Chavarah- Jewish Community Learning

A blog of Jewish study and traditions. Notes from classes: Torah Study with Rabbi Marder, Toledot and Shabbaton as well as other details found of interest.

IF you want to be part of our Chavarah email group let me know at

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Israel National Anthem - Notes

The National Anthem of Israel, Hatikvah, literally means "the hope". Its lyrics were written in 1886 by Naphtali Herz Imber, a poet originally from Galicia. The melody was written by Samuel Cohen, who based the melody on a musical theme from Bedrich Smetana’s "Moldau."

A haunting melody with real hope


Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Torah Does not Prescribe Work

Another topic from Torah Study:

The Torah does not tell us to work.

It tells us to stop working.

It tells us when to 'rejoice' and 'celebrate'.

"The Torah doesn't tell us what is obvious - it tells us what is not" - is this true?

Interesting to think about.

And on a similar topic:
Go back and read the 4th Commandment on this one it appears twice in the Torah:

Exodus 20:8-11: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; you shall not do any work - you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.

Deuteronomy, 5: 13: Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord thy God commanded thee. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou. And thou shalt remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

The two versions of the 10 Commandments are identical, with two important exceptions. The differences are in the fourth commandment. The version in Exodus contains the words "Remember the Sabbath day," and connects that to God having created the world in six days. The version in Deuteronomy instead reads "Observe the Sabbath day," and connects that to God having brought the Jews out of Egypt.

Another topic for another day...

Tidbits on Sukkot & Pilgrimage Holidays

Tidbits from Torah Study This week:
All of the 'pilgrimage holidays' relate to the growing seasons. Sukkot at the end of the harvest, Pesach at the beginning of the growing season (the sacrifice of the barley) and Shavuot (sacrifice of wheat) the first fruits. All happen on the 15th of the Hebrew month which is the FULL MOON - better to travel by.
Sukkot is a contrast.

They have finished gathering the harvest, the coffers are full. And the Torah prescribes that we "Live in booths". The booths are temporary structures and not as sturdy as a reminder that we were once homeless and wandering and God was our shelter.

The discussion about the celebration of Sukkot suggested various reasons for the contrast:
- We should be grateful for what we have and appreciate those who don't have.
- Things are temporary. We need to remember that we may need 'pick up and go' and we can't take good fortune and being settled for granted.
- Even if it is not a good year for the harvest we must celebrate and rejoice.


On "rejoicing " or not to "rejoice" at festivals.
Pesach - the Torah does not tell us to rejoice. 'do no rejoice at another's downfall' or as the Proverb states "Rejoice not when your enemy falls". (I still wonder about that with the story of Purim)

Sukkot - the Torah says two times that we are to "rejoice" at the end of the harvest. You should have "no worries for 7 days"

SRHirsch - "Keep joyfullness within you throughout life, that it can become part of your character." Rashi - also noted that we are demanded to rejoice... (didn't get all the quote)


Book Reference by R. Marder

Blessings of a Skinned Knee - Information

Sukkot Links:

Basics of Sukkot

Building a Sukkah

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Book of Ruth and Ger

A ger tzedek, Hebrew for "righteous convert", is a gentile who converts to Judaism.

Ruth was one of the first of these converts... and her story is one of a loyalty and love.

Plan to read it before Shavuot this year!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Shavuot - Have a Feast

One of the three Pilgrimage festivals that should be the MOST important and yet is so often forgotten or celebrated in a minor way by so many Jews. And it is surprising and sad that so many don't even know what it is.

Directly from the Torah - Shavuot is one of the harvest festivals when everyone is supposed to feast and include the whole community. It is the day to remember that we were given the Torah. A day to remember those who have died. A day to eat sweet dairy foods to remind us of the "milk & honey" that is the Torah. Following the counting of the OMER 49 days from Pesach, Shavuot is a time to really celebrate the spring and decorate with sweet smelling flowers and greenery, to read a bit from each book of Torah, to study and to praise the children for their studies.

Story of Shavuot

In Israel it is still a day to bring your first fruits and share them. Children dress in white and wear flowers in their hair. In some places doves are released as a symbol of the sacrifices that were done when the Temple existed.

Regarding Deut: 16:10-11
Rashi's commentary makes for an interesting discussion regarding inviting others to join in celebration:
Verse 10: The fullness of your open-handed gift.

The fullness of the gift of your hand, wholly commensurate with the blessing. Bring shelamim-offerings of rejoicing, and invite guests for feasting.
Verse 11: The Levite, proselyte, orphan, and widow.

My four correspond with your four--- your son, daughter, servant, and maid-servant. If you bring joy to Mine, I shall bring joy to yours.

The discussion focused on the need to include both your own household and others in the community who would otherwise be left out of the celebration. So include everyone.


The Story of Ruth. This is actually an example of including everyone and how Ruth was a Moabite and not an Israelite but she fully adopted the life of the Jews and was included. Also noting that she was the "mother of royalty" as King David was her descendent.

Story of Ruth

Read the Book of Ruth

Interesting day again at Torah Study.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Thoughts on Purim Story

Purim is soon and it is time to read the Book of Esther and learn its lessons and explore the twists and turns in the story. Honestly it is a good story.

This year the message turns to the importance of details.

Several points in the story emphasize the importance of details.

Because Haman leaves out the part of WHO it is that he intends to kill, Ahasueraus agrees to his plot to kill the Jews.

Because Haman doesn't ask WHO is to be honored for saving the king, Haman prescribes how Mordechi would be honored rather than killed.

The story certainly shows how the leaders of their empire are making decisions based on erroneous assumptions. I think this story must be a reflection on the author's opinion of the administration at the time he lived!

Also ... note to remember that they had been feasting for over a half of a year (180 days + a week). So what might it be like to live in a kingdom where the heads of state are in a constant state of drunkenness? Not to mention, he was the epitome of ostentatious as it says he did this to show his wealth.

So next year I want to explore the silly parts of the story...

Why do we get drunk to confuse Mordechai and Haman?

Honestly what kind of person would banish his wife because she wouldn't parade around at a drunken brawl? and then pass a law to banish her forever?

and the Historic symbolism....

Mordechai was descendent of the tribe of Benjamin and Haman from Agag. Hmmm... we have some previous mention of these groups to explore.

Ah, there are so many good details in this book.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Battery Yharzeit Candle is here

Another new item from TraditionsRenewed.

It looks just like a candle in a glass container... but it isn't

It is plastic and it is battery operated and it has special art on it and it is now available.

Battery lasts up to 48 hours, and they are available at local stores like Wallgreens or Wallmart.
Tree of Life - shin on top and bottom, 18 leaves for life on each branch, 3 hamsa flowers, shin on top is also a dove for peace, the knot on the trunk is also a watchful eye, leaves on the top branch make a "chai" for life. as we remember the life of our loved one, visualize all the good things of life.

Hebrew: "Zecher Tsadik L'vracha" (The memory of a righteous person is a blessing)

Perfect for places where a flame would be dangerous or not allowed. Excellent for those who do not like to have a candle burning.

for information mail to:

To Buy this or other Meaningful Merchandise

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Myth = Truth? and the Exodus

Is a myth a "truth" or a "lie"?

A subject brought up in Torah Study this week.

A myth is a story that may or may not be true but it does convey a TRUTH.

However, with the internet and "myth-busters" the meaning of "myth" has come to imply it is a "lie" rather than a TRUTH.

This is somewhat disturbing because in our tradition a myth should be a truth no matter if it is a true story or not.

This all came from asking "what if the Exodus didn't happen?"

Does it matter or not?

There was a heated discussion with most concluding that the fact that the Exodus has lived through the centuries and held us together as a community with the Pesach traditions makes it a TRUTH even if it is not a factual account.

Others felt that at least the basic facts of the Exodus should be "truth" for it to be the basis of our beliefs.

So the search will go on to find archeological evidence for this and different theories will emerge. And the Jewish community will continue to celebrate the Pesach as we are commanded to do.

A sermon started the question

Evidence that it happened

Archeological Info

Dennis Prager Article