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Why Couldn’t the Jews and Greeks Just Get Along?

December 18, 2011 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays


It’s hard for me to get into Chanukah. As far as I can see, the whole thing was a major disaster. Here we have a meeting of two rich cultures, with so much to share, so much to contribute to the world together, so much synergy that could happen, and instead, BOOM! — the extremists of both sides hit the battlefield.

I don’t get it. The Greeks were universalists. They were open to new ideas from wherever they came. They spread knowledge and understanding throughout the Mediterranean. Here was an opportunity to take Jewish values to the world, to go public. Why couldn’t those Maccabee hotheads work out some sort of compromise?

The Short Answer:

Actually, this was the greatest thing that could have happened to the Greek mind: To discover that one thing it could not tolerate — something like the massage therapist who helps you to find that one trigger point where you can’t be touched.

For the Jew, as well, this was a defining experience. The red lines became clear, and with those guidelines, the essential Torah was made able to survive to this day.

The Long Answer:

You’re right about one thing: The whole Chanukah story was completely out of character for Ancient Greece. I don’t believe there was any other culture they ever oppressed or forbade. Every new culture had its set of gods and rituals, and that was just great. “Hey, you got gods? We got gods, too! Here, let’s trade god cards! How ’bout mix and match? You got rituals? You got belief-systems? We’re into all that stuff! We’ll even help you make big, pretty statues!” Greeks were great syncretists — meaning, they could jerry together every culture of the known world and make one big tzimmes out of all of it.

So what on earth did they have against the Jews?

Sure, there were political power-plays going on that were the ostensible reasons for the conflict. But it’s obvious there was something deeper at play. Some subliminal annoyance that brought out the worst in the Greek and pushed the Maccabees to revolt. Apparently, there was something about the Jewish mind that didn’t mix and match.

Now look at it from the Jewish side: Jews have also borrowed from every culture they’ve come in contact with. Whatever your grandmother tells you, Abraham did not smear his gefilte fish with chrane. One culture we borrowed more from than perhaps any other was that of Ancient Greece. The Talmud tells us that the only language the Torah could be translated into elegantly is Greek. They said it was a beautiful language. They say that of all peoples, the Greeks had ideas closest to ours. They praised many of the Greek philosophers. Maimonides wrote that Aristotle was half a prophet. The Seder Hadorot, a kind of classic Jewish history book, claims that Aristotle was really Jewish!

So what is going on here? Why such a violent clash? Why were the Jews unable to work out some sort of compromise with a Hellenist ruler?

We need to know because in a very real way, Chanukah lives on. Our society today is a bizarre grafting of these two cultures, the Hellenist and the Jewish. If this conflict existed back then, the question is, has there been some resolution over time? Or are we still fighting Greek elephants? Simply put: Is our society schizoid?

Head-To-Head — and Beyond

So here’s how the conversation goes. Which conversation? The conversation that’s been going on ever since the Greek mind and the Jewish mind met one another, almost two and a half millennia ago. Where does it happen? Mostly, somewhere deep inside Jewish minds:

Greek: So tell us about your gods, Mr. Maccabee.

Jew: Um, that’s singular.

Greek: Okay, tell me about your gods.

Jew: No, not you. G-d. G-d is singular. Only one god.

Greek: Don’t worry, we’ve got so many I’m sure we can spare a few.

Jew: That’s okay, one is enough.

Greek: So, this one G-d, what does He look like? We’d love to make some nice statues for you. You poor, uncultured people, you have no statues!

Jew: That’s because He doesn’t have looks.

Greek: No looks? Ugly? That’s cool! A god of ugliness! Don’t worry, we can make ugly statues, too.

Jew: No, no. He has no looks at all. You can’t see Him.

Greek: An invisible G-d? Well, maybe we can do that in glass. But you have to give us some description.

Jew: Nope. Sorry. No description.

Greek: You mean nobody ever saw Him? How can you worship something if you don’t know what it looks like? I mean, how do you know He exists in the first place?

Jew: It’s not that we don’t know what He looks like. He doesn’t have any looks. He has no image.

Greek: Well, I’m sorry then. If He has no image, we can’t make a statue.

Jew: That’s fine with us.

Greek: But we’d like to write books about Him. So just give us some definition and we’ll work around it.

Jew: Oh, our G-d can’t be defined.

Greek: Come, now. Everything has to have a definition. Or else it’s not a thing.

J: But G-d is not a thing. He creates things. But He isn’t a thing.

G: Oh! So He is the Cosmic Mind Who conceives and shapes all forms from the primal essence-matter.

J: No, He doesn’t just form them, He creates them. Out of nothing.

G: Now you’re getting silly. You can’t make something out of nothing. You need stuff to make it out of.

J: But there wasn’t any stuff when things began.

G: There was always stuff. How else could the Cosmic Mind make anything?

J: Out of nothing!

G: Look, you Jews don’t really think straight. But that’s okay. We’ve conquered all sorts of primitive cultures. You’ll learn, too. So, you worship the Cosmic Mind — you’ll get along just great with Aristotle and…

J: No, He’s not just the Cosmic Mind.

G: Well, nothing’s higher than the Cosmic Mind.

J: Because that’s not who He is. I mean, even if He didn’t make a world, He would still be G-d. So you can’t say, “that’s who He is — the One that makes a world.” There doesn’t have to be a world for Him to exist.

G: Of course there has to be a world. Otherwise, why is there a world if there doesn’t have to be one? The world makes sense. The Cosmic Mind makes sense. That’s what it’s all about. Reason. The highest and most perfect of all things. We Greeks will teach you all about that. So, now tell me about your rituals. We Greeks really dig rituals. Any that have to do with wine? Parties?

J: Sure, we make kiddush on Friday night to commemorate the Creation of the world from nothing.

G: Well, you can give up that one now, since I’ve just shown you that creation of the world from nothing makes no sense whatsoever.

J: We don’t eat milk with meat.

G: Why not?

J: G-d says so.

G: For what reason?

J: Reason? He needs a reason? For the same reason He created heaven and earth!

G: Which is?

J: He just wanted to.

G: That’s not a reason!

J: Sure it is. He decided He would like a world where there would be milk and meat and He would tell people, “Don’t eat that milk and meat together!” and they would listen.

G: That makes no sense. That’s not a reason!

J: Reason is just another of His creations.

G: Reason is the ultimate! There is nothing higher than Reason!

J: Okay then, explain to me why the world is the way it is. Why does one plus one equal two? Why does the square of the length of the hypotenuse equal the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides? Why do parallel lines never meet?

G: Because those are the rules of geometry!

J: So why does the Cosmic Mind, as you call Him, have to follow your rules of geometry?

G: They’re not our rules! They are the self-evident truths of nature!

J: Why are these the truths and not something else?

G: You stubborn Jew! Don’t you see that this is the most elegant, rational way things could be?

J: I’ll bet you He could break them. I’ll bet our G-d could make a world where parallel lines meet. He could break any of the laws of nature.

G: You can’t break laws of nature! They’re not like laws of the state or like your silly laws about cheeseburgers. They are truths. They are perfect. They are the ground of reality. They are because they have to be.

J: Nothing has to be. Nothing but the Source of Being. But He could be any way He wants.

G: Geometry has to be. Cause and effect has to be. Logic has to be. If A = B then B = A. That is an absolute Truth. It must be.

J: Why?

G: Why?! Because if they don’t have to be, then I and you and this whole world have no real substance! And that cannot be!

J: That’s just what I was trying to tell you. This world has no real substance. They only truth is…

G: Don’t say it, Mr. Maccabee! You people are downright dangerous.

And that is why the Greeks did not forbid Jewish practice altogether. What they (initially) forbade were those practices that they saw as irrational. Those practices that Jews do simply because they believe they have a relationship with a Being who is higher than reason. That, they could not tolerate.

Of course, as you know, eventually some bright boys came up with geometries where parallel lines meet; cause and effect got bumped out of quantum physics; the world was discovered to have had a beginning; and even now it still is really nothing because the sum of all radiant energy minus all of the universe’s mass equals zero. Most of us today have accepted that there are things that are the way they are not for any reason, but just because that’s the way they are. Nothing has to be the way it is. Why do masses attract? Why is the grass green? Why is there anything at all? There doesn’t have to be a reason for everything, because reason is not the foundation of reality. So what’s so absurd about connecting to the Foundation of Reality through mitzvot that are beyond reason?

Mind Under Matter

Nevertheless, the battle continues. You see, as mentioned above, the Greek mind, aside from worshipping human intellect, is also a great syncretist. That means it can hammer together the most incongruous ideologies without blinking an eyelid. You’ve heard of Rice-Christians? Peyote-Catholics? The Greek mind could do any of that, and more.

The two characteristics go hand in hand: When there’s nothing higher than intellect, intellect has no guiding light. Everything, even the stupidest thing — as long as it doesn’t deny intellect — can be tolerated. Aristotle knew that the pantheon of Athenian gods was nonsense. But what’s wrong with the common people, who cannot understand any better, having their way?

You can easily see that a knowledge of an absolute Divine Will beyond reason has become a necessity for human survival. Without the supposition of a Divine Will, whatever you wish to make sense can make sense. If your system of logic cannot support an idea, just change the postulates and rethink the data. Anything can be made to make sense when you determine the assumptions. Every society has had its philosophers and philosophers have justified everything imaginable — from coliseum killing games to gas chambers.

Strangely, this may have worked to humanity’s advantage in one regard: The Greek mind applied itself to figuring out the material world. When your belief system begins with Divine revelation you don’t necessarily apply yourself to mundane matters of how things work. So technological progress became chiefly the domain of the Greek mind throughout history.

But it also has some nefarious consequences. Because when you marry intellect and materialism (a good description of Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany), you’ve entered a bottomless pit of quicksand.

Which brings us to a fascinating point. The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that in Hebrew, the name for ancient Greece, Yavan, has another meaning: quicksand (as in Psalms 40:3 and Talmud, Eruvin 19a). Water mixes with sand, dirt and clay. You step in it and you can’t get out. The more you try to climb up, the further down you go.

Take a look at the letters that spell Yavan in Hebrew: יון . It starts with a small point of a yud — representing wisdom. That stretches down to become a vav. And the vav stretches even further down, below the line, to become a long nun. It’s all a description of the process of intellect sinking into the material world and, with nothing to hold it in place, sinking further and further.

A Donkey and an Ox

Today, we have those syncretists who wish to marry materialism with Torah. And nothing is less congruous than that.

Materialism is the ultimate of Greece stuck in the mud. It is the idea that all that exists is that which can be observed, described and explained. Evolutionism, for example, is a materialistic explanation of existence. When people became disillusioned with the church and with faith, they needed an explanation of existence that relied on Chance and Necessity alone, without recourse to G-d. Darwinism and current cosmologies provide just that. So do the standard interpretations of history we are taught today.

Torah is an understanding that behind the world lies a Divine Will, unhampered by the limitations of nature or human logic — because it is the source of all this. Why are there laws of nature? Because G-d generally chooses to work in consistent ways. Why did history unfold the way it did? Because that is all in G-d’s plan.

When someone tries to provide a materialistic explanation for Torah and mitzvot, they are creating a Promethean bed, killing all sense of Torah in the process. So too, attempting to resolve conflicts between evolutionary doctrines and Torah makes less sense than marrying a donkey to an ox.

Yes, we try to understand as much as we can. The Torah commands us to think deeply, to immerse our intellects in study and comprehension. Whatever we can fit into intellect, we must strive to do so. Whatever explanation we can give, we must give it. But always with the sense that with every new grain of understanding, we have expanded the seashore of the Infinite Unknowable.

We can have a thousand reasons for not mixing meat and milk, but when it comes down to it, we do it because that is our personal connection with the Divine Will, the Life of All Things. And that is the victory of Chanukah.

Holiday Messages Chanukah Messages from the Rebbe

December 18, 2011 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

The Street-Lamp Lighter

I was once privileged to hear from my father-in-law [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe] that his father, Rabbi Sholom Dovber, of saintly memory, was once asked, “What is aChabad-LubavitchChassid?”

He replied, “A Chassid is like a street-lamp lighter.” In olden days, there was a person in every town who would light the street-lamps with a light he carried at the end of a long pole. On the street-corners, the lamps were there in readiness, waiting to be lit; sometimes, however, the lamps are not as easily accessible. There are lamps in forsaken places, in deserts, or at sea. There must be someone to light even those lamps, so that they may fulfill their purpose and light up the paths of others.

It is written, “The soul of man is the candle of G-d.” It is also written, “AMitzvah is a candle, and the Torah is light.” A Chassid is one who puts his personal affairs aside and sets out to light up the souls of Jews with the light of Torah and Mitzvot. Jewish souls are ready and waiting to be kindled. Sometimes they are close, nearby; sometimes they are in a desert, or at sea. There must be someone who will forgo his or her own comforts and conveniences, and reach out to light those lamps. This is the function of a true Chabad-Lubavitch Chassid.

The message is obvious. I will only add that this function is not really limited to Chassidim, but is the function of every Jew. Divine Providence brings Jews to the most unexpected, remote places, in order that they carry out this purpose of lighting up the world.

May G-d grant that each and every one of us be a dedicated ’street-lamp lighter,’ and fulfill his/her duty with joy and gladness of heart.

Have We Betrayed Our G-d? Has G-d Betrayed Us?

December 18, 2011 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

A Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah Drama

by: Rabbi YY Jacobson – theyeshiva.net

Today, the 19th of the Hebrew month of Kislev,we commemorate the “Rosh Hashanah” for Chassidism. The day when Rabbi Schnuer Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), the founder of Chabad, known as the Alter Rebbe was liberated from prison, is the day when we celebrate the gift of Chassidism.

What is the essence of Chassidism? And how can it make our lives more meaningful today?

It can be captured through a narrative in this week’s portion (1),where we read about the unconventional union that transpired between Judah, the son of Jacob, and his daughter-in-law Tamar, who disguised herself as a harlot.

The Judah-Tamar Drama

It is a fascinating story: Judah has three sons, Er, Onan and Shalah. His oldest son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but died prematurely, without children. His bereft father, Judah, suggested to his second son, Onan: “Consort with your brother’s wife and enter into levirate marriage with her, and establish offspring for your brother.”

Here, we are introduced, for the first time, to the concept of levirate marriages, discussed later in the book of Deuteronomy:”When brothers live together, and one of them dies childless, the wife of the deceased man shall not marry outside to a strange man; her brother-in-law shall come to her, and take her to himself as a wife, and perform levirate marriage. The first-born son whom she bears will then perpetuate the name of the dead brother, so that his name will not be obliterated from Israel.”

One of the great biblical commentators, Nachmanides, writes that this mitzvah embodies “one of the great mysteries of the Torah” and that even before the Torah was given, people knew of the spiritual benefits of a levirate marriage. The biblical commentators explain that the child born of the union between the brother of the dead man and his former wife — both of whom are intimately connected with the deceased man — is considered the spiritual son of the deceased. Moreover, the Kabbalists suggest that the first-born child of the levirate marriage is a reincarnation of the soul of its other’s first husband, bringing the deceased man, as it were, back to life.

So Judah suggested to his second son Onan to marry his brother’s widow and perpetuate the legacy of the deceased brother.

Now, Judah’s second son also died prematurely without having any children. Judah refused to allow her to marry his third son, Shalah. Which put her in an impossible situation: she could not go out and marry anyone else, because she was bound to Shalah, but her father in law would not allow her to marry Shalah.

Now, during those early times prior to the giving of Torah, Nachmanides explains other relatives, in addition to brothers, used to carry out this obligation of levirate marriages. Thus, following the death of both of Tamar’s husbands, she went and lured her former-father-in-law, Judah, into a relationship with her which impregnated her. As a guarantee that he would pay her for the relationship, Judah gave Tamar his seal, cord (2) and staff.

“Some three months passed,” the Torah relates (3), “and Judah was told, ‘your daughter-in-law Tamar has committed harlotry, and moreover, she has become pregnant by harlotry.’”

“Take her out and have her burned,” said Judah.

“When she was being taken out, she sent word to her father-in-law, saying, ‘I am pregnant by the man who is the owner of these articles. Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, this cord and this staff?’

“Judah immediately recognized them, and he said, ‘She is right; it is from me [that she has conceived]. She did it because I did not give her to my son Shelah.’”

A Spiritual Story

It is axiomatic among all of the Jewish biblical commentators that the stories in the Torah are not just tales relating ancient Jewish history. They also reflect spiritual timeless experiences that take place continually within the human soul. In his commentary on the book of Genesis, Nachmanides wrote: “The Torah discusses the physical reality, but it alludes to the world of the spirit (4).”

What follows, therefore, in this week’s essay, is a classical Chassidic interpretation on the episode of Judah and Tamar, treating the story as symbolic of the inner spiritual life of the Jew.

Betrayal and Its Consequences

In the writings of the kabbalah, the name Judah, or Yehudah, containing within it the four letters of the name of Hashem, symbolizes G-d. Tamar, on the other hand, is the Hebrew name for a palm tree, and represents the Jewish people and their bond with G-d (5).

Why? The Talmud explains (6), that “just as the palm tree has but one ‘heart,’ so too do the Jewish people have only a single heart, devoted completely to their Father in heaven.”

(The heart of the date palm is its sap. Unlike the saps of other trees, like the alive or almond tree, the sap of the palm is found only in its trunk, but not in its branches or leaves.

This is the meaning behind the Talmudic statement that the palm tree possesses only a single “heart” (7)).

The intimate union between Tamar and Judah – the Jew and G-d – occurs during the sacred days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During those days, G-d, or Judah, exposes Himself to His people, evoking within them a yearning to transcend their ego and self-centered cravings and to become one with G-d.

But then, some time passes, and the spiritual inspiration of the High Holy days wears off. Judah is informed that “Tamar, your Kallah (8), has committed harlotry, and moreover, she has become pregnant by harlotry.” The news arrives to G-d that His bride has betrayed Him, substituting him with another partner.

Is this not the story of so many of us? At one point during our lives we are inspired to transcend our selfish identity and connect to the deeper Divine rhythm of life. Yet, the cunning lore of numerous other gods captivates our imaginations and ambitions and dulls our vision. We substituted the G-d of truth and transcendence with the ego-god, the power-god, the money-god, the temptation-god, the addiction-god, the manipulation-god and the god of self-indulgence

What is even sadder for Judah is the news that “Tamar” is so estranged that she became pregnant by harlotry. This symbolizes the stage in life when the Jew rejects the G-d of his forefathers permanently and decides to build his future with superficial sources of gratification.

“Take her out and have her burned,” says Judah. The purpose of the Jew is to serve as the spiritual compass of human civilization, to bear witness to the truth of the One G-d, the moral conscious of the world. When the Jew loses sight of the raison d’être of his existence, when he believes that his salvation lies in the fact that he “was invited to the White House,” or that he was praised in an editorial of The New York Times, his existence is useless.

The Truth Emerges

Rabbi Isaac Luryah wrote that “the judgment that began on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is completed some three months later, during the days of Chanukah.” That’s why it is at this period of time – three months after the intimate union between Judah and Tamar – that Judah (the metaphor for G-d) is “informed” regarding the spiritual status of Tamar (the Jewish people) and the verdict is issued that Tamar has no future.

“When Tamar was being taken out, she sent word to Judah, saying, ‘I am pregnant by the man who is the owner of these articles. Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, cord and staff?’”

During that fateful time, when the “prosecuting angels” have almost been successful in demonstrating to G-d that the Jewish people are a failed experiment, at that very moment, the Jew sends word to G-d, saying, “I am pregnant by the man who is the owner of these articles!” The information you received that I abandoned you, is a blatant lie! If I have gone astray here and there, it is merely a superficial, temporary phase. Gaze into the deeper layers of my identity and you will discover that I belong to You, that my intimacy is shared only with You, G-d. “I am pregnant from Judah and not from anybody else!” the Jew declares.

“Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, cord and staff?” For during the festival of Chanukah – when the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is finalized — the Jew kindles each night a wick, or a cord, soaked in oil, commemorating the event of the Jews discovering a sealed single cruse of oil after the Greeks had plundered the holy Temple in Jerusalem (9).

The Jew further points to the staff in his arm (10). In order to preserve his faith, he was forced time and time again – for 2000 years – to take the wandering staff in his arm, abandon his home, wealth and security, and seek out new territory where he could continue to live as a Jew.

“Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, cord and staff?” the Jew asks G-d. “It is to this man that I am pregnant!” Our loyalty and commitment remain eternally to the owner of the “seal” and “cord” of the Chanukah flames; our deepest intimacy is reserved to the owner of the “staff” of Jewish wandering.

Who Is the Traitor?

“Judah immediately recognized the articles, and he said, “She is right; it is from me that she conceived. She did it because I did not give her to my son Shelah.”

When G-d observes the burning flames of the Chanukah menorah, He immediately recognizes that indeed, His people have never left Him. True, the Jew does fall prey at times to the dominating external forces of a materialistic and immoral world, yet this enslavement is skin deep. Probe the layers of his or her soul and you will discover an infinite wellspring of spirituality and love.

“If the Jew has, in fact, gone astray here and there, it is my fault,” G-d says, not his. “Because I did not give Tamar to my son Shelah.”Shelah is the Biblical term used to describe Moshiach (11),the leader who will usher in the final redemption. G-d says that for two millennia I have kept the Jewish nation in a dark and horrific exile where they have been subjected to horrendous pain and savage suffering. Blood, tears and death have been their tragic fate for twenty centuries, as they
prayed, each day and every moment, for world redemption. But redemption has not come.

How can I expect that a Jew never commit a sin? How can I expect that a Jew never try to cast his luck with the materialistic world about him that seems so appealing, when I held back for so long the light of Moshiach?

“It is I, G-d, who is guilty of treason,” G-d says. Not the Jew. Tamar is an innocent, beautiful palm-tree, which still has only one heart to its Father in heaven.

Cold Soup

Rabbi Manis Friedman once shared the following thought (12):

Three thousand, three hundred and fifteen years ago G-d asked us if we would marry him. We had an extraordinary wedding ceremony, with great special effects–we were wowed. After the wedding He said, “I have a few things I’d like you to take care of for me so, please… I’ll be right back.” He hasn’t been heard from since. For more than three thousand, three hundred years. He has sent messengers, messages, postcards–you know, writing on the walls… but we haven’t heard a word from Him in all this time.

Imagine, a couple gets married, and the man says to his new wife, “Would you make me something to eat, please? I’ll be right back.” She begins preparing. The guy comes back 3300 years later, walks into the house, up to the table, straight to his favorite chair, sits down and tastes the soup that is on the table. The soup is cold.

What will his reaction be? If he’s a wise man, he won’t complain. Rather he’ll think it’s a miracle that the house is still there, that his table and favorite chair are still there. He’ll be delighted to see a bowl of soup at his place. The soup is cold? Well, yes, over 3300 years, soup can get cold.

Now we are expecting Moshiach. If Moshiach comes now, and wants to judge, what’s he going to find? Cold soup?

He will find an incredibly healthy Jewish people. After 3300 years we are concerned about being Jewish, which means we are concerned about our relationship with G-d.

Yes, if Moshiach comes today, he’ll find that our soup is cold. We suffer from separation anxiety. We suffer from a loss of connection to our ancestors. We suffer a loss of connection even to our immediate family. The soup is cold. The soup is very cold. But whose fault is that? And who gets the credit for the fact that there is soup altogether?

We are a miracle. All we need to do is tap into it. We are the cure. Not only for ourselves,but also for the whole world. So let Moshiach come now and catch us here with our cold soup because we have nothing to be ashamed of. We are truly incredible. When G-d decided to marry us, He knew He was getting a really good deal.

This, then, is what Chassidism taught:A Jew is a child of G-d. A Jew is a prince. A Jew is the holiest of the holy. A Jew is truly one with G-d. And even when you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel disloyal, the truth is that your ultimate loyalty remains to G-d, to truth, to holiness, to purity.

Moshiach is ready to come!

(This essay is based on the writings of the Chassidic Masters (13))
1) Genesis, chapter 38.
2) “Pethila” in Hebrew literally means a string or a wick. Judah gave her the string that he used to bind his sheep (Sechel Tov on Genesis 38:18). Many commentators, including Rashi, translate the word to mean a wrap or cloak.
3) Genesis 38:24-26.
4) Commentary on the opening verse of Genesis.
5) See Hoshanos recited on the third day of Sukkot. Psalms 92:13.
6) Chagigah 45b.
7) Rashi ibid.; cf. Ritva.
8) In Hebrew, “Kalasecha” (Genesis 38:24). This can be translated as “your daughter-in-law,” or, literally as your kallah, your bride.
9) Shabbas 21b.
10) The Hebrew term for “the staff,” “v’hamateh” has the same numerological value as the word “Hakeli,” the vessel, symbolic of the menorah in which we kindle the Chanukah flames. Hence, this verse is alluding to the three components of the Chanukah lights: the menorah, the wick and the oil – all of which testify to the eternal allegiance of the Jew to G-d.
11) Genesis 49:12.
12) http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2540/jewish/Cold-Soup.htm
13) Bas AyinParshasVayeishev, authored by Chassidic Master of Safed, Rabbi Avraham of Avrutch (1765-1840). He was a desciple of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Bardeitchev and of Rabbi Nachum and Rabbi Matele of Chernobyl.

“Friend” us on Facebook and stay tuned for upcoming events, classes & happenings

December 18, 2011 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info


Annual Community Wide Public Menorah Display Project

December 18, 2011 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info

Make sure you visit our Beautiful neighborhoodMenorah displays with their unique glowing candles throughout Prospect Heights & Fort Greene and share in the pride!

  • Underhill Children’s Playground (Underhill/Park Pl.)
  • Atlantic Terminal Mall (Atlantic/Flatbush Ave)
  • Soda Bar (Vanderbilt/St. Marks)
  • Franklin Park Bar & Lounge (St Johns/Franklin Ave)
  • Cong. Kol Israel of Prospect Heights. 603 St John’s Pl.
  • Atop Rabbi Ari’s Car! Honk if u see him…

To sponsor any of the above or new one for another location, please contact 347.787.0864 or email chanukah@brooklynyid.com.

Your complete chanukah mega site. December 20 – 28, 2011

December 18, 2011 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info

1st Annual Brownstone Dreidel Spin-Off …Rules TBD

December 18, 2011 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Chabad Prospect Heights & CKI Present… 1st Annual Brownstone Dreidel Spin-Off …Rules TBD
Whether it’s Sushi, Latkas, Jelly doughnuts or craft beer it is time to get your spin on and taste the miracle!$10 min. buy-in … but bring extra cash as the prizes will be great and all the funds will support our growing shul.

Click “Attemd” on our FACEBOOK  page to let us know your coming or if you would like to be a sponsor.

Date: Monday, Dec 26, 7:30pm 7th Night of Chanukah
Location: Franklin Park bar & lounge 618 St Johns Pl. bet Franklin/Classon Ave. Subway 2/3/4/ to Franklin ave.
Hosts: Rabbi Ari, Toli & Avi T
Details: Friends, Latkas, Sushi, Craft Beer, Doughnuts, Music and your Dreidel wager …what more can one ask for?

The Cost: Min. $10 to play, Happy Hour Drink Prices and extra $ in case you still want to play when your chips run out or just want to support the shul! Indeed, the house always wins!

Simultaneous special children’s program across the street at CKI led by our great counselors.

We are still looking for additional event sponsors/hosts and prize donators. Contact: Chanukah@brooklynyid.com

New! Weekly Halacha Class on Blessings @ CKI

December 18, 2011 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Every Monday evening, 7:30pm @ CKI
Join us as we continue our journey focused completely on the topic of blessings. A fundamental importance of Judaism and Halacha are to know the correct Brocho (blessing) appropriate for a given situation.

Class is open to men and women. No cover. Light refreshments.

Based on the book, -a Halachik masterpiece- titled (in Hebrew): Birchas Hanehenin, and authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi sometime during the years 1771-1812. The volume deals specifically with the blessings that are recited over foodstuffs (such as wine, bread and fruit), Fragrances (such as the scent of a rose), thanksgiving (such as the birth of a child), and praise (that one would recite on recovering from a serious illness).

Classes will be text base and will begin with the foundation of blessings from their original sources.

Beginning with the order of preceding blessings such as which preceding blessing exempts which other? When may and should, one exempt one blessing with another? Conditions under which the exemption takes place. The order of concluding blessings (grace after meals or Bentching), Exemptions in case of doubt, Exemptions though wine an-d bread, “Normal” breads vs. “other” breads and their respective blessings, When the principle and secondary food items are mixed together (e.g. crackers/bread & cream cheese, jelly doughnuts (chanukah) and much more.

Monday evenings 7:30pm @ Cong. Kol Israel 603 St Johns Pl bet Classon/Franklin Ave. Subway: 2/3/4/5 tp Franklin Ave.

Upcoming Women’s group: Fitness, Yoga & Nutrition

December 18, 2011 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Please join us as we welcome you to the Women’s Inner Circle, a place where Jewish women of all ages and backgrounds come together to socialize, learn, laugh and recharge. Enjoy great food and a chance to meet new friends.

The Women’s Inner Circle is open to the public. No affiliation is necessary so feel free to stop by any event that may interest you and go home with insights into the role of a Jewish woman.

This months gathering will focus on matters relating to health, fitness and nutrition and will be led by our very own Holistic Health Coach, Jo Bakal-Schlomann who will discuss “the Sugar Blues? ” and address questions like: Are you constantly craving sweets? Do you want to understand why? Do you want to gain control without deprivation?

The Talk will be followed by Yoga exercise led by Certified Yoga Instructor & Co-Director of KinneretYoga Teacher Training, Sarede Switzer

Enjoy a sampling of a variety of delicious homemade Salads & dressings at our open health bar while sipping Hot organic spiced cider.

Date: Dec 14 – Time: 7:30 – Host & Location: Debra Marcucci, 25 Eastern Parkway #2A (Bet Underhill/Plaza) Subway: 2/3 to eastern parkway/brooklyn museum.

To RSVP please email Chaya @ chayatk@gmail.com. There is an $10 cover charge. SPONSOR $180

Looking forward to seeing you.
Chaya Kirschenbaum

Note: If you haven’t yet picked up your pottery from our last women’s group, please contact Chaya to arrange a time. Alternatively, you can pick it up at the upcoming session.

Jewish Women’s Inner Circle is a project of Chabad Prospect Heights & Fort Greene Jewish Center & Cong. Kol Israel Sisterhood of Prospect Heights.