Friday, February 12, 2016

Feb 5-12 Shabbat Parasha Teruma

Well, my plane landed on schedule and I made it to Netanya last Friday in plenty of time for Shabbat, even though I missed my train. My bad, really. I did not realize that 1) the track I was on was the correct one and went up to the information area only to get the information that no-body knew anything; 2) I did not read the signs to figure out that (like in the Montreal Metro) the trains are called by the last stop and I needed to get on the Binyamina train, since there is only one train that ends in Netanya every 4 hours; 3) by the time I figured it out, I found that I had been on the right platform only to watch my train leave. At least there is a Binyamina train every half hour, so it was not too close to Shabbat. Barbara and I did something very Israeli; we picked up falafel for lunch from an amazing place right near the train station. That is actually a unique feature of Israel. Some of the best places to eat are in train stations or attached to gas stations. The best shawarma on route 4 is attached to a gas station near Ariel’s house, for example, and Jerusalem’s train station has amazing restaurants. And now you know where to go when you are hungry….

Shabbat with Ariel, Gila and Elisha was great, with Elisha not minding the extra attention one bit (in fact he kind of liked it!). The weather was lovely, and we all got some much needed rest. Thanks to Barbara and Gila the meals were terrific. An interesting sidebar: our synagogue here, the Young Israel of North Netanya is hiring a new Rabbi. The candidate the search committee felt was the best fit spent last Shabbat in the shul and spoke and met the congregants. The Rabbi came across very well; He is young (early thirties) yet experienced, a polished English speaker who grew up in Israel, then in Denver CO, then back to Israel and worked recently in England.  The selection process was interesting to say the least; the search committee interviewed several candidates but presented only one to the community. That led to a bit of discussion, I am sure. In addition, while the name of the synagogue in the You
ng Israel, the average age is well over 60 if not older; one acquaintance in Toronto calls it the “Grumpy Old Men Shul”. It is made up primarily of retired British citizens from London and Manchester, with a smattering of Americans, Canadians and Israelis. Sometimes you wonder if you have not actually been transported to London. In fact, I am not sure grumpy is the right descriptor; more like “Prim and Proper”” in a distinctly British way. But on Simchat Torah, there was plenty of good whiskey and people were anything but grumpy!

As you heard here exclusively last post, this trip was primarily for Barbara attending the Israeli Science and Technology in Rehabilitation meeting which took place Monday through Wednesday. Barbara gave two presentations and we stayed at a lovely Art Deco Hotel, Herod’s in Tel Aviv. Three mornings of great Israeli hotel breakfast! (PS, if you don’t know what that really means, ask, I will be happy to give details and watch you drool). The conference was really good, but there were some quirky things, primarily that the locale was in a suburb of Tel Aviv (Rishon LeTziyon) which was 20-25 minutes from the hotels, and there was only one shuttle per day going and coming back. Considering the shuttle left the hotels areas at the crack of dawn but the meetings did not start till 9, this left a lot of participants shaking their heads. However, since we had a rental car anyway, we were able to shuttle ourselves and some of Barbara’s colleagues around pretty well at more reasonable times. Monday evening, we had dinner with Debbie and Chaim Feldman at a pretty upscale place called Meatos. As we were finishing, a large group of Montrealers on a fundraising mission, including Rabbi Poupko, walked into the restaurant. I guess the Feldman’s (who suggested the place) have good taste!
While Barbara was at the conference, I was also working. I had meetings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with scientists that I know, about a project we are developing on understanding how food allergy begins in early life. I also had meetings about making more connections between the Montreal Children’s Hospital and Israeli medical schools and research institutes. Lots of interesting and fruitful discussions took place. In the evenings, we visited with Elisha (and his parents) picking him up from day care and playing in the park (yes, Canadians, we were in the Park in February). He is now sleeping in a toddler bed and will be two at the end of the month! He is as also easy to spot, with a great head of red hair and a huge smile.

Thursday and Friday were more laid back. Yesterday we picked up Elisha at daycare at noon and went to have lunch with Abba (Ariel) which means a trip to Tel Aviv which is super exciting.  We went back to Netanya to do all the things two year olds like; wander up and down steps, play with the fountain, be chased, and get rides on backs and shoulders. Ariel joined up last night for a take out sushi dinner. Friday was more outdoor time, with walks along the boardwalk, to the city square and finally to the beach. It is very bright and sunny, and 18-20C, which is just fine to walk in the sand and splash in the surf! We brought home a very tired Elisha just in time for a nap so the rest of us can prepare for Shabbat.

Wishing you the most amazing Shabbat and a warm and restful weekend (with an accent on warm!)

Mazel Tov to the Broncos!

Mazel tov to Gail on the birth of a new grandson, third child for Dassy and Ashi

Happy Birthday to Lenny!
Happy 2nd Birthday to Elisha!
Happy Birthday to Gila!

We wish a Refuah Shlema to Zysle bat Bella, Naama bat Devorah, and Noam Shmuel Chaim ben Yehudit

Friday, February 5, 2016

Parashat Mishpatim Feb 5 2016

Greetings from the plane! OK, well I have not exactly been in Israel for long, but Barbara has and so we have to blog about it. You know that the world is very different now than even 5-10 years ago. We have better internet, the magic (literally) of communication between people over VOIP, SKYPE, FACETIME, Chat, etc. So, what happens when your Skype character magically appears in your house? That is what happened this week when Barbara arrived in Israel and was able to pick up Elisha from day care. All those months talking to a screen, and here is the real thing? Must be confusing, at least to a 2 year-old! However, both Barbara and Elisha are taking full advantage of the opportunity to co-exist in real time, rather than Face-time! This means picking him up from day care, the exclusive privilege of pushing him around in the cart at the grocery store, having snack and supper together, and going to the beach. Not to mention quality time with Gila and even with Ariel, when he could extricate himself from the law office. They even had a chance to enjoy some of Tel Aviv’s fine cuisine at lunch on Thursday.

Of course the trip has its other purposes, other than enjoying family time (although that would be quite sufficient, thank you!). It started with a rehab conference (Rehab Science and Technology Update) in Rishon LeTziyon at which Barbara and several of her students and colleagues will be presenting. The opportunity was so tempting we booked the flights on Sukkot even before the conference presentations were finalized! This has led to feverish preparation for the presentations over the last little while. The conference takes place Monday-Wednesday and we will spend those days in Tel Aviv. In addition, I had to justify my existence, so I will actually be working as well. With a few McGill colleagues, I have teamed up to write a grant for a new Canada-Israel joint venture, so I will be visiting scientists in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to build this scientific project. I will also be working on a potential program linking the Montreal Children’s Hospital and Israeli Universities in the training of physicians and young scientists. So, the week ahead promises to be an extremely busy and hopefully a very productive one!

Of course, we are coming to Israel at a time that has been exceedingly difficult. I posted in October about the death of a young Rabbi and his wife, murdered on the road to their home. Rav Henkin was a beloved teacher to many, including Gila. The reign of terror since then has unfortunately not abated, with many killed or wounded by stabbing attacks by Palestinians. This week we have to be both saddened and relieved by a horrible event at Damascus Gate into the Old City. This is not the main gate that tourists take, but nonetheless it is sobering to think that a group of terrorists armed with guns and knives tried to enter the hallowed Old City of Jerusalem. If not for the quick work of the police, this could have been a disaster; as it was one 19 year-old Israeli soldier was killed. What is exceedingly maddening is the Western Press’ reaction. The first headlines (from CBS) read “Three Palestinians Killed by Israeli Police” as if they were innocent bystanders. Although this headline was adjusted somewhat, it is shameful to think that a liberal Western Culture that prides itself in fairness cannot distinguish between acts of terror and self-defense when Israeli Jews are involved. Had the three terrorists carried out their mission, they could have killed dozens of Jews and tourists from all over the world. Perhaps that would have engendered some sympathy and made a better story, but only if you have a vulture mentality. Khaled Abu Tomeh, a Palestinian journalist who writes for Gatestone Institute, talked about the culture of laziness among most (not all) Western journalists. They have a set story, and they don’t let the facts get in the way of the narrative. He concludes that journalism is not about who is right and who is wrong, but about the truth. Check out; it’s required reading!

By the time you read this, I will have landed, made my way to Netanya by train, and gotten fully in the swing of preparing for Shabbat. We will be 5 (as far as I know) with Ariel, Gila and Elisha having moved in on Thursday night. We look forward to a Shabbat that is peaceful and allows us to build bridges between people, not destroy them.

Wishing you the most amazing Shabbat and a wonderful weekend!

Go Broncos!

Happy Birthday to Monty!
Happy Birthday to Roanne!
Happy Birthday to Jacob!

We wish a Refuah Shlema to Zysle Bat Bella and Noam Shmuel Chaim ben Yehudit

Friday, November 20, 2015

Yahzeit of Molly Samuel 2015

Parasha VaYetzei begins with Jacob leaving his parents’ home both to find a wife and to escape the wrath of his brother Esau. In leaving his home, Jacob has an encounter with G-d in a dream. He dreams of a ladder that stretches from the earth to heaven and angles are climbing up and down the ladder. 

וַֽיַּחֲלֹ֗ם וְהִנֵּ֤ה סֻלָּם֙ מֻצָּ֣ב אַ֔רְצָה וְרֹאשׁ֖וֹ מַגִּ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יְמָה וְהִנֵּה֙ מַלְאֲכֵ֣י אֱלֹהִ֔ים עֹלִ֥ים וְיֹרְדִ֖ים בּֽוֹ (Genesis 28:12)

G-d appears to Jacob and states that he will be the beneficiary of the promises made to Abraham and Isaac, that he will be the father of a great nation and that he will inherit the land of Canaan. 

הִנֵּ֨ה יְהוָ֜ה נִצָּ֣ב עָלָיו֮ וַיֹּאמַר֒ אֲנִ֣י יְהוָ֗ה אֱלֹהֵי֙ אַבְרָהָ֣ם אָבִ֔יךָ וֵאלֹהֵ֖י יִצְחָ֑ק הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ שֹׁכֵ֣ב עָלֶ֔יהָ לְךָ֥ אֶתְּנֶ֖נָּה וּלְזַרְעֶֽךָ׃ (Genesis 28:13)

In the above verse, it reads “God was standing over him and said: I am G-d, G-d of Abraham your father and the G-d of Isaac. The land on which you are lying will be given to you and to you children.” 

There is an interesting construct here. Although Isaac was Jacob’s father, the verse intimates more of a relationship with Abraham, his grandfather, than Isaac, his father. In many ways, in fact, Jacob’s life and actions mirrored those of Abraham. In his book Amittah Shel Torah, Rabbi Yitzhak Twersky (Gila’s father for those not in the know) beautifully expounds on this in his commentary on the Torah Portion. He writes: 

In general, the direction of Yaacov’s life seems to mirror the life of Avraham more than the life of his father Yitzhak. …Yitzhak’s role is to maintain the tradition of his father…By contrast, Yaakov is creative and innovative like his grandfather. He is responsible for laying the foundation of the Jewish people no less than Avraham. (Amittah Shel Torah p 127-128)

Many things differ between Isaac and Jacob. Isaac never left his homeland for any significant time, whereas Jacob leaves for over 20 years. Isaac’s wife was chosen for him, while Jacob actively chooses his wives. The riches Isaac had were predominantly the inheritance from Abraham, while Jacob earned his own riches, much like his grandfather. Both Abraham (who was originally Avram) and Jacob (who was renamed Yisrael) were given new names by G-d, but not Isaac. The description of Isaac’s life in the Torah was generally that of a passive individual, but both Abraham and Jacob appeared to be men of action. 

There is one major area that appears to differ between Jacob and Abraham. After G-d appears to Jacob in the dream, Jacob awakens and says: 

וַיִּיקַ֣ץ יַעֲקֹב֮ מִשְּׁנָתוֹ֒ וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אָכֵן֙ יֵ֣שׁ יְהוָ֔ה בַּמָּק֖וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וְאָנֹכִ֖י לֹ֥א יָדָֽעְתִּי
׃ וַיִּירָא֙ וַיֹּאמַ֔ר מַה־נּוֹרָ֖א הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה אֵ֣ין זֶ֗ה כִּ֚י אִם־בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְזֶ֖ה שַׁ֥עַר הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃ (Genesis 28: 16, 17)

“Indeed there is G-d in this place and I did not know it!”  And he was awestruck and said: How awesome is this place, it is nothing if not the House of G-d and the Gates of Heaven!”

Here is a departure from the thinking of Abraham. Abraham, father of monotheism, was inspired and his prophesy began when he was in Haran, not in Canaan or the Land of Israel. He conceptualized a single G-d in heaven, Master of the Universe, and clearly proclaimed that He was not tied to any geographic area or any inanimate object. In contrast, Jacob appears surprised, but pleased to learn that during his sojourn to the home of his mother’s family he would be able to maintain his connection with G-d, and that this connection was not limited to his homeland. This begs the question: why did G-d wait till Jacob left his parent’s home to convey this message? Why could he not have had this prophecy earlier, before the journey. 

The Akedat Yitzhak, the 15th century Spanish Talmudist and commentator on the Torah suggests that the revelation of G-d to Jacob was purposefully done to broaden his spiritual horizon. By saying that he did not know or realize G-d was in the place where he slept, Jacob was admitting to feeling the connection between G-d and man was not a personal one; perhaps it was bound to the holiness of Israel or more particularly, the place that his father and his grandfather lived. G-d wanted him to know that his relationship with mankind had no limits or territorial restrictions. Moreover, Jacob was taught the concept about Hashgahat Pratit, personal Providence, which means that the relationship between individuals and G-d both transcends boundaries and is constant. 

There is a statement that one only knows the success of an individual from seeing their grandchildren. In this time of remembering Molly, known as Nanny or Granny depending on who you were, it is clear that she was successful. Molly’s major strengths were her commitment to family, her thoughtfulness and her generosity. Like Abraham influencing Jacob, these traits are seen in all of Molly’s offspring. It is amazing to think that the influence of a grandparent can be so far reaching, but, in truth, it is a very special relationship that exists between grandchildren and their grandparents. May we always be true to the values and generosity that Molly taught us; this will keep her memory and her teachings alive in us forever. 

May her Memory be a blessing; תהא נשמתה לברכה