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From the Desk - Lefties

Shalom Friends!

I hope this letter finds you enjoying what actually seems like it might be Summer!

I am writing this letter on Wednesday and we are looking forward to this evening’s AGM. As we welcome in the new slate of executive and board members, it’s appropriate to reflect on how blessed we are to have such wonderful, devoted lay leaders in our synagogue. A big yasher koach to Barry Rashkovan who has spent an enormous amount of time over the past two years as President of Beth Ora. It has been a privilege to work with Barry who inspires me with his sincerity, integrity and dedication. We also pay tribute to outgoing executive members Rebecca Alter, Steven Davidovics and Ronnie Gluck for all their hard work. Equally, we express our appreciation to those executive members who are staying on for their ongoing dedication to our community: Joe Bitton, Marvin Braude, Hershy Caplan, Arlene Dym, Miriam Rosenzweig, Lenny Sitcoff, Hayden Smith and, especially, Howard Yancovitch who returns as President. This Shabbat, we invite you and your families to come to Beth Ora for the Generations Shabbat. The synagogue has such an important history for so many of our members and their families. We hope you can join us for this Generations Shabbat. Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami

What’s the Deal with… Lefties? Some weeks ago, we were discussing in Lunch N’ Learn that halacha sometimes gives precedence to the right hand side over the left hand side. We will explain this below with some examples. Some members of the group asked whether this halacha also applies if a person is a “leftie.” So, what’s the deal? The most striking difference between a right-handed and left-handed man with regard to observance of mitzvoth is the way he puts on his hand tefillin. The right-hander binds his tefillin on his left arm whereas the left-hander binds his tefillin on his right arm. If the man has equal power in both hands, he conducts himself as a righthander. If most of his power is in his left hand and he does most of his work using his left hand, he is considered a left-hander. There are those who disagree with this criteria with regard to putting on tefillin. Their view is that, regardless of which hand has more power, the arm on which one puts his tefillin is determined solely by the hand with which one writes. Let’s summarize some of the other similarities and differences between lefties and righties in halacha:

  • When a left-handed person holds a mitzvah object, he or she holds the item in the left hand. Examples include the cup of Kiddush wine on Friday night and the holding of the shamash which is used to light the candles on Chanukah.

  • At the completion of the Amidah prayer, the left-hander should begin taking three steps backwards with the right foot. This is because one steps back with one’s weaker foot, to show that it is not pleasant for us to part with the presence of Hashem.

  • On Passover, both right-handers and left-handers lean on their left sides at the parts of the Seder when wine is drunk or matzah is eaten. This is to avoid the danger of food getting into the wind pipe rather than the food pipe.

  • It is a custom to put one’s hand over one’s eyes when reciting the first verse of the Shema in order to avoid gazing at anything that may disrupt one’s concentration. This is done with the right hand. The contemporary Torah scholar, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, notes that since the use of the right hand in this instance is because of kabalistic reasons, there should be no difference between right and left-handed people.

  • When putting on an article of clothing, it is proper to hold both sides of the garment in the right hand and then put on the right side and then the left side. This is based on kabalistic teachings that right is the side of Heavenly compassion and the left is the side of Heavenly judgment. There is no differentiation between righties and lefties regarding this halacha.

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