Monday, January 28, 2013


We just celebrated Tu BiShvat and I must say our 7th graders did a wonderful job of leading worship and our Tu Bishvat Seder.  I'm only sorry more congregants weren't there to see our terrific youngsters who've worked so hard.

While we're on the subject of holidays, here's a fascinating fact about the upcoming Thanksgiving & Chanukah this years:

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving: A once in eternity overlap
Next year features an anomaly for American Jews – The first day of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving, on 11/28/2013. It turns out that it has never happened before...and it will never happen again.
Thanksgiving is set as the fourth Thursday in November, meaning the latest it can be is 11/28. 11/28 is also the earliest Hanukkah can be. The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7 year cycle. You would therefore expect them to coincide roughly every 19x7 = 133 years. Looking back, this is approximately correct – the last time it would have happened is 1861. However, Thanksgiving was only formally established by President Lincoln in 1863. So, it has never happened before. Why won't it ever happen again?
The reason is because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000 years (not bad for a many centuries old calendar!) This means that while presently Hanukkah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Hanukkah can be is 11/29. The last time Hanukkah falls on 11/28 is 2146 (which happens to be a Monday). Therefore, 2013 is the only time Hanukkah will ever overlap with Thanksgiving.
Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, then it will slowly move forward through the Gregorian calendar, until it loops all the way back to where it is now. So, Hanukkah will again fall on Thursday, 11/ the year 79,811.
Post Script:  It might be true that the first day of Chanukah will never fall on Thanksgiving again, but it appears that in the year 2070, the first night of Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving (Thursday November 27).  Therefore, whoever is still around in 2070 can still eat their latkes with their turkeys!! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Please Join Us

I teach 7th Grade Hebrew.  And if you ask me, it's one of the best jobs in the world.  Every week I get to interact with 9 amazing kids whose energy and enthusiasm are a constant inspiration.

This Saturday these wonderful students are going to lead a Shabbat service and afterwards lead a Tu Bishvat Seder.  They are also doing a presentation they prepared on the Torah portion with their Jadaic Studies Teacher, Morah Channah (Amy Collins).

These Shabbat services are not private affairs for the classes only.  They are services and as such are open to anyone who would like to participate -- the lunch afterwards is too.  I hope you will join us in worship and fellowship and celebrate Shabbat together and Tu Bishvat.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tu Bishvat

Tu Bishvat, whose name literally means the 15th of Shevat (טוּ in Hebrew is 15) because it's celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Shevat, a minor holiday known as the Birthday of the Trees.  Here's a quick quiz to see how much you know about trees in Jewish History and in the Bible. (I didn't get them all correct either!)

1. Two different trees stood in the Garden of Eden. Name them.

2. Trekking through the desert, the Children of Israel reached an oasis in Elim where there were water springs and trees. What kind of trees?

3. Among the laws handed down to the Children of Israel, the law of Bal Tashchit deals with preserving trees in times of war. What kind of trees?

4. Which of the seven species grow on trees?

5. What type of trees did King Solomon buy from the King of Tyre?

For the answers go to:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Year

Shalom and Welcome to a new Gregorian Year, 2013.

Did you know that while many superstitious people avoid 13, the #13 is actually a significant number in Judaism:

1. The Bar Mitzvah is held at age 13.
2. There are 13 months in the Hebrew lunar calendar.
3. The Bible lists 13 attributes of God.
4. There are 613 commandments.
5. When Israel regained its independence in 1948, the first provisional government was called the Minhelet Ha'Am and it had 13 members (for good luck). As the first Jewish government of an independent Israel, the country's founders felt that would need all the luck they could use.
6. Maimonides (the Rambam), formulated his famous 13 principles of Judaism (not 7 principles or 11 principles, but EXACTLY 13 principles).

So coming up in short order in 2013 are quite a few Temple and School events:

  • This Shabbat Joshua Kalfus celebrates his Bar Mitzvah (see, lucky 13!)
  • Chai School begins January 17th
  • 7th Grade class is leading a service and a Tu Bishvat seder on January 26th.  Everyone is invited 
  • February 2 there are 2 significant events: the Bar Mitzvah of Alex Pollack in the morning and an Aleinu at the Greenblatt home that evening where Dr. Marc Greenblatt will talk, in lay terms to us plain folk, about Genetics and Jewish History
  • On the 8th our K-1-2 classes are leading Tot Shabbat services and dinner
  • February 9th is FITS (Fun in the Sun). 
I hope you'll be able to join us for these many wonderful events, after all, everything is better when you are with us.