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Congregation Brothers of Israel

L'dor Vador—From Generation to Generation since 1883
לדור ודור


Chaired by Dr. Ellier Russ with Rabbi Gaber. This committee coordinates programs and classes to engage members in lifelong learning. Events include our yearly Scholar in Residence program, Talmud Study, and more. Guest speakers, online webinars and Shabbat morning discussions additionally provide congregants with opportunities to expand their knowledge of Judaism and living a Jewish life.


 In fulfilling the following commandments one enjoys the yield in this world while the principal remains for all eternity honoring father and mother, performing deeds of loving kindness, punctually attending the house of study morning and evening, showing hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick, helping the needy bride, attending dead, praying .with devotion, and making peace between individuals. And the merit of Torah study is equal to all of these. Talmud Shabbat in 12e




February 24, 2024    15 Adar 5784
Torah   Exodus 27:20- 30:10 Triennial  Exodus 28:31-29:18
  Haftorah:  Ezekiel 43:10-27


 Bex Stern-Rosenblatt
 Interwoven Texts

There are only three stories in the Tanakh in which the root ש.ב.ץ. appears. It occurs most prominently in our parashah, describing the settings or the borders for Aaron’s attire. The names of the twelve tribes are set in golden משבצות, assiduously fastened to the rest of his garb. The root also appears in Psalm 45, a most unusual psalm, which seems to describe a royal wedding, with specific instructions to the bride. There, we read of this bride: “all the honor of the daughter of a king is interior, her clothing ממשבצות with gold.”  The only other appearance of the root is in 2 Samuel 1, in the reported speech of King Saul asking to be killed after he has fallen in battle because שבץ has taken a hold of him.  

On the surface, these three occurrences share no similarities. The word means something like to interweave - appropriate for talking of clothing or of the pain of a body breaking down during death. Yet there is a long tradition of finding a way of relating these three stories, of making these three stories, these three places in which the root occurs, say something fundamental about priesthood. 

Psalm 45 is a love song. It declares itself as such in its opening verse. It can be read even as a bawdy love song, with innuendo about what will happen to consummate the marriage. But because of the presence of the root שבץ (and our general discomfort with innuendo,) the psalm is read instead to be about the proper role of a bride, the way a woman should behave. Even as the psalm describes the beauty of the woman and the way she attires herself, the text is interpreted in the Talmud (Yevamot 77a, among other places) to insist that women should not be seen, should not appear outside the house when avoidable. “The honor of the daughter of a king is interior” - a woman should stay inside, should shut herself away from prying eyes. A woman should be modest above all else. Vayikra Rabbah 20 explicitly connects the modesty of a woman to the high priesthood. The woman merits to have her sons become the high priests because she never uncovered her hair, not even in her own house. 

The interpretation of the golden משבצות in Psalms 45 as connected to modesty, to internal characteristics, invites us to reinterpret the word in Aaron’s context. Even as the high priest is covered in fine gems, precious jewels, and interwoven gold, so too must Aaron’s honor remain interior. So much of Aaron’s life, of his sons and descendants lives, will be about being the living clothes rack for the priestly garments. Before he dies, Aaron must strip. When his sons, Nadav and Avihu, are consumed by fire, their garments remain somehow untouched. Despite all that, despite the role the high priest must play in public, his true kavod lies elsewhere. It is not in the garment. It is in the man himself, in his ability to be modest, to conduct himself with dignity even when no one is watching. 

About the word’s appearance in King Saul’s story, Rashi cites Midrash Tanhuma to posit that Saul deserved to die. Saul had ordered the priests of Nob killed. It is only appropriate then that he be killed because שבץ grips him, perhaps even the guilt of killing the priests. Likewise, he begs to be killed by an Amalekite after he much earlier failed to kill all the Amelites as God had told him to do. 

The story of Saul is a tragedy. A promising boy becomes a cursed king. A strong and beautiful lad is driven to madness and nearly destroys his own country in his desperation to stay in power. He who was chosen by God is abandoned by God. 

The tragedy of Saul allows us to read the tragedy inherent in being the high priest. These people too are gripped by שבץ. These are people who will sacrifice their individuality in order to become able to serve as symbols of the entire nation. These people will be in uncomfortably close relation with God because nobody else wants to do it. Upon assuming the framing, upon donning his clothes, the high priest can never go back to just being Aaron, your buddy from down in Egypt. Yet, somehow, the high priest must also hold onto the message read into Psalm 45. He must retain who he is in private, exist as an individual only when no one else is watching. He must embody modesty to avoid tragedy.



 The Essence Of The Mishkan

Rabbi Daniel Raphael Silverstein

Insights from Hassidut


Rabbi Daniel Silverstein teaches Hassidut at the CY and directs Applied Jewish Spirituality ( In these weekly videos, he shares Hassidic insights on the parashah or calendar.



Does One Have To Clean The House If Travelling Before Pesah?
Rabbi Joshua Kulp

Today, many Jews observe Pesah by traveling to another destination before the holiday, to Israel or to some other vacation area, where they will be able to celebrate the Seder without all of the cooking and cleaning at home. This raises the question of whether one must clean one’s home and perform a thorough search for hametz before leaving. Before we examine the relevant material, it is important to note that the way hametz is commonly sold today did not exist before the 17th/18th century. Talmudic discussions also rarely mention “nullification” of hametz. However, unlike the sale of hametz, nullification is mentioned in the Talmud and is integrated into most medieval discussions of biur hametz (we will return to this subject in a later essay).

The issue of leaving home before Pesah is addressed by Rav Yehudah in a source that appears on Pesahim 6a (the source originates in Tosefta Pesahim 1:4): “One who sets sail, or one who departs in a caravan; if he did so thirty days prior to Pesah, he need not destroy the hametz from his possession. If he departs within thirty days of Pesah, he must destroy the hametz.”

According to the simple reading of this halakhah, if one leaves home thirty days before Pesah and she leaves hametz in her home, she need not be concerned about destroying. The Talmud limits this to a case where the person does not come back either before or during Pesah (there is a dispute about this between Rashi and the Rambam). But nevertheless, the rule is surprising–how can it be legal to own hametz on Pesah just because one is nowhere near someone’s home? What about the prohibition of “hametz shall not be found in one’s home during Pesah, called בל ימצא in rabbinic literature? 

We can answer this question both through the lens of critical talmudic study and the lens of the rishonim, the early traditional talmudic commentators. The Tosefta referenced above reads almost the same as the Bavli, with one critical difference: “One who departs with a caravan or sets sail on a ship more than thirty days [before Passover] does not need to search [for hametz].” The Tosefta refers to “searching for hametz” and not “destroying hametz.” The Bavli explains that thirty days before Pesah, one begins to ask about and teach the laws of Pesah. From this point onward, one must begin to make sure that hametz will be destroyed before Pesah comes. Pesach should be on one’s mind within thirty days of the beginning of the holiday. This is Pesah time–to this day, once Purim is over, Pesah is on the horizon. However, if one leaves earlier than that, one need not check for hametz. Pesach is still out of sight and out of mind. However, it is possible that according to the Tosefta, if one knew there was hametz at home, she would have to remove it before leaving. 

This critical solution does not work in the Bavli which explicitly says that if one leaves more than thirty days before Pesah and intends to be away for all of Pesah, there is no need to destroy the hametz. The rishonim find the idea that one would be out traveling the world on Pesah while still owning hametz at home to be completely untenable. To solve the problem, they muster up the solution of mental nullification–”bitul hametz.” Virtually every medieval commentary that addresses the scenario adds in that when the fourteenth of Pesah comes, one must nullify the hametz. For instance, the Sefer Ha-Ittur, a 12th century work from Provence, writes, “[If he leaves] prior to thirty days, he need not destroy [the hametz in his home] and when the time comes, he nullifies it.” Problem solved. 

The Talmud is quite clear that if the person leaves less than thirty days before Pesah, she must check the house and destroy the hametz. However, as I stated above, the practice of de rigueur selling of hametz did not exist prior to a couple of hundred years ago. Even in the generations following the Shulkhan Arukh, the practice had not evolved to where it is now. But today, most Jews sell their hametz before Pesah. Do they need to also perform a check for hametz even though they are leaving there all of their hametz? Rav Eliezer Melamed, the author of Peninei Halakhah, one of the most popular halakhic works in modern Israel, cites lenient and stringent opinions on the question. Those who are lenient point out that since the house is technically owned by a non-Jew already on erev Pesah, the Jewish owner need not check for any hametz that is found in it. But those who are stringent point out that once the thirty day mark arrives, there is a personal obligation for the Jew to check her home. Furthermore, a person should not try to avoid this mitzvah. Rav Melamed advises people not to fully take advantage of this leniency. One should sell most of the rooms of one’s house but leave one room unsold so that in that room she can perform the mitzvah of bedikah before she leaves for her vacation. 

Rav Melamed’s suggestion highlights a central tension that I will address consistently in these essays. The roots of the laws of searching and destroying for hametz arose in a world in which bittul (nullification) was not fully integrated into the halakhic system and selling hametz did not yet exist as a standard practice. The practice of searching and destroying hametz is deeply entrenched in the Jewish observance of Pesah. Indeed, in some ways, the fourteenth of Nissan is a holiday in and of itself. It is the day in which we ritually search for and destroy hametz. While these practices can be avoided through nullification and selling, the question really is–what is Pesah without them?

Connecting Heaven and Earth

Vav – a special letter
You probably know that there is a correspondence between Hebrew letters and numbers. Number 6 corresponds to the letter “vav”. “Vav” is shaped like a hook holding two things together (ו); normally, “Vav” is translated as “and”. This letter is also referred to as “vav of connection” therefore, “the Sixth Day”—Yom HaShishi (Yom Vav)—connects the spiritual and physical; heaven and earth, six days of Creation and Shabbat. 

The day of connection
We can see a wonderful confirmation in today’s Jewish life. Anyone who has experienced Shabbat in Israel knows that Friday, Yom Shishi, is a really special day of the week, since it is the beginning of Shabbat. As such, it connects and holds together the six days of the week and the most important day of the Jewish week, Shabbat (Saturday). 

Discover the nuances of the Bible
The importance of this day is clearly emphasized in Judaism: the day we celebrate as the Jewish New Year, is not actually the anniversary of Creation, it is the anniversary of the sixth day of Creation—Yom Hashishi. According to Jewish understanding, Creation became meaningful when man was created: the Sixth Day connected heaven and earth, and God was proclaimed King! Enroll in our live online Biblical Hebrew course and Hebrew will reveal the nuances of the Scripture!  

TETZAVEH 5784: WHere is god?

Shabbat Shalom Weekly

by Rabbi Yitzchak Zweig

February 24, 2024
TERUMAH, Exodus (27:20-30:10)

GOOD MORNING!  Last week a reader wrote to me asking for help understanding the events of October 7th and the horrors of the Holocaust. He asked, why, for millennia, the Almighty seems to have been in a constant fit of rage toward the Jewish people? He went on to quote some verses in the Bible and passages from the Talmud that describe the Almighty’s fury toward His people when they don’t follow the Torah.

He wanted to understand how this justifies all the horrors that the Jewish people have experienced. Not exactly a softball of a question. Still, I thought that this question, which seems to be on the minds of many, needs to be addressed.

I want to begin by mentioning that we have a general principle that is oft repeated in the Talmud that the “Torah speaks in the language of man.” This means that the Torah is written in such a manner as to be accessible to mankind. Thus, when the Torah speaks of the “hand of God” or “God’s fury,” it is merely meant to be an anthropomorphic illustration – an ascription of human qualities to a deity.

The reason for this can be understood as Maimonides states in the first section of his famous philosophical work known as the Guide to the Perplexed. Maimonides explains that the Torah must be relatable to all of mankind, and many, or perhaps even most, people are unable to conceive of some of the more esoteric elements to understand the philosophical complexities relating to the essence of God.

This can be likened to a child who vaguely becomes aware of the existence of God, and then inevitably asks, “Where is God?” Because a child would have an exceedingly difficult time understanding the true answer (i.e. that God exists outside of time and space, and He is therefore everywhere – and nowhere – at the same time), the answer generally given is that the Almighty resides in heaven. This is, of course, not technically true. As my granddaughter pointed out to my wife when my wife told her that her own grandmother was in heaven: “No Bubby, she’s not. I looked into the sky, and I didn’t see her.”

Because God is both immanent and incorporeal, He cannot “be” anywhere without being everywhere. Of course, God is not a “he” either, but our language is limited to certain constructs with which we can effectively communicate.

In a similar vein, God is absolutely immutable – He therefore cannot get angry or sad – as the great medieval philosopher Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (known by his acronym Ramchal) points out in his epic work on Jewish philosophy, The Way of God: The Almighty is a single unchanging entity, there is no possible compartmentalization of emotion like getting angry or sad.

Ramchal goes on to explain that the intention of all of creation is for the Almighty to develop a system by which to bestow the ultimate “good” on mankind. That “good” is only realized through a deep bond and connection to the Almighty. Thus, what the Almighty desires for mankind is a relationship with Him. It is the quintessential good because it is this relationship that ultimately allows man to achieve a sense of immortality.

Because of the inherent difficulty – one might even say the impossibility – of comprehending the essence of the Almighty, our interactions with the Almighty are communicated within the context of a relationship. Thus, emotions like love, anger, and even jealousy, are used to describe the effects that our actions have on our relationship with the Almighty. God is also described as using an “outstretched arm” to rescue His nation from the clutches of the Egyptians; not because He has an arm, but rather it’s a term used to describe what’s taking place within the context of His love relationship with His people.

Perhaps a better way to wrap our minds around this concept is to consider the following question: What is worse, deeply disappointing a parent or making a parent really angry? While one would hope that both situations would be considered unacceptable, I think that, to a considerate child, disappointing a parent is much more unsettling.

Anger, according to the Talmud, is akin to idolatry. Why? Because anger, like idolatry, is almost always about “me” – as in a parent thinking, “How could they do this to me?” By contrast, if I disappoint a parent, it’s a reflection of the parent’s deep unhappiness with my life decisions. But it’s generally not about the parent – they are not sad for themselves, rather they are sad for me.

In healthy parenting situations, a parent has to communicate that it’s not about their personal hurt, it’s the pain that comes from watching a child harm himself. This is why in parenting it is extremely important to clarify for a child that the negative actions resulting from their misbehavior isn’t punitive, but rather it’s an unavoidable consequence of their misbehavior.

My wife, who is a whole lot smarter than me, innately understood this from the start. When our children were young and they would do something wrong, the resulting unpleasant consequence was always accompanied with the following mantra from her, “I am so sorry that you did that to yourself.” She was communicating that the punishment wasn’t coming from her hurt feelings or insult that she wasn’t obeyed; rather it was just a consequence of their misbehavior.

But toddlers have a very limited capacity for understanding some of the more esoteric emotions like disappointment. I remember the time when my 1½ year-old son ran giggling into the street and while I lunged to grab him, he playfully tried to avoid my grasp.

He didn't yet possess the intellectual capability for me to have a reasonable conversation about the dangers of running into the street, and his giddiness prevented him from even hearing what I was trying to tell him. Instead, I displayed anger, and smacked his hand. Obviously, I wasn’t intending to hurt him – I just wanted to get his attention to the dangers of running into the street and the seriousness of his actions.

In that situation I felt that I did the right thing; the resulting shock dissipated his giddiness and brought our conversation into sharp focus in his mind. I then hugged him and apologized, and we both learned our lesson – he wasn’t to go running into the street, and I had to pay closer attention to what he was doing.

In a similar vein, misfortunes that befall the Jewish people as a whole are generally brought upon us by our own misbehavior, and they are merely the consequences of our actions. To some it is seen as God being angry with them, and that is how God gets their attention to change their behavior. Others are able to draw a direct line between their misbehaviors and the resulting punishment that comes as a consequence of their actions.

Perhaps this is best understood through the joke about the person who jumped off the Empire State Building. As he passed the observation deck on the 86th floor, a man yelled at him, “Hey! How’s it going?” He replied, “So far, so good!”

Utilizing this perspective one might say that it’s not the jumping off the building that killed him, but rather it was the sudden stop. But that is an awfully superficial way to look at it. In reality, we know it’s not the street below that killed him; he was killed by his decision to jump.

In this week’s Torah portion we have reference to a similar idea. At the very end of this week’s Torah reading, we find God commanding the Jewish people to create a gold altar. This altar was used almost exclusively for the daily incense offering known as ketores.

According to the Talmud (Arachin 16a) the incense was to atone for the sin of loshon hora – gossip. On the surface this is hard to understand, the ketores had some sublime aspects to it; the only time the High Priest was permitted in the Holy of Holies was on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement; the holiest day on the Jewish calendar) when he brought the special incense offering into it. Why was the ketores connected to the sin of loshon hora?

Amazingly, gossip is considered among the most severe of sins. The very same passage in the Talmud on the previous page (Arachin 15b) states that loshon hora is as severe as the three cardinal sins of Judasim 1) murder 2) idolatry 3) illicit sexual relations – put together! Why?

While it’s true that man’s first sin was disobeying God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, the first instance of gossip precedes even that! In Genesis (3:1-6) we find that the snake lures Chava (“Eve”) to eat from the Tree of Knowledge by telling her that the reason God prohibited man from eating from the Tree is because God knew that if man ate from it, then man would become God-like.

Thus, the first instance of gossip is from the snake in the Garden of Eden and was the first evil act in the world. Gossip had a casual effect on separating man from the Almighty and served to begin to sever man’s connection to the Almighty. Maimonides adds (Yad Deos 7:3) that a person who engages in gossip kills three people: 1) the one who speaks it 2) the one who accepts it 3) the person who is spoken about (interestingly enough – Maimonides rules that the one who accepted the gossip is worse than the one who spoke it).

Similar to the punishment that came from eating from the Tree of Knowledge (that man became mortal and would eventually die) gossip too severs the connection of these three individuals to the Almighty and inexorably leads to their “deaths” – a total disconnect from the Divine.

That is why the ketores – the incense offering – is the perfect antidote. According to Jewish tradition the sense of smell was the only one of the senses unaffected by the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge – thus the sense of smell transcends the physical plane and can be used to restore the soul to its proper place. This is why it is called ketores – in Aramaic the word means to tie together. In other words, the ketores serves to “re-tie” our connection to the Almighty.

Torah Portion of the Week
TETZAVEH , Exodus 27:20-30:10

The Torah continues this week with the command to make for use in the Mishkan – the Portable Sanctuary – oil for the Menorah and clothes for the Cohanim – the Priests. It then gives instruction for the consecration of the Cohanim and the Outer Altar. The portion concludes with instructions for constructing the Incense Altar.

Quote of the Week

Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality. When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking antisemitism!
— Martin Luther King Jr.

On-Line Learning

Rabbi Gaber lead several Adult Education programs using ZOOM  "You don’t have to leave the warmth and comfort of your home to hear a discussion on confronting Antisemitism and Hate or the Human Genome or to discuss how to bring Judaism into the 21st century. 

See the CBOI On-line Learning page in Learn Navigation bar to see all the  On Line Zoom Learning sessions.



Thu, February 22 2024 13 Adar I 5784