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from the desk: Rabbi elie

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Parshat vayeshev

The Blink of an Eye”

There are many facets to the miracle of Chanukah. One of the lesser known angles is how it all seemed ‘over’ for the Jewish people. The soul of our nation seemed to have been won over by the Hellenistic culture, and the few that were willing to fight for real, authentic and true Jewish values, were outnumbered immensely. However, if Jewish history has taught us anything, we see time and time again that it is precisely when we have our back against the wall, where there seems to be no way out, that miraculous thing occur! The story of how the Maccabees were able to not only have success in the military, a campaign which was perhaps an open miracle, but to remind and inspire the Jewish community to embrace their roots, is what we celebrate on Chanukah. While all the pundits and all the op-eds were closing the chapter on authentic Judaism, Judah the Maccabee and his brothers reminded all of our ancestors, that although the outside cultures seemed to be alluring; our souls only truly get nourished when we return to the ways of the Torah. In the blink of an eye, Yosef goes from the pit of despair to the leader of Egypt. In the blink of an eye, the President of the United States makes a decision that no one saw coming. It is not a shock then, that in the blink of an eye, all of us in our darkest times can catapult to the most creative inspirational levels we have ever achieved. In the blink of an eye, we have the Blinkoff Shabbaton.

Good Shabbos, Stay Jewish, Live Jewish…..Rabbi Elie

Parshat Vayishlach

From the Desk…..Dec 1

Booking Things

.This past Rosh Hashana I was schmoozing with one of our dear congregants, Debbie Estrin, about the work that she does at Ve’ahavta.She mentioned to me about their infamous program which takes volunteers throughout the city at night to schmooze and feed the homeless. I was so excited about participating in this ahavta I was schmoozing with one of our dear congregants, Debbie Estrin, about the work that she does at Ve’HashanaThis past Rosh chessed myself, as I had always heard about it.  So I asked Debbie to send an email to me with more information.  It further dawned on me that it would be a great idea to ask two other local Rabbis to join me and turn it into a “zach” (not sure how to translate ‘zach’ but it is something like a ‘thing’ or an ‘event’). So along with the driver Muchtar, Rabbi Lipner from Shaarei Tefillah and Rabbi Sytner from the Village Shul joined me this week on our Ve’ahavta Chessed Program.

There is a quite a lot to share about the experience I had on the van, but the point of this essay is about how we even stepped foot on the van to do this mitzvah. I had booked this date two months ago and then forgot about it.  Only this past Sunday, when I was looking at my calendar for the week ahead, did I say; “Wow, I have something booked 6.00pm to midnight on Tuesday…but what is it?” And, it was the Ve’ahavta booking!

I think for most of us, the difference between exercising, doing acts of kindness, studying Torah and visiting the sick, or not doing any of those things, is actually just a hair’s breadth.  Do we take that extra second to actually book it in our calendar, or do we say we'll organize things later? The simple exercise of booking things can elevate our game from being a couch potato to a superstar. There are so many of us who live in difficult situations. Booking a time with a Rabbi, a health professional, a marriage counsellor or even with your spouse, is what can potentially turn really bad decisions into good and healthy ones. So as the great Hawaii Five-O star, Steve McGarrett said, “Book ‘em Danno!”

Parshat vayetzei

I imagine that many years ago in Downtown Toronto there was a discussion about the future of Jewish Toronto. I envision a whole crowd of people shmuzing at a kiddush with shnaps in one hand and kichel with herring in the other. Most of the people there were working hard just to put some bread on the table. Likely one person stood up and insisted that funds be collected for a school or a shul. He would proclaim that if they didn't build, they would be neglecting the next generation. I have a hunch that the man was rebuffed by his friends with all the excuses in the book. Yet, despite the naysayers, a few people did decide to think big. They not only invested in property, but they invested in the most important commodity that exists: The Jewish People. Those Jews that took their extra money and put it in the tzedakah box have seen returns on their investment in ways they never could have imagined. One of our Jewish heroes is Yosef. When he was approaching his brothers, they were filled with anger toward him. Yet the Torah highlights that they said, “Look! That Dreamer is coming!” They could have referred to Yosef in a number of ways, yet they chose that reference to vilify him. Perhaps because often what makes people anxious and upset is another person having a dream. It challenges their status quo and comfort level. Yet it was Yosef the Dreamer who became the visionary that saved the day. When we started this dream, we had many naysayers. I myself had moment of doubt, thinking that perhaps I should have stuck with baseball as a career. Yet we dreamt a dream and we stuck with it. Along the way we built not only a beautiful centre that is a replica of a shul destroyed by the Nazis, not only a place that has Torah study, prayer, life cycle celebrations and a lot of shmuzing, but most importantly, we built a community with wholesome values that will enrich not only our lives but the lives of the Jewish People for many years to come. This Centre would not be here today without the Yosef-like qualities of all of our founders. We as a community, and Rifky and I personally, can’t thank you enough for your unwavering support and commitment to this ideal. May Hashem bless you and your families with many years of health, and energy to continue to serve our Creator. In Judaism, we not only strive to ascend where the angels abide, but we labour so that this word is also a place that He can call home. May The Albert and Temmy Latner Forest hill Jewish Centre forever strive for that result. Mazel tov on such a wonderful evening, and my friends – the best is yet to come!

Parshat chayei sara 

 "The Passion the of Bills"

Wherever you go in life there is always a lesson to be learned. Two Sundays ago, the Centre took its annual trip to Buffalo to watch the Bills trounce the Raiders.  I say, after all these years, that I still get a kick out of the pre-game tailgate ritual where over 50,000 people set up shop in a parking lot and consume protein and various libations. That particular Sunday, it was a steady cold rain which lasted from the moment we arrived until the time we departed for Toronto. What always impresses me is the ‘ruach’ of the Bills fans. Don’t they know that they are just that….Bills fans!?  They are the most hapless group of fans in all of North America. Every child knows that Bills stands for ‘Boy I Love Losing Superbowls.’  Every child in North America also knows that the Bills are so far away from winning a Superbowl let alone making the playoffs. Yet, Bills fans believe, with complete faith, that even though the playoffs and the Superbowl might tarry, and these fans might not see it in their lifetime, they still believe in complete faith in the coming of better days.

 

We, Am Yisroel, have been waiting with faith, much longer than Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Cornelius Bennett and Bruce Smith.  We also have a guarantee from the One above that our Messiah is coming! So even though our 2000 years are filled with, what seems like, an endless supply of cold rain, we will get there. However, there is one caveat and this is a biggie: all of us as individuals need to stay in the stadium, cheer on and root for our home team and even take a few snaps. The Moshiach will be for those who await him and not for those who abandon him. For those who continue to sew the seeds of Jewish productivity with tears, will one day rejoice with gladness. We must be amongst those! May the Bills, and more importantly their fans, continue to remind me of how excited I should be about being a part of the best team in the world. As well, may I be reminded just how enthusiastic I should be about continuing the mission on our glorious and yes, long journey, that will someday culminate with the coming of Moshiach.

 

Good Shabbos and wide right!!  

Parshat Vayera

From the desk: Unsung Heroes

This week I was called to officiate at the funeral of the late Harold Breslove. Harold, who was autistic, was an only child, and in many ways fairly high functioning. He knew entire maps of Toronto by heart, and everything you would ever want to know about Coca Cola! He was a kind soul who always had a smile on his face. At the funeral, I was blown away by acts of kindness that were bestowed upon Harold.  When his parents passed away, Harold was taken in by a family. One can imagine that taking an autistic middle-aged man into your home is no simple gesture.  Yet it was a Jewish family who not only took him in, but loved him. There was another family, the Pollacks, who gave Harold a job working in their sporting goods store for many years. This particular act of kindness happened decades before it became ‘popular’ to hire people with special needs as assistants.  Harold also benefited greatly from the Reena Foundation where he lived for many years and enjoyed a great social life. His last decade, he lived at the Cedarvale Terrace, around the block from the FHJC.  At the Cedarvale Terrace, people like Lerrick Starr, Jeff Strong, Ari Friedman and Judy and Gus Diestel run minyan for all the residents, kibbutz with them and make them feel human. 

 

We mustered a minyan for the funeral and we laid Harold to rest.  He had lived 90 years. Harold was given the best possible life, as he had devoted parents, and devoted cousins. However, what is remarkable is all those people who didn’t owe Harold anything, and in their own quiet way made the life of another special.  They are the real heroes. They will never be on a beer commercial, but the l’chaim that the ministering angels are having in their honour is oh so grand!

parshat re'eh

My Tombstone

This week, a cousin of mine was in my father’s hometown, namely, Nyiregyhaza, Hungary. In addition to sending me pictures of the Shul there and the actual seat where my great-great-grandfather had prayed, he also sent me a picture of the matzeva (tombstone) of both my great-great-grandfather, Yechiel Mechel Karfunkel, and the matzeva of my great-grandfather, Eliyahu Karfunkel. Quite shocking to see a matzeva that reads, “Eliyahu, son of Yechiel Mechel” as that is in fact, my name!  So now I am thinking aloud, “I should have a descendant of mine name their son after my father and then the next generation child should be named after me so that we can have three people who were named Eliyahu ben Yechiel Mechel Karfunkel.  At this point, we can start our own chat group in Heaven called “EBYMK-Proud”! These pictures made me realize that one day I will meet my namesake in Heaven and I would like for him to get nachas from me. Although I was blessed to have known both of my grandfathers I never knew my namesake. (If he was alive when I was born I would not have been named after him!)  This hard-to-articulate-feeling of connection is very palpable especially after staring at my namesake’s matzeva.

There is a beautiful story about Yehuda Leib Meislik, a great Jew who sacrificed much to stay Jewish behind the Iron Curtain. His daughter retells that her father said to make sure that he has a matzeva. He explained that a matzeva is not just the stone marking his place of rest, but rather that people should see his daughter’s behaviour and say to themselves, “This lady, she behaves with such sacrifice like her parents”. Her acts and her behaviour, then, will be the greatest matzeva that he could ask for. I hope and pray that the inspiration that I received from seeing my namesake’s matzeva will motivate me to be the walking matzeva of the original pristine pure flaming soul of Eliyahu ben Yechiel Mechel Karfunkel.

Parshat Ekev 

From The Desk:  A Pinch On The Cheek

   One of my most poignant memories is when I almost took an Assistant Rabbi position at the Shul I grew up in, The Young Israel, Staten Island.  Although I don’t even remember the interview, or if I even had an interview, I do remember when one morning in Shul one of my father’s friends came over to me, pinched my cheek and said, ”So you’re going to be my Rabbi?” I think that pinch convinced me of what my father had said earlier, that perhaps becoming a Rabbi in your hometown is not such a good idea.

This past week, I returned, not to Staten Island, but to Beaver Lake, which is my second childhood home. It is a community of a couple hundred people, who for the most part, have been vacationing together for the last 30+ years. I have been giving Dvar Torahs there since I was 18 years old, and it was those early years of giving a class to my father’s friends (some of my friends also came to the class, but most chose to enjoy their Shabbos shluf during that time) that helped me develop the confidence to pursue a life in the rabbinate. I can’t stress enough how those opportunities created such a profound ripple effect and perhaps altered the course of my life.

Beaver Lake is not only a special place on the map, but will forever have a special place in my heart. As many of you vacation to the same pace for many years, whether it's cottage country, or sleep away camp, those friendships and memories are from the purest one has. Our Rabbis tell us that there are many obligations parents have to their child(ren). The Talmud Kiddushin lists them, from bris and pidion haben, to marriage and teaching a livelihood. The last item mentioned in the Talmud is the obligation for a parent to teach their child how to swim. Although one has to take that lesson literally, one should also take it figuratively. Parents need to help each child navigate the rough waters of life, from fostering confidence, to role modeling humbleness, and from showing affection to demonstrating appreciation. Looking back at the list, it seems that teaching your child how to swim demands a lot more attention than just a couple of lessons at the JCC (or at Madelaine’s Rainbow!) A big yasher koach to all of my father’s friends in Beaver Lake for helping my parents with this beautiful mitzvah of teaching me how to swim.

Parshat Vaetchanan

The 10th and perhaps the Toughest

Most people, when scanning the 10 commandments, probably assume that they don’t violate any of them. Who here is committing murder? Lying in court? Or taking the Lord’s name in vain (okay, if you are, please don’t raise your hand!) For the most part, the first nine are doable!  I am not saying it is easy to honour your parents. (Of course, my children are blessed with the best father in the world, making it quite easy for them.)  Nor am I saying that keeping Shabbat is always ‘simple-dimple’.  But when your rhythm of life is such, it is not so complicated! 

 

However, when you hit that 10th commandment, “Thou shall not covet”, it dawns on you that you may be violating one of the 10 commandments…everyday! Does Hashem really expect me not to want what my friend has? Doesn’t Hashem know that I’m a better guy? Smarter? More diligent? (As an aside, ‘diligent’ was my Bubbie’s favorite English word.  She used it often and loved it.) 

 

I would like to share with you a fundamental idea, which can be a real game changer if we spend some time thinking about it. When you walk into your neighbor’s house, who you love, and you are jealous that he has a certain thing; you have to realize that Hashem did not give him or her that thing in isolation. Would you like to be an NFL quarterback? Ya, sure!  But is a person just an NFL quarterback? Maybe that person has no nachas from his family, and has no real friends out there, or perhaps he won’t be healthy in his later years.  We are so quick to be jealous of one facet of someone’s life, but if we were to take that person’s existence in its totality, would we be so quick to make that trade? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Envy is ignorance”. Hashem gives each person the exact prescribed amount of gifts and challenges that he or she can handle. We are not only told to keep our hands in our pockets rather than steal, but as the Medrash says, “The wicked are ruled by their hearts, whereas the righteous rule their hearts.” It is possible to ponder this message, and transform a life of jealousy into a life of happiness. All it takes is the realization that each of us is granted precisely what we need to accomplish in our own individual missions on this Earth. May we internalize this attitude, and not allow our jealousy and distorted view of the world to be the cause of our own unhappiness.

Parshat Matot

Five Non-Related Items Trust 15:

Trust 15: This week, I had the honor of giving the group, “Trust 15” a tour of the Centre and an overview of Judaism. Trust 15 is the brain child of Marcia Brown, an amazing woman who has, all on her own, created an organization which takes inner city kids and molds them into fine young men and women. The group of 70 teens was extremely inquisitive, well-behaved and somewhat ‘chilled’ after I broke the ice with them. Among the questions they asked me during our Q&A were, “Why do I wear a hat on my head?” “Why do I not accept Jesus as the Messiah?” and “Why do I feel Michael Jordan is significantly better than Lebron James?” The bond that I made with this group was so intense that they are insisting I show up at their closing event. It was a special afternoon for me. Daniel Cantkier: I was speaking with Daniel earlier this week and he knew a detail in my life that brought me to the realization that he still reads the weekly FHJC newsletter, even though he hasn’t lived in the neighborhood for a few years. I told him that I was so impressed, I would mention his name in this week’s newsletter. Sabrina, you have raised an amazing husband! Poland: Last year’s successful men’s Heritage Trip has encouraged me to return to Poland with a co-ed group.

If anyone is interested in joining me, please email rabbielie@fhjc.ca to get more information. Maariv: We are trying to create a regular 9:15pm Maariv Minyan at the Centre. As of now, if we can’t collect a minyan, we cancel maariv at the Centre. We have a “Maariv WhatsApp Group” and that is how we push the minyan and let people know not to show up if there is no minyan taking place. However, if we can get another 30 names on the WhatsApp group, I think it will bode well for the consistency of this minyan.

Please email Rabbi Appelrouth:rabbidovid@fhjc.ca to join our much needed WhatsApp group. If you don’t know how to use WhatsApp, please speak with your adolescent child. The Building: As the landscaping is completed, we now move on to the Tallis rack, Mikveh, stained-glass windows, playground and more! Stay tuned….

Parshat Korach

The first step in gratitude

I think most people would consider themselves grateful.  Appreciation is a basic human trait.  Who wouldn’t show gratitude to someone who has extended themselves even in the smallest way?  I still remember the stranger on the Staten Island Ferry who gave my friend and I bus money to get home because were without a penny to our name.  When someone goes out of their way to help us, we naturally feel indebted.  The critical challenge we have is not whether we are grateful or not.  It’s the ability to open our eyes and notice the gratitude we should have for things we often take for granted. Let me give you a couple of examples.

If someone is driving their child to school or a program, and takes another child along, the extra child's parents may not feel particularly grateful.  After all, the first parent had to drive their own child anyway!  Someone who is being hosted for a Shabbat meal may think that the hosts have to make a meal regardless if they have a guest or not. A person that is receiving financial compensation to do a service won't always be shown the proper appreciation.  After all, they are being paid!  Our job is to be aware that we are owed absolutely nothing.  Everything that is done for us is a tremendous gift, and deserves our utmost gratitude.

 At the end of the Shemoneh Esrei, the pinnacle of the prayer service, there is a paragraph called Modim which expresses gratitude to Hashem. Modim doesn’t just mean thank you. Modim comes from the word ‘admit’.  It is an admission of what the other (in this case Hashem), has done for us.  Only after we have admission and appreciation, can we then move  on to real gratitude.   

We are blessed with an amazing staff and many volunteers at the Centre.  People who take time to service our community in many different ways.  We don't take any of you for granted, and are so fortunate to have each one of you in our midst.  In particular, on behalf of the entire community, I would like to extend our sense of appreciation and hence gratitude to the Sisterhood committee who pulled together a magnificent event this week.  And a special thank you to Randi Woloz and Ora Somogyi, for their years of service leading the Sisterhood of our glorious Congregation.

A Groysa Yasher Koach,

Rabbi Elie 

Parshat Bahaloscha

“From the Desk of the Rabbi”: From the desk: The Pictures of our Childhood

              Recently, I was sent a picture of me as a kid in an apple orchard hanging out with my older brother and a family friend. And it just looks so pure! My parents were probably toggling with the thought of what was more delicious….me or the apple! And now my parents get to look at a man who could lose a little weight, has his own children, some gray in his beard and I imagine that same fuzzy feeling doesn’t exist anymore. However, being a child is only cute if you are a child. When you play tennis with your five-year-old, and they swing and hit the wrong way, and they want to run to both sides of the net, it is all quite adorable. But that same person can’t do it anywhere when they are 30! And so age demands us to evolve. How silly it must look like to a parent when a kid gets upset because his neighbor’s ice cream cone is bigger than his own. And yet don’t we find ourselves sometimes behaving like that kid? I heard a beautiful idea from Rabbi Tatz about marriage but I think it pertains to life in general. He says that marriage is 3 phases. The first phase - the newlywed phase - is where you don’t have to work hard and everything is great. Any idiosyncrasy your spouse has is not annoying, but cute! And then as the years move on, you wonder what happened to those newlywed years, when everything was so simple and pure and everything worked without any effort. Rabbi Tatz explains that the first phase was a gift from G-D. Anything that you don’t have to work at is a gift so G-D gives you the first phase to show you in the 2nd phase that if you work at your marriage you can get to the 3rd phase which is basically the same as the first phase except that you have earned it. (A mouthful, but its true!) And so, that third phase is not only pure and blissful but it is permanent. In life as well, we must look back at our youthful years to remember how pure we were, how good it felt to be wholesome and to really worry about your neighbour, your siblings and the world. And that Phase 1 doesn’t just have to be in the rear view mirror. If we work on getting back to those simple youthful values, we can achieve that pureness, but this time it won’t be temporary, but rather permanent.

Stay Jewish, Be Jewish, Good

Parshat Bamidbar 

Pete Rose, Professor Sam Pinn and Shavuot

College in upstate New York.  This was the college that was a RamapoI am a very proud graduate of 10 minute drive from my Yeshiva and while I was going for smicha (Rabbinic ordination) I was able to get my BA simultaneously at Ramapo. Being that it was a small university, and I was only able to take night courses,  I majored in Poli Sci.  (Yes, one step above sociology majors.)  I wound up having professor Sam Pinn teach most of my classes. This Yeshiva boy, who lived in an orthodox bubble for the first 20 years of his life, wound up taking courses like Blacks in American Politics, the Civil Rights Movement and Malcolm X versus Martin Luther King. Needless to say, Professor Pinn and I became a true model of unity as we walked through the campus together.  To add to the special union, my studies were taking place during the Crown Heights Riots. I don’t remember many of the facts of the Civil Rights Movement, however, there was one song - ‘Keep Your Eye On The Prize’, which seemed to inspire the Civil Disobedient Movement. In Judaism, we also have to keep our eyes on the prize. How amazingly unfortunate it is that the holiday of Shavuos is not perceived as the Stanley Cup Finals. Imagine your team wins game 7 of the Conference Finals, and you don’t follow the Stanley Cup Finals; you would be considered the most absurd fan in the world! Pesach is the Conference Finals.  And Shavuos is the Staley Cup Finals.

 

sof ” we say ‘Dodi Lecha night song, “FridayIn the maasee bemachshava techila, that the end of a deed is the first in thought. Hashem conceived Shabbos and he made Sunday through Friday. An architect conceives a house and then he starts from scratch but only with the end in mind.

The year that Pete Rose was about to break Tie Cobb's all time hits record, he was asked by a reporter, “If you need 78 hits to break the record – how many at-bats will you need to get the 78 hits to get the record?” Pete yelled back, “78 at-bats.” Pete said, “Every time I step up to the plate, I expect to get a hit. If I don’t expect to get a hit, I have no right to step into the batter’s box in the first place.  If I go up hoping to get a hit then I go up with no prayer to get a hit. It is a positive expectation that has gotten me all the hits in the first place.” 

 
Our job is to remember that everything we do has to be with the end goal in mind.  We have to think positively, behave in such a way, believe in ourselves and always keep our eye on the prize.  And for us, that is living a meaningful life, which comes about when we try our best to serve Hashem, studying and following the holy Torah. 
 

Parshat bamidbar 

Pete Rose, Professor Sam Pinn and Shavuot

College in upstate New York. This was the college that was a RamapoI am a very proud graduate of 10 minute drive from my Yeshiva and while I was going for smicha (Rabbinic ordination) I was able to get my BA simultaneously at Ramapo. Being that it was a small university, and I was only able to take night courses, I majored in Poli Sci. (Yes, one step above sociology majors.) I wound up having professor Sam Pinn teach most of my classes. This Yeshiva boy, who lived in an orthodox bubble for the first 20 years of his life, wound up taking courses like Blacks in American Politics, the Civil Rights Movement and Malcolm X versus Martin Luther King. Needless to say, Professor Pinn and I became a true model of unity as we walked through the campus together. To add to the special union, my studies were taking place during the Crown Heights Riots. I don’t remember many of the facts of the Civil Rights Movement, however, there was one song - ‘Keep Your Eye On The Prize’, which seemed to inspire the Civil Disobedient Movement. In Judaism, we also have to keep our eyes on the prize. How amazingly unfortunate it is that the holiday of Shavuos is not perceived as the Stanley Cup Finals. Imagine your team wins game 7 of the Conference Finals, and you don’t follow the Stanley Cup Finals; you would be considered the most absurd fan in the world! Pesach is the Conference Finals. And Shavuos is the Staley Cup Finals.

sof ” we say ‘Dodi Lecha night song, “FridayIn the maasee bemachshava techila, that the end of a deed is the first in thought. Hashem conceived Shabbos and he made Sunday through Friday. An architect conceives a house and then he starts from scratch but only with the end in mind.

The year that Pete Rose was about to break Tie Cobb's all time hits record, he was asked by a reporter, “If you need 78 hits to break the record – how many at-bats will you need to get the 78 hits to get the record?” Pete yelled back, “78 at-bats.” Pete said, “Every time I step up to the plate, I expect to get a hit. If I don’t expect to get a hit, I have no right to step into the batter’s box in the first place. If I go up hoping to get a hit then I go up with no prayer to get a hit. It is a positive expectation that has gotten me all the hits in the first place.”
 
Our job is to remember that everything we do has to be with the end goal in mind. We have to think positively, behave in such a way, believe in ourselves and always keep our eye on the prize. And for us, that is living a meaningful life, which comes about when we try our best to serve Hashem, studying and following the holy Torah.

from the desk: rabbi elie 

Parshat behar

The Monty Hall problem and my Judaism

When I first heard of the Monty Hall problem, it blew me away, making me realize that my perspective of things isn’t always right. This little riddle actually had a profound impact on me.  This is the Monty Hall problem that many of you already know:

Marilyn .  It became famous as a question from a reader's letter quoted in Let's Make a Deal puzzle, loosely based on the American television game show probability is a brain teaser, in the form of a Monty Hall problemThe vos Savant's "Ask Marilyn" column in Parade magazine in 1990: (Wikipedia)

Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

 

At first, I always thought its 50/50 but after understanding the puzzle, you should always have the dedicated position of switching. It took me an hour to feel comfortable with the riddle, and during that hour I was torn by having to give up my strong assertion.  But then the truth was revealed.  You can’t stick to your old beliefs – the truth is the truth.

And here is the truth of that particular riddle.  When there are 2 doors left, it seems the chance of picking correctly is 50%.  The reality is, at the start of the game, there was a 1 in 3 chance the prize was behind door 1, and a  2 in 3 chance that it was behind the remaining two doors.  Thus, even though you see that 1 of the 2 remaining doors has a goat in it, the other door you didn’t choose still represents a 2/3 possibility.

 

While I was a teenager, I felt that my perspective on life was the correct perspective.  And although now I’m in my 40s and I feel I have a better perspective, I now am humble enough to know that the people older and wiser than me may see things even better than I do.   All the more so, Hashem understands what life is all about, and I know I should follow His ways, even though I sometimes feel that I should stick with door number 1.  I know that I should always dedicate my life not only to the wisdom of the mathematicians but to the wisdom of Hashem and His Torah.

Parshat Emor

A late plug

Our Centre organized a very successful evening of learning in Thornhill this past Monday. Ohr Somayach International makes Toronto one of its many stops, with three great rabbinic speakers addressing the community on one night. The turnout was very inspiring as we had over 300 people in attendance. My hope is for our community to host the event in the near future. Seeing so many people stay from beginning to end was as inspiring as the talks themselves. Yasherkoach to Rabbi Rand for spearheading this and to the rest of the staff for such an outstanding job.

 

An early plug

has no unique commandments. However, along with cheesecake, STAYING UP ALL NIGHT is synonymous with the Yom Tov. There are a few special reasons behind this tradition. For those who have come back to the Centre for midnight learning (even if you didn't stay up the whole night), it is hard to describe the pleasure of the experience. Something like Jewish Spiritual Machismo. The feeling that, life is good because I'm doing something worthwhile and I'm stretching myself to do so. Let this year be the year that you join us. We are bringing back the 10 pm Shavuos night Centre dinner to make things easier for you. We have an all-star line-up of speakers and lots of coffee!Shavuos

 

(Jewish law) found in this week’s halachas well ... I have always tried to understand a Parsha. While a regular Kohen can attend the funeral of a close relative, the Kohen Gadol (high priest) cannot. To me, it seems incongruent with the pleasant path of the Torah. Baruch Hashem, I heard an answer that resonated with me this year. (Although not with all the members of my Hashem, I heard an answer that resonated with me this year. (Although not with all the members of my Thursday parsha class). The point is that a question sometimes gets the better of you for years. Often, the answer was always there, but YOU finally grow into it, making sense of it years later. Funny how that happens, eh?

 

All the best

Stay Jewish

Parshat achrei mot-kedoshim 

Bring a friend on Shabbos

For the first time at the FHJC, we are having “Bring a friend on Shabbos.” Fascinating how we have no problem inviting our friends to a concert, a restaurant, or a ball game, but asking your friend to join you in shul, is awkward for many people. I get it! Just the other day, my shul, we are having “Bring a friend on Shabbos.” Fascinating how we have no problem inviting our friends to a concert, a restaurant, or a ball game, but asking your friend to join you in FHJCFor the first time at the neighbour invited me for their “Bring a Friend to the Roselawn Church.” I politely declined.

In the book Ethics of our Fathers, our Rabbis tell us to acquire a friend. What is strange about this comment is the word ‘acquire’. Sounds like Dale Carnegies’ book, “How to win friends and influence people.” Almost Machiavellian. How can the Rabbis promote being real, genuine and sweet, and encourage you to ‘acquire’ a friend? It sounds so shallow! Are we all back in high school, trying to figure out how to get in the clique? (…Just for the record I was in THAT clique).

I think what the Rabbis are getting at, is very profound. When one buys something, there is a cost benefit analysis. If I am buying a suit for $400, I had to give almost six hours of bar-mitzvah lessons. Is the suit worth six hours of my time? When I do decide to buy something, I’ve made the decision that it is worth giving up something to get something else. When the Rabbis say ‘acquire a friend,’ it means when you make the decision to invest in a friendship, be discerning. Is this person going to expand my horizons? Is this person going to be someone who will appreciate my investment? Lots of real questions need to be asked when acquiring a friend. And that’s why the Rabbis say acquire a friend in the singular, because at the end of the day, we may have many acquaintances, but a true friend is someone you are ready to invest in. The Talmud tells us that when Jobe’s friends heard the terrible tragedies that struck him, they travelled over 1000km to be there for him. And they didn’t have airplanes back then! Acquaintances don’t do that. Friends do. Jobe probably had lots of acquaintances but more importantly, he had a few real friends.

Let us not think that friends need to be exactly like us! When G-D created Adam, He said it is not good for man to be alone. He then created Eve. The first couple – Adam and Eve – male and female – no doubt had different temperaments, and yet it is being friends with people not exactly like us that make both of us better versions of ourselves.

Many of my childhood friends are still my friends. However, whereas circumstances made us friends when we were young, it’s the bond that I have with them now that is something that I cherish more deeply. May our future be bright, and may we acquire more good people as our friends in the future. I can think of no better place to expand your horizons and friendships than at the FHJC.

Have a great Shabbos, stay Jewish, ‘Go Rangers’ and may we be people worthy of someone acquiring us as their friend.

Parshat tazria-metzorah

Be a Man

The expression ‘Be a Man’ likely means different things to different people. The Torah calls man “Adam.” Our Rabbis explain that Adam is an acronym for Adam- the first man, David - King of Israel and for Moshiach - the messiah. Being an "Adam" means sharing the qualities of someone who can begin things as Adam did, someone who can evolve things like King David was able to, and someone who can close on things, as Moshiach ultimately will. The mission of man is unique to every individual, but the overall expectation is for one to live up to their potential.

This week I had the pleasure and honour of spending time with the mother of an old friend of mine. It is always very awkward for me to call someone by their first name when I spent most of my life calling them “Mrs.” Overcoming that embarrassment, we had a wonderful conversation. She told me about her late husband, whom I had known for 43 years. I remember him to be a very happy man, and had always assumed this was so due to being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, or at least because of a healthy upbringing by wonderful and caring parents. I was in utter disbelief to hear that as a child, within one week, he lost both his parents and his grandmother who was living with them. He wound up staying with relatives that he didn’t really connect to, and on his own, at the age of 9, travelled by subway to his original house, where his aunt was living.

How was it possible that this person was able to achieve ‘simchas hachaim’, true happiness? My parents are blessed with the most unbelievable group of friends, and yet this particular man was the cream of the crop, known for this ‘simchas hachaim’.

If you scramble the Hebrew letters of the word “Adam”, it turns into the word Me’od, which means `very.` Our job as Mankind is to make something `very` out of ourselves, in whatever situation we are placed in. To choose to focus on making the most of our time here on Earth, even when things seem difficult. To try to be able to see our lives from 30,000 feet high. This lesson of becoming a "Man" hit home this week, hearing about my friend’s father. May we all have the strength to make the choices necessary to accomplish our destiny, no matter where we came from.

Parshat Shmini

Elisheva

will quietly and with total submission. I have heard many Rabbis refer back to Aaron’s Hashem's, Aaron accepted Hashem", and Aaron was silent. Despite all of the questions that he must have had for Aharon Vayidom was. In this week’s Torah reading, we are introduced to one of the most tragic stories of all time. We are told about Aaron’s inaugural day of Priesthood. A day which was anticipated not just by Aaron, but by the entire Jewish people. A day in which the Divine presence was to dwell in the sanctuary. A day to remember for all time. It was on this day that Aaron’s two sons brought forth an alien fire and died because of their transgression. The Torah says that Aaron’s response was remarkable. "ElishevaIf I surveyed knowledgeable Jews, I wonder how many could tell me who behaviour when they are giving eulogies after a tragic passing.

I often wonder how people can hold things together during times of epic sadness. There is usually one member of the family who is the anchor. No doubt, Aaron was the anchor for his family. However in addition to Aaron, there was his holy wife, none other than Elisheva. Elisheva was the daughter of one of the princes of Israel, the sister of the famous Nachshon, husband of Aaron, sister-in-law of Moshe and grandmother to the great Pinchas. There is a verse in Eishis Chayil that is attributed to her: “Oz vehadar levusha, Vatischak leyom acharon - Strength and splendor are her clothing, and smilingly she awaits her last day." The "strength and splendor" that she is clothed in, is referring to the faith of Elisheva. Ultimately someone who has faith during times when Hashem is hidden, will smile at the end when answers will be revealed and all the mysteries of the world will be understood.

This Monday is Yom Hashoah. As we mark one of history’s greatest tragedies, intermingled with more recent, personal tragedies in our own community and across the globe, I offer a humble blessing. May the faith of Aaron and Elisheva provide inspiration for us as we await G-D’s answers to all the tragedies and mysteries of our long and bitter exile.

Parshat Vayakel- pekudei

By The Rabbi

I am incredibly elated that our ‘Charidy’ Campaign was so successful.  We raised almost $200,000 above our goal of $500,000!  None of this excitement could have taken place without our three matchers, and so, I’d like to give a HUGE yasher koach to the the Latner, Goldman and Mizrahi families.

Outside of the necessary

Firstly, the number of people who participated in our campaign. We hit 500 donors! I have read the list of donations multiple times.  Each time I read it, a sense of pride and love take over me.  There were participants who have moved away from our neighborhood over 10 years ago and still felt the desire to connect to and support the FHJC. In addition to family and friends, there were also people who pay annual membership dues and building fund fees, and still felt the urge to support this initiative.  We are touched and so grateful.

Secondly, a big thank you to the amazing volunteers during the 24 hour campaign.  This pastTuesday night, I felt like I was in the middle of a call centre in India! We had a ton of people come out to make phone calls. Many people were not comfortable making the calls but did it anyway, to support The Centre. Thank you for your efforts.

Thirdly, The Centre is blessed to have an amazing staff. Everyone who was involved with this campaign commented on how professional all aspects were run.  This doesn’t happen by accident. You need a combination of intelligence and dedication from your staff to make sure you run a successful and well thought out campaign. A huge thank you to Rabbi Dan Rand for cultivating this project from the beginning, and for his work to ensure it would be the success that it was.  Faige, Michelle, Dalia and Rabbi Appelrouth spent hours organizing the video, the marketing, the day-of, volunteers, the call lists, and all of the details and logistics. None of this could have happened without you.  Thank you!

As enjoyable as it was to see the donations coming in, receiving tzedakah is a pretty serious responsibility.  Hard earned money is handed over, and the recipients are entrusted to do something G-dly with it. When it is time to go to heaven, among other mitzvos, it is the tzedakah that was given that will create each individual's new reality in the next world.  If those funds went to spread the honour of 

From the DEsk:Rabbi Elie

A new Four to think about – By the Rabbi

 

In honour of Pesach, let's focus on the number 4. This number appears all over the haggadah, from the 4 questions, to the 4 sons and 4 cups of wine. I would like to share my own 4 in honour of Pesach.

At every moment in life we are in one of four time zones:

1. Mitzvah time

2. Sinful time

3. Killing time or

4. Pareve time

 

Let me explain:

1. Mitzvah time – This probably amounts to 5% of our day. It includes praying, learning, giving charity, making feel good phone calls and visiting the sick.

2. Sinful time - Hopefully this is 0% of our day, but it includes staring at things on the internet that we should not be looking at, gossiping, and being deceptive at work or at home.

3. Killing time - Killing time is when we are just staring at a screen, watching the 10 silliest baseball bloopers from 1979, or taking in any late-show programming. To be quite frank, killing time is really sinful time.

time - Our Rabbis call this time "Pareve4. reshut” - permissible. On the surface, you can’t necessarily classify it as mitzvah time or sinful time. This probably encompasses 90% of our day. Pareve time includes sleeping, exercising, eating, going to work, handling our finances, and doing daily chores. However, our rabbis teach us that this pareve time is not really pareve at all.

 

Halevavot (Duties of the Heart) explains in Chapter 4 “we find that all human activities, without exception, are classified as either a mitzvah or as an Chovotaveirah (sin)”….every action is either good or bad.

time be bad? That 90% of our time when we are going about our lives, is only judged in retrospect. Did that time produce a sanctification of G-D’s name or a desecration of G-Ds name? When we were working to make extra money, and not being home for our family, was that in order to pay the bills, give charity, or become richer than one's PareveHow could neighbour?

Are we exercising in order to be in shape for our spouse, to be healthy and live a productive life, or for others to gawk at us and invite jealousy? Some of these pareve actions are potentially not so pareve at all.

 

In Egypt we didn’t have our own time. Whatever our masters commanded we had to do. What Pesach has brought us is an ability to control our time. Let us make sure that this Pesach season we are not only increasing our mitzvah time, decreasing our sinful time and running away from killing time, but trying our best to sanctify all of our pareve time, making every moment count.

Parshat ki tisa

A new Four to think about – By the Rabbi 

In honor of Pesach, let's focus on the number 4. This number appears all over the Haggadah, from the 4 questions to the 4 sons and 4 cups of wine. I would like to share my own 4 in honor of Pesach. At every moment in life, we are in one of four time zones: 1. Mitzvah time 2. Sinful time 3. Killing time or 4. Pareve time Let me explain: 1. Mitzvah time – This probably amounts to 5% of our day. It includes praying, learning, giving charity, making feel good phone calls and visiting the sick. 2. Sinful time - Hopefully this is 0% of our day, but it includes staring at things on the internet that we should not be looking at, gossiping, and being deceptive at work or at home. 3. Killing time - Killing time is when we are just staring at a screen, watching the 10 silliest baseball bloopers from 1979, or taking in any late-show programming. To be quite frank, killing time is really sinful time. 4. Pareve time - Our Rabbis call this time "reshut” - permissible. On the surface, you can’t necessarily classify it as mitzvah time or sinful time. This probably encompasses 90% of our day. Pareve time includes sleeping, exercising, eating, going to work, handling our finances, and doing daily chores. However, our rabbis teach us that this pareve time is not really pareve at all. Chovot Halevavot (Duties of the Heart) explains in Chapter 4 “we find that all human activities, without exception, are classified as either a mitzvah or as an aveirah (sin)”….every action is either good or bad. How could Pareve time be bad? That 90% of our time when we are going about our lives, is only judged in retrospect. Did that time produce a sanctification of G-D’s name or a desecration of G-Ds name? When we were working to make extra money, and not being home for our family, was that in order to pay the bills, give charity, or become richer than one's neighbor? Are we exercising in order to be in shape for our spouse, to be healthy and live a productive life, or for others to gawk at us and invite jealousy? Some of these pareve actions are potentially not so pareve at all. In Egypt we didn’t have our own time. Whatever our masters commanded we had to do. What Pesach has brought us is an ability to control our time. Let us make sure that this Pesach season we are not only increasing our mitzvah time, decreasing our sinful time and running away from killing time, but trying our best to sanctify all of our pareve time, making every moment count. Stay Jewish,

 Good Shabbos

From The DEsk: Rabbi Elie 

Parshat Tezaveh 

What If… - By The Rabbi

If you are like me, you are constantly playing the “What if?” game. What if I became a ball player instead of a Rabbi? What if I took the job in the Pentagon instead of in Oshawa? What if I was 5”4 instead of 6”2? The game of, “What if?” is sometimes a dangerous one. It could be filled with disappointment or anxiety about making decisions in the future. On a national level, we sometimes ask “What if?” What if the Maccabees didn’t have the courage and faith to lead a rebellion against the huge army of the Assyrian Greeks? What if Moshe turned down HasheWhat Ifm’s call at the burning bush?

 

My Rebbe, Rabbi Wein, often spoke of a man named Edward Jacobson who became friendly with Harry Truman during WWI. They even opened up a Haberdashery store together before Harry became a Congressman and then President. In 1948, Jacobson used his friendship with Truman so that Chaim Weizmann could have a meeting with the US president before the UN decided the fate of Israel. What if Jacobson decided not to lean on his buddy Truman for risk of alienating a friend?

uninvited. To that final question, we do have an answer! When Esther AchashveroshAnd my final what if…What if Esther didn’t have the courage to enter the palace to speak with Chapter 3, verse 13 “Do not imagine that you will be able to escape in the King’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist at keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews, from some other place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, whether it was just for such a time as this, that you attained the royal positon.” There is a lot to say to Mordechai’s response to Esther, but what was clear for Mordechai was that the Jewish people will always persevere and flourish. The “What if?” questioning can be answered. If Esther wouldn’t have risen to the occasion, we would be celebrating Purim in some other way! When we are put in a position to impact, let us not have hubris. Let us realize that Hashem put us in that spot to do His will. And let us remember that the Jewish people have had thousands of what if-s, and yet we are here, (with all of our problems) as strong as ever. The only ‘what if’ we have to ask ourselves is whether we will rise to the occasion and attach ourselves with Jewish destiny or whether we will fade from our responsibilities and become a mere foot note in Jewish history.balks at Mordechai’s request, Mordechai responds:

Parshat Mishpatim 

Disbelief! - By The Rabbi

A while back I was in the car with a Moslem friend of mine. I like to keep the conversation simple so instead of talking baseball, we switched to lighter topics such as the Middle East. Being that he is my friend, it was easy to schmooze about delicate topics because there is a shared respect and he laughs at my jokes. He was very knowledgeable. He gave me his take on Postcolonialism and Islam, Pakistan, Iraq (pre and post Saddam), Assad, ISIS and Al Qaeda. He also told me about his pilgrimage to Mecca and what a powerful experience it was for him. I was very impressed how non-commercialized he said it was and how everyone there had no concern over status. I mentioned to him that only at Mecca, did Malcolm X see the folly of the anti-white Nation of Islam movement. When he saw white and black Muslims praying together he instantly changed his anti white violent tune. (If you were impressed by that tidbit, I should confess to you that when I went to night college while in Yeshiva, the only political science courses that were available at night were in Black Politics). Hence I became the great Rabbi with knowledge about Malcom X and Dr. King! Back to my friend in the car…after I saw how intelligent he was, I played my favourite game with him….called "How Many Are We?" Question #1: How many Muslims are there in the world? My friend said, “1 billion” (I always thought that was right but the current accepted number is1.6 billion) Question #2: How many Christians are there in the world? My friend said, “2 billion” (I always thought that was right but the current accepted number is 2.2 Billion) Question#3 (which is my favourite): How many Jews are there in the world? My friend started figuring out loud and arrived at 400 million. I then told him he was off by 385 million and he said, “Come on Rabbi, there is no way there are 800 million Jews in the world!” I laughed and told him that we are only 15 million! He was so shocked that an hour later he brought the topic up again and uttered in disbelief, “15 million!!” My friends, this is nothing new for many of you reading this. Our contribution is miraculous, way over what our numbers should warrant. This should produce two feelings: the first should be pride. A feeling of accomplishment and status in the world, but the second is responsibility. The realization that eyes are on us and whether we like it or not, we are ambassadors. This shouldn't paralyze you, just the opposite. It should mobilize you to behave, lead and strive to be a light onto the Nations. May the noise that we make in the world, be for good things like spreading spiritual warmth, caring for the needy and a few more athletes wouldn't be too bad either! - Stay Jewish, Good Shabbos, Rabbi Elie

Parshat Yisro 

The Shabbos Seudah

One of my most memorable meals was ordering a hot dog at my first Manhattan restaurant,”Schmulka Bernstein’s.” It was a reward for participating in my first basketball all-star game. My dad took me and Avraham Shulman out as a treat. I still remember being ‘wowed’ that the place put coleslaw inside the bun, where the classic relishes were supposed to go. Grabbing a ‘dog’ after a game is expected but in this week's Parsha we are introduced to a fascinating feast of Yisro. After Yisro (father-in-law of Moshe) joins the Jewish people, he elects to have a festive meal. The Torah describes this meal as "before G-D". While other religions might scoff at this picture and see a faux religious experience, we as Jews actually believe in this description. Rav Soloveitchik comments on this verse that Jews created a new institution called the ‘Seudah.’ This is not just a meal, but a meal in which Hashem joins because food has been used not for gluttony or even something more mild as satiety, but food has been used to transform a physical experience into an elevated activity. Yes, I must admit that throughout the week my meals aren't such a Seudah. Sure, I make the required blessings and share a Torah thought, but weekday meals are many times with a cellphone in hand or are very rushed. Thank G-D we have a Shabbos - where the clock and cell phone shouldn't be a factor, where many generations come together, where special outfits are worn and the real China gets brought out. Where songs are sung and the Parsha is discussed along with stories from the week and schmoozing and listening to others around the table is heard. This transformation can only happen when effort is made and time is allotted but boy is it worth it. Everyone can make their Shabbos table more magical with a little more effort! May we see another gift of Shabbos…the ability to turn our meal into a seudah. From a date with carbs to a rendezvous with the One above

Parshat Beshalaoch 

The Patriot Way - by The Rabbi

No words can truly describe the fantastical finish to Super Bowl 51. The Patriots were dead and yet they won. In a world of journalism that is prone to hyperbole, they created a new vocabulary of words and feelings used to describe the total redemption when all seemed lost. People who see the following sport as a waste of time would even confirm the undeniable inspiration one can draw from this particular game. What makes this particular victory different from all other comebacks will be debated in the upcoming decades. I, who have followed sports for a long time, cannot find a parallel in anything I have seen in my lifetime. And so the next question about the Super Bowl is, “So what?” In five months from now, the players will be back starting another season. Many of the Patriots will have switched teams for more money and there will be another Super Bowl winner in a year from now. Rabbi Blech wrote an article relating to this http://www.aish.com/sp/pg/5-Life- Changing-Lessons-From-the-Super-Bowl.html?s=show however, I didn’t read it closely as I didn't want it to cloud my thoughts . Listening to the game on the radio as the Patriots were down and out, I knew one thing. Head coach Bill Belichick was formulating in his mind how the comeback was going to happen. I honestly feel that the team played like ‘men on a mission’ because their head coach and quarterback believed in the comeback. Everyone played within their roles. No one did anything ‘that’ unbelievable . They just went out and did it! My friends, that is true leadership…when others perform at a high level because YOU believe in them. We all are granted one game. It lasts 100 years if we are lucky. It is our Super Bowl. If we are lucky, we have parents and teachers who have shaped us to believe that we could win if we just focused on what we have to do .The rules of our Super Bowl game have some advantages. For us to win, we don’t need another to lose. For us to win, we don’t have to accomplish - we just have to try. However, like in the Super Bowl, you don’t win by being nervous. You don’t ever win by panicking during decision making time and you don’t win by being lazy. Yes, it is silly to make these people into role models. Personally, my Edelman tatoo comes off before Rifky gets back from Israel, but the romance of an epic sporting event should inspire us to dig a little deeper in our real lives to challenge ourselves a little bit more!

Parshat BO

 

From the Desk —By: The Rabbi

This Sunday is the Super Bowl featuring the Atlanta Falcons vs the New England Patriots. The New England Patriots have been a dominant for the last 15 years whereas the Atlanta Falcons this year seem pretty unbeatable. As many of you are waiting to place your bets based on my prognostication, I will remind you that 20% of the money you win should go the FHJC and if you lose, well…tough luck! Owners: Both owners are Jewish (in fact there are 10 Jewish NFL owners – enough to make a minyan). Both are unbelievable Baalei Tzedakah. Arthur Blank (Atlanta) plans on giving over 90% of his wealth to tzedakah whereas Robert Kraft has built The Kraft Family stadium in Jerusalem where many of us have played and he gave an amazing YU commencement speech and inspired us all when he paid a shiva call to the parents of Ezra Schwartz. Advantage: Patriots Rabbis: Boston was home to the Rav – a.k.a. Rabbi Soloveitchik and has a Chassidic Rabbi known as the Bostoner Rebbi. Most Chassidic Rabbis are named after their towns in Europe and this one is named after Boston – how cool is that? Atlanta is home to Beth Jacob Synagogue which was led by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman – one of the most important rabbinic trailblazers in rabbinic history. Advantage: I have no clue, I don’t play G-D! Stains: Atlanta had the Leo Frank murder but Boston had Tom Yawkey – the famous bigoted owner of the Boston Red Sox. Disadvantage: Equal Nick Names: The Patriots were once known as the ‘Patsies’ but now they are known as the ‘Evil Empire.’ The Falcons, thanks to Jamal Anderson are known as the ‘Dirty Birds’. Advantage: Falcons Towns: The more Jews in the city and the more kosher restaurants, the holier the place. The holier the place, the more blessings! Both cities hover around 200,000 Jews. I have eaten in both places, however, at Fenway Park, I was unimpressed with their kosher food as the only way to get a kosher hotdog was through  a vending machine and in 30 seconds you got a hot wiener on a bun! It was totally disgusting, but the seven that I had weren’t so bad! Advantage: Atlanta Miscellaneous: The Patriots have a Jewish ballplayer (Julian Edelman), whereas Atlanta has Rabbi Appelrouth! New Yorkers have no issue with people from Atlanta but Boston has one of our first congregants living there – David and Miri Rosmarin and Yonah and Jana Krakowsky are there for an internship. The Patriots only lose to teams with a ferocious pass rush. Atlanta does not have a ferocious pass rush. Advantage: Patriots Prediction: Atlanta (partly because I hate New England, partly because they have to lose eventually, partly because their pass rush, although not ferocious could be good enough!

Parshat Va'era

Build that Wall – By The Rabbi

A lot has been made of Trump building a wall and how ironic it is that the Daily Talmud page is discussing walls. The Talmud states that if you co- own a courtyard, that under regular criteria you would likely be able to force your neighbour to put up 50% of your costs to build a wall. The Talmud insists that every person has a right to privacy and that if someone else impinges on that, he is violating a Jewish Value. There are few reasons why privacy laws are enforced in Judaism. There is an Ayin Harah that goes out when people look into your life and become jealous of you and they may say, “Why does this guy deserve such nice things or such a nice life?” Another reason why you might force someone to build a wall is because without a wall, it severely limits what you are going to do in your backyard. If I lived in Florida and my neighbour doesn’t want to join me in buying a fence for our backyard, then I might not sunbathe in my backyard as he would perhaps just stare at me. The laws of privacy are so special to the Jewish people. In fact, Billam the Wicked, in the Torah, describes the Jewish people as special because of their commitment to modesty and not looking into each others’ tents (Ma Tovu O Halecha Yaakov). This past Thursday I was confessing to my weekly Parsha class that when I walk down the street, that I have this crazy voyeuristic urge to look into everyone’s house to see what they are doing! Some people at the class were kind enough to admit they were just as sick! To resist and not look into someone’s house as you are walking down the street is a great Jewish value. This is something that no one will ever call you out on, thereby taking on a greater significance. Although I cannot donate any money to Trump to help him build his wall, the Jewish value of wall enforcement reminds us that our eyes can have it all. Not only at Hakim Optical, but if we look straight ahead, and give people the privacy they deserve, even if they have the audacity to leave their shades open!

Be well, have a good Shabbos and mazel tov to Rabbi Appelrouth on the Atlanta Falcons reaching the SuperBowl and to Koby and Shelby Bessin as the Patriots have made it to the SuperBowl for the 40th year in a row.

Parshat shemot 

My Advice to Obama – By The Rabbi

I was blessed as a rabbinical student to be under the guidance of my esteemed Rabbi, Rabbi Berel Wein. One of the unique features of his training was public speaking and in one of those public speaking courses, he gave advice that changed how I departed my community in Oshawa. He said, “…that when you leave a community you need to let go.” You should not be going to the simchas, you should not be calling people wishing them good Shabbos. At first, I thought that your old congregation may feel that you never truly cared about them. What Rabbi Wein meant, was that in order for the shul to succeed, the community needs to feel that your successor is their leader. By you hanging around, you are actually stifling your shul. You are not giving the new Rabbi a chance to become their leader. Granted there are extenuating circumstances but on the whole, the old Rabbi should not be sticking around. When I left Oshawa for Forest Hill, I had such hakaras hatov (appreciation) for all of the good things my now former congregants gave to me. They gave me a job, an opportunity to lead, and yet I knew the right thing to do was follow the advice of my Rabbi. It was only after many years, did I slowly allow myself to rekindle those flames albeit not at the new Rabbi’s expense. Jim Collins, in his book ‘Good to Great,’ has a similar idea when he describes a level 4 leader as someone who is happy when the company he leaves, tanks. A level 5 leader is someone who is proud when the company is even more successful after he leaves. So my advice to Obama, as you care about the United States of America, give your successor the chance to become Great. This act of humility makes you larger, not smaller.

Parshat Vayechi 

My Fascination with Donkeys—By The Rabbi

Around seven years ago I started learning the 613 mitzvos with my dear friend, Theo Aben. We came across the mitzvah of redeeming the first born donkey. The law states, that if a female donkey (a jennet) gives birth to a male donkey (a Jack), the donkey’s owner should gift that donkey to a Kohen. As the Kohen can do very little with a non-kosher animal, the original owner trades a sheep instead of the donkey. The donkey then loses its sanctity and can be used back at the original owner’s farm. You can google “Pidyon Petter Chamor” and see this mitzvah done on you tube as they dress up the donkey to look very beautiful. The reason why we make such a big deal about the donkey is that when we were leaving Egypt, it was the donkey that helped us carry all of our wares. Now you might say, that that act was incidental, but even the lowly donkey we should be appreciative of. All the more so, we should be appreciative of anyone who does anything for us! The Maharal of Prague explains that the hebrew word for donkey is ‘chamor’ and that shares the same root for the word materials hence the donkey is the symbol for materialism. When we left Egypt, we were on a very low level of impurity. We were so materialistic that you would think we were not redeemable. But just as the donkey can be connected to a mitzvah, so too, we as Jews should always feel that we are redeemable. Sometimes, we are embarrassed to be in G-D’s presence as we feel that we are sinners. This mitzvah reminds us that no matter how materialistic and full of vice we see ourselves, we are never too far from Hashem’s embrace. As the great Eeyore once said, “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” This article is by no means an endorsement by the Democratic Party.

Check out TorontoPetterChamor.org. The event details: Jan 29th, 1:30pm, 15 Saranac Blvd Stay Jewish! Live Jewish! Be Jewish! Good Shabbos!

Parshat vayigash

From the desk - By: The Rabbi

It is very difficult to write a “From the Desk” article two weeks early, but here it goes!

The truth is, is that I enjoy the New Year. Granted it has no Jewish significance, but any opportunity we are given to think and reflect about our previous year is a positive thing! The Rabbis also encourage that at the end of every day, to do an evaluation. “What did you accomplish today?” “How did you react to new circumstance?” “How could you have kept your cool a little better?” “Could you have been nicer?” With reflection, a person is not only able to collect yesterday’s data but is also able to work on ways to improve tomorrow’s circumstances. As the New Year has come, many of us have taken on new goals. We have career goals, health goals and family goals. However, the ultimate challenge, is to understand that all of these junior goals fit into a broader goal of making life more purposeful and meaningful. For instance, at work one might decide to make it a goal to show up 10 minutes earlier…everyday! However, that person’s ultimate goal is not to show up 10 minutes early everyday but to impress his boss, to advance in the company and to make more money. And if you’re the boss and you are showing up 10 minutes early, the goal is the same, to make more money. It would be silly for someone at work to have a goal that doesn’t fit into his ultimate goal. For our lives as well, all of our goals have to fit into a larger goal which is, “I am in this world for only an X-amount of years and it has to be the best possible life that I can live. And so, I need to devote time to X,Y and Z and I need to become better at 1,2 and 3 because when it is time for me to go up to the Big Yankeee Stadium in the sky, I want THE boss to be proud of me.” May this new Gregorian year be filled with LOTS of goals…goals achieved; enabling us to achieve the one goal of purposefulness, meaningfulness and completeness.

Stay Jewish! Live Jewish! Be Jewish! Good Shabbos!

PArshat Vayeishev

From the Desk—By the Rabbi

The Big and small Miracle of Chanukah

On Chanukah, there were two miracles. The first was the miraculous military victory of a few ill-trained Jews against the Behemoth Greek Army. The other, is the miracle of the oil. One miracle was witnessed by millions of people stretching over the entire land and the other miracle was witnessed by some of the priests hidden in the Temple. The obvious question is why would we choose the miracle that only a few witnessed as opposed to the miracle that everyone witnessed? As a rule, the more you experience something, the more joy you will have. Clearly the Jews at the time of the miracle would have, over the years, appreciated the miracle that they had experienced. Although there are a number of answers to this question I would like to focus on one idea that has a profound message for today. In a recent Pew report, on the future of American Jewry, they determined that 100 secular Jews produce under 10 Jewish great grandchildren! Modern Orthodox Jews produce over 400 Jewish great grandchildren. Finally, the Hassidic/Yeshiva communities produce 3500 Jewish great grandchildren. The data is based primarily based on two factors: Birthrate and intermarriage. Underneath all of the data of this major research, is one simple factor. The more you put in, the more you get out. When a Jew decides that he takes his Jewish commitment seriously, that his religion is not just a hobby, not just something to do when he is in the mood, the net result is Jewish growth for that individual and for all those people connected to that individual. On the flip side, the more you cut corners, the more you allow the noise of the world to dilute your Jewish identity, the less Jewish you are going to be and the less Jewish your family is going to be. Any Jew who identifies with any stream (except for soda stream!) must take this message to heart – the more you put in, the more you get out. The Jewish people celebrate the more intimate miracle as opposed to the national and revealed miracle because it is that intimate miracle – the miracle of the light of Chanukah - that reminds every Jew that although the national miracles will always allow the Jewish people to continue, it is these decisions that you and your family make, that will ultimately determine whether you will be part of the miraculous people.

Parshat Vayishlach

From the Desk of Rabbi Karfunkel; What I learned from the Rabbi Tatz Week

This past Sunday we said ‘Shalom’ to Rabbi Tatz who returned to the Jewish Learning Exchange in London. We had an incredible week with him. To subsidize our expense, I partnered with other organizations and lay people in the city and had him speak for them as well. In total, Rabbi Tatz was here for almost 10 days. He gave approximately 35 classes and spent 40 hours speaking with people. Before you chastise me for abusing him, just note that he encourages me to use him and his time. His classes vary in content but always revolve, in my opinion, around one major theme, and that is under all the layers there are defining principles that shed light and provide clarity to all the seemingly confusing parts. For me, it is a confirmation that I should always dig deeper for my own intellectual honesty but more importantly, for delicious spiritual nectar, that that level of wisdom provides. Spending time with Rabbi Tatz is a nice perk of my job. He is a mensch really before anything else. The first year he was at the Centre, and when we came to daven, the place was a mess from the Friday Night dinner the night before. He literally got down on the floor for 20 minutes helping me get it ready for davening. Rabbi Tatz also takes his time seriously. He sleeps as little as possible and has a very busy regiment. He also has a Rabbi in his life. Now I know you would find that silly but he does! In fact, all Rabbis should have a Rabbi. There is always someone wiser than you, at least in some areas. But a Rabbi is needed for more than that. A Rabbi needs someone to show him reality when he can’t see it himself. Most people use their mirror as their Rabbi ... this isn’t recommended! Listening to his classes is also very enjoyable as he definitely has down the Edu"tainment" part of his classes. Although I have heard some of his lectures many times before, there is something about being in the room when he talks. For those who have enjoyed listening to his classes live, even though you have heard the lecture before, you know what I mean! One evening, I had Rabbi Tatz speak to a few Rabbis and Rebbetzins in the area. They were just as enthralled as we were. I mentioned there, that by now I could give the first 55 minutes of many Tatz lectures. But what separates him for me is his last five minutes. That's when people ask questions ... this is when one truly enjoys and appreciates his level of insight and scholarship. We have had Rabbi Tatz here almost every other year for a decade and I look forward to the next trip although perhaps we should all go to London next time instead! Last Friday night we took a gamble. Would people come back to the Centre for a dessert/lecture? Would it bomb because we didn’t have the lecture tied to a dinner? Well Baruch Hashem, people came out! We had close to 150 people! The dessert reception looked like an elegant wedding and the togetherness of our congregation was felt and enjoyed by all, not to mention the Torah class.

Good Shabbos

Parshat Vayeitzei

From the Desk—By The Rabbi 

Exciting change at the Centre!

After a decade of tireless lay dedication to The Albert and Temmy Latner Forest Hill Jewish Centre, we are thrilled to announce that Dalia Appelrouth has come on board to assume a key role as Director of Programming. 

This newly created position will not just support the hundreds of people who are already connected to the Centre, but seeks to expand our reach so that everyone in the Greater Forest Hill Area can benefit from the dynamic programs being offered. 

For those who don't know Dalia, she was born and raised in Miami, attended Penn as an undergraduate and lived in New York and Jerusalem before moving to Toronto. Along with Rabbi Appelrouth and their five amazing kids, Dalia looks forward to connecting to all the kids, parents and grandparents in the neighborhood. 

Have a great Shabbos.  Stay Jewish, Live Jewish!

Parshat Toldot

From the Desk —By The Rabbi : The Jewish Bill Buckner

To most baseball fans, there is no name more synonymous with being a goat than the Red Sox first baseman, Bill Buckner. In 1986 at the end of Game 6, Bill Buckner let a slow ground ball dribble through his legs allowing Ray Knight to score, giving the Mets the victory and ultimately a game 7 victory! Since then, every major athletic slip up is referred to as a ‘Buckner,’ much like every Washington scandal is called a ‘gate’. On October 3rd, 1951, Ralph Branca gave up the most famous home run in the history of baseball. In fact Bobby Thompson’s World Series winning hit became known as the “shot heard ‘round the world”. Hours after the play, he asked his Reverend, how can G-D do this to him to which the Priest responded, “Hashem (not an exact quote) only gives challenges to the people he knows can handle it”. What is amazing about Ralph is that he found out a few years later that the Giants’ were actually cheating the last quarter of the year which allowed them to make their epic comeback during the regular season and allowed Bobby Thompson to hit his famous homerun on that fateful day. The Giants had put a telescope in the centre field suite which allowed them to quickly relay to the hitter what pitch the catcher was telling the pitcher to throw. (What baseball nerds call stealing signs.) What made Branca amazing was that he did not expose this new information. He kept it in because he felt that that was the mensch thing to do as he was taught not to be a whiner. A 2001 Wall Street Journal finally exposed this stealing sign scandal and brought it to light. It gave some comfort to Ralph. Here you have Ralph where his whole life, he is being ridiculed as the man who gave up the shot around the world, and he knows that deep down, that the other team was cheating – and he doesn’t open up his mouth! Now I don’t know if any of us would have that strong character and I don’t know if you would even agree with his silence but suffice it say, that Ralph Branca is someone who we should exalt and tell our kids about. Ralph Branca found out that at the end of his life, he was Jewish and he actually lost an uncle in Auschwitz. Ralph Branca passed away this week and for me, he will now be known as the “mensh heard ‘round the world.” Have a great Shabbos. Stay Jewish and thank you to Darren Gluckman for giving me a heads up on this amazing story. And Joe Carter’s homerun was not too shabby - Rabbi Elie

Parshat chaya sara 

From the Desk —By The Rabbi

My Favourite Snack

Many families have end of the day rituals with their kids. The kids take a bath, they get to read a little a bit in bed, they come down for hugs. When I was growing up, I don’t remember doing homework or bathing but I do remember my pre-bed ritual. My mother made junk food plates for my siblings and I. My memory has me believe that this took place every night for ten years. It would be a paper plate with a few potato chips, possibly a few corn chips and one Goldenberg peanut chew (the best junk food of all time, according to me and my dear friend Avram Shulman). In addition to the enjoyment of eating junk food, which ‘til this day is one of my greatest pleasures in life, was the knowledge that my mother put it together. It wasn’t just ‘take the junk food from the pantry,’ it was ‘here is a plate of things I have arranged for you.’ In this week’s parsha, Avraham has his servant, Eliezer, find a wife for Yitzchak. By offering water not only to Eliezer, but to his camels, Eliezer had found a match for his master’s son. Rivka becomes the mother of the Jewish people and literally saves the day by ensuring Yaakov (her son’s) success because she offered water to Eliezer’s camels. We make such a big deal about great accomplishments. Neil Armstrong makes it to the moon, Bob Dylan wins a nobel prize and Columbus discovers America. However, a young girl gives a thirsty man and his animals a drink of water and the world will never be the same. We often appreciate the small things when they are done to us. Someone offers us a lift back from a wedding when we don’t have a car of our own. Someone holds the door open for us to save us from the freezing cold. You ask someone how their day is and you spend just a minute listening to them! May we bottle these feelings of appreciation and use it to ‘pay it forward’. I love my mom for so many reasons. She gave birth to me, she changed my diaper, she put up with me when I was a teenager. She can’t do enough for me, Rifky, my siblings and the next generation of Karfunkels. She does so much for her community. But nothing beats the small things that we do – like a couple potato chips and a peanut chew on a plate as way of connecting in the deepest and most meaningful way .

parshat vayeira

A Very Special Mitzvah

In this week’s parsha, we are witness to the unbelievable hachnos archem (hosting) of Avraham and Sarah. Our Rabbis tell us that welcoming guests is greater than greeting the Divine presence. Avraham was standing before G-D and he noticed that some guests were approaching. He said to G-D, “If I have found favour in your eyes, please do not leave me.” (i.e. please wait while I go greet the guests). After their incredible hosting, they were told they would have a child. This is no coincidence. Being a host is an incredible opportunity. There are some halachas – Jewish law – that create a framework of how to behave. Here is a list of a few tips that are called from stories in the Torah and elucidated in the work of havos chesed by the Chofetz Chaim:

1. One should offer guests the opportunity to wash up even before you offe r them a meal. (I imagine this applies to sleepover guests).

2. Include your children in hosting: Have them slaughter the animal J (if you lived in biblical times), or set the table or hang up the guests’ coats. By doing so you are including your kids in this special mitzvah and training them in being gracious hosts.

3. Smile J If the whole point of hosting is to create for that guest (who is already feeling awkward because he is ‘taking’ from you) a sense of calmness, then being cheerful is a simple antidote for any guests’ stress.

4. Never discuss your financial issues with your guests. If you are belly-aching about your financial situation you will create a real bellyache in the stomach of all your guests. So don’t discuss how much gefilte fish costs these days right after your guest puts a second piece of gefilte fish on their plate!!

5. Walk them out. After a guest leaves your home, you not only open the door for them but you walk them out a few steps – like you would do for a celebrity or your own parents. Every person should feel that they are a somebody

. 6. And lastly – my favourite tip – which is so important for hosts, is to eat - especially two portions of everything! This will relax your guest so that they can put on their plate whatever they want!

By Lot being hospitable to the Arabs, (angels dressed up as Arabs), he was able to save one of the five cities that were doomed by Hashem - the city of Tzor. That is pretty impressive considering that Avraham himself was not able to save any of the five cities of Sodom. So be a host and be a good one! 

Parshat lech lecha

 From Poland to Trump to Rabbi Wein

It is amazing how one can be totally immersed in one heads space and then flip to another and yet to another. Last week, I was in Poland. I visited all the low lights and further sensitized myself to survivors and also left with a profound feeling of Am Yisroel Chai. And then you come back and the world doesn’t care that you were just in Auschwitz as everyone else just wants to talk about Trump. And for me, having my Rebbe here, Rabbi Wein, for Shabbos, is one of the highlights of my year! There is always something going on. I remember a congregant telling me he couldn’t come out to a class as there was an important hockey game on. And I thought to myself, there are probably 20 important hockey games. Add to that, 5 football games, 10 baseball games, 14 basketball games, the Oscars and the Emmys, debates, and season finales - it is almost inevitable that one is not allowed to break out of that relentless cycle of things you need to observe. I once bumped into a friend of mine who was a Rabbi in a small city. I told him how impressed I was that he was giving classes on Jewish medical ethics. I asked him which Rabbi he is listening to, to get his information from. This was in the days when people still listened to tapes! He said that he doesn’t listen to any Rabbis – he does all the research himself because he wants to be the person – the person who’s tapes, people are listening to. Wow! It dawned on me that he was not willing to settle on his own personal achievements – he wanted to be THAT person! We spend a lot of time observing other people accomplish. We watch other people hit a baseball, throw a ball though a hoop, and receive awards. But our job is not to be on the sidelines – but to make a difference. And if you’re going to be on the sidelines, you should be watching your kids at a little league game or at a school play and not some overpriced athlete. In this week’s parsha, we are introduced to Avraham. The Torah doesn’t talk about his massive exploits but rather highlights that his first achievement in Israel was setting up a tent and making an alter for G-D and the second thing he did in Israel was set up another alter for GD. In other words, Avraham plugged away. Yitzchok, his son, went from well to well to well and only stopped after he built a well where there was no strife. The Chofetz Chaim says that the Torah is teaching us to keep plugging away until you succeed. Last Shabbos, I was in Krakow. Seventy years ago, one could have written an obituary of the Jewish people and yet we plugged away. We plugged away into the Diaspora and we plugged away in Israel. We built alters to GD, and we built wells of Torah. A couple of oil fields wouldn’t have hurt either but we persevered! It is such an honour to have my Rebbe here who inspired myself and many of my friends – not just to become Rabbis but to plug away. We are forever grateful. 

parshat bereishit 

Exhausted?

The last 10 weeks have been quite incredible! At the Centre, there are three semesters. From after Simchas Torah until the end of June where we function in a classic way; then six weeks of summer where things are pretty slow; and then the Rosh Hashana season. This season includes our Membership Drive, High Holiday organizing and Sukkah Craziness which had this year six sukkah parties and well over 150 people hosted for meals plus Simchas Torah. Of course all of those activities do not take place in a vacuum. There are still the bar-mitzvah lessons, shiva visits, counselling, fundraising, classes and meetings. Someone recently made a quip that I could now take off for the next 10 months. You know who you are :) Although I don’t plan on taking off, I would like to share with you a comment one of the members of Torah Tours made during our Simchat Torah Luncheon. Rivka quoted the verse that discusses Moshe at 120 years of age, “and Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. Why did Moshe keep his vigor, because his eyes did not dim”. In other words, he never lost sight of the big picture and the vision and that’s what kept his enthusiasm going. (I think she attributed this insight to Rabbi Jonathan Sachs). As the old civil rights folk song goes, "Keep your eyes on the prize." May all of us keep our focus on what we truly want out of life and let the pursuit of that vision keep our motors running. I am so excited for November. The first 3 Shabbats in November are my personal hatrick: Our Mens’ trip is off to Poland and will be spending IY"H Shabbos in Krakow. Next Shabbos, our Centre will be blessed to have my Rebbe, the great Rabbi Berel Wein who is most responsible for creating the atmosphere for me to become a Rabbi. The third Shabbos coming up, I have my parents coming in (I better make sure my clothes are all spiffy)! We are ramping up all of the Centre programs now so please read the newsletter, follow us on fhjc.ca and come out and connect. All the best,

Rabbi Elie

Parshat  ha'azinu 

How do you bottle it?

The experience that we all shared during the high holy days is so powerful that you wish it could be bottled. Our centre, and I’m sure shuls all over the world, experience that euphoria, those last moments of Kol Nidre, as we all shouted out seven times, “Hashem hu haelokim” (Hashem, he is our G-D). And now it has just been a couple of days since that glorious day and we are slowly coming back down to Earth. How do we put a halt to that? How do we keep that Yom Kippur feeling before it’s gone, gone gone…..(woaaaah)? The answer is simple, you can’t! The Ramban however offers one strategy to save the inspiration. He writes that one has to take on a practical, tangible action to internalize the experience in order for it to have a lasting effect. One only has to go back to Abraham to realize that after he didn’t kill his son Isaac on the alter, he quickly put all of that energy into slaughtering a ram and we are told that the horn on that ram was used at Mt. Sinai and would eventually be used by the messiah. So putting your big inspiration into one small act actually has a huge impact. Now it is up to us, post Yom Kippur, to follow the instruction of the Ramban, to learn from our patriarch Abraham, and to take one bit size action to not only concretize our Yom Kippur feelings, but to internalize them and have them inspire us throughout the winter.

A list of 4 random things you can do going forward:

1. Make Friday night evening a phone free, iPad free, newspaper free, gossip free, complaining free, politic free and sports free time. Yes, I know you will have nothing else to do…but share time with the One above and your family below.

2. The first time you put on your shoes in the morning, thank G-D that you have a pair of shoes.

3. Sign up for any daily email that will inspire you and even though you might delete it 90% of the time, just getting it is a trigger to remember your true values.

4. Put in your calendar now that on January 19th, you will call your aunt, an uncle or a first cousin just to say hi.

Good Shabbos!

Rabbi Elie

 

PARSHAT Nitzavim

The Resumes:

At a wedding I was at recently, I bumped into a friend and we were discussing a book that he was enjoying and that I had already read. ``The Road to Character`` by David Brooks is in many ways a counter culture book. Most of the books that I read nowadays are about getting things done, about highly effective habits, about awakening the giant within. In short, I spend most of my reading time, (not including Torah reading) on how to maximize my time and how to become a better professional. Occasionally I dabble into books about nutrition, Israel and sports. Sadly my most recent book I read was by Micky Mantle. It was called, “All My Octobers” which details all of his amazing world series performances, 12 over a period of 14 years. Why I read that book, I have no clue. Why I reread that book boggles my mind. Back to David Brooks…. We get so caught up into being productive that we lose sight into really being Productive. He highlights that there are 2 resumes that people think about. Mostly people think about their career resume. What can they do to get ahead. What club they can join, what books they can read and what new words they can learn to get ahead. However, there is another resume that gets very little attention and that is the eulogy resume. What are we doing to really work on that. This book profiles many people who truly fit the title of the book. These are famous people who played by a noble set of rules to accomplish something meaningful. Most of the items that will eventually turn up on our eulogy resume are not things that have global impact, yet all of them have eternal importance. This Rosh Hashana, lets recalibrate, lets focus on putting energy into the resume which matters most. I remember watching an interview with Mickey Mantle on ESPN very late in his life. On the top of his game, he was a great home run hitter, a great centre fielder, a great team mate and unfortunately an awful alcoholic. The tail end of his life, he was able to get a new kidney and spent the end of his life preaching about the dangers of alcohol. I know that the book I read highlighted his career resume but it is that interview that I saw at the end of his life that encouraged me - before it was too late, he spent time padding his most important resume, his eulogy resume. I wish everyone a meaningful year and may your road to character be filled and may your days be filled with pursuing your road to character. - Rabbi Elie

parshat ki tavo 

Our Job is in this world

This past week we had a very special family ceremony in honour of Yerachmiel Dason. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were present to see a window (soon to be stained) dedicated in honour of his parents and siblings all of whom perished at Treblinka. When Joe Dason spoke about his father’s experience I was overwhelmed to hear that his dad found out on one day the fate of his family. I could never imagine hearing such sadness. This Sunday, Yerachmiel will be attending his last grandchild’s wedding. As I could never truly emphasize with his past feelings I also wonder how unique his feelings will be this Sunday. There two words in Hebrew for “Why”, one being Lama and the other one Ma’doo’ah. Rabbi Shimshon Rephael Hirsh explains that in Hebrew, one can ask "why" with the use of the word madua or of the word lama. The word madua means why did something happen. On the other hand, lama comes from the words "le ma," literally "to what," in other words now that something did happen, what is my next move? How will I make meaning and purpose going forward with the new reality? The truth is, we are dealt with this spiritual question daily. How do we react to challenges, in a madua way or a lama way? Just now, as I am writing this article, Rifky called to tell me about our mishap at the tailor. I had rushed in there with two pairs of pants last week and told them “to make one like the other.” I thought I told them to make one the same length as the other which would have been a $5 job. Well, lo and behold, they literally made one pair of pants exactly like the other pair of pants (tapered, pocket size, the whole enchilada!!) I felt like I was in an ‘amelia bedelia’ book. Needless to say we could have dressed my kid’s school with the bill that was supposed to be $5. The point is not that Rifky shouldn’t trust me to run any errand no matter how small it is (I hope my mother isn’t reading this as she is nodding in glee saying to my dad "yep, that’s my Elie”). The truer point is how I reacted. Did I moan and groan or did I say, “this is an atonement” and not think badly on the tailor for not reading my mind and not allowing it to ruin my day. On a much more serious note let us think of Terry Fox. “In 1980, he began the Marathon of Hope, a cross-country run to raise money for cancer research. He hoped to raise one dollar from each of Canada's 24 million people. He began with little fanfare from St. John's, Newfoundland, in April and ran the equivalent of a full marathon every day. Fox had become a national star by the time he reached Ontario; he made numerous public appearances with businessmen, athletes, and politicians in his efforts to raise money. He was forced to end his run outside Thunder Bay when the cancer spread to his lungs. His hopes of overcoming the disease and completing his marathon ended when he died nine months later (taken from Wikipedia). He defiantly took his challenge and made purpose from his crisis.” And lastly, let us think of our Baal Simcha, Mr Yerachmiel Dason. Instead of retiring from Judaism and becoming a bitter person, this man who I have now come to not only love but admire said "lama". He said, “I must persevere to make meaning.” Instead of running away from responsibility, he embraced it and his family and really all of us reap the benefits of what he has sewn. Mazel Tov to all of the Dasons on the upcoming simcha.

Rabbi Elie

 

parshat ki teitzei

“SIGNING UP”

Around seven years ago, I made a deal with myself - wanted to lose 20 pounds for a while and I kept on hearing about Harvey Brooker, Weight Loss for Men. I had several friends who went to Harvey and had lost significant weight. In fact I had one friend who was so successful on his program, that he lost 60 pounds, 3 different times. Rifky encouraged me to make the deal with myself and she said that either Harvey will get the $2000 or you can spend $2000 on anything you want. Sure enough my mind went wild by spending $2000 without guilt on myself. Flying into New York and taking my brothers and sister and their spouses to a Jet game! And maybe with the last couple of dollars - buying the opportunity to sing the Canadian National anthem at the game! But low and behold on that fateful Rosh Hashana, the scale doesn’t lie and I had lost nothing. And so…humbly, I walked up the steps to Harvey Brooker, lay down my money and said, “Help me!” Anyone who has ever undertaken group therapy whether its OA, which is very similar to the Harvey Brooker program, AA or Community grievance counselling, will tell that there is something very powerful about the experience. I remember the first man talking about his struggles with weight loss and how much he had lost that week and the clapping that people gave this stranger. In 10 minutes I felt like I was part of his family. Harvey’s famous line is….”If you can do it alone you would have done it already.” (His other famous line is about potato chips: “1 is too many, and 50 isn’t enough”) The upshot is, is that we all like to think that we can solve our own problems, we don’t need our spouse, our friends, our community, but my friends, that is folly because you are the same person who relies on a barber, a farmer, a mechanic, a pilot and a manicurist J. It is no sin to rely on the people around you, perhaps one can say that it is ego that gets in the way of your success. Realize that making it a habit of coming to shul more often than you currently do puts yourself around people that you can rely on. This Rosh Hashana, stop with the folly of becoming great on your own. Seek support from your family and your community and ascend the ladder to ultimate and sustainable achievement. Wishing everyone a Shana Tova and a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Elie

Parshat Shoftim 

From the desk—Rabbi Elie Karfunkel

My Favourite Saying In my high school, the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy Yeshiva University High School for boys in Manhattan, otherwise known as MTA, there was a policy that only 12th graders were allowed to use the elevator. Being that it was a five story building and the gym was in the basement, it was quite annoying to take the steps all the way up to the fifth floor for the next class after gym. Getting caught on the elevator by staff meant detention. Getting caught on the elevator by a 12th grader was even worse. The trick that I learned was that if you pull the elevator doors open between the basement and the first floor, the elevator would interpret that it actually opened the door on the first floor and thus it would skip that floor and take you to the fifth floor and thus, skip the first floor where you would probably have been busted. Being that I used to roll the dice and take the elevator a lot, I grew accustomed to the walls of the elevator and year after year, every September, or Elul, there was a sign in and near the elevator. It read, “Ain Kedusha Bli Hachana”, which means there is no holiness without preparation. It is quite remarkable that from all of the amazing statements that I have heard, a random elevator poster has had such an influence on me. I think the Rabbis who annually put up that flyer were getting at something very important and that is, one really needs to prepare in order to appreciate and elevate. No doubt, there will be two types of people coming to shul this year on Rosh Hashana. The first person will arrive, listen, think about their life and where it is going, hear a message from the Rabbi, connect with friends and family, be inspired by the shofar and leave. Second person will have seen Rosh Hashana as Judgement Day, as Opportunity Day. He or she will have thought about how to utilise every moment of that day from weeks beforehand. Would a lawyer show up to court and just wing it? This year, be that number two person. Be the person who comes prepared to connect. There is something that Al Gore invented and it is called the internet. Use that invention and search on google “how do I prepare for Rosh Hashana”. This is a good start. However I just recommend three simple but difficult things to do: 1. Write down on a piece of paper five meaningful things you want to do this year and spend time thinking about what those five should be. 2. Open up the machzor and learn the prayers that you will be reading. 3. Prepare all of the physical things as early as possible so that they do not sabotage your spiritual needs.

Have a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Elie

Parshat Re'eh

From the desk—Rabbi Elie Karfunkel The Most Difficult "from the desk". My Oshawa moment. Getting back to writing, or for that matter, all new beginnings are very difficult (unless you are Gary Sanchez ). 

Our Rabbis tell us "Kol haschalot kashot" - all beginnings are difficult. From when we begin our day and have to pull ourselves out from under our cozy blankets, to having to return to school and reprogram ourselves to a more rigid schedule to getting into Rosh Hashana mode and to begin to take our mitzvahs even more seriously when we do so already. There is no doubt that nothing can compare to the challenge of a new beginning and there is a simple reason behind that. We are basically people who are on auto-pilot hence we abhor change. Change challenges us and makes us leave our comfort zone and we don't like that. When I was hired to lead Beth Zion in Oshawa I was not nervous about many things. However I did have a dark secret. I couldn't lead services, nor sing, nor read Haftorah. I was hired because they liked Rifky and I proclaimed my love for the Oshawa Generals. Previously when I was in Rabbinical School I would always go to the restroom during the 6th aliyah to ensure that I wasn't called for the Maftir. The few times I would get asked and called up I would read the Haftorah in Torah tune and feel all ashamed. Now as a Rabbi of a congregation, I knew that my bathroom exit at the same time every week would be noticed by at least the people enroute to the Kiddush club. I know it sounds silly to some but for me it created a lot of anxiety. Well lo and behold I had to learn all of these things and although I don't think the Great Synagogue is calling anytime soon, I'm pretty good - so my mother tells me. I saw a beautiful idea (from Rabbi Penner of Queens, New York). He mentions that Rav Yitzchak Arama some 500 years ago wrote that “ha-hatchalah hi yotair mei-chatzi ha-kol,” – “the beginning is more than half of the entire thing!” We know that to be true. Just climbing out of bed is painful , the next few moments not so much. The first block you jog, the first math homework, the first pint of ice cream you eat in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep - it is all the same. The decision to actually get out of our comfort zone and start the new task is all it takes. We are in a month that requires us to ‘begin anew’. Let’s remember that all lazy and easy activities usually start with an ‘ahhhh’ and end with an ‘ouch’ but all beginnings that are good, start with an ‘ouch’ and end with an ‘ahhhh’. So I did it, my first ‘From the Desk’ after the summer holidays. “Ahhhh” and “Good Shabbos” “Change is hardest at the beginning, messiest in the middle and best at the end” - Robin S. Sharma Good Shabbos. Stay Jewish Live Jewish Be Jewish —Rabbi Elie

Thu, December 14 2017 26 Kislev 5778