Shabbat HaGadol – April 8, 2017 – 12 Nisan 5777

The Shabbat right before Pesach is called “Shabbat HaGadol” (“The Great Shabbat”). Many reasons are given for this designation. According to some, this Shabbat became “great” because it marks the anniversary upon which the 7th day of Creation was complemented by an equally significant reason to observe the Sabbath – the Exodus from Egyptian bondage. How is the Story of Passover connected to our observance of Shabbat?

Early in the liberation story, Moses confronts Pharaoh and demands that the people be allowed to take a brief rest from their labors in order to worship their God. Pharaoh, calling the people lazy, retorts that Moses is unjustified in making this request. He literally questions slaves taking off time from productive labor in order to worship  – “Shabbat-ing.” (Exodus 5:5) Up until now, the Torah understands Shabbat as the day upon which God rested from his labors. This is the first time in the Torah a person speaks of Shabbat as a time of rest for human beings. From now on, Shabbat can be a call to justice for the powerless to seek rest and rejuvenation from those who hold power over them.

This aspect of Shabbat was not lost on our rabbis. Roman pundits (like Seneca) would deride the Jewish Sabbath as fostering laziness. The rabbis joined the debate with polemics of their own. One midrashic legend has it that The Roman emperor Hadrian said to Rabbi Yehoshua: “I am greater than your Rabbi Moshe, because he is dead but I am alive.” Rabbi Yehoshua answered: “Can you decree your people will not light fires in their homes for 3 days in a row?” “Sure, I can”, said the emperor, and he did so. That evening, they went for a walk together and saw smoke coming from a few chimneys. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: “See, even while you live, some ignore your commandments, while many centuries ago Moshe Rabbenu commanded us not to light fires on Shabbat, and to this day the Jews continue to follow this mitzvah.”

The modern Torah commentator Umberto Cassuto (1883–1951) also pointed out the implied link between God’s day of rest and ours: “Shabbat is a day on which a person rises above the need for hard work… and thereby becomes like God, who rested and was refreshed after the creation of the world.” Our liberation from slavery in Egypt won us the privilege of “owning” our work, and not the other way around. This concept is essential to Shabbat, and rightly makes this Shabbat a “Shabbat HaGadol.”

May we all enjoy a liberating Pesach,

Rabbi Mitch Levine

Parashat Vayikra – April 1, 2017 – 5 Nisan 5777

How might a person act righteously yet still sin inadvertently? In describing the sin-offering brought by an individual, the Torah states, “If a single individual sins unintentionally…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 4:27). Rav Avraham Chaim of Zlotchov (d. 1816) asked why the Torah would emphasize “single individual” in this context. He answered that even if a person behaves properly, but fails to engage the community, his/her deeds are regarded as deficient in a crucial respect. In Judaism, making the right choices as a single individual is not enough. Our tradition calls upon us to find a way to recruit others and get them involved in making a positive difference. Whatever the task, we can do it. But we can do it even better when we inspire others to join us.

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

McAgudas Pre-Pesach Buffet Dinner

Sunday, April 9, 5:15-7 pm

Hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, chicken, and more!

Cost: $11.50/adult; $6/child (10 and under); Under 3 Free; $35/family cap

RSVP by April 4 to

Kids will receive a small gift that can be used at the Passover seder.


Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei – March 25, 2017 – 27 Adar 5777

This Shabbat is called Shabbat HaHodesh because on it we announce Rosh Hodesh Nisan and, according to the special Torah reading for this Shabbat, the month of Nisan is the first month of the Hebrew year. (Exodus 12:2) The implication of the verse is that Rosh Hodesh Nisan is the Jewish New Year; and, in fact, the Torah elsewhere (Lev. 23:24) implies that the Jewish New Year is this week, and not 7 months later in the fall.

Although today we celebrate the Creation of the World on Rosh Hashanah, this view has not always gone unchallenged. The Talmud records a debate over when we should consider the Creation to have taken place. According to Rabbi Eliezer, Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of the Creation. However, according to Rabbi Yehoshua, the anniversary of the Creation occurs this week, on Rosh Hodesh Nisan. The Talmud distinguishes these two views by suggesting that R. Eliezer reads Genesis as describing a world created in mature form (Trees already laden with fruit), whereas R. Yehoshua believes the Garden of Eden was created with plants just beginning to bloom. The Maharsha (1555-1632) explains that R. Eliezer links the Creation to the season of repentance, while R. Yehoshua links it to the time of redemption. For R. Eliezer, Adam and Eve were cast out of a completed garden into a world about to go cold and barren – a time for repentance. For R. Yehoshua, Adam and Eve left the garden in early spring, a season of possibility and hope, a time of redemption. The “redemption” of Adam and Eve foreshadows the redemption of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt for a new life of freedom – a Jewish spring!

Although the tradition went with R. Eliezer, and we celebrate the Jewish New Year in the fall, there is an undeniable “new year” freshness in the month of Nisan air. Shanah tova!

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

Sisterhood High Tea

HighTeaSunday, April 2, 3:00-4:30 pm

Tea, scones, relaxing music and schmoozing with your friends.

Dress up, don a hat (if you wish)! Just like the English and our Southern ladies often do. A delightful time to get away and do something for yourself!

Cost: $8
Please RSVP to by 3/29.


Scholar-in-Residence Matan Koch, “A Conversation on Universal Inclusion”

Matan KochSaturday, April 1

Matan A. Koch’s lifelong history of disability advocacy began at age four with a presentation to several hundred young people, continued with a term as the president of Yale University’s student disabilities community, and reached its most recent high point with his appointment by President Barack Obama to the National Council on Disability, for a term which concluded in 2014.

Shabbat morning D’var Torah – A Conversation on Universal Inclusion” with Matan Koch. What does it mean to be inclusive? Why do we include? Who do we include? How do we include?  We will hear some thoughts on these questions from Inclusion Consultant Matan Koch, and then explore together the next steps of an inclusion journey at Agudas Achim.Inclusion

Shabbat afternoon Woodchoppers Talmud Study (6:00 pm) – “The Jewish Roots of
Inclusion: Were the Talmudic Rabbis Inclusive?”  
We often think of the idea of including those who are different as modern, a humanist interpretation overlaying our ancient
radition. In this study, we challenge that assumption, exploring a famous Rabbinic exchange which gives us precious insight into the way our sages thought about inclusion, and helps us explore the sometimes artificial distinction between “Jewish” and “Modern”.

Made possible by funding from the Rabbi Kalman London Scholar in Residence Fund of the
Columbus Jewish Foundation.


Cocktails for Kabbalat Shabbat & Shabbat Dinner, commemorating the yahrzeit of Rabbi Kalman London

Friday, March 31 

Join us for Cocktails for Kabbalat Shabbat, Kabbalat Shabbat services, and a delicious Shabbat meal. This evening is family-friendly; all the festivities begin at 6:00 pm.

Cost for dinner: $10/adult; $5/child (10 & under); $25/Family cap

RSVPs must be in by March 28. After this date, all costs will increase by $5, NO EXCEPTIONS! RSVP to Bobbie at 614-237-2747 x22, or

Brotherhood Minyannaires & Italian Dinner

March Madness flyer 2017

Sunday, March 26Brotherhood Italian Dinner

Snacks at 5:30 pm; Minyan at 5:45 pm; and a delicious Italian dinner to follow.
$10 for the entire family! 

Games & coloring for the kids! RSVP no later than 3/22 to

Brotherhood members will box the Yom Hashoah Yellow Candles, beginning at 4:00 pm.


Parashat Ki Tisa – March 18, 2017 – 20 Adar 5777

We are a chutzpadik people. I say this not merely as an experienced rabbi but as a student of the midrash. On Parashat Ki Tisa, Midrash Shemot Rabbah 42:9 [a nearly 2000 year old text] describes the Jewish people having chutzpa as a way of explaining this week’s repeated references to us being a “stiff-necked people.” We are called stiff-necked twice in the parasha. The first time [Exodus 33:3], God proclaims he will not be found among us because we are stiff-necked, whereas later [in Exodus 34:9] Moses asks God to remain amongst us precisely because we are characterized by this trait. In the first instance, being stiff-necked is clearly regarded as a problem, but in the second instance it seems that it is a positive. This is the way it is with chutzpa. It all depends upon context. When we are brazenly stubborn in resisting the right path, chutzpa only makes a bad situation worse. However when the situation calls for uncompromising and courageous steadfastness, chutzpa becomes a key virtue. We live in challenging times for the Jewish people. (Which generation of Jews has not?). When those challenges call for a chutzpadik response, we know that we can count on ourselves to meet the expectation.

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

Parashat Tetzaveh – March 11, 2017 – 13 Adar 5777

When Josephus (1st century of the common era) visited the Temple in Jerusalem as a young man, he was struck by the blue band upon the headdress of the High Priest, and he declared that it must represent the heavens, for upon it was inscribed “Holy to The Lord” (Exodus 28:36-37). According to an early rabbinic text, this inscription “Holy to The Lord” occupied two lines, inscribed one on top of the other, on the front of the headband. This would have been taken as a statement of fact, had a man named Rabbi Eliezer son of Rabbi Yosi not spoken up and declared, “I saw the priestly vestments in Rome [where they had been taken after the Temple’s destruction], and the inscription occupied only a single line.” (Shabbat 63b) This seemingly trivial discrepancy reveals an important tension in Judaism: Sometimes what a tradition tells us is contradicted by what our eyes see.

“One must judge according to that which one sees with his/her own eyes,” remarks the Talmud in a number of places. This is compelling advice, but one must also know where to look. The story is told of the man who lost his key and searched for it on hand and knee in the light of a street lamp. “Where did you last have it?” enquired his companion. “Further down the block,” the first replied. His friend admonishes him, “Why then are you searching here?” He answered, “This is where the light is.”

Some look for answers in life where it is convenient to search but where there is nothing to be found. Others brave a harder search and discover truths which eluded others. Some see an ordinary headband, while some other might see the flash of the heavens. It all comes down to knowing how to search.

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine