From the Desk - As Many as the Stars in the Sky
Shalom Friends! We can't bring ourselves to break the custom of starting the letter by talking about the weather! Just to prove that we will miss it so much, you can enjoy this photo of our family picnic on a snow hill last week!
I've just returned from an intensive conference in New Jersey. Whilst I was there, I got tons of wonderful sermon material for the next few months and benefited from talks on synagogue and community building from leaders in the field. There was also a talk on shul politics which was, of course, not relevant to Congregation Beth Ora but it was interesting to hear what happens in other synagogues :-). I am so grateful to have had this enriching opportunity and I look forward to applying what I learnt for the benefit of our community. At Congregation Beth Ora, we are preparing for Passover! This Shabbat (45 min before Mincha - at 6:00 PM), I will be discussing some common questions relating to Pesach Preparation. Then, on Monday evening, you have the opportunity to learn about the Seder with a talk from Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold on Bringing the Haggadah to Life. The cost is $10. And then we'll be making it (almost) real in our mock seder on the morning of April 2nd in which I will be guiding the adults with Seder insights while Carly will be doing crafts and storytelling. To register for this exciting event, call 514-748-6559. Another important thing to announce at this time of the year is the sale of chametz. On Passover, not only do we not eat chametz but we also do not own chametz. For those of you who are not clearing all of the chametz out of your home, you have the opportunity to sell it. This is a very straightforward process whereby you give me power of attorney to sell your chametz for the duration of Passover to someone who is not Jewish. You can find the form here and also in your Beth Oracle. You can come to see me during office hours on Monday-Wednesday or on Friday or at service times. If that's not possible, you can leave the form for me at the office. We are so excited to be celebrating our first Passover here at Beth Ora. In the meantime, we wish you a wonderful Shabbat! Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal With... the verses saying that Abraham's descendants will be as many as the stars in the sky?
This question was asked by Barry Vininsky. In a number of places in the Torah, G-d says that the Jewish People are to be as numerous as the stars in the sky, the sand of the sea or the dust of the earth. This is a claim repeated three times by Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy. But we know that the Jewish People are relatively small and that there are not so many of us. So, what's the deal? This is an especially good question because Moses also describes the Jews as a small people on at least two occasions! This description seems to fit our contemporary situation much better than comparisons to the quantity of stars, sand and dust! Firstly, it makes sense to say that these comparisons are meant as exaggerations. As Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenberg notes in his Torah commentary, it would be impossible for people to live on earth if there were so many of them - there would not be enough space! But the question remains as to why the Torah says there will be many Jews. The Chizkuni commentator understands that this is referring to a particular generation, namely that of King Solomon. Indeed, in the First Book of Kings, Solomon speaks of the people as one that is 'too numerous to count or number.' So, according to the Chizkuni, the meaning of the text is that there will be a time when the Jewish People will be vast even if that is not always to be the case. Perhaps we can suggest a different answer. The Jewish People at any one time may be small but the total number of Jewish descendants of Abraham is vast and increasing in each generation. Abraham is assured by God that his descendants will be numerous - a claim that is increasingly fulfilled as Jewish history continues.