In anticipation of Purim – February 24, 2018 – 9 Adar 5778

The Megilah opens by depicting the Persian king, Achashverosh, as having hosted a lavish party for all the notables of the outlying Persian provinces (which lasted for an incredible 180 days), followed by a party for the residents of his capitol, Shushan. That’s a lot of partying. What’s going on?

The two giants of the Babylonian Talmud, Rav and Shmuel, surmised that Achashverosh was acting strategically, but they differed over whether or not his tactics were smart. One held the view that the king was wise to first reach out to those far away since he could quite easily demonstrate his appreciation for those in his own city whenever he liked. The other disagreed, holding that the king was foolish for ignoring his base while zealously campaigning in the provinces, since this tactic risks a rebellion at home.

The Jewish world, at present, faces a dilemma similar to that of King Achashverosh. Some Jewish leaders believe that our priorities as a community ought to be reaching out to those on the margins of Jewish life, creating as many attractive opportunities to become engaged in Jewish community as possible. Others, with equal passion, believe that all available resources must be dedicated to strengthening the Jewish core of the already committed.

When faced with a question of two essential options, the answer is to seek to do them both. When we pursue outreach, we are creating portals of engagement for those on our periphery. Such as the king throwing a party that everyone would actually want to come to. When we focus on in reach, we cultivate that engagement so that it will deepen and endure. This is like the king throwing a party where the participants appreciate why it’s being thrown, and feel transformed by having joined in the celebration.  In either case, the successful party, when it’s our party, the Jewish party, will make the connections face to face and personal, we will know who you are, and your participation will be valued. Happy Purim!

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

JoLT Shabbat Dinner & Kid-Friendly Kabbalat Shabbat Service


Time: 5:15 pm, followed by dinner
Menu TBA.

Member Cost: $10/adult; $5/child (10 & under); $25/family cap
Non-members: $15/adult; $8/child (10 & under); no family cap

Your payment is your reservation! RSVP by February 23 to   (  or call the shul at 614-237-2747.

Purim Party & Megillah Reading

Wednesday, February 28th
Purim Party at 5:00 pm
Purim Party (geared toward kids in 5th grade and younger) begins at 5 pm and includes crafts, games, and food! Be sure the kids come in costume – prizes awarded in two age groups for most creative costume and best Purim character!
Maariv begins at 7 pm, followed by Megillah reading.

Parashat Mishpatim – February 10, 2018 – 25 Shevat 5778

There is a Biblical tradition which could turn the modern health care debate on its head. The Talmud infers from a verse in this week’s Torah portion, “He shall surely heal,” (Exodus 21:19) that God has granted the physician the ability to heal. Rav Acha declared, “Blessed is the doctor who heals without payment.” Why shouldn’t a physician be paid?

Rabbi J. David Bleich explains that, unlike the western conception for which the doctor-patient relationship is “contractual,” and a doctor may refuse to serve a patient, Judaism regards the physician as not merely acting on behalf of the patient but in the service of God. He offers an analogy to a drowning person. There is an ethical (and Biblical) obligation to save the person from drowning. However, not everyone’s obligation is equal in this regard. A non-swimmer who tries to help may actually make the situation worse, whereas an expert swimmer would surely be obligated to intervene (with no compensation expected). Similarly, the doctor, having special lifesaving skills, has a religious-legal duty to heal the sick, even for no pay.

The respected Israeli rabbinic leader, R. Eliezer Waldenberg, wrote that it is unnecessary to allocate charity to pay doctors to provide medical care for poor people, because anyway the doctor is obligated to heal the sick. He adds, “However, in a place that has more than one doctor, it is unfair to throw this obligation on anyone of them in particular, therefore it is proper to establish a charity fund for this purpose.” (Ramat Rachel #24)

Our modern health care debate is focused on how to get people to pay (insurance mandate or not). Imagine if, instead, we approached the issue as being one of how will physicians get (fairly) paid?

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine


Jewish Veg D’var Torah

Saturday, February 17 – Jeffrey Cohan, Executive Director of Jewish Veg, will be delivering the D’var Torah on the topic of ‘Judaism and Animals: Restoring the Relationship.”

He will also be available after services to answer questions.


“Cook Like a Babushka “

Cook Like a Babushka, an interactive cooking demonstration of Russian cuisine on February 18th from 2-5 PM at Agudas Achim is part of the Federation’s Russian engagement project. A $5 minimum donation to the Holocaust Survivors Initiative reserves a spot for this limited-space event.

Register at RuJew is a Russian Engagement initiative by the Jewish Federation of Columbus and has been made possible with the generous support of Genesis Philanthropy Group.