We are writing to you at a
time when health is a serious concern, not only in faraway countries, but also
now here in South Africa. We are reading and following the same guidelines that
you are and will follow them as precautions and best practices for staying
At Bet David, the bathroom
and washing facilities are cleaned regularly and staff members handling food
have been reminded to follow essential rules of hygiene. Breaking with our
minhag, we will cut the challot before doing HaMotzi and hand out
challah in a basket or bowl instead of passing the challot around. We thank you
in advance for understanding if we make some temporary changes, also in the
ways that we are used to interacting with one another: elbow bumps instead of
handshakes, hands on own hearts instead of connecting up for blessings, etc.
In addition, we are
writing to say that your synagogue and your rabbi are here for you.
Our prayers will continue to
be directed to those around the world who are experiencing illness, as well as
those who are caring for them. We will hold those who are anxious in our
hearts, as well as the many worldwide who have been isolated from others in
quarantine for extended periods of time. And our hearts go out to those who are
grieving the loss of loved ones.
Talk with us. Let us know how we, your Community, can help. Should
you be affected by the virus, or any other illness, let us know. The rabbi or
others of the community might not be allowed to visit you, but we are happy to
call you and/or have a little chat via skype.
Our main concern is you! For the moment, there is no risk in coming to shul and
to be part of the community. We hope to see many of you on Shabbat and Purim.
May our world be blessed with
healing – with refu’ah shleimah – at this time, and always!
Celebrate Chanukah with us on Friday 27 December with a festive service. Bring your own Chanukiah to the service and 7 candles to join in lighting the Chanukah lights.
Chanukah Oy Chanukah (23. – 30. December 2019)
Chanukah begins this year on the evening of Sunday, 22nd December.
Chanukah (alternately spelled Hanukkah), meaning “dedication” in Hebrew, refers to the joyous eight-day celebration during which Jews commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and “rededication” of the Temple in Jerusalem. The modern home celebration of Chanukah centers around the lighting of the chanukiah, a special menorah for Chanukah; foods prepared in oil including latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts); and special songs and games.
Candles are lit on each of the eight nights of Chanukah, one the first night, two the second, and an additional candle on each subsequent night. The candle for the first night is placed at the far right of the chanukiah; on each subsequent night, another candle is added to the left. An extra candle, designated as the shamash, is lit first, then used to light the others after the blessings are recited. Each night the candles are lit from left to right, starting with the new candle. The last blessing (Shehechiyanu) is recited only on the first night. The last candle is lit on Sunday night, the 29th December.
What is a dreidel? The word dreidel derives from a German word meaning “spinning top,” and is the toy used in a Chanukah game adapted from an old German gambling game. Chanukah was one of the few times of the year when rabbis permitted games of chance. The four sides of the top bear four Hebrew letters: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin. Players begin by putting into a central pot or “kitty” a certain number of coins, chocolate money known as gelt, nuts, buttons or other small objects. Each player in turn spins the dreidel and proceeds as follows: nun – take nothing; gimmel – take everything; hey – take half; shin – put one in. Over time, the letters on the dreidel were reinterpreted to stand for the first letter of each word in the Hebrew statement “Neis gadol hayah sham,” which means “A great miracle happened there” and refers to the defeat of the Syrian army and the re-dedication of the Temple. In Israel, one letter on the dreidel differs from those used in the rest of the world. The shin has been replaced with a pey, transforming the Hebrew statement into Neis gadol hayah po, which means “A great miracle happened here.”
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah. Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with Mitzvot, commanding us to kindle the Chanukah lights.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, she-asah nisim laavoteinu v’imoteinu bayamim hahaeim baz’man hazeh. Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of all, who performed wonders for our ancestors in days of old at this season.
Add every night: We kindle these lights because of the wondrous deliverance You performed for our ancestors. During these eight days of Chanukah, these lights are scared; we are not to use them but only to behold them, so that their glow may rouse us to give thanks for Your wondrous acts of deliverance.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higianu laz’man hazeh. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season.
Once a year, usually mid-November, a special Shabbat is announced. The so called Shabbat Project should inspire Jews around the globe to keep Shabbat. But what does it mean “to keep Shabbat“?
Technically, the laws of Shabbat can seem draconian. There are thirty-nine official “dont‘s,” and they each have subcategories that add hundreds more. One cannot mow the lawn, hunt for food, light a fire, plant a seed, cook food, boil water, sew on a button, erect a tent, use a hammer, bake a cake, or gather kindling.
Derived from these ancient laws, a host of modern restrictions has been added by scholars, so now it is forbidden [according to Orthodox interpretation of the law] to turn on a computer, drive a car, flick on a light switch, talk on the phone, replace a battery, or watch television. The list is a long one. Conservative rabbis [in the US] prohibit many of these same activities, but the level of observance among the Conservative Jews is not as widespread as it is among the Orthodox.
Progressive rabbis, for the most part, say that these ancient restrictions are no longer binding or enjoy the same priority as ethical laws that may stand in conflict with the traditional Shabbat restrictions (such as visiting or calling family members or friends). However, Progressive Judaism doesn‘t deny that one can find meaning in the restrictions and should try to incorporate them into one‘s religious lives.
But how? And which? And why?
Join Brett Steingo for a conversation this Shabbat after the brocha @ 11.45 for 12.00