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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 the assistance of the Rabbi, this committee coordinates programs and classes to engage members in lifelong learning. Events include our yearly Scholar in Residence program, Talmud Study, Mah Nishtanah: What’s Different About Today’s Judaism, The Observant Life Book Series 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.

Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
September 10, 2019  |  by Rabbi Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Everyone loves a story -- particularly a true story and especially a story with a surprise and a happy ending. Even better is when there is a message which we can incorporate into our own lives. That is why I am sharing with you a wonderful article, "Meriting a Miracle," written by one of the writers I hold in high esteem, Rabbi Avi Shafran. Here is the article:

In 1943, after more than three years of German control over France, the Great Synagogue of Lyon continued to function. That December 10, the Lyon Milice, the shock troops of the Vichy government, decided to put an end to the Jewish worship.

The synagogue's rabbi survived the war to tell the tale, which is recorded in a book about Klaus Barbie, the infamous "Butcher of Lyon" (which is also the title of the book, by Brendan Murphy - Empire/Harper & Row, 1983). A member of the Milice quietly entered the rear of the sanctuary that Friday night during services. Armed with three hand grenades, he intended to lob them into the crowd of standing worshippers from behind, and to escape before the explosions. After silently opening the door and entering the room unnoticed by anyone but the rabbi (who stood facing the congregation), he pulled the pins.

What he saw, though, so shook him that he remained wide-eyed and motionless for a crucial moment, and then only managed to toss the grenades a few feet before fleeing. Several worshippers were injured by shrapnel but none were killed.

What had so flabbergasted the Nazi was the sudden, unexpected sight of his intended victims' faces, as the congregation, as if on cue, turned as one on its heels to face him.

The would-be mass-murderer had entered the shul precisely at "bo'i b'shalom," the last stanza of the liturgical poem Lecha Dodi, when worshippers traditionally turn toward the door to welcome the Sabbath. The account came to mind of late because it is, at least to me, a striking reminder of something truly fundamental yet easily forgotten. We Jews often survive on miracles.

To be sure, we don't base our belief on them, as do some religions. Maimonides famously wrote that the miracles recounted in the Torah - even the parting of the Red Sea - are demonstrations not of God's existence but rather of His love for His people. We know God exists because of our carefully preserved historical tradition that He communicated with our ancestors at Mt. Sinai, an event we celebrate on Shavuot.

All the same, though, His love and His miracles underlie our existence.

Our tradition teaches that our foremother Sarah was biologically incapable of conceiving a child; the very beginning of our people thus was miraculous. The perseverance of the Jewish people over the millennia is a miracle, as is our rebirth after countless decimations.

And recent Jewish history has been no less miraculous. When Israel destroyed the assortment of Arab armies arrayed against it in 1967, even hardened military men well aware of the Israeli air force and army's skill and determination spoke of miracles. And the rescue at Entebbe in 1976 may have entailed special-forces acumen, but sensitive Jews saw on it the clear fingerprints of the miraculous as well. And, in 1981, they recognized no less in the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak, signs not only of military might but of miracle, of God's love.

None of which is to belittle the tremendous efforts of Israel's military, may its members be safe and protected. But while "this world" efforts must always be made, believing Jews maintain a concomitant consciousness of the fact that success and failure are determined by something considerably more sublime. In the perspective of our religious tradition, that something is our merit as a people - our kindness to one another, our prayers, our study of Torah and our performance of mitzvot. In the end, those are the things, our tradition teaches us, that will make all the difference. In the Torah we read how the Jews, led by Joshua, fought the Amalekites. When Moses held his hands high, the verse continues, the Jews waxed victorious. "Were Moses' hands waging war?" asks the Mishna. The answer, it continues, is that "when the Jews eyes [inspired by Moses' hands] were lifted heavenward, they were militarily victorious."

In these terribly trying times for Jews, when hatred carefully nurtured for decades has erupted in a plague of vicious murder ... it behooves us to remember that fact. We all ask ourselves what we can do on behalf of our beleaguered brothers and sisters. There are many things, to be sure.

But at the very top of each of our lists should be: prayer; with concentration and heart; charity, with generosity and concern; Jewish observance, with care and determination; Torah-study, with effort and commitment.

Because, unified spiritually by the expression of our common Jewish religious heritage, we are doing something nothing else can do: meriting a miracle.


Torah Portion of the week


     Topics in this week's portion include: Women Captives, First-Born's Share, The Rebellious Son, Hanging and Burial, Returning Lost Articles, The Fallen Animal, Transvestitism, The Bird's Nest, Guard-Rails, Mixed Agriculture, Forbidden Combinations, Bound Tassels, Defamed Wife, Penalty for Adultery, Betrothed Maiden, Rape, Unmarried Girl, Mutilated Genitals, Mamzer, Ammonites & Moabites, Edomites & Egyptians, The Army Camp, Sheltering Slaves, Prostitution, Deducted Interest, Keeping Vows, Worker in a Vineyard, Field Worker, Divorce and Remarriage, New Bridegroom, Kidnapping, Leprosy, Security for Loans, Paying Wages on Time, Testimony of Close Relatives, Widows and Orphans, Forgotten Sheaves, Leftover Fruit, Flogging, The Childless Brother-in-Law, Weights and Measures, Remembering What Amalek Did to Us.

* * *

Dvar Torah

based on  Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Almighty, your God, will give him into your hand..." (Deut. 21:10).

The Arizal, a great Kabbalist, noted that the verse refers to the Jewish people in the singular. However, regarding our enemies, it starts out in the plural ("enemies") and the verse ends referring to them in the singular ("give him" -- instead of writing "give them"). Since this is not a case of poor editorship, what is the lesson that the Torah is coming to teach us?

The Arizal elucidates: The Torah is telling us that if we have unity and are as one when we go out against our enemies, then even though our enemies are very numerous, you will be victorious as easily as if they were just one.

The importance of unity for accomplishment applies not only during times of war against an enemy. It is just as necessary during times of peace. When a group of people will work on any project with a spirit of togetherness, they will accomplish much more than if they would each be doing things as separate individuals.


Quote of the Week

If only My people would heed Me,
if Israel would walk in My ways ...
in an instant I would subdue their foes,
and against their tormentors turn My hand.
--  Psalm 81



On-Line Learning

Rabbi Gaber lead several Adult Education programs using ZOOM Web conferencing technology.  "You don’t have to leave the warmth and comfort of your home to have a discussion on confronting Antisemitism and Hate or the Human Genome or to discuss how to bring Judaism into the 21st century. I will be leading an online class.  You will not  only be able to hear me and see me, you will also see your friends in the same virtual classroom. There was an interesting line up of  webinars this past winter. Our final CBOI Online learning program this season has a dedicated link:     All you need do is enter this link into your favorite browser and follow the instructions.  If you get stuck, please let me know and I will help you get on line."  

*Don't worry, if you can't make the discussion at the appointed time, you'll still be able to learn about each topic:
See the CBOI On-line Learning page in Learn Navigation bar to see all the previous  On Line Zoom Learning sessions.


 In fulfilling the following commandments one enjoys the yield in this world while the principal remains for a 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 12 e



Parashat Ki Tetzei
Shabbat Rosh Hodesh

September 14, 2019 | 14 Elul 5779
Annual (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19): Etz Hayim p. 1112-1136; Hertz p. 840-857
Triennial (Deuteronomy 24:14-25:19): Etz Hayim p. 1130-1136; Hertz p. 822-857
Haftarah (Isaiah 54:10 + 54:11 - 55:5): Etz Hayim p. 1137-1139; Hertz p. 857-858


D’var Torah: Returning What's Been Lost
Rabbi Andy Shapiro Katz, Conservative Yeshiva, Director of Engagement

Our parashah contains more mitzvot than any other - covering such topics as female war captives, rebellious sons, marital relations, executions, runaway slaves, nocturnal emissions, no-interest loans, fair weights and measures, and more. The overall message is that all of these things must be done properly so that Israel remains holy and clean before God.
Amidst this long list of mitzvot, we also find the mitzvah of hashevat avedah - the return of lost objects - a topic dealt with in-depth in the Talmudic Tractate of Bava Metzia. The Torah teaches in Devarim 22:1-3:
If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow. If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him. You shall do the same with his ass; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent. 
In an ethical society, it is natural that there would be concern about what to do with lost objects. If the owner doesn’t know they lost the object, and all the more so if they are actively looking for it, then the finder using that object could be seen as a kind of theft. And if we were to allow “finders keepers” to be the law, “I found it” would become a good cover story for explicit theft. At the same time, it is awfully wasteful for lost objects to be forever ownerless, nobody deriving any benefit from them. The Torah steps into this breach, commanding us to take possession of the object and actively seek to return it to its owner. As we learn from the Talmud, if there is anything identifiable about the object that would give the owner even a little hope of recovering it, the object remains theirs and we are obligated to do hashevat avedah. This is a heavy responsibility, and one might be tempted to pretend not to have seen the object. Thus the Torah commands: “do not ignore it” and “you must not remain indifferent.”
Reading this Torah portion during Elul with the High Holidays fast approaching, the 17-18th century Moroccan sage Ḥayyim ben Moshe ibn Attar, in his Torah commentary the “Or ha-Ḥayyim” riffs on the shared root of “hashevah” (returning) and “teshuvah” (repentance). He explains that these verses are really addressing our obligation to “return” Jews who are lost. He explains that when the Torah talks at first about lost ox or sheep, it is referring to Jews who have followed the crowd and fallen to a lower spiritual level. But just as the ox and sheep are kosher animals, they still possess an inherent fitness and holiness that facilitates their return to God. This too is a heavy responsibility, but the Torah commands us to resist the temptation to ignore it and remain indifferent.
Ibn Attar is aware, however, that heavy-handed attempts to alter someone’s path is likely to end in failure and increased enmity and distance. He reads the Torah’s instruction, “you shall bring it home,” to mean that the lost Jew should be brought to the beit midrash - the house of study. There they may have an encounter with Torah that enables them to undertake their own journey of return.
I resonate very deeply with ibn Attar’s re-interpretation of hashevat avedah as the mitzvah of outreach and engagement, but I prefer the last piece of his commentary on these verses. There he explains that since all Jews were “betrothed” to the Torah at Sinai, the Torah is our possession. Less engaged Jews are not lost objects; they are subjects who have lost a most valuable possession - their Jewish heritage, wisdom, and communal connection. This is the Torah we hold onto and care for in the Conservative Yeshiva’s beit midrash, returning it to each Jew who comes to claim it.



D’var Haftarah: Sources of Nourishment
Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein, Conservative Yeshiva Faculty

In this fifth of the seven haftarot of consolation, Ashkenazic Jews read two conjoining prophecies, one intended for today and the other, postponed from the third week on account of a special haftarah read that day. In the last prophecy of the second reading, God makes a dramatic offer to the returning exiles whose needs outdid their means: “Oh, everyone who thirsts go to the water, and who has no silver, buy food and eat. Go and buy food without silver and at no cost, wine and milk. Why should you weigh out silver for what is not bread and your substance for what does not sate? Listen well to Me and eat goodly things, and you shall enjoy lavish fare.” (55:1-2)
These verses are largely intended to be a metaphor, but they also represent a touch of realia. Ostensibly, this prophecy is a plea to those who yearn for redemption to invest themselves in God’s words as a source of nourishment to give them strength and spiritual nourishment during the return from exile. In addition, this verse probably is intended as a real response to the sentiment expressed in the book of Lamentations (Eichah), describing the terrible conditions of the destruction of Jerusalem: “We must pay to drink our own water, obtain our own kindling at a price” (5:4), namely, if during the destruction, provisions were unavailable, you can be certain that during the redemption God will provide for your needs both spiritual and physical. (S. Paul, Isaiah 49-66, Mikra L’Yisrael, p. 394)
The metaphor representing God’s words as a source of nourishment was extended in rabbinic times to include Torah study since that had become the primary source of spiritual nourishment for the rabbinic Jew. The following teaching, based, in part, on the above verses, teaches not only the value of Torah, but also a precious lesson in what the Babylonian sages saw as ideal Torah personalities: “Rabbi Oshaia offered an interpretation: Why are the words of the Torah compared to these three liquids, water, wine and milk, as it is written: ‘Oh, everyone who thirsts go to the water’; and it is written: ‘Go and buy food without silver and at no cost, wine and milk’? This comes to teach you that just as these three liquids can only be preserved in vessels not made of precious materials, so, too, the words of the Torah endure only with him who is humble. This is illustrated by the story of the daughter of the Roman Emperor who addressed Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hanania: ‘O glorious Wisdom in an ugly vessel’. (She was praising his wisdom, but insulting his lack of good looks.) He replied [to her]: ‘Does not your father keep wine in an earthenware vessel?’ She asked: ‘Where else should he keep it?’ He said to her: ‘You who are nobles should keep it in vessels of gold and silver’. She went and told this to her father and he had the wine put into vessels of gold and silver and it went bad. When he was informed of this, he asked his daughter: ‘Who gave you this advice?’ She replied: ‘Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hanania’. The Emperor summoned him and asked him, ‘Why did you give her such 



Mon, September 16 2019 16 Elul 5779