Author Archives: agudasachim

Have Agudas Shabbas!

Have Agudas Shabbas! is an exciting new initiative that takes place in our members’ own homes on the 2nd Friday night of each month.

Upcoming date: May 11.

To sign up to be welcomed as a guest for Shabbat Dinner at one of our hosts’ homes (and/or to be a host), contact Bobbie at 614-237-2747 x22 or bshkolnik@agudasachim.org.

Agudas Mitzvah Mayhem

Agudas Mitzvah Mayhem

$36/person

Call the shul to pay by credit card, mail a check or pay here:


Number of Tickets



 

For more information, call 614-237-2747 x22 or rsvp@agudasachim.org.
Contributions are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.

Please RSVP no later than Friday, June 1, 2018.

Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim – April 28, 2018 – 13 Iyar 5778

This week’s parasha, Kedoshim, is the source for the famous dictum “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev.19:18). Each morning and evening we recite in the Shema prayer, “You shall love the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:5). That is a lot of loving! What are we to do should these loves conflict? Our rabbis did not have far to search. They found a conflict of this sort in the very next verse of this week’s parasha, where we read “A garment of mixed fibers shall not come upon you.” (Lev. 19:19). What if, posits the Talmud, we spy our neighbor in the marketplace wearing a garment sewn of a forbidden mixture of fibers? Our love for our neighbor prompts us to perhaps make a note that a more Biblically correct garment would make a good birthday present, but our love for God compels us to take more immediate action. Indeed, according to the Talmud, we must remove our neighbor’s garment – even in the public space of the marketplace! Mediaeval rabbinic authorities, perhaps troubled by the practical implications of such a ruling, amended it to apply solely in cases where we know the transgression to be deliberate. In the vastly more common case that our neighbor could simply be unaware of his/her error, we wait until he/she has returned to the privacy of home before we call in the cast of TV’s “What Not [Halachicaly] to Wear!” In this way, we balance our regard for God and Torah with taking seriously the honor and respect we ought to feel for our neighbor.

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

Parashat Tazria-Metzora – April 21, 2018 – 6 Iyar 5778

In this week’s parasha we learn that an individual afflicted with nega tzaraat (an affliction of the human skin translated by the Septuagint as “leprosy”) must be isolated from others for a seven day period. Surely the author of the Torah anticipated that we would associate the quarantine of “seven days” with Shabbat – the seventh day of the week. What’s the connection?

A happy Shabbat contrasts sharply with the unhappiness of one afflicted with nega tzaraat. If we rearrange the letters which spell “nega” (nun-gimmel-aiyen), we can spell “oneg” (aiyen-nun-gimmel). “Oneg Shabbat” (Shabbat happiness) is a fundamental aim of Shabbat. Nega is traditionally thought of having been a consequence of anti-social behavior. Perhaps the Torah is hinting to us that whereas anti-social behavior is associated with nega and isolation, Shabbat should be characterized by oneg; happiness shared socially among family and friends.

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

Parashat Shemini – April 14, 2018 – 29 Nisan 5778

Our parasha concludes with the sweeping declaration that the “Torah” of “all life” is to make “havdalah;” to “distinguish between the impure and the pure.” Why is “havdalah” the essence of “Torah”?

The story is told of that the Lubliner Rav, Meir Shapiro, remarked upon returning to Europe after a fundraising tour in the US, “American Jewry has learned to make kiddush; it has not yet learned how to make havdalah.” To sanctify a day each week, shrugging off worldly distractions for rest and renewal, is an achievement in these transactional and practical times. But life is supposed to consist of more than satisfying our experiential capacity; we are also called upon to cultivate and exercise our analytical faculties.

To make “havdalah,” is to pierce a monolithic obscurity with the lance of a sharp distinction, and to reveal that what has been seen in a single way might possibly be seen in multiple, even contradictory ways. This is the virtue of discernment, which the Talmudic tradition recognized as the ability to “prove” that an impure thing is in fact pure. The sages established this skill as a prerequisite for serving on the sanhedrein (their highest court). Paradoxically, they made the test for being authorized to make the most important distinctions the ability to confound the most important distinctions.

The facility to discern (and embrace) conflicting points of view comes at a price. Distinction ultimately aims to decide upon a difference. Rabbi Meir reportedly had a disciple so advanced he was able to rule an impure thing pure back and forth again 100 times. His colleagues observed, “That disciple did not know how to decide.” (Yer. Sanh. 4:1) Doggedly seeing the wisdom in many points of view can make it agonizingly difficult to settle on any particular point of view.

If the Truth is on multiple sides and also on no side, where can we find it? The sages admonish us, “Fashion your ears a like a grain hopper, and acquire for yourself an understanding heart to listen to the words of those who say “impure” and those who say “pure,” those who forbid and those who permit, those who invalidate and those who validate.” (Hag. 3b) A Jewish “leap of faith”: coarse grain can become fine flour, provided we are resolute in grinding through every perspective.

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine

Shabbat/Pesach VIII- April 7, 2018 – 22 Nisan 5778

On Shabbat of Chol HaMoed Pesach we read from the beautiful love poetry of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs/Song of Solomon). Our tradition understands this poem as an allegory for God’s love affair with the Jewish people. Just as a lover reads each line of a love note carefully, even reading between the lines, our rabbis read spiritual insights into and out of this poem. The poem presents the beloved as having been “brought into the house of wine.” (2:4) What is the meaning of this?

Rashi comments that “house of wine” refers to the Tent of Meeting in the Tabernacle, where the details and explanations of the Torah were given. What connection between wine and Torah study could Rashi be thinking of? The Talmud points out that the gematria (numerical value) of “wine” is 70, which corresponds to the 70 sages of the Sanhedrin, who had the privilege of revealing the inner meanings of the Torah. Wine reveals secrets, including the secrets of the Torah. The Tent of Meeting was the place those secrets were revealed.

Wine can be a lubricant for discussion and the uninhibited exchange of ideas. Perhaps this is why we are instructed to imbibe cups of wine at the Seder, and to spread them out rather than drink them all at once. Interspersed with the drinking is the expounding upon the Exodus from Egypt. The wine can “liberate” our thinking, and thus enrich our conversation. The Gaon of Vilna noted that the gematria of “wine,” 70, is also the number assigned to the ultimate number of interpretations of Torah, the “Seventy Faces of Torah.” By sharing a “Le-Chaim!” with God, we couple our celebration of freedom with God’s loving embrace, and may merit to access the full meaning of the Torah.

Have a liberating Pesach,

Rabbi Mitch Levine

Pesach – March 31, 2018 – 15 Nisan 5778

There is an apparent contradiction in the Torah over when our liberation from Egyptian bondage began. According to Deuteronomy 16:1, God brought us out of Egypt at night. According to Numbers 33:3, the Israelites left triumphantly while the Egyptians looked on during the following day. When was the Exodus; at night or during the day?

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of the land of Israel during the period of the British Mandate, reconciled these verses by positing two stages of redemption. According to Rav Kook, physical freedom is actually the second stage of a process. Before one can be outwardly free, one must first experience an inner state of redemption. Our inner liberation took place at night, when Pharaoh finally relented in the wake of the plague of the firstborn. This occurred at night, a time of privacy since one cannot be seen by others due to the darkness. The next day, we realized our physical freedom outwardly, by leaving Egypt in broad daylight for all to see.

We have the opportunity to commemorate this two-staged process of redemption each year. The night of Pesach is a time to celebrate our freedom in the privacy of our homes, amidst the comfort of being with friends and family. The next morning, we get up and go to shul, where we may once again celebrate our freedom as a people; this time publically in the context of our loving community.

Have a liberating Pesach,

Rabbi Mitch Levine