JOIN US THIS SHABBAT AFTERNOON AS WE DELVE INTO THE HAGADAH SHEL PESACH.
BOTH MEMBERS OF EB AND OF THE BROADER COMMUNITY ARE INVITED TO COME AND LEARN IN EB'S FAST-PACED, INTERACTIVE FORMAT !
Click on the link to see the PDF file of the Rambam:
To access the article that will the basis of this week's Fundamentals discussion, click on http://ravron.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/bedikat-hametz.pdf
Our session immediately follows the Kiddush in the EB foyer
See you there!
Please bring your donations for Matanot La'evyonim to Kehilla this afternoon at 5:10 pm or Saturday night at 7:15 pm at EB - thanks!
Dr. Galit (Ankri) Eliahoo, a newcomer with her family to Seattle and Ezra Bessaroth, will be presenting a special mini-lecture in honor of the memory of her father, R. Arye Ankri, on the occasion of his first Meldatho. You are invited to join us Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm, following Arvit, in the EB Social Hall to hear Galit share her research on "Hatikva Through the Prism of History" Light refreshments will be served.
This Shabbat, Teruma, is the annual Shabbat honoring Hacham David Behar. Here's a re-release of the Dvar Torah I wrote for the occasion:
This past Shabbat, I had the unique honor of delivering a drasha in honor of the late Hacham David J. Behar. Each year, on Shabbat Perashat Terumah, the Behar family honors his first Shabbat in 1917 as Hazzan of Ezra Bessaroth.
The Torah describes the ark that carried the Tablets of the Covenant: It must be covered with gold on both the outside and the inside. According to the Gemara in Tractate Yomah, there were actually three pieces to the ark: an outer box; set into it was another box, and yet a third box. The two boxes on either side are to be layered with gold while the inner box is made of wood.
Our sages understand the Aron (ark) homiletically: “Any Torah scholar whose inside is not like his outside – תוכו כבורו – is not a true Torah scholar.” The scholar is compared to the Aron, in that they are both repositories of Torah; just as the outside and the inside of the Aron are gold, so too, the Torah scholar’s outer presentation must accurately reflect his inner qualities.
The normative understanding of this dictum is that a Torah scholar must be genuine: He should not put on airs and feign a high level of religiosity, when he is actually lacking spiritually. The same goes for everyone one of us who professes a connection to Torah study and observance: we have to strive for authenticity.
The Talmud, Tractate Berachot, discusses the transition from the leadership of Rabban Gamliel to that of R. Elazar ben Azaria. The former had a restrictive Bet Midrash (study hall) entrance policy: Only a student whose outside matched his inside would be allowed in; when R. Elazar took over, the Gemara reports, he removed the guard at the door, and Torah learning became more democratic.
Reading the principle as we have to date raises an obvious question: how did R. Gamliel know whose demeanor matched his inner self? How could he possibly be tuned into the degree to which a student was authentic or not?
Rabbi Aryeh Stechler suggests that the Talmudic principle we cited – תוכו כבורו – has a different meaning: Rather than requiring a person’s external appearance to match his inner essence, the imperative is to have your external actions impact on your internal ethical and spiritual development. The Sefer Hachinuch is known for his theory that more than anything else, our actions impact on our thought processes and emotions; instead of “waiting” to be inspired, we should, says the Chinuch, avail ourselves of the power of mitzvot to impact on our growth.
Viewing תוכו כבורו this way, it is quite understandable how R. Gamliel would assess students: Those he detected were not going the extra mile in mitzvah performance, he sensed were not growth-oriented. A lax attitude towards Jewish observance was, for R. Gamliel, a sign that the student was on the road to stagnation.
On the other hand, the ability of action to impact on one’s personal growth is no “quick fix”; change is not guaranteed. This is the symbolism of the wooden box, the possible impediments to this process.
I did not know Hacham Behar personally, but from all the anecdotes of his sons and grandchildren – and from Jewish commitment of those descendants,who ably led the Tefillah this past Shabbat - it’s clear that for Hacham Behar, תוכו כבורו was a guiding principle on both levels: He was a genuine, unpretentious man whose outside matched what was going on inside. He was also a “doer”, someone who understood that, at the end of the day, it’s action that cultivates the Torah personality.
The Purim story truly has something for everyone: costumes, treats and surprises for little children, a nail-biting story of suspense and intrigue, and for the more spiritually and intellectually-oriented crowd: profound lessons of irony and Divine Providence.
That’s why it’s so surprising that one issue attracting so much attention is the mitzvah to imbibe alcohol. The practice traces its way back to the Talmud, where Rava apparently instructs us to drink wine until we do not know the difference between “Cursed is Haman and Blessed is Mordechai.”
That’s like saying that a Jew should drink so much that he cannot differentiate between Ahmadinejad and the Chief Rabbi of Israel!
Many commentaries have noted that the follow-up to this directive – in which Raba becomes intoxicated, “stands up” and kills compatriot R. Zeira - illustrates the dangers of excessive drinking. Within this view, one commentator suggests that Raba did not directly murder R. Zeira, but merely served up so many drinks that R. Zeira almost succumbed to alcohol poisoning; it was only Raba’s last-ditch fervent prayer vigil that rescued R. Zeira from a tragic demise! In recent years, the Union of Orthodox Congregations (of which Ezra Bessaroth is a proud member) has warned parents and their teenagers to refrain from excessive indulgence. Moreover, DUI is not just a violation of American law, it is a violation of Torah law. Celebration is one thing – putting yours and others’ lives in danger, quite another.
One esoteric interpretation of the story suggests that during their feast, the two scholars indulged in deep mystical secrets, and Raba "stood up,” - rose to a higher level of understanding - and drew R. Zeira after him, sharing Raba’s mystical insights. R. Zeira, whose soul was more limited in its capacity to grasp such concepts, nearly died from the spiritual intensity of the encounter. This interpretation finds support in the names Raba, which means “large” or “great”, in contrast to “Zeira”, which means “tiny” or “small.” According to this view, the limited perspective of R. Zeira simply “couldn’t handle” Raba’s lesson!
At times, modern Jewish life seems to suffer from the Raba-R. Zeira tension. Two centuries ago, the enlightenment ushered in a new vision of what it meant to be Jewish; the Reform movement encouraged the abandonment of what it deemed to be ancient small-minded practices in favor of a broader vision. Put simply, Reform promoted a gradual sell-out of what was hitherto known as Mitzvot Ben Adam Lamakom – Mitzvot between Man and God: Kashrut, laws of family purity and other associated mitzvot were relegated to the dustbins of Jewish history. In the 1888 Pittsburgh Platform, for example, the Reform clergy asserted “that observance [of many of these early mitzvot] in our days is apt to obstruct rather than to further modern spiritual elevation.”
Eretz Yisrael, with Jerusalem at its center, also ended up on the editing-room floor of early Reform. It wasn’t until 1937, when its naïve position on Zionism was called into question by historical and political realities, that Reform backtracked.
As one Reform rabbi notes:
"...from the earliest days of Reform Judaism, back in the 19th Century, long before the Holocaust, anti-Zionism stemmed from an ideology that we may actually consider praiseworthy. The founders of Reform Judaism dreamed of a beautiful and all-encompassing redemption. For them, the mission of the Jewish people was to serve as God’s partners in tikkun olam, repairing a broken and troubled world, for all humanity. They were turned off by a narrow Messianic vision, focused on the Jewish people’s return to its homeland. Instead, they worked for the betterment of all humanity. In their minds, the Jewish people could best do God’s work by remaining dispersed throughout the world, laboring alongside men and women of every race and religion to make the entire Earth a better place.” (Rabbi Barry Block, Anti-Zionism in Early American Reform Judaism)
Seeing itself as the visionary “Raba” of Purim, Reform was determined to slaughter the parochial, insular, small-minded “R. Zeira”, the old world-Jewish perspective. Predictions –bordering on quasi-prophecies - abounded in the 1960’s – foretelling the death of Orthodox Jewish life in America. A smug brand of triumphalism developed: Raba would finally overcome R. Zeira, once and for all!'
To be sure, parochial elements within the Torah-observant community abound; scholars throughout the Jewish world have documented these inward-looking trends in books, journals and in classes over the past couple of decades, and continue to critique these developments from within the Torah tradition. Yet the past few decades have also seen the increasing professionalization of Jewish education and outreach, with an ambitious mission to reframe the classical Torah tradition for the modern world. With scholars such as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik at the helm, the minutiae of halacha, of Jewish law, and the splendor of Jewish thought have been able to express their essence: Correctly articulated, the true “Raba” is none other than the resilient, eternal, Torah tradition of our past! Paradoxically, approaches within the Jewish world once thought to be leading the way towards broad new horizons, have begun to expose themselves as small-minded efforts to curry favor with popular opinion in both the general and Jewish community, in religion, ethics and politics.
With Purim around the corner, it’s time to reflect on what it means to be Jewish, to identify which approaches best epitomize “Raba” in his struggle with “R. Zeira.”
Purim Alegre !
Shalom from Israel.
Our son, Guy Bar-Yosef, was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia this past April 2012. He underwent aggressive chemotherapy for 8 months, and now the doctors are saying that there is hope for recovery only if he receives a bone marrow (=stem cell) transplant from a matching donor. We are turning to everyone and anyone who may be able to help.
Because of Guy’s genetic lineage, we are specifically looking for donors with mixed genetic backgrounds, and hence this letter to your synagogue membership. My husband Ami's parents were, respectively, of Moroccan and Lithuanian origin, and my parents hailed from Latvia (Baronovich, Russia, and nearby). (My father was a Conservative Rabbi - Morris Gordon from Washington, DC). In Israel the organization which does tissue typing and matching is “Ezer Mizion”, and in the USA it’s “Be The Match” or “Gift of Life”. Healthy donors are accepted into these international registries between the ages of 18-45. Blood type does not matter. There are not enough people of Sephardic origin in the international bone marrow donor registries. This is a chance to save a life!
People in the USA can ask for a kit to do the test at home and mail it in. All other developed countries have similar setups, and the Israeli hospital is conducting a worldwide search on our behalf. The initial test is merely a saliva swab taken from inside the cheek. It is painless and quick. If someone is found to be a tissue match, he/she will be asked to come and donate blood on a given day, at the hospital in Tel Aviv. The procedure is similar to donating blood. No surgical procedure is involved. If the person is from abroad, his/her flight to Israel and all expenses will be paid.
Another way to assist us at this time, is by a monetary donation, in any amount to "Ezer Mizion". They claim that it costs them 250 NIS ($65) to process each test, and as they don't have the necessary budget, they seek donations to cover the costs. The website is: https://www.ezermizion.org/Donate (tax-deductible receipts will be issued). There is a place to mention the name of the person in whose honor the donation is being made - in this case, Guy Bar-Yosef. Tests take a few weeks to process. Therefore, Time is of the essence. Anyone who has Facebook or other social network media, or who work or study in places where they can notify friends, colleagues, etc., is kindly asked to help spread the word. We sincerely appreciate every and all effort made on Guy’s behalf.
Guy is a licensed tour guide in Israel, and works in Jewish education. He has led many Jewish high school groups and Birthright groups, as his way of interacting with youth is special, and highly valued by various sponsors of Jewish tour groups. He is married, and the father of 5 young children who need him. He deserves any help, and we are seeking every possible avenue.
Thanks so very much. Arlene and Ami Bar-Yosef, Moshav Sittrya, Israel
The Seattle Jewish Theater Company will present Crossing Delancey on stage in the Ezra Bessaroth social hall at 3:00 p.m.on Sunday March 17.
The charming, romantic comedy was written by Susan Sandler for the New York Jewish theater where it was well-received. Sandler later adapted her stage play for the hit Warner Bros movie starring Amy Irving. The play has none of the racier scenes that appear in the movie and focuses on traditional Jewish values. It is a sweet, family drama that all ages can enjoy together.
The New York Times called the play, "An amusing romance that tells its story believably, rarely trying to make its gag lines, of which there are many, upstage its narration or outshine its heart." Isabelle “Izzy” is a single young Jewish woman working in an upscale Manhattan bookstore who longs to be part of the intellectual literary scene. But her old-world grandmother and a matchmaker are trying to fix her up with Sam, a quiet young man who runs a pickle store in the neighborhood. The conflict is resolved with a generous dose of humor, affection, and wisdom.
Crossing Delaney will be directed by SJTC founder and artistic director Art Feinglass who launched the company in 2011. “The mission of the Seattle Jewish Theater Company www.SeattleJewishTheater.com is to bring quality Jewish plays to the Seattle area. Crossing Delancey is a warm Jewish story with themes of love and family and the value of old-world tradition that are universal. It’s a very enjoyable play with a great cast. The audience is going to love it.” To buy tickets, contact Susan in the Ezra Bessaroth office at 206-722-5500 or go to our website and click on "Support EB", choose "Campaigns": http://ezrabessaroth.net/support-eb
In the second chapter of Bereshit, Adam gave names to all the living creatures. Ramban comments:
והענין, כי הקב”ה הביא כל חית השדה וכל עוף השמים לפני אדם, והוא הכיר טבעם וקרא להם שמות, כלומר השם הראוי להם כפי טבעיהם
The Holy One, Blessed be he, brought every beast of the field and bird of the sky before Adam; he identified their essence and gave them their names – ie the name appropriate to them in accordance with their nature…
In other words, for the Torah, names reflect essence.
Speaking of names, Yitro, who appears briefly again in Perashat B’ha’alotcha – has multiple names: no less than seven, according to Rashi.
Since names reflect the essence of a person or being, the inquiring classical Jewish mind will want to ask: “What do the various versions of Yitro’s essence have to teach us?”
Flashback: In Moshe’s first encounter with him, Yitro is Kohen Midian – literally: the Priest of Midian. A man of great influence, he imposes his religious views on others.
In fact, the Yalkut Shimoni states that Yitro only grants Moshe Tzippora’s hand in marriage once the Egyptian fugitive dedicates his firstborn to a life of idolatry. For the midrash, it is this commitment that triggers G-d’s “attempt” on Moshe’s life on the way to Egypt.
Only a quick-thinking, resourceful Tzippora rescues her husband from the spiritual and physical abyss: A last-second circumcision redirects Moshe and his family back onto a monotheistic track!
.. to chapter 18 of Shemot, Parshat Yitro: Moshe is the leader of B’nai Yisrael. Ten plagues and a miraculous battle with Amalek later, Yitro now rethinks his beliefs: As Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religious at MSU (Midian State University) the former cleric crowns the Creator, the “greatest of all gods!”
One of the glaring features of the perasha is not so much the wide array of names, but of descriptions used in reference to Yitro: (in the following order): Yitro, the Priest of Midian, Moshe’s father-in-law ; Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law (x3);Moshe’s father-in-law (x2); Yitro (x2); Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law; Moshe’s father-in-law (x6).
A proverbial field day for Bible Critics! In Perashat Bha’alotcha, yet another reference labels him as “Chovav ben Reu’el the Midianite, Moshe’s father-in-law.” Surely, the patchwork “four editor” theory can explain the inconsistency of the text!?
Classical Jews, holding firm to the conviction that deep messages are embedded in an eternal Torah, will look to the context of these references to unravel the intent of its Divine author…
In other words…
Only once is Yitro labeled as Kohen Midian (Ch. 4) That’s when we first meet him. Moshe, fleeing from Egypt, is a foreigner while Yitro is in a ‘good place’ both religiously and professionally.
It is from this comfortable position that “Yitro, the Priest of Midian, Moshe’s father-in-law” begins to read the breaking news out of Mizraim. With open eyes, he interprets the events of the day. Distancing himself from his previous beliefs, he seeks to connect himself to Moshe; at this point, he is now, “Yitro – Moshe’s father-in-law”.
Moshe reaches out to Yitro, now only referred to as Moshe’s “father-in-law”. In fact, no less than six consecutive references at the end of the chapter use the term, “Moshe’s father-in-law”.
Consistent with the Mechilta’s declaration that, though Yitro “lived amidst the greatest honor of the world, his heart prompted him to go forth to the desert wasteland to hear words of Torah” – the text leads us subliminally through the change in labels…. marking Yitro’s shifting values and self-perception.
With his new identity as “Moshe’s father-in-law”, he could have settled with passive membership in the community of Israel. Instead, he draws on his intuition and talents to streamline the Jewish judicial system. This is what earns him a perasha in his name.
More life lessons:
Earlier, we noted two mid-story references to Yitro by his personal name, stripped of both the titles “Kohen Midian” and “Moshe’s father-in-law”; the text is followed by a return to “Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law”, then by the six references to Yitro as simply “Moshe’s father-in-law”.
The answer may lie in another midrash cited by Rashi. Upon hearing the details of the Exodus, including the demise of Pharoah and Amalek, “Vayichad Yitro”. This either means “Yitro rejoiced” – or “Yitro got goosebumps…”
Change comes hard, and he greets the graphic retelling of the events with a degree of ambivalence. After all, these were his former neighbors and fellow idolators!
“Yitro” here hints that he is not yet fully comfortable with his new identity. Only after Yitro fully digests the story, is he able to return to his identity as first -”Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law”, then, simply: “Moshe’s father-in-law”.
“Chovav ben Reu’el the Midianite, Moshe’s father-in-law.“ This is the name used in Perashat B’ha’alotcha. Rashi teaches us that he was called Chovav because of his love for Torah. The term “Chiba” in Hebrew means love…
Why, then, recall that he is the son of Re’uel the Midianite, then label him “Moshe’s father-in-law”?
A theory: Here we have a more sophisticated Yitro. He is no longer giving technical advice; he’s someone who has spent time absorbing the sanctity of what it means to be part of the community of Israel. What was once a fascination has now become incorporated into his very essence. No mere outsider or consultant, he is a Jew who possesses Ahavat Torah, love of Torah.
He reflects on and appreciates his path towards religious growth: From the son of Re’uel the Midianite to the father-in-law of Moshe, he matures into a “Chovav”..
One of the most prominent stories of this past week here in the U.S. is the story of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o. He is at center of a bizarre story involving a woman that he met online, who supposedly died in the fall of Leukemia. This past season, Te’o dedicated his games to her recovery, and then sadly, to her memory.
Some say that Te’o was the victim of an elaborate hoax, while others suggest that he fabricated this relationship and death as a way of evoking support from Heisman Trophy judges. According to the official version of the story, supported by the Notre Dame administration, Te'o never met the woman, the relationship relegated to “Tweets” and phone conversations.
Texas Christian University Prof. Sage Elwell observed that "relationships that solely exist online often times allow someone to overlook red flags, or character flaws, that may only become evident in face-to-face interaction." Elwell added that, ".... if you don't meet face-to-face at some point, it's hard to know if the relationship is a healthy, or real, one."
With the Te’o debacle once again raising the issue of the "the Dark side" of social media.. other related incidents come to mind: Recently, a Connecticut man hijacked a woman's Facebook and e-mail accounts and demanded compromising photos of her as ransom.
Here’s another story from this fall’s devastating Hurricane Sandy:
Shashank Tripathi's resignation from Republican Christopher Wight's campaign will take effect immediately . Wight is running in New York's 12th congressional district for U.S. House.
Buzzfeed first identified Tripathi as the man behind the @ComfortablySmug twitter handle. He tweeted a number of false reports during Sandy, including that the New York Stock Exchange was flooded and that utility company ConEdison was preemptively shutting down power in all of Manhattan.
Tripathi later apologized to the people of New York, but the panic that he generated by his "tweets" had already done its damage.
The sinister side of social media. (In Tripathi's case, the Conn Edison tweet even claimed that Manhattan would literally be plunged into total darkness!)
These stories got me thinking of a possible connection between the dark use of social media and the plague of חושך, of darkness, in this week's Perasha, Bo.
Bo features the last three plagues wrought on Egypt, including locusts, darkness, and the smiting of the Egyptian first-born.
Rav Ze`ev Friedman (cited in an article by Goldie Guy) suggests that the Egyptians' continued blindness to G-d's dominion over the world - exemplified by Pharaoh`s saying: “Who is G-d that I might heed his voice?” – lead to the physical blindness of the plague of darkness. Mida k'neged Mida - Measure for measure: blindness begets blindness.
In one internet article dealing with anonymity in the use of social media, the author writes:
...use of social media can go over the proverbial line and become vicious attacks. This is especially true with anonymous or pseudonymous speakers. Identifying anonymous or pseudonymous social media users who act with malice or ill will is not easy.
In an article about the Te’o hoax, the Columbus Dispatch writes,
People can create fake personas fairly easily, said private investigator Dean Boerger of Boerger Investigative Services in Grandview Heights.
“There are ways, easy ways, to cloak yourself and be someone you’re not,” he said.
People can steal photos from another person’s legitimate Facebook page, take on a pseudonym and create a fake phone number on Google Voice, Boerger said.
The perpetrators of the Manti Te'o hoax, the facebook account highjacker, and the Congressional campaign manager whose secret tweets generated hysteria in Gotham City, thrive on the "cover" provided by their social media platforms.
Midrash Hagadol cites this verse in Sefer Yeshaya in reference to the Egyptians:
הוי המעמיקים מיהוה לסתר עצה והיה במחשׁך מעשׂיהם ויאמרו מי ראנו ומי יודענו
Woe is to them that seek to hide their counsel from Hashem, and all their actions are in the dark, saying ‘Who sees us and Who knows’?
This midrash makes the direct connection that we referred to above – the Egyptians’ perceived lack of accountability, the brushing aside of G-d as the watchful eye – in the language of Pirkei Avot – triggered the plague of darkness as more of a consequence than a punishment.
לפיכך לוקין בחושך שנאמר יהי דרכם חשך וחלקלקות
Therefore, they are smitten with darkness, as it says (Tehilim) “Let their paths be darkness and slipping”.
Back in Egypt, another midrash recounts how the Israelites, visiting their Egyptian neighbors during the plague of darkness, were accompanied by light that would literally follow them into the Egyptian homes and leave with them upon their departure.
כשהיה ישראל בא אצל מצרי לשאול ממנו היה בא האור עמו וכשהיה יוצא היה האור יוצא עמו
The midrash goes on to say that the Israelites on the other hand, had light in their homes because they are involved in Torah and mitzvot, regarding which it says
כי נר מצוה ותורה אור
Because a mitzvah is a candle and the Torah is light.
Now, at that time – in Egypt – there were no overt mitzvoth being practiced by the Israelites, since the Egyptian exile of course preceded the giving of the Torah.
Instead, I would like to understand the midrash as referring to the character of our lives both at the time of the Egyptian exile and for generations to come. We Jews are preoccupied with light. Rooted in our belief that there is no such thing as absolute anonymity – Hashem observes all of actions – we know that each of our actions is intrinsically significant , and that we are accountable for them.
As Jews living in the modern world, we do not believe that the Torah requires us to insulate ourselves from secular knowledge or modern technological developments. Just the opposite, a Torah agenda for the world bids us to confront the latest developments and channel them in a kosher fashion, seeing them as tools to further the Torah agenda. The Jew walks around carrying the enlightened perspective of accountability, of a sense that there is no ultimate anonymity. It is this firm belief that generates a consistent commitment to Torah and mitzvot, to a modern Jewish society that utilizes the latest technologies in ways that create meaningful connections and support causes that benefit the world.
What Others Say About Dr. Benjamin
"He talks like a performer, acts like a magician, and multiplies faster than a calculator."
--- The Los Angeles Times.
"Someone you can count on!"
--- People Magazine
"This is fun!"
--- Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, Comedy Central, 2010
"Thanks again for presenting at the Amazon event. The feedback I received was amazing; everyone loved your show. It was *perfect* for the team there assembled. Now my big challenge is how do I even come close to something like that for next year?"
--- Colin Bodell, Senior Vice President, Amazon.com, 2010
"Your gift for mental calculation is truly astounding. The technology, risk management and compliance professionals who attended the Summit were completely captivated by your presentation, and we appreciate the excitement that you brought to our event. You had the complete attention of everyone in the room throughout your entire presentation, and your feats of mind were a major point of discussion for the remainder of the Summit. You inspired us all to use our brains a little bit more, and we will never forget your incredible show."
--- Alex Bender, Vice President of Marketing, Archer Technologies, 2008
"It was great. I only heard positive comments from everyone. Thanks!"
--- Mindy Harris, President, NAGDCA (National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators), 2008
"Doctor Benjamin's presentation ranks among the very best. He is able to entertain, motivate, stimulate, and educate simultaneously, a rare ability that helps to bring the joy of math and science into the lives of his audiences."
--- Dr. Steven Murov, Director, Modesto Area Partners in Science
"Parents, teachers, and children, with multiple layers of math phobia, related easily to your imaginative style of storytelling and theater that brings math to a 'Wow!' level."
--- Sarah Orleans, Director of Programs, The Franklin Institute Science Program
"Dr. Arthur Benjamin made two presentations at Millersville University as part of the 21st annual Brossman Science Lectureship. The audience for the afternoon presentation consisted of 5th through 9th graders. The audience for the evening performance consisted of children through adults including university students and faculty. There was standing room only for both presentations (750 each). These were the largest crowds to ever attend the Science Lectureship. Dr. Benjamin appealed to all ages. His presentations were energetic and humorous as well as being informative. He had people excited about mathematics. One teacher stated: 'Dr. Benjamin was a fantastic lecturer and truly inspiring to the students.'"
--- Dr. Lyman Rickard, Millersville University
"Your presentation at BMS was thoroughly enjoyed by both the students and the faculty. You were phenomenal! You have such a great way of getting kids thinking and enjoying math!! We look forward to having you back in the future."
--- Christy Romano, Enrichment Coordinator, Bow Memorial School
"Arthur Benjamin, the `mathemagician,' wowed the crowd with his demonstration of lightning calculation. It's hard to believe that watching someone do math would be entertaining, but Arthur is a knockout."
--- Magic Magazine, November 2007
"That was one of the most incredible finishing acts we've ever had!"
--- Carmie Henry, Vice President, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, 2008
"Arthur Benjamin and his human calculator act is one of the most exciting, entertaining acts imaginable."
--- Academy of Magical Arts Newsletter, January 2010
In keeping with our mission of Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Hasadim, as of today, EB is a drop-off point for donations of household items, you name it, for the Big Brothers and Sisters of Puget Sound. The Donation Bin will be located on the EB grounds, close to the corner of Wilson and Brandon Streets in Seward Park
EB congregant Fran Israel just returned from a harrowing, but inspiring trip to Israel. Here's her personal account - enjoy!
We often hear the saying: “ Three Mishaps In a Row And You Are Home Free.” I was leaving on a long anticipated trip with my daughter, Marilyn and grandson, Adam to visit family in Switzerland, Joe & Becky Benardeti, and then fly to Israel. We had three panic inducing episodes that seemed to cloud the future of our trip: First, there was the missing cash from my purse, then the credit card left at a Lausanne restaurant, and finally, when we arrived in Israel a piece of luggage missing?? –stolen?? After a hectic two-hour search with Israeli security, a young Israeli policewoman found the bag—it had been left on the luggage carousel.
We checked in to the lovely hotel by the sea and breathed a huge sigh of relief, as we firmly believed nothing further could happen to us—we were home free.
The first week in Tel Aviv -was filled with sightseeing and visiting friends and family. We visited Old Jaffa with its wonderful shops and ancient cobbled stones. Adam was always at my side offering his strong arm for assistance. We visited Dr. Scott and Karin Pollock in Netanya and had Shabbat dinner with my cousin, Daniel Beyar and his family in Kfar Sava. Dan was a former Attorney General and is now a superior court judge. Adam was busy nights teaching master dance classes and private dance lessons. The swing dance community at Dance Tel Aviv had invited him to teach. Therefore, we coordinated our trip
so that he could travel with us. His students included physical therapists, occupational therapists, the director of medical tourism, and Esther B., a flamboyant ballroom dancer who edited medical journals. Adam is a musical theater actor who dances like a Sephardic Gene Kelley.
The culmination of that week was a guided all-day tour to Cesarea, the B’hai Temple, Haifa— past the beautiful and mystical landscapes, and the Sea of Galilee, that paved the way to Sefat, the seat of the Kabbalah, where I purchased lovely hand-woven tallit for my grandsons and delicate Havdallah candles.
The last day in Tel Aviv was Tuesday, October 30, a day I shall never forget. We had gone to the Carmel Shuk enjoying the splendid array of art, jewelry, food and other delights. We were on our way back to the hotel to leave for Jerusalem. Strolling on the sidewalk, I was suddenly hit by a bicycle riding at a furious pace. The shoulder strap of my purse caught on to the handlebar of his bike and I was lifted up and slammed on to the cement.
Lying on the cement, in excruciating pain, I heard Adam’s anguished cry: “You have killed my Grandmother.” And then, “Call 911.” Miraculously, the ambulance came even though it was the wrong number. The rider of the bike was 22 year-old young man who had been in a hurry to get to a meeting. In spite of the fact that he was contacted twice and informed of the outcome of his carelessness, he never expressed any remorse, nor did he make any effort to apologize.
(A police report was filed; as of this writing I have not heard anything.
At the hospital, the Sourasky Medical Center, I was wheeled to the emergency room with Adam at my side. At the front desk, Marilyn who did not speak Hebrew was met with a barrage of questions—all in Hebrew. This was not the hotel where everyone spoke English; this was a different system, the Israeli Health System, a different world.
After the tortuous ex-rays, the doctor told me that my shoulder had been dislocated and fractured; my hip was also fractured and needed immediate hip replacement surgery. I was then wheeled into a small screen cubicle where the atmosphere was far from serene: there was loud talking, noises, babies crying, and the man next to me who had broken his arm was wailing loud and piteously. Marilyn and Adam were asked to leave but they stubbornly refused.
I remained in this chaotic place for 11 hours before being admitted to the hospital. The next day, Dr. Pollock tried to find out the time for my surgery but was told we would know only 10 minutes before the operation. And to my dismay the surgery was postponed even longer because I developed a high fever. They had not been monitoring my temperature and to prevent this from happening the next day and thus delaying surgery again, Adam ran down to the pharmacy to buy a thermometer.
I awoke from the surgery in a large room blazing with yellow light. I perceived other beds around me. I felt a strange pulsating monitor under my arm that arose like a worm under my armpit. It seemed as if I were in a den of fiends and that I had died. Suddenly, this gloom was dispelled by a cheerful, matronly woman who introduced herself to me: “Hello, I am Yehudit, your nurse, I am Jewish, I will take care of you.” And when she saw tears in my eyes she sang to me with gestures: “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”
There were other quirky characters that cared for me during my stay in the hospital: There was Igor, the tall blond Russian with the gentle face. He told me that I was his hero, but I never knew why. Then there was Emile, a small dark-haired man who always wore orange clogs and looked like a detective in a B-grade movie. There was also an extraordinary tall poker-faced man whose name we never knew but who moved like Lurch from the Adam’s Family. They were all very kind people whose services were scarce. It became clear to me that they were all seriously over-worked and that the main job of attending to my needs was to fall on Marilyn and Adam. For example asking for pain meds required some dramatic feats: grimacing and groaning—until they said, “Ahh—Ahh, Pyeer- ko- set.
Adam wheeled me around the hospital wherever I needed to go. One day someone asked him “Who are you?” “I am Security, “ replied Adam. “And this is a famous film celebrity who I am protecting.” Other family members pushed their loved ones right in their hospital beds on to the terrace where they could smoke freely. Sometimes Dr. Gilad would come to draw blood all the time complaining that I left my veins at home. He finally took blood from an artery with Marilyn assisting.
After 5 days in the hospital, I was ready for rehab. The influential dance community, which included the occupational therapist at the PALACE, a private rehab facility, decreed that is where I needed to go. From my hospital room, several blocks away, I could see a tall cream-colored building with the words PALACE emblazoned at the top. Before we had time to ponder this decision, a smiling young woman with curly red hair appeared in my hospital room wearing a white fleece pantsuit with the PALACE insignia. In my hospital gown, with a pillow between my legs, as prescribed for hip surgery, she wheeled me through the busy streets of Tel Aviv, horns honking, and Adam and Scott following behind us. Marilyn and Karin had stayed behind to quickly gather up my clothes from the hospital room.
The reception room at the PALACE was like the Four Seasons with gorgeous marble floors and crystal chandeliers. A lovely woman received me all dressed in white. I said to her, “If this is the PALACE, you must be the queen. She nodded and smiled. She did not understand a word I said.
By this time Marilyn and Karin had caught up with us. Marilyn was once again prepared for a lot of questions and forms to fill out and was amazed that there were none. All that was needed was a credit card.
Thus, my life at the PALACE began. I was whisked up to the 11th floor to my beautiful private room complete with marble bath and shower. In the morning a nurse appeared to take my vitals and then another nurse would appear and say, “Bath”? I was showered and dressed, my shoulder was still immobilized and in a sling. Then I was gently pushed into the elaborate dining room all covered with white tablecloths and given a menu—all in Hebrew. The nurses were all very sweet and attentive but only spoke Hebrew and Russian that seemed like the language of most of the patients there who were from Moscow. My life became one of signs and gestures and often seemed surreal. I looked forward to the afternoon to visits from Marilyn and Adam who often ate with me as well as Karin & Scott, Dan & Ahouva, also Talya, my daughter-in-laws niece who had made aliyah several years, was another welcomed guest.
I was fortunate in that all of the physical therapists at the PALACE spoke English. They were very kind and inspired hope and confidence that I would fully recover. On the first day of my therapy they had me climb stairs. My therapy began each morning when a nurse would escort me to the lower level of the building to a large brightly lit room where physical therapy would take place. The room led to a terrace and gardens where I often walked with my therapist.
I spent 11 days at the PALACE and while they were pleasant enough, I longed to leave my gilded cage and go home. I was excited when we finally heard from our travel insurance company that plans were being made to re-book our flights home. First it was Tuesday, then Wednesday, and then the rockets began to fall. At the PALACE, when the sirens went off, we were rushed to the “safe” room, a clatter of wheelchairs and walkers.
On the beach, with temperatures in the 80’s, Adam ran into the ocean for a last swim. And then the sirens went off again. He had to turn around and race back grabbing his mother, who had been on the beach admonishing him not to go in, and together race for a shelter.
Finally our flight home was arranged. The travel insurance ordered a rescue nurse to fly with us. We dubbed him the Jewish Indiana Jones. While all of us were anxious to go home, we were saddened to see the trouble that Israel once again had to endure. We flew home on November 17th with the rockets still flying.
In the beginning of this whole catastrophe there were many frantic calls home to worried family members. Now Sari, my youngest daughter called to talk: “Mom, she said, “I know you like to bathe in your beautiful bathtub, but this is not going to work for you now. Rick and I have contracted to have a walk-in-shower installed in the other bathroom.” I felt tears move down my cheeks and for the hundredth time I thanked God for the wonderful, loving family He gave me. At the same time, I was deeply grateful for the doctors, nurses, and physical therapists that helped restore my battered body.
I also remember, with laughter, the pretty physical therapist that said: “Come back next year. Choose which leg you wish to break—and come back!”
Mazal tov to Elana and Josh Zana on the birth of their new baby daughter, Miriam Hila. We share the joy with the extended Zana, Behar and Okrent families on this great occasion. This past week, our daughter Yosifa gave birth to a baby girl in Eretz Yisrael, and they named her several hours ago. Only after Shabbat here in Seattle, will we find what name they gave her!
This occasion is very auspicious as this week's Perasha is called “Shemot” – also the name of the entire Book of Exodus. In Hebrew, Sefer Shemot means the Book of Names.
But this title, Shemot, seems somewhat problematic. How so? Each name that our sages assigned to the various books of the Chumash - fit the theme of the book. Bereshit - Genesis - is so named because it does not just record the Genesis of the world, but of the Jewish people - as it traces the lives of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs and the foundations of our nationhood. Vayikra begins with Hashem calling to Moshe from the Tent of the Meeting, and focuses on the principles and laws of the proper worship of G-d in the midst of the Israelite camp. In Bamidbar, in the desert, we learn of the various events of the Israelites' 40 years of travel in the desert. Lastly, Devarim is so-called as it includes Moshe Rabenu's final speech on the eve of Am Yisrael's entry into the Land of Israel.
But if we look at Sefer Shemot, while it is true that the first few verses recall the names of the sons of Ya'akov, the Torah immediately tells us that these sons died along with the entire generation. From that point on, there is almost no mention of "names." In fact, the Torah seems to deliberately avoid bestowing names on the various personalities in the narrative.
Here are some examples:
Why does the Torah go out of its way to avoid naming these personalities? Why are they only described in terms of their roles and relationships and not their actual names?
I would like to try to answer this question by pointing to another pattern in the first chapters of Sefer Shemot. It seems that the narrative is saturated with the theme of "rebellion":
Here are some examples:
So whether it's the midwives, Miriam, Pharoah's daughter, Moshe, or Re'uel, Moshe's father-in -law, a strong current of resistance and rebellion runs through the early chapters of Sefer Shemot. What is the connection between this resistance movement, if you will, and the absence of names at the start of Sefer Shemot?
When Adam HaRishon, the first man was assigned the task of giving names to all of the animals in the Garden of Eden, he wasn't simply asked to choose arbitrary labels for the different species. A name represents the essence of something. It follows that when Adam called a horse סוס - he had identified an aspect of the essence of a horse that warranted the name סוס. Our tradition prohibits calling another person by a derogatory nick-name. Why? A person's name reflects his essence, and mocking that is an affront to the essence, the soul of a person. This is a very inspiring idea. In fact, when I was growing up, one of my favorite songs was Jim Croce’s “I got a name”. I have a clear identity!
The characters at the start of Sefer Shemot are sadly in a state of chaos - their surrounding culture, their belief system, societal expectations - are all calling on them to act unethically, improperly. The king bids the midwives to act unethically, to murder innocent children. The man and woman from the House of Levi feel the pressure to end their marriage due to futility and emotional drain presented by the campaign to drown Israelite boys in the Nile; Bat Pharoah is torn between her father's decree to drown Israelite boys and her humanity and sense of compassion. The initial "anonymity" of these characters, I would like to suggest, reflects this tension, this pressure, inhibiting their strivings to connect to their essence, their "names".
It's only after Pharoah's daughter rescues the baby, and names him Moshe that actual names begin to appear in the narrative.
Immediately afterwards, Moshe names his son,
With the pivotal event of Pharoah's daughter rescuing and naming Moshe - the verses begin their transition to reintroducing characters with names into the story.
Bringing the two themes together - the one of conscientious objection and rebellion together with the absence and reappearance of names, I would like to suggest the following: Before they resist the influences and pressures pressing them to make outright unethical decisions or holding them back from courageous statements of faith, the personalities in the first chapters of Shemot are "nameless" because they are unable to connect to their essence. Once they display the courage to act on their ethical impulses, these same characters pave the way for a return to essence. This return to essence expresses itself in the reintroduction of "names" into Sefer Shemot.
This message: the ongoing need to re-examine assumptions and influences that govern our lives --- is true on a communal, congregational, family and individual level. We must always strive to live lives consistent with our essence.
This is a Shabbat of names and we join together with the entire congregation wishing our best to the Zana family on the occasion of the naming Miriam Hila, whose name carries special meaning for members of her family. May we continue to celebrate many s'machot together!