Author Archives: agudasachim

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

Not Your Children’s Purim Carnival

Presented by Congregations Agudas Achim and Tifereth Israel
Sunday, March 12 from 6-8 pm at Agudas Achim

Live Music by Ruvane & The Jeffs! (click on their names to hear their music)

Bring your family for a fun time! Adults 21+, please!

* Activities (Beer Pong, Hillbilly Golf, Corn Hole, Vodka Tasting, and more!)
* Hors d’oeuvres
* Babysitting provided (please mention if babysitting is needed when you RSVP)

Cost: $25/person

For more information, email or call Bobbie at 614-237-2747 x22. RSVP DEADLINE IS MARCH 8th!
Click below to purchase tickets today!

Ticket Prices

Parashat Terumah – March 4, 2017 – 6 Adar 5777

As a rabbi, I occasionally encounter people who consider themselves as spiritual but who find it challenging to find God in a synagogue. Instead, they experience the Divine spontaneously and in a variety of unexpected places. The possibility of relating to God in this way is not lost on the Jewish tradition. As a young boy, Yacov Yitshak (who grew up to become the revered “Seer of Lublin”) would go out and spend long hours in the woods. His father, concerned for the youngster’s safety, asked him why. “I go into the woods to encounter God,” answered Yacov Yitshak. “Very well,” replied his father, “But do you not understand that God is the same wherever you may encounter him?” “God is the same everywhere,” agreed the young hasid, “But I am not.”

The son’s thoughtful answer to his father provokes a serious question. If we believe that God is everywhere, and that it is possible to connect with God in a variety of places, why erect houses of worship? To this, a midrash offers an answer, by way of a parable:

In Egypt God encountered us. At the Sea of Reeds God encountered us. At Mount Sinai God encountered us. Once Israel stood at Mt. Sinai and accepted the Torah, we became a complete nation. God said, “It is no longer fitting that I speak with them just any place. Instead, ‘Make for me a Mikdash!” (Exodus 25:8)

Rabbi Yehudah bar Ilai said: A king had a young daughter. When she was still a child, he would encounter her in the shuk (marketplace) and speak with her there. If he encountered her in the courtyard or street, he would speak with her there. Once she matured into adulthood, the king said, “It is no longer fitting that I should address my daughter just any place. I will build for her a pavilion, and when I wish to consult with her I will arrange for a meeting with her in the pavilion.” (Shir HaShirim Rabbah, Parasha 3)

It is a playful delight for any child to unexpectedly bump into his or her loving parent. But once the child grows up and serious conversation becomes more central to the relationship, a schedule and suitable meeting place may become indispensable. We may need to encounter God in different settings at different points in our lives. But at some point, it is hoped that we mature in our spirituality and learn to meet God in shul.

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

Parashat Mishpatim – February 25, 2017 – 29 Shevat 5777

This week’s parasha introduces an abrupt and profound shift of emphasis. Up until now, the Torah has followed a pattern of stories interspersed with a scattering of laws. Parashat Mishpatim, as its name (“Judgments”) implies, marks the transition to parshiot that are primarily dedicated to laws, and so the narrative portions begin to take a backseat. If the point of Judaism is what we do or don’t do (the rules), why bother with months of stories? Why not just get straight to the laws?

One function of the lengthy narrative portion of the Torah is to introduce the laws. By learning about the Creation of the world and the founding of our peoplehood, we are able to glimpse the big picture and we become better prepared to properly understand the details legislated as mitzvoth. In line with this idea, the Kotzker Rebbe (1787-1859), noted that human beings are like books. Just as a book includes an introduction which reveals what to expect from its contents, the background story of a person’s experiences and values can help us to anticipate and predict what he or she will do when it is time to act and the details matter.

“To read a person ‘like a book” is a popular idiom which recognizes the significance of knowing someone very well. An essential feature of the social relationships which form the basis of a community is being familiar and valuing the personal stories of one another. These stories inexorably lead to whatever chapter in life each of us presently finds him or herself. Our personal stories illuminate what we do and how we feel. These stories shed light on why some love going to shul and why for others it may be more of a burden. These stories can help us to understand why some love to sing, while others may love to learn and others really just want to schmooze. Whatever our story, the bonds of community remain elusive if the book remains closed. Let’s strive together to create an “open book” Judaism!

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine


Parashat Yitro – February 18, 2017 – 22 Shevat 5777

One of the most remarkable aspects of the midrashic tradition is the liberty taken at times by our rabbis to ascribe human predicaments and frustrations to God. An instance of this occurs in Parashat Yitro, where Moses ascends Mt. Sinai to receive God’s initial instructions for preparing the Jewish People to accept the Torah.

HaShem called from the mountain saying, ‘Speak to the House of Jacob, and tell the Israelites …” God seems to have two distinct groups, not just one, in mind here. Perhaps because “house” is a common rabbinic euphemism for “wife,” and “Israelite” is literally “sons” of Israel, the midrash posits that the first group to be addressed would be the women and the second comprised of the men. Why should the women receive God’s pronouncement prior to the men?

Rabbi Tachlifa of Caesarea suggests that God recalled what had happened at an earlier time in which he had issued a commandment and spoke directly only to a man and left the woman out of the conversation. This misstep ended with a complete upset of God’s plan and Adam and Eve tossed from the Garden of Eden. God was not about to make the same mistake twice, so at Mt. Sinai the women are addressed first.

Long gone are the days in which communication may have been restricted to verbal exchanges or the reading of stone tablets. Today we have phones, email, texting, and more. Yet, the frustration over how to communicate effectively never seems to diminish. Who needs to be in the loop right away? Who is better included later on in the process? Often it’s tricky, but it’s reassuring to know even God didn’t always get it right either.

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine



Parashat Beshalach – February 11, 2017 – 15 Shevat 5777

“Beshalach” means to be “sent away,” which means a radical separation. With this parasha we are reminded that separations, which can be transformative, can also be shaken by anxiety and regret. Pharaoh regrets having sent the people away immediately upon learning that the people had departed. Dishearteningly, the people too, are overcome by the human aversion to risk and loss. Facing the unknown of the Sinai wilderness, the loss of bare existence (however compromised) in Egypt obscures the exciting potential of the desert. They cry, “Are there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness?” (Shemot/Exodus 14:11) But what of reluctance born of more noble motivation?

Rabbi Abbahu of Caesarea sent his son, Rabbi Haninah, to study in Tiberias, the seat of the most important academy in Israel at that time. Friends reported back to him that the son was not attending classes, but instead was spending all his time performing acts of charitable kindness. He sent a message to his son: “Are there no graves in Caesarea?”  (Yer. Pes. 3:7) Those in need of assistance are to be found in every town; the academy is a place of unique opportunity.

What could be wrong about devotion to the welfare of others? Nothing, but then don’t skip over “others” in the search only for more others. Separation can be transformative. Be mindful that giving to others does not distract you from investing in yourself.

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine