From the Desk - Eating Dairy on Shavuot
Shalom Friends! I hope this email finds you well and that you are enjoying a week of blessing. A Successful Week at Beth Ora Last Shabbat, we enjoyed a very successful Junior Congregation at Beth Ora with a few new children attending. Please let me know if you know of any children in Montreal who might like to attend our Junior Congregation which takes place each month. It is a place for children to learn about and sing the prayers in a lively and non-threatening environment. On Wednesday night, we celebrated LaG B'Omer. Many thanks to Howie Brown for setting up the bonfire and to Heshy Benshimon for leading us so beautifully in our singing. I'm also told the marshmallows were very tasty! Why Beth Ora? I'd like to fill you in on something else that happened here at Beth Ora this week. For the last few months, about 10 community members, representing a cross-section of Congregation Beth Ora, have been meeting to define what I see as the most important questions facing Beth Ora. We all know that we aspire to expand our membership. I myself am making numerous calls every week to encourage people to join Beth Ora and, thanks to the outreach efforts of others, the membership forms are coming in. But I see the potential for this community as lying in the answers we give to these three questions:
Purpose - Why is it important that Congregation Beth Ora continues?
Vision - What would we like Beth Ora to become? What kind of community do we hope to create? What kind of services, activities and learning should we have at Beth Ora and how do we hope people will experience our community?
Mission - What does Beth Ora need to do in order to reach the vision?
In 2012, the UJA-Federation of New York and Synagogues Together carried out extensive research on synagogues, resulting in a document entitled Vision and Data: Essential Building Blocks for Successful Synagogue Change. In this document, they report that one of the top drivers of overall satisfaction and personal growth is the degree to which a congregant resonates with the vision and values of the synagogue. Given this, the authors remark that "taken together, there is no question that a vision that resonates is not just a nice to have but a need to have." This process cannot be confined to the work of a core group. In our meetings, the team will develop ideas and sharpen perspectives on how we see Beth Ora and its potential. In a few months time, we will be expanding the conversation in order to share our ideas and hear your own thoughts as to what our community means in the lives of its members and what that might mean for new members coming through our doors. I’d love to hear your ideas in the meantime. The question of what Beth Ora should represent is tied into the question of what the Jewish People represent, as a whole. Interestingly enough, this is a topic that is referred to in this week’s Torah reading which refers to a principle called Kiddush Hashem. You can learn more about this in this short and inspiring video:
Going Forward at Beth Ora This Shabbat in my sermon, I will be making an appeal to the congregation to assist me in a very important project which can make an enormous difference to our congregation and its members. Next Shabbat (May 12th) is a Kehillah (Community) Shabbat on which we will be celebrating the Second Bar Mitzvah of the 83 year old men in our community. Please put a note in your calendar to join us for this special celebration. Please look out for our Shavuot programming with learning, fun, food and activities for all ages! Mark your calendar for the 19th-21st May for what will be a wonderful and uplifting Yom Tov with the community. Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with... Eating Dairy on Shavuot? Although eating meat is generally encouraged on Yom Tov as a way of expressing our festive joy, on Shavuot we have the custom of also eating dairy. Aliza Perez asked me what the deal is with this. Here are some reasons (in preparing this, I benefited from an Aish.com article by Rabbi Shraga Simmons):
The Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai was the point at which the Jewish People were given the laws of how to slaughter and prepare meat for eating. Until then, the Jews had not followed these laws so their meat and cooking pots were not Kosher. So, the only alternative was to eat dairy.
The Torah is likened to milk in the Biblical book, Song of Songs. Just as milk can sustain the body of a nursing baby, so the Torah provides all the spiritual nourishment necessary for the human soul.
The numerical value of the Hebrew word for milk (chalav) is 40. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah.