שירת שלום

Song of Peace

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  • 20 Sep 2016 2:50 PM | Shirat Shalom (Administrator)

    As the High Holiday season approaches Jews traditionally begin to review the past year including what are we proud of,  the mistakes we have made and our regrets.  During High Holy Day services we even formally look at our wrongdoings which we may term as  "sins."  

    Judaism has a unique perspective regarding "sins."  It recognizes  that we humans are prone to wrongdoing,  mostly unintentionally, and sometimes with our full awareness.

     But even when "evil people" commit "evil deeds" with full intent and awareness, their deliberate intent itself is seen as an unconscious deviation from their own deep inner decency and goodness.  

    Therefore the most evil person does not really sin. In fact in Hebrew we don't even have a word for "sin!" The closest word is "Chet" which means missing the mark or target.

    These inner targets of goodness and righteousness are the fabric, the building blocks used by G-D to create our world.      

    When a person though his actions misses his inner target,  a destructive energy is added to our world which  affects all of us. It takes away from the beauty of our world.        

    Good deeds and righteous acts do the opposite. They cleanse the world from the polluted energy of evil. This "Cleansing" is the Jewish concept of "Tikun Olam" , repairing the word. Righteousness and good deeds are  wonderful cleansers to a world  full of "wrong doing."  

    When  too much evil energy exists,  Gaia, Mother Earth, will even take the necessary steps to get rid of this energy.   

    The Torah documents several such cases:  The story of the flood, when one righteous  person, Noah, was not enough to cleanse the negative energy that engulfed the earth.  The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, when one good person Lot, was not enough to cleanse those cities. The story of Korach  who rebelled against Moses. Korach's  energy was so  caustic  that it caused the earth to swallow him.

    When we come together as a congregation  during the High Holy Days, we have the power together to cleanse ourselves and our world.

    May it be so in this New Year of 5777!  

    L'Shana Tova,  

    Rabbi David 

     


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  • 22 Aug 2016 8:37 PM | Shirat Shalom (Administrator)

    After Rabbi David and I heard Alan's story we just sat for a few moments in silence.  Finally I said to him, "Alan is going to be buried on Tu B'Av, The Holiday of Love!" We just looked at each other, knowing this wasn't a coincidence.

    Not too many people have heard of  Tu B'Av,  Jewish or otherwise! It translates as the  15th day of the Hebrew month of Av. The "tu" is comprised of the letters tet and vav which together have a numerical value of 15.  Since the Hebrew calendar follows the lunar cycle,  Tu B'Av always comes during the middle of the Hebrew month which is the time of the full moon. This year the holiday was on August 19th and began the evening before at sundown. 

    There is such a beautiful energy in the world during Tu B'Av that it is no wonder that is has come to be known as the  Holiday of Love! It is considered to be an auspicious time for weddings and engagements.

    The Holiday of Love was also the most perfect day for Alan's funeral. For his story is about a  family  rising above the past to come together in Love to care for him. I cried when I first heard his story and cried throughout the funeral service.

    Although Alan had managed to take care of himself for a few years after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, the time came when he could no longer do it alone. His two young adult daughters sought guidance from their mother, Karen, who had been divorced from Alan for 18 years.

    Karen called Alan's second former wife, Neuza, and together along with the rest of the family they formed a plan to care for Alan.

    "It is the most horrific disease," Karen told me, "for he would gasp for breath 24 hours a day."  Alan's suffering was more than  heartbreaking but that wasn't why I cried so much.  It was the Love from this family that couldn't help but touch my heart.

    The Love of two former wives, Karen and Neuza,  coming together to provide his care. The Love of Karen's husband who  totally supported her as she cared for her ex husband. There were the hours Karen  was gone from the house, the financial resources they had to provide, the physical care that was required when for so many months Alan couldn't leave his bed.

    The Love of Alan's second former wife, Neuza who came back from Brazil to remarry him and move in with him so she could take care of him during his last months. Of how his care took every last ounce from her emotionally and physically but still she persevered.   

    The Love of his daughters who spent hours with their father during those last excruciating months. Of just holding his hand  when his disease would no longer allow him to speak.        

    When it came time during the service for the prayer, Eil Malei Rachamin (The One Full of Compassion,) when we ask G-d to help a loved one return Home, I  asked that everyone in the packed room radiate Love from their hearts to guide Alan as he took the next step on his soul's journey. The Love was so strong within the room and from Above I shook the whole time I chanted the prayer!

    I didn't meet Alan who passed away at the age of 60 but still I thank him for being a catalyst to bring so much Love into the world. For in the end, no matter how it has come, it is Love that brings healing for all us!   


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  • 25 Jul 2016 2:53 PM | Anonymous

    During the month of Tammuz which this year is July 7th - August 4th, we are ushering in the summer's main Jewish historical event, the beginning of the cataclysmic loss of our Temple. While  Roman documents  would  never chronicle the unprecedented bloody fight and their own heavy losses, Jewish  sources  do talk about an amazing heroic stance of a few hundred Temple defenders  against  thousands of Roman soldiers.

    The actual Roman blockade on the Temple mount started 5 months earlier on  the 10th day of the month of Tevet. There were five months of starvation and then heavy fighting with   the mighty Roman empire and all of its heavy blockade and wall busting equipment. The Romans  could not break into the Temple much to the chagrin of the Roman senate. Roman soldiers were brought from all over Europe to help.

    Knowing that other oppressed nations around were eying this event carefully, considering it an encouragement for their own revolt, the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem became  a "must do at all cost" for Rome. 

    On the 17 day of Tammuz  (commemorated on July 24th this year), after five long months of blockade and fighting, the outer wall of the temple  was compromised and thousands of Roman soldiers poured into the inner parts of the Temple attempting to burn it. Little  did they know that they would be facing  another 22 days of extremely bloody fighting against very determined and brave Jewish defenders  inside the Temple plaza before the fight would  end. Weeks later the Temple was set ablaze on the 9th day of the month of Av and the few remaining defenders, exhausted by starvation and war, perished.

    Over  the generations the days between the 17th day of Tammuz and 9th of Av, Tisha B'Av) (Aug. 14th this year) were dedicated  to intense mourning. Many Jewish mourning customs are practiced including  the avoidance of certain life cycle events such as weddings. The idea was to prepare oneself for the crescendo of the 9th day of Av, the memorial day for the actual destruction of the Temple.            

     However, over the generations  and especially in modern times, the significance  of this time period  has expanded from a sense of victimhood and despair to ushering in a ray of hope for a gentler,  more peaceful world. A modern understanding of the Temple destruction implies the hope of renewal and redemption.  The  old flames of the Burning Temple forever burned  its imprint on our hearts.

    Our Temple, the symbol of our highest moral standards, decency and humanity now exist inside of us. This powerful imprint gives us the ability and strength to cling to that ray of hope for a better world  no matter how tumultuous our world becomes. In fact  the more chaotic and dangerous our world becomes with much evil around the stronger our belief in peaceful times should be. This  concept  is known in traditional Judaism as " Chevlei Moshiach"  the  birthing of the messiah (also known as Messianic Age) and that is what helped our ancestors in every generation  through some very hard  times  when their own survival  was in question.   We should therefore dedicate the 22 days of mourning to spiritual renewal, getting closer to our Judaism, our values, our Creator.   

    B'Shalom

    Rabbi David


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  • 15 Jun 2016 4:28 PM | Shirat Shalom (Administrator)

    Like so many others,  my heart stopped when I first learned about the Orlando Shooting in a Gay nightclub on Sunday,  June 12th.  I quickly checked my inner guidance. Were both my daughter and daughter in law okay? They are often in Orlando and also perform their fire spinning program in night clubs.

    Although my intuition reassured me, I still texted my daughter. Were they both alive and well?  The answer came back  "Alive and Well" along with a question about her blood type so she could donate to the blood bank.  

    Relieved,  I then pondered why this happened during the holiday of Shavuot when Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  During the first night of Shavuot which began sundown on Saturday, many Jews throughout the world gather together and stay up the entire night studying Torah. The shooting began at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday morning when much Light was being released into the world from this sacred Torah study.

    The next day, I had even more to ponder when  I realized that 49 people had been murdered.  With the shooter being killed there were 50 people who had died! These are the same numbers that are associated with Shavuot!

    The Hebrew word "Shavuot"  actually translates as "Weeks" as there are seven weeks or 49 days of preparation beginning right after Passover for each one of us to receive the Light of the Torah on Shavuot.  

    We follow a seven week program of self reflection and improvement.  Each day for 49 days we focus on a different aspect of ourselves connected to the Sefirot which are part of the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah. We  basically bring to the surface hidden or darker parts of ourselves. With the release and healing of these aspects we prepare ourselves to hold an increased amount of Light from the Torah which we will receive on Shavuot, the 50th day.

    But seeing these correspondences didn't give me answers I could give to my daughter  when I finally spoke to her on Tuesday. She was in the midst of grieving for her community, for her friends who lost loved ones, for the hatred that had surfaced.

    I could only listen with my heart knowing that much darkness has been brought to the surface for us to all heal together.  And the only way I believe that can happen is through Love.  

    During our conversation my daughter shared that she has recently been spending time each day sending Love to various people, even with those where there is friction.   It seems that as a result she has experienced many  random acts of kindness including strangers buying her coffee, giving her gift cards, even unexpected gifts.  We discussed how sending Love has changed her energy field as well as everyone she encounters.

     On Sunday  the day of the shooting, my daughter posted on her facebook page,

    "So sad and confused. My heart goes out to everyone coping. But don't allow this to restore your fear. Both fear and faith are belief in the unknown. Choose wisely.

     LOVE, Not Hate."

    It is only now as I write that I realize that 49 adds up to 13 which is the numerical value of "Ahavah,"  the Hebrew word for Love!

    It seems Love has been the message all along....


    Thank you for letting me share my journey with you! Love, Lee 



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  • 02 Jun 2016 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    From Rabbi David

    Why do we eat dairy on Shavuot?

    When G-D  created  the universe his first command  was: "Let there be Light!"

    This of course was not a physical light since the physical light was created on the fourth day in the form of the Sun, the Moon and the Stars. The first day's Light  was  the spiritual Light,  the manifestation of G-D-liness on earth. This Divine Light was necessary in order to create a creature in G-D's image, a human being, in a mundane world. Just like a painter proudly puts his signature on a masterpiece, G-D has put his "signature" in our world, his proud creation, in the form of a Divine Light.

    Our soul, G-D's "signature" inside of us, our Divine essence, always wants to ascend back to be with the Creator. In order to ease our soul's yearning  to reunite with the Creator,  G-D decided to send  another Divine instrument into the earth  so our soul would not be so lonely  in our physical world.   

    This is where the Torah comes in. Since the Torah is the word of G-D as was taught  to Moses on Mt. Sinai, it too is Divine and acts as a "Mate" to our  own soul.  

    This is why the holiday of Shavuot,  the time of "sending"  the Torah to earth is so important. It is the time when G-D made sure that our spiritual essence  will have a counterpart so it could be content here on Earth, thus allowing it to develop and flourish.

    For the Jewish people, the nation which was assigned to be  the  keepers and guardians of the Torah, this merging with our souls was relatively fast. Yes, there were issues with our ancient forefathers who strayed away from the Torah but our biblical prophets always  kept us in line - some  through much effort. For some other nations however the merging process is still ongoing...

    So what is this "Merging" all about? The words of the Torah resonate well with us. They awaken our Divine Essence and cause us to be more than physical beings walking on this earth. Cantor Lee and I experience this and observe it with others every time the Torah is read in public.

    This is true of our Bar/Bat Mitzvah students who begin to mature after the experience of chanting from the Torah in front of their families. This is true of chanting during our Friday night services or during our spiritually charged Shabbat circle services, when a special "electricity" is created among us.

     The holiday of Shavuot is therefore spiritually unique and dear to our heart. While the holiday of Passover denotes the time when we became a nation, the holiday of Shavuot honors  the time when we became Jews and  the time when mankind received its spiritual dimension to support and complete its physical existence. 

    And about that dairy question:

    After receiving the Torah, including the dairy laws, our ancestors realized that they could not eat the already prepared meat dishes since it was not done in accordance with the newly given dietary laws. Until they could prepare new meat dishes they probably ate blintzes, cheesecake from the Cheesecake factory, lox and bagels, white fish on a bagel with cream cheese. (The cardiologists among the Israelites needed to make a living too didn't they?)

    B'Shalom

    Rabbi David  

    (Here is Cantor Lee's post about Shavuot: Healing Light of the Torah )

     May we all experience the Light of the Torah!



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  • 11 May 2016 1:00 PM | Anonymous


    Israel Independence Day 2016 by Rabbi David Degani

    On the 5th day of the month of Iyar, we will celebrate Yom Ha-atz-ma-ut,  68 years of Israel's Independence. For us as Jews, this event 68 years ago, became a powerful symbol of our everlasting existence as a unique people whose religion cannot be separated from its nationality. Israel Independence day is a reminder that our existence depends on having a land of our own and that land is specifically the land of Israel with very specific borders. This land is part of us, of who we are as Jews.

     I am reminded of an episode which happened at the beginning of the 20th century when the Zionist movement was offered  the country of Uganda in Africa as a homeland and a safe haven for European Jews, many of them who were victims of the infamous Kishinev pogrom in Russia. In a rejection letter the leader of the Zionist movement at the time explained that the land component of the Jewish religion is directly related to the land of Israel because of its specific spiritual value and its holiness to Judaism, without which Judaism cannot exist. This principal trumped even the immediate need for a safe place for thousands of Jewish Kishinev refugees.  

    Other than the religious claim, there are other profound reasons for the existence of Israel as a Jewish state (Judea and Samaria included). The crime of taking away a land  from its people is not expunged due to time passed, not even 2000 years. When a nation is forcefully removed from its legitimate homeland, and as long as that nation exists, its claim to the land never gets old. The claim is always intact.   Many of us don't realize that  when the Muslims invaded the land of Israel in the 7th century the majority of the population was still Jewish. There were many thriving communities around the land  beyond the cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberius, Tzfat,  etc. Most  of the Jews  were forced to leave because of extremely heavy and unrealistic taxation imposed on the "Non believers"- a tactic  employed by Muslim occupiers over the centuries  in order to facilitate a measured but steady exodus of non believer from their own lands.   

    This principle of never giving up our legitimate claim for our land has been even more profound when we the Jewish nation made it very clear to the rest of the world over the long years of exile through prayers and, in fact, through actions that we are not giving up on our sovereignty to our land.

    In the last  2000 years the world  knew very well that the Jewish people never gave up on our claim for the land from which we were exiled. In medieval times the church, fearful of Jewish immigration to their homeland which intensified periodically, forbade Jews to travel on Christian boats to the land of Israel. The same was true after the expulsion from Spain in the 15th century as well as other centuries.

    The Arabs, recognizing  that the land of Israel  is the land of the Jews were especially fearful that the Jews would one day return to reclaim their land. One of the major attempts to resettle millions of Jews back in Israel was a plan to create an economic infrastructure first, which would allow for rapid Jewish migration. This plan was made by Don Yosef  Nasi, a highly influential Jew in international circles, in the 15th century. The Arab nomads in Israel opposed the plan which Don Yosef had started to implement. The plan was eventually abandoned due to the extreme violent resistance of the local Moslems.

    To ensure the Jews wouldn't return, the Muslims built a cemetery in Jerusalem in front of the city Gate of Mercy, Their reasoning for building it in this specific place was that when the  Jewish messiah would come to the city,  being a descendant of Jewish priests, a Cohen, he would not  be allowed to go through a cemetery and therefore would not be able to enter Jerusalem and to establish a new Jewish kingdom in Judea.    

    In the 17th century an estimated eight thousands Jews, mostly young men, gathered in Turkey under the leadership of a man call Shabbetai Tzvi who promised them that they would take  the land of Israel by force through his magic. They were all slaughtered  by the Ottoman  army. Over the centuries numerous "Messiahs" gathered Jewish believers around them in a naive attempt to magically take over the land of Israel. All ended up in failure. However these constant attempts, as naive as they all were, serve as evidence throughout  the centuries that indeed, action was taken by Jews who tried to reclaim the land of Israel.   

    These and others similar actions indicate that the Jewish people never gave up on their rights to their land. It was a constant battle for our legitimate land which we finally won  in 1948 with most but not all of the Jewish land in Jewish hands.

    So is the term Israel Independence Day really accurate? To suggest that Israel became independent in 1948 is not only inaccurate, it also provides many Arabs with the anti- Israel propaganda they need. The term may suggest that Israel's independence as it relates to modern Israel separates itself from any Jewish evidence of independent living prior to 1948, as if there was no Jewish independent existence prior to the modern state of Israel.  

    The fact  that  Jews  lived in the land of Israel  for many centuries is not in dispute in international circles. Like most other ancient nations we were chased out of our land. What bothers Israel's enemies around  the world is our return to our land recreates a prosperous powerful, independent Israel. We, according to our enemies belong in the past. We had our time on the world stage and lost our land some centuries ago. That is it. We are now just a group of people  sharing  the same religion. Jews returning back to their land is against the world's natural order of things.      

    It is therefore very important for us to understand that what we celebrate in front of the entire world is the Jewish Return to independent living in our land, a restoration of previous Jewish independence in the land of Israel after centuries of both yearning to return and at times, some actual attempts to do so.   

    May we be thankful for this return to our independence everyday! And with this gratitude, may it bring Peace to Israel, to us, to the world! 

    B'Shalom

    Rabbi David


  • 28 Mar 2016 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    Pesach Energy

     by Cantor Lee Degani

    How I love Pesach Energy!

    For it gives us a chance

    to truly be free

    from lack and limitation,

    all of those lower vibrations!

    And bring in its stead

    Joy and  Inner Peace,

    Love and Compassion!

    So when I light the holiday candles

    I will set the intention,

    that all of my loved ones,

    all of my connections

    will find their struggles

    are now Freedom's Blessings!



  • 28 Mar 2016 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Five Aspects of Passover

    I recently read an interesting article written by Rabbi Benjamin Blech, one of today's truly outstanding modern Jewish thinkers, a professor for Talmud studies at Yeshiva  University. Rabbi Blech names five major aspects to the survivability of the Jewish people which were created during the saga of the Exodus from Egypt.

    Memory   The first aspect is Memory. History  prevents  us from living in a cosmic vacuum. Knowing who we are and from whence we came enables us to recognize ourselves as a nation and separate religious group. As ancient Hebrews this gave us a sense of our destiny with a mission to improve the world. (hence the concept of repairing  the world). This is why remembering the Exodus  from Egypt is a commandment mentioned numerous times in  the bible. This remembrance has allowed us to fashion ourselves as a nation of freedom lovers and to introduce this concept to an oppressive world.  

    Optimism     The second aspect is Optimism. This  powerful psychological state of mind brings with it the  innate belief that all oppressive power in the world, all tyranny, all powerful evil empires will be defeated and toppled especially at the times when tyranny is in complete control. As Hebrew slaves with no hope for deliverance from our suffering, Moses actually had quite a difficult time bringing us to this state of mind to allow us to see the coming redemption.     

    Faith  The third  aspect is Faith. When the Jewish nation was born out of the event of Exodus the concept of G-D's direct role in human life  was created with it. Both in the bible as well as in later writings (such as the writings of the Rambam, one of the greatest Jewish philosophers)  a common description of G-D is not an adjective but, in fact, a verb. "I am your G-D who took you out of Egypt", meaning there is direct divine intervention in our lives. G-D is not aloof but rather compassionate and open for our prayers and wishes.

    Although G-D is all powerful, our relationship with him is direct and personal. He is the king but he is also our father (remember "Avinu Malkenu" Our Father our King from our High Holy Days liturgy) He acts when things need to get done for the benefit of humans, even if sometimes we don't see it that way. Like all other events in human life, the story of  the Hebrews in Egypt is part of the divine plan with reasons not always clear to us.      

     Family Unit   The fourth aspect of the Passover story according to Rabbi Blech is the Family Unit. In order to strengthen  and insure the perpetual existence of the Jewish people as a separate  and distinguished entity the family unit becomes vital. As we see in our own modern life  the family unit ensures  the functionality  of our society.

    In fact most of  the seder's rituals are acts to stimulate questions from our children as well  a time for a history lesson of who we are and what we are celebrating. This strong family direction enables us to overcome outside negative influences while instilling in our children an inner guide for decency, the love of freedom and Judaism.

    Responsibility for Each Other   Rabbi Blech mentions the Responsibility for Each Other as the last important aspect of the Exodus story. Our forefathers' long and intense suffering under the yoke of the Egyptians  was not without purpose. It created in our "Jewish DNA" the ingrained sense of responsibility  not only to repair G-D's world in general but for the betterment of our fellow human beings in particular. It is who we Jewish people are and what we do.

    Remembering our ancestors' centuries of suffering , slavery  and the denial of human rights obligates us to do our best to help others out of their own personal bondage, whatever that might be.  Our ancestors' bondage qualifies and obligates us to be the leaders of the struggle against all which is wrong, to be the world's repairing crew. 

    May We All Remember   In a few weeks, when we gather around  the Passover seder table may we all remember how profound and fundamental the recitation of the story of Exodus is to our existence as Jewish people, as a nation, as human beings.        

    B'Shalom

    Rabbi David


  • 17 Mar 2016 2:40 PM | Anonymous

    A Doggy Purim Megillah

    This is  the story of Purim according to the secret, untold, uncensored  and unrealistic book of  Raf Raf Purim.

    The Raf Raf megillah was accidentally discovered by Ganef  the Dog  who was routinely hiding his stolen shoes in the yard  only to discover this sacred book in one of his digs.


    And we all dig that!

    The  book was authenticated  by  Dr. Beauty the Dog who is  the curator of the Canine Institute of Biblical and Bone Treat Studies.


    So it's like this:  In a faraway place called Purr..sia lived a king by the name of Achashve-Dog. He has just married a new Jewish princess from Boca  who is known as Queen Esta-Dog.


    Things would have been  just nice and dandy except that there was also a very poor and sick dog called  Hey-Man. But since he was a dog - we call him Hey-Dog.


    Since Hey-Dog wanted to be  the head honcho, the big cheese, the big shot, he used to cruise the city on his fancy shmancy motorcycle like all leaders of the packs do.

    He demanded that all the dogs pay tribute  to him  by giving them their bones. No more Jewish bone sharing and bone donations to needy dogs, no more believing  in the one holy DOG spelled backwards.

    Mordechai the dog  who is known as  Morti-Dog and who is also known for creating  the morti-gra in Rio Brazil and in Boca Raton, Florida refused  to give Hey-Dog his Jewish bones and  declared that all Jewish dogs who, of course, all go to heaven, should never give up their holy scriptures  and their bones.

    Well, let me tell you. Hey-Man aka Hey-Dog was furious!

    He went to Achashve-Dog and demanded to eliminate all these Jewish undocumented or should we say illegal immigrants.

    Since it was an election year Achashve-Dog did not want to cause  barking fits in his kingdom. He removed his royal collar and gave it to Hey-Dog to sign his terrible  decree to eliminate all the Jewish doggies and to confiscate all their treats. 

    This is when Esta-Dog, queen of the dogs of Purrr...sia swings into action. She invites her husband Achashve-Dog the King along with Hey-Man the Hey-Dog who was the leader-of-the-pack-want-to-be  with his fancy Harley bike to a special feast at the Boca  Raton garbage collection center.

    All three of them really enjoyed the best garbage that the state of Florida can offer, along with the smell.

    Florida, as we all know is a small province of the Kingdom of Purr...sia better known today as the dog house of the world.

    Suddenly Esta-Dog the Queen reveals to her husband exactly what Hey-Man  the Hey-Dog is planning  for the Jews.

    Since Esta-Dog is Jewish, Achashve-Dog is getting really super upset with Hey-Man, the Hey-Dog. He gets into a barking fit, running around like crazy knocking down trash cans with all of the goodies inside.

    Finally, he decrees that Hey-Dog should be banished from his kingdom. He is to return all the bones and all the treats he had taken from everyone around him.


    Hey-Man the Hey-Dog is leaving on the midnight train to Georgia and from there he is leaving on a jetplane and he does not know when he will be back again.   

    Needless to say, Achashve-dog and all the Jews of Persia  were very happy and marched in a Barknival Carnival through the streets of Purrr...sia. 

    And that's the way it was.

    Hey-Man!... I mean Amen!


    Dogs, bring your humans to Doggy Purim when we retell the story of Esta-Dog who saved the Jews! March 11th, 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

    Doggy Purim Details

  • 28 Feb 2016 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    One of our most spiritual commandments written in the Torah is the obligation to wear a special garment  called a tallit. When our children become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah they are presented with a tallit, a prayer shawl which they wear for the first time during the service. What is it about seeing our children wearing a tallit that touches us all?    

    In the original commandment the Torah commands us to wear fringes around the four corners of our clothing,  two in front  and two in back. These fringes are part of an undergarment which today is called the  "Tallit Katan"  or small Tallit which is worn under the shirt. It is basically a small poncho, rectangular in shape which has four holes on its four corners. Four strings are inserted through each hole on each corner.  They are then folded to create a cluster of eight strings which are tied together by looping one string around the other seven, in a prescribed way to remind us of the 613 biblical commandments. These strings are called "Tzitzit." Those who wear the tallit katan usually have the tzizit visible hanging on their clothing.

    The Tallit we use in the Synagogue is the "Tallit Gadol" or the large Tallit which is the prayer shawl used during prayer time. It too has a rectangular shape with eight stings tied together in each of its four corners. Here too the strings are tied in a way which remind us of the number 613. The Tallit Gadol is worn only during prayer times. It  could be made from  any type of kosher material as long as it is not a blend of different materials.

    The Tallit Katan which is worn everyday is meant to be a constant reminder of our unique  obligation to make this world a better place for all mankind  by observing the biblical commandments and precepts. This obligation  is called Tikun Olam, literally repairing the world for the benefit of all.

    The Tallit Gadol which we put on in the beginning of services has a slightly different purpose. It also involves a particular ritual. Before wrapping oneself it is customary to check  the fringes in order to make sure none are missing or torn. While doing that the Light of G-d, the Shechina,  is invited to descend upon us. Then the Tallit is wrapped around the head and a specific blessing is recited.  It is then "lowered" to wrap the shoulders.

    This act of covering the head and the shoulders with the Tallit and its fringes representing the 613 commandments is meant to help our body and soul concentrate solely on the prayers we about to offer. It is a powerful spiritual ritual of devotion and meditation which connects us to our ancestors of many centuries ago.

    Although wearing the tallit has traditionally been reserved for males, females also may now  choose to wear a tallit during services. Often the tallit for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah child is a gift from grandparents, parents or another close relative. It then becomes a treasured gift that forever links the child to the love of family and the Jewish People.  

    B'Shalom, 

    Rabbi David

    Hebrew School Children Learn to Tie Tzizit



 Phone: 561.488.8079    P.O. Box 971142, Boca Raton, FL, 33497-1142

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