From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Torah is coming to Beth Israel! We’ve always had Torah and we have Torahs in our Holy Arks, but a NEW TORAH is being commissioned and completed by YOU in honor of Congregation Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary year. We’ll inaugurate our anniversary year with a special celebration on December 6th, 6:30pm in the sanctuary.
Writing a Torah with the help of a Sofer, a scribe, is a great mitzvah. It’s the 613th mitzvah in Torah, which commands us to write a Torah in our lifetime. Since you and I aren’t specifically trained to write a Torah, a Sofer will outline letters in Torah for us to complete with him. As he writes it on our behalf while we hold onto his hand, we will be participating in the writing of a Torah.
What’s in a Torah? Here are ten facts to dazzle your family and friends around the Thanksgiving table and Hanukkah menorah this year.
1) There are 5 Books of Torah often called the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. In Hebrew, they are Bereisheet, Shemot, Vayikra, B’midbar, D’varim.
2) It takes a Sofer anywhere from 8 months to a year to write a whole Torah.
3) The Torah parchment is the skin of a kosher animal and the separate Torah sheets are sewn together using “thread” made from the gut of a kosher animal.
4) Torah is divided into 245 columns.
5) There are 304,805 letters in a Torah scroll.
6) A completed Torah is checked 3 times and repaired if necessary. Today, a computer scanner can locate mistakes that the human eye is often unable to detect.
7) If a letter is inked incorrectly it can be lifted up or scraped from the parchment and rewritten. A Sofer writes by copying from another perfect Torah; he never writes from memory.
8) The ink is a special mixture of ingredients including powdered gall nuts, gum Arabic, a little vodka for thinning. A little is made at a time so that it’s always fresh.
9) The quill comes from a kosher bird, a goose or turkey is preferred. The Sofer carves a point in the end of the feather and uses many quills in the course of writing a Torah.
10) The completed sheets are sewn onto wooden rollers called Eitz Chayim (Trees of Life).
Mark your calendar for December 6th, at 6:30 p.m. in the sanctuary. We are eager to begin the 160th Anniversary Year of our beloved Congregation Beth Israel with YOU. As we enter this holiday season and this special year, ask yourself the question, “What can I do to ensure that my family name will always be associated with Torah and the mitzvah to secure the Jewish future?” Begin with your commitment to participate in writing a Torah for Beth Israel’s future.
From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Chanukah (begins Wednesday night), Happy Thanksgivukkah, and Shabbat Shalom.
From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
If I asked you to describe a person of faith, you might describe a person of age and wisdom, because faith is supposed to come after years of seeking and sometimes finding meaning in life’s experiences. You might be right, but you could be wrong. Judaism doesn’t equate age with wisdom. They can go together, but it isn’t a perfect formula. Rather, Judaism identifies faith in anyone who regularly seeks greater understanding of who they are intended to be in covenant with God.
In Torah, this Shabbat, we read about Jacob’s wrestling encounter with an angel. Before the encounter was over, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, because he wrestled with a man, presumably an angel of God, and prevailed. Thus, we are all Israel, “Yisrael,” because we, descendants of Jacob, are also “God-wrestlers.” That is, we are prone to ask, demand, inquire and interpret our Torah teachings for greater and deeper understanding. And, through such inquiry our faith doesn’t wither, instead it thrives. In fact, our doubting and inquiry strengthen our faith. Through the exchange of information and the process of inquiry we arrive at important reasons to remain faithful to our covenant with God. Very few have been lost in the process of inquiry. More often, many have found meaning, and through it, faith.
If you ever wondered aloud or silently about God, mitzvah, ritual, ethics, or Torah, for example, then you could call yourself a faithful Jewish man or woman. If you were firm in your belief but questioned events that seemed contrary to a world filled with God’s creative acts, then you could also call yourself a faithful Jewish man or woman. Only one who claims to have perfect faith and never inquires of Torah or Jewish teachings for greater understanding of human inclinations or God’s ways, would fail to be a truly faithful Jew. Since Jacob, our Jewish heritage demands that we ask, doubt and inquire of it for many reasons, not the least of which is that the process enables us to make progress in our constant search for greater faith. We also owe it to the next generation to ask, so that they might benefit from our insights when they embark on their own search.
There are no slack days when it comes to our pursuit of faith. Jewish life is a constant rhythm of study, worship, good deeds, and rest. God willing, our week has been filled with good deeds that reflect our best understanding of Jewish ethics in business and community; we’ve spent some time examining Jewish insights into current events; and we’ve chosen the end of this week to make time for Shabbat. We’re all people of faith when we admit that we are all people with “inquiring” Jewish hearts and minds. Our task today is to ask and inquire; our task for all time is to keep the faith!
Mark your calendars for our
Chanukah “Thankgivukkah” Family Service, November 29th 6:30pm.
From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
It’s coming. Thanksgivakkuh! Don’t look for it at the Galleria. It’s not in stores. It’s coming to your house and mine. Not since the late 19th century and not for another 70,000 years will Thanksgiving and Chanukah (Hanukkah) converge again. This year, on Wednesday evening, November 27th, we’ll light the first Chanukah candle, and on Thursday, we’ll serve the turkey.
The good news is that visiting relatives can share both holidays with you. You can light the menorah, eat turkey dinner and open presents. The next day, on Friday night, November 29th, Congregation Beth Israel will celebrate “Thanksgivakkuh” with a magnificent, bright, and festive Shabbat Chanukah service. Special songs, lights and surprises will make this Thanksgivakkuh one to remember for another 69,999 years.
The bad news is that December will be dark. No lights, no menorah, and no presents. What will Jewish families do in December? Wait, another miracle!
Mark your calendar for December 6th, at 6:30pm in the sanctuary. The entire congregation will gather for the official beginning of Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary. This 160th year is our invitation to “Be a Blessing” in all the ways we answer the question, “What will you do to ensure that your family name will always be associated with Torah and the mitzvah to secure the Jewish future?”
This is the question I’ve been asking since the recent publication of the Pew Report on Jewish population. The report raises many issues not the least of which is who will be the stewards of our Jewish future. We say that our children are our Jewish future, but the report concludes that we aren’t preparing our children’s hands and hearts to grasp the responsibility. The report leads to the conclusion that we have to do better in order to avoid the downward trends of weakening Jewish identity and peoplehood. There is no immediate answer and whatever answer does materialize it won’t be one-size-fits-all. Yet, I believe there is one necessary starting point from which we can all begin. Since the beginning of our people’s story, Torah has been at the center of our worldview, our deeds and our hope. So, it’s not a rhetorical question when I ask, “What will you do to ensure that your family name will always be associated with Torah and the mitzvah to secure the Jewish future?”
On December 6th, at 6:30pm in the sanctuary, we will launch Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary. Cantor Mutlu is arranging magnificent music to lift the mood to new heights for our anniversary year. The worship experience and Shabbat message will speak to all of us about the ways that we can be a blessing to each other in our congregational family. Torah is at the center. From it flows our people’s stories and from them our ethics, values and outlook. I look forward to explaining the unique elements of a Torah and bringing all of us closer to its place in our congregation, our homes and our life.
Your role is to stand with your family in the congregation, not just parents, but grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends. Only standing together can you feel the unity that Torah compels us to nurture and from it draw strength. “Be a Blessing” is the beginning of our anniversary and also our future, together. Look for more information and mark your calendars now for this unique holiday season and the start of our 160th Anniversary year! Shabbat Shalom.
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