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.The Jewish People - Landowners since 1917 - Countdown to Balfour 100.

Shabbat Bulletin - February 18, 2017

Sarah - take care, stay well.

Making Shul and Judaism an important part of our Lifestyle

Adath Israel sponsored/hosted

“Sabbath of Song”


How was it?




I heard that it was wonderful. Over 400 in attendance. A Hollywood medley that knocked your socks off?

When we do something right, let’s hear about it!

CIJR sponsored Conference, hosted by Beth Radom

"A View from the Trenches:
Campus Antisemitism and Ways to Combat It"


Aedan O’Connor, Student Activist, Biomedical Sciences, Ryerson U. (full speech)

Emboldening the University Zionist Voice

I wholeheartedly support fellow University Zionists. We are in an intellectual battleground where our ideas are being stifled by the regressive left masquerading as liberalism and free speech.


I am starting to notice an alarming trend among Zionist groups on campuses. We are beginning to subscribe to the liberalism that has infected the rest of our campuses.  We are afraid to call them out on this antisemitic behaviour and because of this missing out on valuable opportunities to take part in intersectionality. Zionist groups favour “cherry tomato” advocacy where we talk about what we love about Israel and when confronted with hateful campaigns against Israel and Jews, say that our school should not be involved in international issues.


...the problem is far greater than many are willing to admit. “People try to downplay it by saying out of 4,000 American colleges, only 2 percent have been a‚ected, but only a few schools have a real Jewish presence. It’s easy not to have a problem with anti-Semitism where there aren’t any Jews,”

The 3Ds—“demonization, delegitimation, double standards”– are components of this kind of anti-Zionism, Rossman-Benjamin said.  Zionism is demonized by comparing it to the “two greatest evils of the  20th century – Nazism and Apartheid.   Those are the two that are used unfairly, unreasonably and falsely against Israel, and why?  It is to label Israel as evil because what do you do with evil? You destroy it.  You can’t let evil exist in your midst.  It is all interactive, the idea is to demonize, to delegitimize, and you have this breathtaking double standard that you hold Israel to, that you wouldn’t hold any other country to.” (inContext)

In 2016, Rossman-Benjamin led a coalition of 50 Jewish and education advocacy groups that successfully lobbied the University of California system to adopt a landmark policy condemning "antisemitism and antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism."  She is currently working with administrators at other universities to adopt similar measures to protect Jewish students.

Chair: Dr. Aurel Braun - No, Antisemitism is Not Dead

Visiting Professor of Government, Harvard; Professor of Political Science, and International Relations, University of Toronto.

"We professors have failed our students," ... "Israel Apartheid Week is now in 50 countries and hundreds of campuses. It's not just one week, it goes on all year and has permeated every faculty." ...It is "fraudulent, totalitarian and uses apartheid and BDS tactics for the destruction of Israel,... which they call a criminal entity." Their propaganda employs Jews like Noam Chomsky as a front -"Jews of convenience". Free speech is suppressed; there is an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. ...Fight back, "We have to speak out. We cannot be silent. Shush till it will go away doesn't work. If someone spits in your face, don't call it rain." (inContext)

Proudly, a Zionist Jew, speaking out on Antisemitism

Geoffrey Clarfield, Project Director - CanadiansforBalfour100

We have a unique opportunity to correct a wrong.


The Lodzer Shabbat e-Bulletin acknowledges that we have a window of opportunity to drive home and propagate the message:  Israel is not for sale - We own it - The Jewish People - Countdown to Balfour 100 -- Spread the word - educate yourself - educate others!

National Council of Jewish Women of Toronto


I had the opportunity to attend a presentation sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women of Toronto, which my wife is a member of. I contacted a few of my friends and we came together to listen to Geoffrey Clarfield, Executive Director of the Mozuud Freedom Foundation and Mirza Ismail, Founder and Chair of the Yazidi Human Rights Organization International.  The mission of the National Council of Jewish Women of Toronto was to initiate project Abraham, dedicated to assisting and rescuing Yazidis facing genocide in Iraq.

Its objectives were to

1. Reunify Canadian Yazidis with their endangered families by bringing them to Canada

2. Find all means possible to protect endangered Yazidi, with special emphasis on – but not limited to-offering immediate asylum to the women and girls who have suffered and escaped sexual enslavement by ISIL.

3. Request immigration equality by lobbying the government of Canada to remove all bureaucratic barriers, fast track the immigration process for Yazidis, and cover the cost of bringing over all Yazidi refugees as they had done for Syrian refugees.  

4. Educate the public about the plight of the Yazidis.

Few, if hardly anyone, have ever heard of the Yazidis before they were recently targeted by the fighters of the Islamic state. There are similarities between the plight of the Yazidi and the Jewish people. In the interim I feel that it is important to understand the history of the Yazidi people.

The Yazidis are one of the oldest surviving ancient religions in the world some 6,000 thousand years old. The Yazidis believe that they were created separate from the rest of mankind, they feel that they came from Adam as opposed to everyone else coming from Adam and Eve. As a result no one can convert to their faith. Wednesday is their holy day and Saturday as their day of rest.

They are not heretical Muslims or Christians, though there are close bonds. The Yazidis during the Ottoman Empire helped the Armenian Christian minority when they were persecuted and Iraqi Christians also looked to Yazidis for help when they felt threatened by the Iraqi government.

There are some similarities from both Judaism and Islam. Like Jews and Muslims, Yazidis do not eat pork, a lot of their religious customs center on food and clothes. Interestingly, Yazidis do not eat lettuce, cabbage, pumpkin, they cannot mix elements that appear opposite to each other, just as Jews do not mix meat and dairy.

Every February, Yazidis commemorate Abraham by sacrificing a lamb.  Yazidis have much earlier religious beliefs such as relating to snakes and birds, where G-ds often appeared in the guise of these animals.
Unfortunately there have been accusations that the Yazidis are Devil worshipers and have been targeted, therefore their plight.

In August 2014, the world was horrified by pictures of thousands of starving and dehydrated Yazidis besieged on the Sinjar Mountains after they were chased out of their native land in Northern Iraq by IS terrorists.  This is not the first time they have been targeted and persecuted. Fear seems to be part of their ancient culture. They are presently still in danger, and thanks to the Canadian government have allowed some of the Yazidis to enter Canada.

Isi Davis

(With Thanks)

Oh! It’s St. Valentine’s Day?


The Massacre of Jews at Strasbourg, by Eugene Beyer

Black Death - SCAPEGOATS

On Valentine's Day, 1349, about 2,000 Jews were massacred in Strasbourg. (Six hundred years later, Jews were killed in Strasbourg again - this time by the Nazis.)

According to Cecil Roth in his classic 'The Jewish Book of Days', it was on this day in 1349 that the Massacre of Strasbourg took place, perhaps the worst of the many anti-Jewish outrages that occurred during the Black Death. The locals had blamed fluctuations in the price of corn on the Jews, whom they suspected of being protected by the city council. (inContext)

Business as usual till Tu B'Av


Tu B’Av on the 15th of Av has become known, especially in modern Israel, as the holiday of love - when man and woman are together, in total harmony, with true complementary and mutual love and cooperation - somewhat replacing Valentine’s Day.

On Tu B’Av the Tribes of Israel were permitted to intermarry with each other. Second generation Jewish women would go dancing in the vineyards looking for their beshert and unmarried men would go to the fields to pick out a wife.

May Tu B’Av truly usher in the achdus (to love a fellow Jew) for which we yearn to bring the geulah (redemption/deliverance) for us all.


Life  Moments


Feb. 11  Rebecca Greenberg
Feb. 15  Robert Berger

Feb. 18  David Birkan
Feb. 18  Bluma Nemirov
Feb. 19  Ronald Feldman
Feb. 19  Harley Klein
Feb. 21  Mary Gelman
Feb. 23  Cheryl Klein


GORNISHT - Call Sarah!


Feb. 14  Joseph Shabes, father of Jeff
Feb. 16  Arie Schwartz, father of Meir
Feb. 16  Barry Walton, husband of Frieda
Feb. 17  Rabbi Menachen Pasternak, father of Leon

Feb. 18  Ruth Martin, mother of Sonny
Feb. 18  Chaim Spitzen, father of Irving


Take Your Soul to Work - By Erica Brown

“In Self-Renewal, John W. Gardner bemoaned the way that adult development is often arrested at too young an age. We get stuck voluntarily. We settle into routines, select a relatively small pool of people to befriend and keep relying on the way we have always done things. ‘As we mature we progressively narrow the scope and variety in our lives.’… Gardner notes that there are some people more prone to self discovery than others. One manifestation of the tendency to self-renewal is for a person to be aware of the ‘full range of his own potentialities; and the systematic development of them. ‘He looks forward to an endless and unpredictable dialogue between his potentialities and the claims of his life. ‘These include the capacity for  ‘sensing, wondering, learning, understand, loving and aspiring.’




February 15

7:30-8:30 pm

Shul Kiddush



This is an excellent program that has been going on for many years.
Please show your support of the class; the significance of Torah; and the importance of Torah study, by attending./ju

Parsha of The Week

with Judy Hazan

Join this lively group every Wednesday night at 7:30 PM at The Lodzer where we study the week’s sedra together.

Classes are informal and no prior knowledge or preparation is required.

The purpose of the class is to learn the story of the parsha, determine its most important elements and tie its morals and lessons into our daily lives.

This is open to the public and there is no cost.

For more information contact:

Judy Hazan 416-704-1693

February 17,



February 17 was chosen because it was the date in 1948 when the Arab League approved a law for its member states placing severe sanctions against their Jewish populations.

By rejecting the United Nations’ partition plan of 1947-1948, Arab states had "launched their double aggression of a war against the nascent Jewish state and assaults on their own Jewish nationals, resulting in two refugee populations, Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab countries."

Commemorating Jewish Refugees
Forced out of Arab countries

In the last century

A day of national commemoration for the over 850,000 Jews who were forced out or who fled their homes in Arab countries during the middle of the last century.

The Secretary General of the Arab League must “accept historic accountability for the humiliation, the suffering, and the losses incurred by innocent Jewish victims of the Arab world’s declared war against the State of Israel.”


February 18

22 Shevat



9:12 AM

Led mostly by

Frank Steiman

Please help us out by coming early…

We need a minyan to start!


9:30 AM


Torah Times

Torah Reading: Triennial Year 1

Parashat: Exodus -Yithro
Triennial Year 1

1: 18:1 - 18:4 (pg. 288)
2: 18:5 - 18:8
3: 18:9 - 18:12
4: 18:13 - 18:16
5: 18:17 - 18:19
6: 18:20 - 18:23
7: 18:24 - 18:27
maftir: 18:24 - 18:27

Haftarah: Isaiah
6:1 - 7:6; 9:5 - 9:6 (pg. 302)

Candle Lighting: 5:33 p.m. – Friday

Havdalah: 6:42 p.m. – Saturday



February 23

7:30 PM

Shul Kiddush


Book Chat

with Cathy Zeldin


a saga inspired by true events of a Holocaust survivor's quest to return to Poland and fulfill a promise

I apologize for all the changes recently, but Book Chat tries to be flexible to accommodate regular attenders as much as possible.

We will next meet on Thursday February 23, 2017 to discuss Karolina's Twins by Ronald Balson.  This is a slightly fictionalized  true story of two childhood friends one of whom, as young women during the Holocaust, makes a promise to the other.  We meet her as an elderly woman determined to fulfill this promise.  An excellent book, in my humble opinion.

At the following meeting on March 23 we'll discuss Yiddish for Pirates.  We are all on library waiting lists and unlikely to receive this book any earlier.  It has become wildly popular since being shortlisted for the Giller Prize.

Let's keep these dates so that we can meet before Pesach which begins April 10.  There's lots of time to read both books before then.

Happy New Year to everyone,


February 25

29 Shevat



9:12 AM

Led mostly by

Frank Steiman

Please help us out by coming early…

We need a minyan to start!


9:30 AM




March 1

10:30-11:30 am or 1 -2 pm



March 2

7:00-8:00 pm

Start Dates


Hebrew Classes

at the Lodzer

10 weekly sessions.

$15.00 per class/$150.00 per session.

You can choose your class based on your availability, but we also want to place people according to reading level as much as possible.

Contact us before Feb. 22.

Contacts: Yona Nadler;



March 5

1 - 3 PM





Lower Sanctuary


Kiddush Rm.

Come meet with Yazidis


Project Abraham:

The initiative of the Mozuud Freedom Foundation to help save Yazidis from genocide.

All are welcome to join us to hear about the latest updates in Yazidi news, Project Abraham developments, planned events, and how concerned people can help.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Coordinator/Project Abraham



The Yazidis are beginning to arrive and, while there is much to celebrate,  there is also so much to do.  There is something for everyone.  Please get back to me if you are interested in getting involved in any of the following:

1. Become part of a resettlement group (RG) to help the new arrivals to settle and integrate into their new life.

2. Help with the application process.

3. We are beginning an ESL conversation class for our Yazidi community.  We need English-speaking helpers…

4. We are ready to approach corporations to ask for sponsorship of Project Abraham.  If you have a connection to…

5. Bring more people to Project Abraham to help out.

Have a great week!  Debbie


March 11

13 Adar





6 PM

Mincha service with Torah service

6:30 PM

Seudah Shelisheet

(light snack)

7 PM

Maariv and Havdallah

Followed by

Megillah reading



March 12

14 Adar






9 AM

morning minyan

Megillah, 2nd reading

Lodzer Sanctuary

6 PM




March 23

7:30 PM


Shul Kiddush


Book Chat

with Cathy Zeldin


Set in the years around 1492, Yiddish for Pirates tells the story of Moishe, a young man who, enchanted by maps and seeking adventure, leaves the shtetl to join a ship’s crew. There he meets Aaron, our ribald yet philosophical parrot narrator who becomes his near-constant companion. With a beakful of Yiddish jokes, this wisecracking bird guides us through a swashbuckling world of pirate ships and exploits on the high seas.

Telling the tale of a gay,

Yiddish-speaking parrot.

But the Inquisition is a dangerous time to be Jewish, and once he makes landfall Moishe falls in with a band of hidden Jews trying to preserve forbidden books. When all Jews are expelled from Spain, he travels to the Caribbean with the ambitious Christopher Columbus, a self-made man who loves his creator. Driven by circumstance but also by a thirst for gold, Moishe becomes a pirate and seeks revenge on the Spanish while searching


April 9



April 19

Book Early!


Join Rabbi Eli for…

Passover in Campania

April 9-19, 2017

Pesach in Italy Village resort by the Tyrrhenian Sea in Campania, Southern Italy located between Naples and Rome. 200 private entrance townhouse-style apartments, soccer, volleyball, tennis courts, mini-golf, 2 swimming pools. Affordable vacation in Jewish environment with glatt kosher Italian cuisine, and abundant choice of day trips.



April 11

Time TBA



Passover Seder
2nd Seder

Full Kosher Dinner
Full Seder Service
$75 per person

Limited Seats Available.

Reserve NOW. 416-636-6665


August 7



August 16


Payment in full is due

April 6


the Baltic States

With Rabbi Eli

August 7-16, 2017

Full details at


Seize the opportunity!


November 2





The Balfour Declaration, written as a letter on November 2, 1917, from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to British Jewish leader Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, pledged British support for a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. The declaration is one of the iconic documents in, and represents one of the great moments of, Zionist history.

“His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Arthur Balfour




Boris Johnson and Netanyahu reminisce on Balfour Declaration at Foreign Office

The letter below was sent by registered mail to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu one day before his meeting with US President Donald Trump.  This, as you know, is a very important meeting.




Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu view the Balfour Declaration at the British Library




The book is not about cursing as in the kind of “cursing” you do when you hit your thumb with a hammer. It’s something entirely different.
Let me explain.
In the early 20th century, massive numbers of Jewish immigrants escaped to the English-speaking world with a secret language which only they spoke.
It was called Yiddish and it carried their unique culture. A culture that allowed them to express their frustrations and anger through wildly funny and insanely nasty Yiddish curses that dripped with Jewish immigrant cynicism. The curses in this book are all translations from the original Yiddish, and no effort has been made to make them more understandable or funny in English.
We hope that, with a little effort, you will find them a door to understanding the mindset, attitudes, and native wit of our Yiddish immigrant past. A past that was rich in the native wit that empowered the classic Jewish comedians and which gave birth to what we now politely call Jewish humor.

Pirkei Avos

The world endures on three things - justice,truth and peace...

Pirke Avoth Perek 1 Mishnah 9

Note: This commentary is taken from Ethics from Sinai by Irving M. Bunim and Visions of the Fathers by Abraham Twerski. Some sentences of the commentaries have been taken verbatim (in quotes) and others have been summarized. All relate to Mishnah 9. The Questions and the Note are my own.

“Simeon ben Shatah said: Be increasingly thorough in examining the witnesses; and be careful of your words, lest through them they [the witnesses] learn to lie.”

Ethics from Sinai

“One of the more reliable signs of true testimony is the ability of the witness to ‘stick to his story’. Should a witness be giving a false account there is the tendency to vary his report with each telling. Effective cross-examination, therefore, requires that the witness be approached repeatedly with seemingly different questions which actually cover the same ground from different angles.…  Be extremely careful with your questions, however, lest from your words they learn to falsify. There is an almost unconscious tendency to phrase our sentences in a leading manner, which might indicate to the discerning the answer we would like to receive.”  

“The Talmud warns: ‘Should the evil inclination urge you, ‘Sin, and the Holy One will forgive you’, do not believe it….Perhaps you might wonder, “who would testify against me?’” At the final judgment, a person’s house will testify whether they had a m’zuzah on their doorpost, whether they observed Kashruth, whether they welcomed the poor, and whether they studied. The ministering angels will testify  whether they were devout, attended synagogue and whether they ‘serve(d) the Lord in happiness’. A person’s soul will disclose their aspirations, ideas and goals. “Continuously evaluate your behaviour in business and in the community. Be conscious of your ‘witnesses’.”

Question 1:  The last paragraph is based on the supposition that there is  a

                  final judgement and an afterlife, angels exist, and people have a

                  soul. Do you agree?

Question 2: Do Jews sin or just take the wrong path or both?

                    A sin is defined as a transgression of a divine law.

Visions of the Fathers

Editor’s Note:This section seems most important as a warning to be careful   

                        with our words, as even an unintended or subtle inflection  

                        may be misinterpreted or act as a leading statement.

The western symbol of justice is the blindfolded person holding the scales of justice. “ Halachah is much more stringent.” For example,  if one litigant is poor and dressed poorly, the other must dress the same or buy the first a new suit so the judge will not be subtly prejudiced. “Not even the slightest hint of favouritism may be shown , even in the most subtle way.” “Halachah does not permit the tactics and dramatic maneuvers that are standard fare in the American courtroom as a means to manipulate the sympathies of the judge and jury.”

Question: Does the jury need a “show” for them to understand some of the


This mishnah cautions the judge to weigh his words most carefully because a remark may be misinterpreted by witnesses. Even an inflection of the voice may betray the judge’s feeling, and both the witnesses and the litigants may be improperly influenced.”  

“Be cautious about how you speak, because others may learn from you how to lie. … If parents are careful not to tell even ‘white lies’, the children are more likely to be truthful.”

Question 1:  Do you consciously or unconsciously use or recognize leading


Question 2:  Do you tell “white lies” or mislead by omission of facts?

The Wisdom of Judaism (Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins)

Kindness to Animals
“One must not put any food in one’s mouth, until the animals have been fed - Gittin 62a
“There is the (Yiddish) expression that only a horse walks in the middle of the road.”

only a horse walks in the middle of the road_w580.jpg

Apparently, so do elephants.

“Always let your left hand push away , and your right hand pull toward you.”  Sotah 47a
“A seasoned , thoughtful, and carefully considered approach is usually what is called for.”

Truth in Humour - It Could Be Worse

A poor man lived with his wife and six children in a very small one-room house. They were always getting in each other's way and there was so little space they could hardly breathe!

Finally the man could stand it no more. He talked to his wife and asked her what to do. "Go see the rabbi," she told him, and after arguing a while, he went.

The rabbi greeted him and said, "I see something is troubling you. Whatever it is, you can tell me."

And so the poor man told the rabbi how miserable things were at home with him, his wife, and the six children all eating and living and sleeping in one room. The poor man told the rabbi, "We're even starting to yell and fight with each other. Life couldn't be worse."

The rabbi thought very deeply about the poor man's problem. Then he said, "Do exactly as I tell you and things will get better. Do you promise?"

"I promise," the poor man said.

The rabbi then asked the poor man a strange question. "Do you own any animals?"

"Yes," he said. "I have one cow, one goat, and some chickens."

"Good," the rabbi said. "When you get home, take all the animals into your house to live with you."

The poor man was astonished to hear this advice from the rabbi, but he had promised to do exactly what the rabbi said. So he went home and took all the farm animals into the tiny one-room house.

The next day the poor man ran back to see the rabbi. "What have you done to me, Rabbi?" he cried. "It's awful. I did what you told me and the animals are all over the house! Rabbi, help me!"

The rabbi listened and said calmly, "Now go home and take the chickens back outside."

The poor man did as the rabbi said, but hurried back again the next day. "The chickens are gone, but Rabbi, the goat!" he moaned. "The goat is smashing up all the furniture and eating everything in sight!"

The good rabbi said, "Go home and remove the goat and may God bless you."

So the poor man went home and took the goat outside. But he ran back again to see the rabbi, crying and wailing. "What a nightmare you have brought to my house, Rabbi! With the cow it's like living in a stable! Can human beings live with an animal like this?"

The rabbi said sweetly, "My friend, you are right. May God bless you. Go home now and take the cow out of your house." And the poor man went quickly home and took the cow out of the house.

The next day he came running back to the rabbi again. "O Rabbi," he said with a big smile on his face, "we have such a good life now. The animals are all out of the house. The house is so quiet and we've got room to spare! What a joy!"

From: "How the Children Became Stars" by Aaron Zerah, published by Sorin Books


Parsha Yisro - The Mechanism of Spirituality

1. The Mechanism to Process Spirituality
The Torah tells us that at the splitting of the Sea, Hashem’s presence was so manifest that even the Jewish maidservant who witnessed this miracle said, “Behold, this is my G-d I will glorify him!” The Chazal tell us that the maidservant experienced a level of revelation at the Sea that was greater than any revelation every experienced by the prophet Yecheskel. Although the maidservant at the Sea saw G-d in a more revealed and obvious manner than the prophet Yecheskel, she remained a maidservant after the experience while Yecheskel became the prophet of his generation. The maidservant’s life was not changed in any way as a result of her experience. How come the revelation of G-d did not cause the maidservant to become more than a maidservant? Yet, Yecheskel’s level of revelation was far less than that of the maidservant and he dedicated his entire life to G-d. How do we understand this?

We read in this week’s parsha that after hearing what Hashem had done for the Jews, Yisro was so affected that he decided to leave Midian and join the Jews in the desert in order to cleave to Hashem. Yisro was not the only person to hear about what Hashem had done to Egypt. The entire world knew that G-d had destroyed Egypt and redeemed His people, yet Yisro was the only one to be affected while the rest of the world remained unchanged.

The Gemara in Zevachim says that when Hashem was giving the Torah at Sinai the earth began to quake and the nations of the world ran in fear to their prophet Bilaam. They said to Bilaam that Hashem was destroying the world, but Bilaam explained that the reason why the earth was shaking was because Hashem was giving the Torah to His people. Upon hearing this news the nations of the world calmed down and returned to their pagan and idolatrous lives. The nations of the world were not affected in any way despite the fact that they clearly understood that Hashem was giving the Torah at that moment. With that level of clarity they should have gone to Sinai, yet they remained unchanged.

We see that people can hear about and understand the occurrence of momentous events and yet remain unchanged. The maidservant at the Sea remained the maidservant after witnessing the revelation of G-d despite having a level of clarity that was greater than Yechezkel the prophet. The nations of the world heard about the miraculous events surrounding the Jewish exodus from Egypt, yet only Yisro was affected. The entire world knew that Hashem was giving the Torah to the Jews but they nevertheless continued in their pagan ways. Why was Yisro affected and not anyone else? Why was Yecheskel a prophet who dedicated his life to G-d, while the maidservant at the Sea did not change?

The answer is that understanding is not the only prerequisite for being affected by G-d. One must devote himself to constant growth and preparation in order have clarity to be affected. The Chazal tell us that Yisro had devoted his life to exploring and serving every conceivable deity in the world and consequently concluded that Hashem was the One and Only G-d. He developed the capacity to appreciate Hashem through his lifetime of exploring other deities and realizing that they were all false. It was because of this conditioning and training that Yisro had the capacity to change his entire life and join the Jews after hearing how the All Powerful G-d turned nature upside down in order to redeem His people.

Yecheskel, the prophet, devoted his entire life to the service of Hashem. Every moment of his life was invested in performing G-d’s Will. It is because of this dedicated conditioning and development that Yecheskel appreciated and internalized every experience. For Yecheskel, seeing Hashem was not an external occurrence – it was part of his total being; whereas the maidservant at the Sea was a mere maidservant prior to her revelation of G-d. How could a maidservant truly appreciate that revelation and be affected by it? What preparation or development did she have prior to that moment that would give her the capacity to be affected? This is why the maidservant returned to being a maidservant after seeing G-d in the most absolute and obvious manner.

Often people have spiritual experiences in life such as praying at the Kotel in Jerusalem, meeting a special individual, or hearing about some miraculous event. However the moment that the spiritual experience is over the person returns to his prior perspective completely unaffected by the experience.

Without the ongoing development process and conditioning through the study of Torah and the performance of Mitzvos it is not possible to develop a capacity to be affected by Hashem’s presence in this world. Knowledge and understanding are only some of the prerequisites needed for being affected. We witness miracles every day; however, how have they impacted on our lives? Evidently we need to continuously engage in developing our spiritual capacity.

2. Understanding is more than Knowledge
We read in this week’s parsha, “Moshe went out to greet is father-in-law (Yisro) and …Moshe told his father-in-law all that Hashem had done to Pharaoh and Egypt for Israel’s sake – all the trouble that had befallen them on the way – and that Hashem had rescued them.” What was the purpose of Moshe sharing this information with his father-in-law Yisro (who was not a Jew)? This information seemingly had no relevance to Yisro.

Rashi cites the Mechilta, which explains that the purpose of telling Yisro about all the wondrous events surrounding the Jewish exodus was to draw Yisro close to Torah. (Moshe wanted Yisro to stand with the Jews at Sinai to receive the Torah.) We see from this Chazal, that the more a person understands and sees the Hand of G-d in this world the more that person will come close to Torah. If we were to comprehend Hashem’s ongoing relationship with existence then we would be drawn closer to Torah.

A person may believe in G-d as well as believe that he is doing His Will by being a “good person.” However, if it is not in conformity with the Torah then that person’s conduct is incorrect. The only way to be truly a “good person” with respect to G-d, is that one must follow the Torah. The way for one to understand this is to observe and see the Hand of G-d in existence.

Moshe did not share the detailed events about the Jewish exodus with Yisro for the sake of keeping him abreast of current events; Moshe wanted Yisro to appreciate that everything that happens in this world is due to G-d’s involvement. What happened to the Jewish people was not a mere “event.”

If a person has the proper perspective and ongoing cognizance he would be able to see Hashem’s involvement in existence. The question is – How does one gain this perspective? Is it through the study of Torah? It is possible to study Torah on an intellectual basis and not gain a Torah perspective. The only way to achieve this level of clarity is to concentrate on increasing one’s “fear of Hashem.” As it says in the verse, “The prerequisite to wisdom is the fear of Hashem.” Therefore, one must study Torah with the intent of increasing his awareness of G-d and not just for gaining information and intellectual advancement. As we see, Moshe informed Yisro of the Jewish exodus not for intellectual or factual purposes, but rather to increase Yisro’s appreciation of Hashem and thus bring him closer to Torah.

Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky and Project Genesis, Inc.

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Good for the Jews -- A Purim Tale

"Good for the Jews is a smart, funny, sexy novel set in Madison, Wisconsin, during the Bush administration. Part mystery and part stranger-comes-to town story, Good for the Jews is loosely based on the biblical book of Esther. Like Esther, Debra Spark's characters deal with anti-Semitism and the way that powerful men—and the women who love them—negotiate bureaucracies."

-- University of Michigan Press

Colby College professor and award-winning author Debra Spark's newest novel is Good for the Jews. With Purim approaching, I thought you might like to learn a little more about this unique story and its relationship with the megillah. Debra was kind enough to do an email interview with me - enjoy her answers below, and be sure to check out her extremely funky website.



Debra, what got you interested in exploring and retelling the story of Esther?

Several years ago, in preparation for taking my son to his first Purim service, I reread the Book of Esther. It turned out that I entirely misremembered the end of the story. In fact, I think I never knew the true end of the story. What I remembered: At story's end, Haman is vanquished, hung on the gallows that he intended for Mordecai, and all's well that ends well. In fact: after Haman dies, the Jews are given permission to continue fighting, and they got out and kill thousands. Revenge? Or self-defense? The Book of Esther doesn't really say. Since I happened to be rereading Esther, just as the United States was going into Iraq, the ending discomfitted me. In going into Iraq, wasn't the United States--the victims on 9/11--becoming victimizers? I wanted to write my novel in order to explore my own discomfort. But I also liked the idea of a retelling, because the Book of Esther has so much going for it in terms of humor, the relationship between the sexes, palace intrigue and so on. I liked having the scaffolding of a much beloved story--and beloved for good reason--on which to hang my tale.

Why did you set your retelling of The Book of Esther in Madison, Wisconsin?

I wanted to set my book in a left wing town, since I wanted to explore the so-called anti-Semitism of the left. I happen to have lived in Madison for two years when I was in my twenties, so that was that.

The title of the book is the catchphrase "good for the Jews." Can you explain a bit about what the phrase means, what it implies?

People of my parents' generation, and perhaps my own, are used to things being couched in terms of whether it is or is not "good for the Jews." The implication (usually) is that anything that gives non-Jews a reason not to think well of the Jews is suspect. It's bad for the Jews. And visa versa.

At the end of the book Ellen, the Esther character, wonders if Biblical stories are "good for the Jews." Do you think they are or aren't?

Well, I think I thought that the Book of Esther, if read in a certain light, could be bad for the Jews, and, in fact, when I looked into it, it turned out that, through the centuries, plenty of anti-Semites have used the ending of that book as evidence of the bloodthirstiness of the Jews. Throughout the Bible, of course, Jews don't behave necessarily well. Neither does God, for that matter. So you can see, in a weird way, how the Bible might not be "good for the Jews," not the best public relations kit! But, of course, that's just one angle into the Bible and not, perhaps, the most fair one, but the one that I thought my character would be brought to by the events of the novel.

Ironically, the Haman character instigates diversity training in the school where he is principal. Mose (the Mordichai character) says that minorities don't need diversity training. Do you think that's true?

Hmm ... I'm not sure I'd say that exactly, even though he does. That said, I find the notion of diversity training a little peculiar. I suppose you could be trained into having an awareness of class and race that you didn't have before being "trained," but I am doubtful.

In some of your interviews you talk about the tension between being seen as a victim versus a victimizer and how sometimes the same people can be both. Can you talk a little about that, and about how that works into the book?

I heard the Israeli novelist David Grossman say (somewhere? I can't remember where) that the Middle Eastern situation would never be solved until both sides admitted they had been victims and victimizers. I couldn't agree more, and I think it is both sides tendency to claim only victim status that has led to the perpetual stalemate in the region. No one thinks of themselves, of course, as the bad guy, so I'm interested in how bad things happen, when everyone imagines themselves an innocent. That was part of what I wanted to look at in the book, and I hoped one way to do that would be to make all of the characters have their reasons for thinking as they did. Even if you (as a reader) couldn't assent to what they were doing, it would be believable that they thought what they were doing was right.

As a reader who was already familiar with the story of Esther, I found the parallels in your book very intriguing, but I wonder what the reading experience would be like for someone who did not bring that background knowledge with them. Have you heard any reactions from such readers, and was their reading experience different in any significant way?

Well, I think Jews tend to know the story, but non-Jews don't, so I don't think it matters if you know the story or not. I hope it doesn't matter! When I first sent the novel to friends to read, no one recognized the story beneath the story, save for a Jewish friend (the writer Marjorie Sandor) who figured it out about 3/4s of the way through. I loved that she "got" it. Back when it was time to write "ad copy" for my book, I didn't think I should describe the book as a retelling of the Esther story, but I got sort of stumped when I went to give a short explanation of the book, so I fell back on that. (In some ways, knowing that it is a retelling of the Esther story ruins things, after all, because it might mean that you can see things coming.) I don't think I'd expect anyone to get the various parallels, even as I put them in. I did a lot of reading on The Book of Esther while I was writing, so a few things I put in there were completely obscure, but just fun for me to put in. But I still haven't answered your question. I haven't heard anyone tell me that the book didn't work for the, because they don't know the Book of Esther, but I imagine they wouldn't tell me if this was, indeed, the case.

If you were going to dress up for Purim, what would you dress as? :^)

Oh, Esther! But that's only because my husband made me an Esther face puppet years ago,and I love it. He made a Haman one, too. But I don't like to be the bad guy! It seems that kids don't go as the story's characters as much as they used to. My son is determined to go to this year's Purim service as a Ninja. Oy!

Thanks very much, Debra!

Next week we’ll look at

Elie Wiesel, “Esther,” in Sages and Dreamers: Portraits and Legends from the Jewish Tradition (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), 133-151.

Traditional Purim songs:

Desperately seeking Lyrics


Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white, clean and bright
You look happy to meet me

Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever

Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever


Hamantaschen, Hamantaschen
Every Purim you greet me
Like the hat of that brat
Sides that total to just three.

⇐ need a proper second verse

Poppy seeds, jam and prune
little cakes on which we swoon.
Hamantaschen, Hamantaschen
Good to eat forever!

⇐ maybe repeat the second verse

We need your help to complete, (or improve upon,) the lyrics