” hints at the Hebrew “bakbook,” “bottle.” (  So while the Raiders might be “going down” the Bucs will be “bottled up.”  Sounds like a low-scoring game.


Next approach: which nickname has deeper connections in Jewish history?  Neither seems a proper profession for a nice Jewish boy, but there is evidence of Jewish pirates existing in the first century. Josephus writes about it in his “Antiquities of the Jews” and scenes of piracy are depicted in the tomb of a Jew named Jason.  For more on Jewish piracy, go to  From there you may wish to look in depth into the history of Judaism in the first century – a fascinating and rich topic.  For this, go to   As for more recent Jewish thuggery, Meyer Lanksy would have felt absolutely at home in Oakland’s notorious Black Hole (for more on Lansky, go to


Call it a draw.


OK, so which team has more Jews? 


At last count there are only 13 Jews playing in the entire NFL (that makes for 13 petrified Jewish mothers).  See for the complete list.  On the other hand, the last two Super Bowl winning owners have been Jewish (Art Modell and Bob Kraft) and this one will be too, no matter who wins (either Al Davis or Malcom Glazer).  But Davis’ high profile, and the fact that his mentor was fellow Jewish Sports Hall of Famer Sid Gillman, would seem to give an advantage to the Raiders here.


Now let’s plunge a bit deeper.  The Hebrew word for pirate is “Shoded,” from the root letters shin-daled-daled, meaning “to rob, pillage, ruin, destroy, devastate, plough and lay waste.” (  It sounds a lot like what the Bucs did to Philly last week, right down to the fact that Veterans Stadium is about to be ploughed under. 


“Shoded” has some interesting linguistic cousins, like “shayd” (demon), “sadeh” (a field) and “shadayim” (breasts).  What do all of these have in common with pirates?  In ancient times pillaged cities were often ploughed under, forming sculpted, cleavage-like mounds.  Genesis 14:3 mentions “the Valley of “Shiddim, now the Salt Sea.”  Anyone who has been to the Judean Desert can imagine the desolate almost-lunar landscape of those rolling, barren, sandy hills, viewed by Jewish tradition as the remnants of the devastated cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.   An interesting sidelight: the text indicates that the Valley of Shiddim became a body of water, the Dead Sea.  And what modern football mecca playing in this week’s game is both a land mass and a body of water?  Tampa Bay. 


Add to that the fact that last week was Tu b’Shevat, when in Israel the “Sapp” (in the trees) begins to rise, and things are looking good for the Bucs.  But not so fast.


A “raider” in modern Hebrew is a “matkif,” from the root letters tav-kof-feh, which also yields words meaning “attacker, aggressor, belligerent, and overpowering” ( The biblical term connotes energy and authority. Interestingly, the related word “tekufa” means “era,” or “season.”  What does a period of time have to do with aggression?  It is the common Jewish view that history doesn’t just happen; God forges it, in partnership with human beings.  Championships are willed.  That has been the Raider philosophy all along: “Just win, baby!” And their championships have spanned the NFL’s eras much as their ancient stars have transcended the aging process itself.  This is a team whose time never seems to run out.  It’s as if they’ve all eaten from the tree of life – located, incidentally, in the Garden of Eden, or “Gan Eden.”  Say it quickly five times and it sounds curiously like “Gannon.”


All this is fascinating, but we’re not there yet.  Let’s take the Kabbalistic approach.  Since each Hebrew letter has a numerical value (for an introduction to Hebrew numerology, go to, we can compare the two root combinations, sh-d-d and t-k-f.  By this tally, the Raiders win 580 to 308.  That would be great if this were arena football, but even there a spread of 272 might be a tad high.


But look at this: I ran the numbers on my trusty Gematria software, and the first time that the combination of letters totaling 580 appears in a complete phrase, comes in Gen. 4:10, when God says to Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me.  From where is that blood crying out?  Why, from the ground, of course, the furrowed ground -- Cain was a farmer.  It is a Buccaneer landscape that is being described here, sadistically drenched in Raider blood.  Buc coach Jon Gruden, who physically evokes images of the psychopathic doll “Chucky,” reminds me more of Cain in the way that he betrayed his Raider brothers.  And in the very next verse, Cain’s curse is that the ground will become impossible to plow.  Sorry, Chucky.  (For a plot summary of the original Chucky movie “Child’s Play” go to


We’re getting close.


My research turned up only one time in the Bible when the root sh-d-d appears in the same chapter as the root t-k-f.  Go to Job, chapter 15. ( And by the way, guess which team won Super Bowl 15?  (Hint – the silver background of the Shabbat-O-Gram is not an accident)


In that chapter, Job’s friend Elihu is trying to convince him that the wicked eventually meet doom.  In verse 21, “the robber (shoded) (destroyer) plunders him,” and in verse 24, “distress and travail terrify him, but he shall prevail (titkefeyhu) ” So the plundering and destroying Bucs appear in verse 21 and the prevailing, overpowering Raiders in verse 24.


Sounds like a final score to me. 


24-21, the Raiders will prevail.


And I say this despite the fact that I’m rooting for Tampa Bay… 



Israeli Elections








Next Tuesday is the Israeli election.  Go to

for lots more information on it.  The first results of exit polling should be released at about 2:00 PM our time.  On Thursday, Jan. 30, during Religious School hours (4-6), I’ll be showing extensive coverage taped from Israeli TV, in Hebrew and English


Opinion polls have put P.M. Ariel Sharon’s Likud party firmly on course to win next week’s general election. Likud is likely to win at least 12 seats more than Labor, but will fall far short of gaining a simple majority in parliament. A poll in Yedioth Ahronoth had Likud winning 32 to 33 seats, with Labor holding 19 or 20. A Ma’ariv poll shows Likud winning 31, with Labor at 19.  The latest Ha’aretz poll can be found at  The biggest wild card is the centrist anti-clerical party Shinui, which stands to double and maybe triple in size.  If it becomes the third largest party in the Knesset, then the question will be whether they, along with Labor, will form a unity government with Likud.  Labor’s leader Mitzna says no, but his hold on the party leadership is shaky at best right now, and a poor showing next week might make his opinion moot.  Stay tuned…






Ask the Rabbi

Send your questions to



Our Sisterhood’s monthly “Women of the Book” session yielded some fascinating questions, forwarded to me by Ann Gorman, in their discussion of “The Ghost of Hannah Mendez” by Naomi Ragen. 


“One of the characters in the book was discussing the relationship of the three religions and there were some sentences that none of us could explain. "Well, Abraham was the founder of Judaism.  His concubine, Hagar gave him a son, Ishmael, who fathered the Muslims.  And his grandson, Esau, fathered Edom, which is Rome and Christianity." We didn't understand the part about Edom being Rome and Christianity.  Can you help us out here?


Also, where in the Talmud (or other source) is it written, "if someone comes to kill you, you should get up earlier, go out to meet him, and kill him first" (or words to that effect).”


Esau was also called Edom, and the nation Edom later was seen by the prophets and later yet the rabbis as Israel's enemy, and therefore and the ancestor of later enemies of the Jews, particularly Rome, (who was to the rabbis the great contemporary enemy of the Jews).  Rome and Edom shared what in rabbinic eyes were similar characteristics of athleticism and brute force.  Later yet, Rome was seen as being equivalent to Christianity. While Genesis is not so harsh on Esau, the rabbis were. Some background material on this can be found online at (from JTS) and (a d’var Torah from Bar Ilan University), which states:


“It is easy to see why this idea that Esau prefigures an oppressive force began developing in Christian realms, in the lands of Franco-Germany (Ashkenaz). This idea is widely reflected in Rashi's commentary on the Torah, which follows in the footsteps of the Sages, who first developed the idea that Esau was embodied by Rome. Esau's brutal strength and Isaac's words to him, "Yet by your sword you shall live (Gen. 27:40), were embodied by the Romans, who destroyed the Second Temple and put an end to the independent existence of the Jewish people in their land. This interpretive approach became deeply rooted, despite the fact that the real Edom was actually a neighboring land to Israel. Rome was perceived as the incarnation of Esau; and in the Middle Ages, Christianity, the heir of the declining Roman Empire, inherited the title of Rome. Around the time of Rashi's death trouble came to the Jews at the hands of the Christians (Rome; witness the massacres during the Crusades), and about one hundred and fifty years later spread to the Jewish communities in Spain. The events of 1096 (the First Crusade) and 1492 (expulsion from Spain) affected biblical exegesis, and relations between Esau and Jacob came to symbolize the Jews' understanding of their condition under Roman (Christian) domination. The Jacob-Esau story found expression in current events of the times.”

As for the second question, the idea of killing defensively before being killed is found in Jewish law (called the Rodef, or pursuer).  It's based on passages in Exodus and Sanhedrin.  See, which states:

The relevant concept here would be the rodef, or pursuer, who may be killed in self-defense without legal penalty. This is based on Exodus 22:2-3: “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed.” As understood by the rabbis of the Talmud, the basic idea is that someone breaking into your house is presumed to be "armed and dangerous," because he knows in advance that the householder might physically defend his property. From this, the rabbis derive a general principle that one may kill in self-defense. (Cf. the tractate Sanhedrin, pages 72a-75a.)










Required Reading and Action Items







There is new “e-mail from the front” this week – exchanges on the current situation between my sister in Israel and me. To see the latest, go to and scroll down.


Freedom of Choice in Marriage is high on the Israeli election agenda.  Find out why at

Apparatus of Lies (White House)  In December 1998, when UN weapons inspector Dr. Richard Spertzel became exasperated by Iraqi evasions and misrepresentations, he confronted Dr. Rihab Taha, the woman the Iraqis identified as the head of their biological weapons program, and asked her directly, "You know that we know you are lying. So why do you do it?"   She replied, "Dr. Spertzel, it's not a lie when you are ordered to lie."  Apparatus of Lies is a U.S. government report discussing the lies that Iraq has used to promote its propaganda and disinformation.

Mega-Attack Foiled Near Green Line - Jalal Bana and Arnon Regular
After Border Patrolmen on alert near Umm al Fahm spotted a suspicious car trying to cross the Green Line, its four occupants fled. The car was carrying as much as a half-ton of explosives, as well as cooking gas canisters connected to a detonator, said the police. (Ha'aretz)


Gaza Has Been Indirectly Reoccupied - Ze'ev Schiff
The Gaza Strip has gradually been reoccupied in an indirect manner by the IDF, through control over the transportation routes and open spaces. Large concentrations of the Palestinian population have turned into islands cut off from one another. During the past year, 10 or 11 people crossed the security fence surrounding the Strip for criminal purposes or to seek work in Israel. Two crossed for terrorist purposes, but without munitions. There were 41 people killed trying to cross it. The planners of the fence in the seam area in the West Bank should keep in mind, first, that a fence is not enough, and second, that operational security activity must take place on both sides of the fence, and not only on the Israeli side. (Ha'aretz)

PA Soccer Tournament Named After Passover Homicide Bomber - Itamar Marcus (Palestinian Media Watch/IMRA)

Poll: Violence Hardens U.S. Jewish Attitudes toward Palestinians - Steven M. Cohen (Forward)

Saddam's Support Begins to Evaporate
Opposition within Iraq to Saddam Hussein's regime has surged in the past few weeks, with anti-Saddam graffiti and literature appearing in areas supposedly under Baghdad's control, the British Foreign Office said Wednesday. Thousands of Iraqi refugees and defectors have arrived in Britain over the past months. "A lot of them are coming out and saying there is increased dissent in Iraq," said one official, who described the accounts as "consistent and credible." (London Times)

Anti-Semitism Increasing in Greece - Sharon Sadeh
Reports by the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and by Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) document a worrying increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks and a change for the worse in Greek society's attitude toward Israel and the tiny, 5,000-strong Jewish community. (Ha'aretz)

Diplomatic and Legal Aspects of the Settlement Issue - Jeffrey Helmreich (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) One may legitimately support or challenge Israeli settlements in the disputed territories, but they are not illegal, and they have neither the size, the population, nor the placement to seriously impact upon the future status of the disputed territories and their Palestinian population centers.

A game in honor of the firs Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon.  You really don’t need to read Hebrew for this, just click on israeli_astro.

Exploitation of Palestinian Children Prohibited by International Law - Moshe Fox (Embassy of Israel Briefing, Washington, D.C., January 21, 2003)

Fighting the Hasbara Battle (suggestions from Moment as to how to counter the arguments of those who oppose Israel): “Hasbara” means explanation in Hebrew.  Check these (recently upgraded); And, an unexpected ally, the Ayn Rand Institute, at


Quote of the Week: 

“Some fundamentalists have tried to confuse the debate by speaking of ‘Islamic democracy.’ But few are deceived. ‘Islamic democracy is an oxymoron,’ a student leader in Tehran told me…Today, the Islamists cannot field a single serious thinker or creative artist. There are no Islamist novelists, poets, filmmakers, architects…composers [and] painters…All the Islamists produce are suicide bombers and street thugs. They are fast losing the support they once had in sections of society that produce culture and sustain the economy…In every Muslim country, including the still hermetic Saudi Arabia, the democratic discourse is finding growing audiences. The West, understandably focusing on monsters such as Khomeini, Saddam and bin Laden, has persuaded itself that democracy is a lost cause in the Muslim world. But it is not. The West would do well to get to know ‘the other Muslims,’ those who are trying to revive the democratic tradition within Islam, often at the risk of their lives. The world of Islam is certainly the last area of despotic darkness in the contemporary world. But some light is penetrating.”—Journalist and former executive editor of Kayhan, Iran’s largest daily newspaper, Amir Taheri (Wall Street Journal Europe, Jan. 20)











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







Family Fun and Pasta Night!

Saturday, February 1st

6:30 p.m.

Dinner, Family Fun, Dancing & Havdalah

GREAT for all ages!


For more information, call Hope Weisel at 329-3191.

Italian entrée for adults - pasta for children

Individual Adult $12

Individual child $6

Maximum per family $36

Non member family and friends:

Individual Adult $14

Individual child $7

Patron family $100

Sponsor family $50




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.







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





To see what’s happening in the region, check out the USY Website at

USY TBE & NIFTY Temple Sinai (Grades 9-12)

Sunday, January 26th

City Lights Comedy Club


KESHER (Grades 3-5)

Saturday, February 1st

Shabbat Luncheon


ATID (K-2)

Sunday, February 2nd

Trip to Mother Earth Mining


USY (Grades 9-12)

Mid-winter Convention, Manchester, CT

February 7th - 9th


KADIMA (Grades 6-8)

Saturday, February 8th

Shabbat Luncheon



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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