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19/10/2023 10:57:58 AM


Parshat Tzav - Preparing for the number "four"

29/03/2024 09:06:16 AM


In just a little over three weeks, we will sit at the Pesach Seder and recite the Haggadah. The number four pervades the Seder ceremonies: Four questions, four kinds of children, four cups of wine, and more.

Parshat Tzav contains a number four, which is barely noticed. In regard to the tradition of the Cantillation notes, known simply as Trope, the Shalshelet appears four times in the entire Torah. The Shalshelet, literally, "a chain," contains three cycles of five notes up and down. Many commentators suggest that the Shalshelet conveys a sense of hesitation or anxiety. The first three references all appear in the book of Bereishit-Genesis:

  1. "Still he delayed," referring to Lot and his family delaying their leaving from the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:16).
  2. "And he said," referring to Abraham's servant  perhaps pausing or anxious in having to find a suitable mate for Isaac, at Abraham's request (Genesis 24:12).
  3. "But he refused," referring to Joseph refusing the advances made by Potiphar's wife. Perhaps Joseph wavered before he ultimately refused (Genesis 39:8).

The fourth and last Shalshelet appears in this week's portion, Parshat Tzav. The cantillation note appears over the Hebrew word, "Vayishchat - he (Moses) slaughtered it (Leviticus 8:23)," referring to the ordination ram. As Aaron and his sons were being ordained as Priests to officiate the sacrificial rituals, perhaps Moses hesitated or showed anxiety in that his brother was selected to serve as Kohain Gadol and not Moses himself.

Every cantillation note has its purpose in helping us sing, understand, punctuate and interpret the Torah's texts. Given that the Shalshelet appears only four times in the entire Torah, we are encouraged to take an even closer reading of these particular sections.

The number four is here, with lots more fours coming soon at the Pesach Seder.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Pesach - Less than thirty days away

28/03/2024 09:01:21 AM


Jewish tradition teaches us that thirty days before Pesach, one should learn and teach the laws of Passover. Now that we are less than a month to Pesach, it is time to recognize the preparations needed to enter the holiday fully.

One should  begin the process of setting aside and gradually removing Chametz.

One should begin the process of knowing what utensils can be kashered for Pesach, and what utensils cannot be kashered for Pesach. 

One should  begin the process of finding our kosher for Passover utensils and getting them ready for use.

One should begin the process of affordably purchasing what is necessary for the Seder and for the rest of the holiday.

One should begin the process of pulling out the Haggadahs from previous years. Are they still the editions you prefer? Is it time to look at new presentations of the Haggadah and Seder? 

One should begin the process of knowing with whom you will sit for the Seders. Please avoid being alone if at all possible. Whether as a host or a guest, determine how you will contribute to the Seder experience physically and/or educationally. 

These are just a few suggestions as the under a month to Pesach countdown has begun.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Haman and Hamas

25/03/2024 09:11:50 AM


Tonight, we will celebrate Purim. Should our celebration be tempered because of October 7 and its aftermath? I think not. Just as we celebrated Simchat Torah in full when the horrors were first revealed, we need to also celebrate Purim in full. After all, the story of Purim and Hamas is really one and the same - a despot intends to wipe out every single Jew. It is perhaps more than ironic that the spelling of and evil of HAMAN is almost identical to the spelling of and evil of HAMAS. 

Tonight, when we make the noise centered around hearing Haman, the nose is not merely a relic of eras past. The noise is a real noise of anger, concern, fear, exclamation, and affirmation. I suggest that each time we hear or say Haman tonight or tomorrow, we must read the name Hamas into the name of Haman.

With the equation of Hamas and Haman in mind, we need to be modern day Esthers and Mordecais. Whether cousins or uncle/niece, the two heroes represent the unity of two different kinds of Jews. Mordecai represents the traditional religious God-fearing Jew. He refused to bow before Haman on religious grounds. Esther appears to have been a more secular Jew of her time, at first needing to be persuaded by Mordecai. Nevertheless, soon enough, she learns the lesson that Haman's plans do not distinguish one Jew from another. Every Jew is in the same boat. Esther comes to understand this lesson.

I have read that some liberal synagogues will be omitting chapter 9, the chapter after Mordecai and the Jews are saved, and Haman and his immediate followers are slain. In chapter 9, we read how the Persian Jews went on to kill 75,000 Persians. Some Jews today, especially given what is taking place, are morally troubled to read such a chapter. I disagree! If so, let's cancel the entire book. Let's take the book of Esther out of the Bible. We should all understand that the book of Esther is to be read as historical fiction. While based on true events, the story expands and exaggerates. It is kind of like a movie when the introduction says "inspired by true events."

The fact of the matter is there is no historical record at all of the Jews killing 75,000 Persians. That does not mean our people did not think about revenge in a large graphic way. However, to think revenge and to act revenge are two different things. Jews are not allowed to exact revenge on the innocent, even when we must eradicate evil so that it does not repeat itself.

Just imagine if a single rocket fell over the GTA taking out 1200 people, or whatever number you wish to imagine. Wouldn't you and your government do whatever would be necessary to prevent a single rocket from being launched again? Such a response is not about murdering innocent civilians at all. Now imagine a place like Israel which has suffered from the launching of thousands upon thousands of rockets hurled indiscriminately. What would you do? Would you equivocate like some leaders are doing now???

We need all Jews and as many non-Jews as possible to understand that the evil of Amalek, Haman, Hitler, and Hamas must be uprooted from their core.

We need all Jews and as many non-Jews as possible to emulate the will and resolve of Esther and Mordecai, and not placate to the politics of evil.

We need as many as possible to come to shul tonight, with costume and noisemaker, to celebrate the fullness of Purim with all its joy and chaos.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Vayikra/Zachor/Purim - A Weekend About Children

22/03/2024 08:26:48 AM


This Shabbat/Purim weekend centers around children. We begin to read the third book of the Torah, Vayikra-Leviticus. In ancient times, young children were introduced to the study of Torah with the book of Vayikra and not the familiar stories of Bereishit and Shmot. The Sages teach us that the sacrifices are pure and children are pure. Let sacrifices, which are pure, be associated with children, who are pure. Already at a young age, children learned the importance of making sacrifices in their lives.

On the eve of Purim, we observe the Mitzvah of Zachor - Remember what Amalek did to you. According to tradition, soon after the Israelites escaped from Egypt, the nation of Amalek attacked the end of the Israelite line, which was heavily filled with children. 

As the Israelites miraculously defeated Amalek, ancient Persian Jewry miraculously defeated Haman, a descendant of Amalek, and his followers. The annual Purim celebration centers in large part around children. They wear costumes, drown out the name of Haman with loud noise, participate in a festive meal and carnivals, eat various flavors of hamantaschen, and more. 

A weekend which starts with the lessons of sacrifice and survival culminates with joy and celebration. Given the overwhelming challenges of the last six months, may the Jewish people soon experience joy and celebration in our time.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach,

Rabbi Howard Morrison

Shabbat Zachor/Purim - Haman and Hamas

21/03/2024 09:04:13 AM


This coming Shabbat is Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath of remembrance, which always precedes Purim. On it, we are commanded to remember what Amalek did to our ancestors in ancient times. On Shabbat morning, we read a passage from the Book of Devarim which opens with the words, "Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey after you left Egypt." We read a special Haftarah from the book of Samuel, which harkens back to Agag, King of Amalek. On the evening and morning of Purim, we chant the Book of Esther, in which we read about "Haman the Aggagite," Haman being an Amalekite descendent of King Agag. Also on Purim morning, we read the original incident of Amalek which is recounted at the end of Parshat B'Shallach.

This year, the name and history of Haman take on added significance. In English, the spellings of Haman and Hamas are almost identical. It is noteworthy that what Haman intended to do to the Jews of ancient Persia is the same form of evil that Hamas has done and continues to do with our brothers and sisters in Israel and in other parts of the world.

When we attend Purim services and make loud noise over the name of Haman, I encourage us also to have a contemporary form of Haman in mind - the evil terrorist group known as Hamas.

May our loud noise drown out and help lead to an eradication of Hamas, just as Haman and his followers were ultimately destroyed in ancient times.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Pekudei - Completing the second book of the Torah

18/03/2024 09:22:48 AM


We have made it - made it through the first two books of the Torah. What a whirlwind it has been. We had completed the five books of the Torah on the Festival of Simchat Torah, the weekend of October 7. That day feels like yesterday, and that day feels like a million years ago. Was it just yesterday when Jewish life seemed to have changed so drastically? Or was this the Jewish life that had already been, but without recognition? Subsequently, we completed the first book of the Torah, Bereishit-Genesis, on December 30, just before the end of the year 2023.

Now, today, we have finished Sefer Shmot, the book of Exodus. When we began this book, as if we did not know the ending, we might have thought that the history of our people and heritage would be very short. Once a new Pharaoh arose, it would have been easy to surmise that the end was near. Jewish life was about to become extinct. The promises made to Abraham were about to be short lived. However, situations change. Ten plagues, the splitting of the sea, and our people move on to Mount Sinai and receive the Decalogue, the blueprint of the entire Torah, followed by selected laws and the instructions for building a portable Temple. Then, suddenly, it would seem that once again, the end was near. The sin of the golden calf, and before you know it, God informs Moses that it is time to select a different nation. Then, again, God's forgiveness is revealed. Our people then go on to construct a sanctuary and develop laws for Shabbat, based on the specific tasks for building the Tabernacle. As we finish the second book of the Torah, the ancient Israelites are poised to live a spiritual life which will be detailed with various kinds of sacrifices, rituals, and prayers in the third book of the Torah.

March 16, 2024 - 6 Adar #2 5784 - - - - We have completed the second book of the Torah. How are we doing? On the one hand, are we still not traumatized, still living on October 7, when much of the world is living on October 8? Are we not witnessing the rise of Jew hatred in Israel and around the world? Some of the most heinous demonstrations have taken place in the GTA by Avenue Road and the 401, in front of Mt. Sinai Hospital, in front of the Bayt, in front of the Aish Ha'Torah and Reena building in Thornhill?

Conversely, the supposed demise of the Jews is largely exaggerated. With the completion of the book of Shmot today, many more Jews are publicly identifying as Jews. Young Jews on campus have no choice and are asserting their rights and beliefs, even when universities are allowing illegal forms of displays and protests. In Israel and abroad, Jews of different religious persuasions and beliefs are coming together with a shared purpose. Our disparate parts form a singular whole. More and more Jews are wearing dog tags, bracelets, ties, etc. all affirming our support of Israel and the Jewish people. We are ever more strident in our plea to bring all of our hostages home, even when much of the world has quickly forgotten about the events of October 7.

Today's Torah lesson, Parshat Pekudei, contains a final summary of all that went into the making of a sacred space for the Israelites. The very last verse of the Parsha and the Book reads as follows: "For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Lord rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night in view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys." The commentary found in the Etz Hayim Chumash explains, "The Book of Exodus, which opened with a narrative of misery and oppression, closes on a note of confidence and hope. Israel is assured that, day and night, the divine spirit hovers over it, guiding and controlling its destiny."

Are we able to feel that sense of confidence and hope today? Are we able to know that we the Jewish people are in the right? Or put another way, that we are on God's side? that we are on the right side of history?

The three posscript words added to the conclusion of each book of Torah further encourages us - "Chazak Chazak V'Nitchazek - Be of strength, be of strength, and let us be strengthened as one."

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Pekudei - Accountability and Transparency

15/03/2024 07:43:45 AM


In the last Portion of Shmot, Moses publicly reveals all of the inventory and values of every item donated for building the Mishkan-Tabernacle. At this season of the year, such a portion is an accountant's delight, as this professional puts to paper all of our financials just prior to our taxes being due.

Why did Moses put everything public when these funds were not for his own personal purposes? Precisely so that no one would suspect even Moses from stealing or profiting in any way. The Midrash explains that some people might have accused Moses of pocketing their gifts which were intended to make a communal house of worship.  The fact the Moses was not above public scrutiny teaches that no single person is above public scrutiny. This lesson is especially appropriate for those who deal with other people's funds. A tragic and extreme example was the business dealings of the late Bernie Madoff, who misappropriated the funds of hundreds of clients who put their trust in him.

Parshat Pekudei teaches above all else the importance of accountability and transparency - lessons not only for Moses, accountants, or financial investors, but for each and every person.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Howard Morrison

Completing the Book of Shmot

14/03/2024 09:07:04 AM


This Shabbat, we will complete reading the Book of Shmot - Exodus. A commentary found in the Etz Hayim Chumash succinctly summarizes the whole book in a few lines:

"The book of Exodus, which opened with a narrative of misery and oppression, closes on a note of confidence and hope. Israel is assured that, day and night, the divine spirit hovers over it, guiding and controlling its destiny."

Immediately after finishing the text, we add three postscript words, "Chazak Chazak V'Nitchazek - Be of strength, be of strength, and let us be strengthened together."

During these challenging times, which face Israel and Jews everywhere, we need to be assured that we are in the right, and we are. The words which conclude the second Book of the Torah come at a very appropriate time.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Vayakhel - The diamonds are in our hands

12/03/2024 09:02:36 AM


Sermon delivered this past Shabbat (March 9, 2024)

 Today's Parsha of Vayakhel reads almost identical to Terumah just a few weeks ago. In both, we read of the artisans, Betzalel and Oholiav, who design and craft the beauty of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The people had offered all kinds of gems starting with gold, silver, and copper to beautify Judaism's first central gathering place. If Terumah was the conceptual design, then Vayakhel is the execution of that design almost word for word.

Precious gems and stones define the beauty and purpose of the Mishkan. For example, the portable Ark was laid with gold on the outside and inside to teach that one's character should be internally and externally consistent. The High Priest wore 12 different kinds of gemstones on his breast plate, recognizing the distinctiveness of every Jew and also knowing that all Jews are part of a singular whole.

Just under one month ago, after a miraculous IDF plan, two of the hostages, Fernando Marman and Louis Har, were rescued by IDF special forces. For them, the theory of Terumah became the actualization of Vayakhel. These two liberated captives were seen as precious gems by their liberators, akin to the splendor of the Mishkan and the Priestly garb. The security forces remarked, "The diamond are in our hands." Subsequent to that great rescue, the sentiment is now "No rest until all the diamonds are in our hands." For our people, the question is not IF bur rather WHEN all the hostages are brought home.

In Jewish law, Pidyon Shevuyim, the redemption of captives, is a supreme Mitzvah. The great challenge for Israel now is how to fulfill that Mitzvah without becoming an enabler to the evil forces of Hamas. There is no doubt in my mind that every Jew, every leader of our people, has the same goal in mind.

In these final Torah portions of Sefer Shmot, the first ever Tabernacle symbolizes the unity of our people. Our Parshah today began with the words, "Vayakhel Moshe Et Kol Adat Bnai Yisrael - Moses assembled all the entities of the Children of Israel."  The precious stones on the Priestly breastplate symbolize the unity of our people.

The architects, Betsalel from the largest tribe and Oholiav from the smallest tribe, symbolize the unity of our people. Today's Maftir of Shekalim, also read in last week's Parsha, symbolizes the unity of our people where every 20 year old and up contributed the same exact amount of a half-shekel.

I hope and pray that long before our solidarity mission to Israel we will hear good news about many more if not all of the remaining precious gems of our people being restored to our hands.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Howard Morrison

Parshat Vayakhel - An unmatched unity

11/03/2024 09:35:02 AM


In Parshat Ki Tisa, last week's portion, the golden calf divided our people on many levels. The revolt began with the words, "Vayikahel Ha'Am Al Aharon - The people were gathered against Aaron."

Grammatically, the word "Vayikahel" is a sort of passive aggressive. The word implies what was to come regarding the rebellious nature of the people.

In the aftermath of that narrative, this week's Parsha begins, "Vayakhel Moshe et kol adat bnai yisrael - Moses gathered all the segments of the Israelites." The verb "Vayakhel" is a direct active verb, unlike the passive aggressive of "Vayikahel."

In congregating to build the Mishkan, or Tabernacle, the Israelites were now an authentic unified nation, represented by all of its entities. 

In contemporary times, there has perhaps been no greater unity than what we have witnessed since October 7. Our people are united as never before, not only in Israel, but among Jews around the world responding to anti-Semitism and pro-Hamas demonstrations.

The classical term for synagogue is "Kehila Kedosha - a sacred congregation," emanting from the title of this week's portion of Vayakhel.

The first ever house of worship was truly built as a place to worship God based on a genuine unity of the entire people.

So may this be for all synagogues today.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Howard Morrison

Honouring our super seven

07/03/2024 09:02:16 AM


This year, our new Director of Family Engagement, Avivit Yoffe, envisioned a new kind of Bar/Bat Mitzvah enrichment program. In years past, we would hold a monthly session on a weeknight in shul with periodic field trips on Sundays. Instead, upcoming Bnai Mitzvah were invited to a concentrated program held weekly on eight consecutive Tuesday evenings. Just a couple of days ago, a graduation ceremony was held to honor the seven participants and their families.

Over the last eight weeks, some of the topics included our Shinshinim, Sharon and Omri, taking the students on a virtual tour of Israel, using multi-media technology. On one evening, I provided a tour and explanation of many of the items found in our main sanctuary, including a close-up view of a Torah scroll. In addition, the participants visited the Toronto Holocaust Museum, prepared non-perishable food for the hungry, and more.

This past Tuesday night, each of the seven students shared brief remarks on how the two-month intensive series made a lasting impression on their Jewish identities. 

It is noteworthy that over the last two weeks, our shul has hosted a Bar or Bat Mitzvah on a Shabbat morning in the main service and private family services on three consecutive weekday Torah reading days - last Thursday, this past Monday, and this Thursday. Several additional Bnai Mitzvah ceremonies are soon to come between March and the end of June.

At Beth Emeth, we offer a variety of ways to celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvah. I invite prospective families to contact me to learn more.

Finally, I wish to thank Avivit for supervising and envisioning this year's Bar/Bat Mitzvah enrichment program.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Parshat Ki Tisa - Standing up to false representation

01/03/2024 09:00:39 AM


At the end of the Parsha, Moses descends from God's presence with radiance emanating from his face. In a famous misunderstanding of the Hebrew, Michelangelo sculpted an image of Moses with horns emanating from his face.

Over the years, anti-Semites have spread a myth that Jews have horns. Once I had to personally dispel this myth when I was in the U.S. Air Force chaplain School with a classmate.

The beginning of the Parsha describes the first ever census. Those twenty and up were counted to serve and stand up for our people.

On Thursday morning, national and international media relied on misinformation and falsely accused the IDF of causing the deaths of over 100 lives in Gaza. This was a false myth. It is true that in a separate incident, the IDF killed ten assailants in self defense. The rest resulted from internal rioting and looting near aid trucks.

Again, a false myth has been perpetrated against Israel. We must all stand up for the truth. I refer you to Honest Reporting, Times of Israel, and other reliable sources.

The Jewish community must stand up to the lies and misrepresentation of our people.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

29/02/2024 09:11:27 AM


From my friend, Michael Skliar - A professional singer, songwriter, and musician. He lives in New York city

"Israel and Gaza"

On October 7th, Hamas broke the cease fire
Raping and killing innocents, clearly their desire
They celebrated destruction, as those flames of hate grew higher

Music festival kids, they proudly shot and killed
Raped a few and filmed it, clearly they were thrilled
Peace activists murdered, it won’t be easy to rebuild

They kidnapped three year old kids , and the elderly
They’ve now let one third die, for all the world to see
They convinced half the world, this is how you fight to be free

If you’re gay in a Muslim country, they throw you off the roof
We don’t like to hear it, but damn it, it’s the truth
“Queers for Palestine”’s a slogan of misguided youth

Hamas took foreign aid, built tunnels underground
Hides behind their own people, don’t care who is mowed down
Innocent Israelis die, Gaza celebrates, how’d ya like that sound?

Let’s talk about the double standard, when Israel you condemn
While Gaza schools teach hatred and how to cause mayhem
Their charter proudly states ‘death to Jews, all of them!”

49 Muslim countries, for the Jews, only one
How many Palestinians have those 49 taken in? the answer is none
A sad vicious cycle, we’re all stuck watching reruns

And no we are not happy with Palestinians dead
Israelis don’t love this violence, despite what you’ve read

Don’t tell me this is all Israel’s fault, what would your country do?
If New Jersey attacked New York, would New Yorkers just sit and stew?

Anti-Semitism is rising, rising once more
Need I remind you its never Israel who starts these wars
you chant ‘river to the sea’ it's genocide against Jews you’re calling for

Jews and Arabs both live in Israel, its not an apartheid state
College kids don’t take the time to get their facts straight
We were happy to give half of Israel to the Arabs in 1948


"Before you call it Genocide"

When you say end the occupation, I say someone’s occupied your mind
Filled you up with bull, false equivalence of the most hateful kind
You accuse Israel of being Nazis and say they are committing genocide
But I submit you’re full of #$%!*, believing insidious lies

What do I know about genocide? My in-laws survived the Holocaust
Their families were marched into ovens, turned into black smoke exhaust
It was a systematic plan to kill every Jew who ever existed
You claim that’s what Israel is doing now to the Palestinians, but I say your logic is twisted

In all my trips to Israel, in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv
've seen Jews and Arabs side by side, and before you say you don’t believe
In Israel proper, Arabs are full citizens, they can vote, and do quite well
But Palestinians living under Hamas, their life is a living hell

Hamas takes international aid and turns it into tunnels and bombs
Then hides behind their own civilians, children and young moms
On October 7, they broke the cease-fire, killed peaceful kids at a music rave
They took hundreds of hostages, do you even care if they are saved?

It’s a bloody bloody mess, with no easy answers, no way to turn the clock back
But simply saying ‘ceasefire’ lets Hamas prepare for the next attack
Yes, too many people on both sides have died
But don't tell me Israel defending itself is the same as genocide.

Written by Michael Skliar
Adapted by Rabbi Howard Morrison

Beth Emeth Israel solidarity mission

28/02/2024 09:19:58 AM


As many of you know, we are planning a solidarity mission to Israel arriving in Israel on Yom Ha'Atzmaut. We will devote eight nights and nine days to our mission. On this past Tuesday night, our chapel was filled with interested people. In addition, a number of others joined on livestream.

Four goals are in mind:

  1. To offer help and support
  2. To learn from recognized dignitaries 
  3. To see impacted sites and meet with impacted people
  4. To serve as witness and bring back testimony

I strongly suggest you consider joining us. The itinerary, pricing information, registration and payment links, are all accessible on the shul website.

We do need at least 20 paying participants to make our mission viable. If a meaningful refundable deposit is made in the coming days, we will know and be able to further promote the viability of Beth Emeth coming to Israel soon.

The Beth Emeth Israel solidarity mission is open to all and not exclusive to synagogue members.

From prior solidarity missions that I know of from the U.S. and Canada, our Israeli brothers and sisters desperately want to see us, share their stories with us, and help us to communicate with our local Diaspora neighbors.

Let us not only sing but see in action the words of Am Yisrael Chai.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison   

An upside-down world - continued

27/02/2024 08:56:00 AM


In my Shabbat sermon, posted yesterday, I spoke about Purim. This past weekend was Purim Katan, a term for Adar #1 in a leap year, which reminds us that we celebrate Purim in one month's time in mid Adar#2

The Purim story is about a world upside down and inside out - "Nahafoch Hoo." This notion is exemplified by Haman, almost destined for leadership and Mordecai, almost destined to be hanged for his pious beliefs.

When it comes to Israel, anti-Semitism, and  society at large, our world is upside down and inside out. Examples continue to baffle the mind. 

Take last Thursday - A Jewish couple had courtside tickets for a Raptors game. Refusing to remove their sweatshirts which displayed a Magen David and a statement, "bring the hostages home," they were forced to leave the game.

When did a continued plea to rescue innocent hostages from a recognized terror group, Hamas, become political and against team policy? Is a concern for "Jewish (and non-Jewish) lives matter" any less ethical and humanistic than "black lives matter," which was embraced by the sports world a few years ago?

Is Dara Horn right in her most recent book entitled, "The world loves dead Jews?"

Nahafoch Hoo- The world is upside down and inside out.


Rabbi Howard Morrison

Parshat Tetzaveh - Shushan Purim Katan

26/02/2024 08:32:36 AM


Seven times in every nineteen-year cycle, we have a leap year in Judaism. This means an additional month is added to the Jewish calendar. The necessity is based on the fact that Passover must always take place in the Spring season. If there was no adjustment of the calendar, Passover would recede eleven days every year since the Jewish lunar calendar has 354 days per year, and the solar calendar has 365 days per year. While Jewish days, weeks, and months are lunar based, Passover and by extension the other Pilgrimage holidays are solar based. Without the intercalation of the Jewish calendar. Passover would drift into other seasons. By contrast, in Islam, there is no adjustment of their calendar. As a result, Ramadan drifts from one season of the year into the next, since their calendar is completely lunar based.


Aside from my introductory class on the various calendars, this is a leap year in the Jewish calendar. As a result, we have two months entitled Adar #1 and Adar #2. In a non-leap year, there is one standard Adar. In a regular year, this weekend would have been Purim. However, Purim will take place a month from this weekend in the middle of Adar #2. Nevertheless, the Jewish calendar marks yesterday and today as Purim Katan and Shushan Purim Katan. Thus, the story and ritual of the holiday are in our minds today, even though the actual observance takes place a month from now. You have a month to get your costumes and noise makers ready.


As many of you know, All if not virtually every sermon I have given since October 7th has resonated with the horrors of that day and its aftermath on many levels. I cannot help but think of the Purim story in light of our current reality. A repetitive theme in the Book of Esther is the expression, "Nahafoch Hoo," meaning, "Upside down." There are many instances in the story where the world surrounding Purim is so completely upside down. There are many examples to support the thesis. The most obvious one is that until the end of the book, it is the wicked Haman who seems destined to achieve recognized leadership, while the righteous Mordecai seems to be destined to be hanged. Only toward the end of the narrative is justice achieved. Haman is recognized for his wickedness, and Mordecai is honored for his righteousness.


Now over four months after the horrors of October 7th, the world continues to be upside down. While often using political rhetoric, much of the word is pro-Hamas and anti-Israel, which means anti-Jews. Two weeks ago, even the president of the free world commented that Israel was "over the top" in its response to Hamas' murdering of some 1200 people, the taking of some 140 hostages, the brutal treatment of many of those hostages, the continued hurling of missiles into indiscriminate civilian centers of Israeli life. Why is popular critique levied against Israel, the victim of October 7th? While it is true that many Gazans have had to relocate because of Hamas representing them, why is there no outcry that over a hundred thousand Israelis have had to evacuate from their homes in the North and in the South? 


Why is there no outcry levied against Hamas to surrender? Why is there no outcry that not once has there been a humanitarian visit to determine the status of the hostages? Why is world pressure not put against the source of the evil, Hamas?


Even here in Toronto, the world around us seems upside down. For example, just a week and a half ago, Pro-Hamas agitators blocked entrances to Mt. Sinai hospital, holding signs bearing the word "Intifada." In front of a hospital? Where young and old are treated? Where people of all walks of life are treated and cared for? Because the name of the hospital is Mt. Sinai? "Nahafoch Hoo - an upside-down world."


Nahafoch Hoo - Just as in most of the Purim story, our world is, simply put, upside down. 


Toward the end of Megilat Esther, we are told, "Kiymu V'Kiblu," that the Israelites freely accepted the obligations to live a Jewish lifestyle in complete unity with each other. A small silver lining of October 7th is the unity that most if not all Jews feel in a virtual unprecedented way. When the word hopefully becomes upright; when the world accurately distinguishes right from wrong and good from evil, may the unity expressed at the end of Megilat Esther and the unity expressed nowadays continue to be so.


Shabbat Shalom and Purim Katan Sameach,


Rabbi Howard Morrison

Parshat Tetzaveh - Clothing does not make the person

23/02/2024 08:47:05 AM


Much of this week's Parsha details the ornate vestments worn by the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. At face value, someone filling this role could become haughty by his external appearance. In fact, this may have occurred at different times of Temple history. Consider the hypocrisy of the priesthood in post Maccabean times and later when Second Temple priests were at odds with the early rabbis.

Actually, the ornate clothing was intended to remind the High Priest of his spiritual and moral obligations. For example, the breast plate contained twelve stones symbolizing the twelve tribes. Thus, the Kohen Gadol wore his responsibility to care for the entirety of the Israelites.

Aaron, the first Kohen Gadol, stood true to the ideals represented by his vestments. In Pirkei Avot, we learn, "Be among the disciples of Aaron - loving peace, pursuing peace, loving people, and drawing them close to Torah."

Many of us wear different kinds of Jewish clothing and symbols, including Kippah, Tzitzit, Magen David/Chai necklaces, etc. May the symbols we wear enhance our spiritual and moral obligations.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

New books on Israel

20/02/2024 09:15:59 AM


During my recent sabbatical, I purchased and read some new books on contemporary Israel.

My friend and colleague Rabbi David Seth Kirshner authored a diary over the first fifty days since October 7, entitled, "Streams of shattered consciousness - A chronicle of the first 50 days of the Israel Hamas war." The book has been selling very fast since it came out just a few weeks ago.

A great book to brush up on real facts for yourself and your friends is the 2021 "Israel - A simple guide to the most misunderstood country on earth," by Noa Tishby. 

Just prior to the horrors of October 7, Dan Senor and Saul Singer's book, "The genius of Israel -The surprising resilience of a divided nation in a turbulent world" was released.

Lastly for now, soon after October 7, Alan Dershowitz came out with his newest book, "War against the Jews - How to end Hamas barbarism."

I now possess these books and am glad to loan them upon request. I recommend each on its own merits.

As a people of the book, we need to continually be refined on our understanding of Israel, especially during these challenging times.


Rabbi Howard Morrison

Parshat Terumah - God dwells within people

16/02/2024 09:00:51 AM


An age old question pertaining to the Mishkan is that the Torah states, "Let them make for Me a Tabernacle that I (God) may dwell in THEM." Why not "IT," meaning in the Tabernacle?

Classical commentators understand that God resides in people not physical structures. It is we the people who need physical structures to assemble as a community with shared beliefs, values, and practices before God.

A miracle of this past week demonstrates the indwelling presence of God within people. Several days ago, the IDF liberated two male hostages in Gaza. The liberating officers extended true acts of Godly kindness: covering the redeemed hostages so that they would not be killed in potential battle, and offering their own clothing and shoes as well.

The IDF personnel showed empathy, heart, and soul in the redemption of these two captives. For me, this is what the Torah means when it says, "Let them make for Me a Tabernacle that I may dwell in them."

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Remembering Rabbi Jules Harlow ז״ל 

13/02/2024 09:39:39 AM


Over a month ago, two of my teachers from rabbinical school passed away, Rabbis Israel Francus and Avraham Holtz, zichronam l'veracha.

This week, Rabbi Jules Harlow, z"l, has passed away. I met him first before entering rabbinical school at Camp Tel-Noar, a retreat center in New England, where he taught during a Shabbaton for the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs. His academic field was liturgy. Rabbi Harlow had an ability and expertise of updating the Siddur while retaining its traditional core. He was involved in the 1961 Rabbinical Assembly Weekday Prayerbook before becoming more noteworthy for the 1970's Rabbinical Assembly Machzor and the first rendition of Siddur Sim Shalom in the mid 1980's.

Unlike the style of most Siddurim today, Rabbi Harlow did not believe in appending a commentary to the text of the Siddur. I heard him speak to this point. He distinguished between praying a text and studying a text. Thus, the first Siddur Sim Shalom had almost no commentary. He was proud that it was the first Siddur Shalem, complete prayerbook, published by the Conservative Movement for weekdays, Sabbaths, and Festivals. My previous congregation in Long Island used that Siddur.

In the 1990's when the Conservative Movement first grappled with adding the matriarchal names to the Amidah, he spoke and wrote in opposition because of his genuine fidelity to the liturgy, notwithstanding that he had supported other modifications.

In my current congregation, we use other Siddurim. However, we use his Al Ha'Nisim on Yom Ha'Atzmaut. We have also used his version of Nachem on Tisha B'Av. We also use his prayer for peace from Siddur Sim Shalom every Shabbat.

Rabbi Harlow was a mentch and a scholar.

Yhi Zichro Baruch - May his memory be a blessing.

Rabbi Howard Morrison

Adar - When the world was upside down

12/02/2024 09:09:37 AM


This past Friday and Shabbat began Rosh Chodesh Adar #1. This being a leap year, we celebrate two Adar months surrounding the holiday of Purim.

Tradition informs us to increase our joy when Adar begins. This year, however, our joy is tempered by October 7th and its aftermath.

In the story of Esther, we read that the world is upside down (Nahafoch hoo). Many examples are cited. The most obvious is the wicked Haman planning to achieve leadership and intending to hang Mordecai. Only by the end of the narrative are the roles reversed.

Elie Wiesel taught us that the opposite of good is silence. Therefore, I feel compelled to speak out. When a leader of the free world criticizes Israel's response to the evils perpetrated by Hammas as being "over the top," the world is indeed upside down. The evil of Hammas is "over the top." The acts of indiscriminate murder of Jews and non-Jews on October 7th were "over the top."The taking and holding of hostages to this very day are "over the top." The hurling of missiles over civilian centers is "over the top."

Like the beginning of the Purim story, the world is upside down. Hopefully soon, the righteous of the world will straighten out their perceptions of right from wrong and see Mordecai as a true paradigm of the Jewish people and Haman as the paradigm of Hammas and similar terror groups.

Rabbi Howard Morrison

Beth Emeth Israel Solidary Mission May 14-22, 2024

01/02/2024 09:12:12 AM


Dear Congregational Family,

After an enthusiastic meeting several weeks ago, we are putting together a Beth Emeth Israel solidarity mission this Spring. The itinerary and registration materials are on our website. The mission is open to the entire community. Please share with relatives and friends. We are hoping to have at least twenty participants on the mission, if not more.

To keep costs low, travel arrangements and meals are up to us individually. We are scheduled to meet in the morning on Tuesday May 14 at Ben Gurion airport in Israel. That day is Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. We are purposely starting on the definitive day which marks the birth of the State of Israel and the Jewish people's commitment toward ensuring a safe and secure Jewish homeland. To commemorate the holiday, we will visit Mount Hertzl, where one of the most famous military cemeteries is located.

The majority of the mission will be centered around helping Israel with daily service projects, hearing from leading dignitaries, and visiting families and sites which have been most severely impacted by the horrors of October 7th.

We will stay each night at the same hotel in Jerusalem and celebrate Shabbat in the holy city.

By allotting a couple of months to organize our mission, I hope to encourage lots of people to attend. The trip will last an entire week. Each day will have a particular theme which will underscore the activities of that day.

I am away on Sabbatical now. I will be back the Shabbat of February 23-4. In the meantime, Jennifer in the office can assist you.

We will have an in-person meeting on Tuesday evening February 27 at 7PM to plan further.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Bshallach - To be strict and to be merciful

29/01/2024 09:13:00 AM


Two particular narratives in today's Parsha speak volumes to our situation today. At the very end of the Parsha, we read how Amalek initiated an evil unprovoked attack on the innocent people of Israel who stood at the end of the Exodus line. The evil was so great that the Torah commanded the wiping out of Amalek. In subsequent Biblical history, King Saul lost his kingdom when he spared the King and others of Amalek. Our next major holiday, Purim, centers around Haman, a descendant of Amalek. The Torah's command was ultimately applied to him as well.

I am very concerned when people apply Amalek to other despotic nations. The actual people of Amalek are long gone, but the evil represented by Amalek is still strong. Consider Hitler and the Nazis of two generations ago; or Hamas, Hezbollah, and others right now. The Passover Haggadah teaches us that in every generation there are those who rise up to exterminate the Jewish people. We have the right to defend ourselves and remove the threat of an enemy which predicates its existence on wiping out the Jewish people.

While the physical nation of Amalek is no more, one can associate what Amalek did to our people soon after the Exodus to what Hamas did to our people on October 7. Both were evil unprovoked attacks levied against the innocent civilians of our people.

Another narrative also deserves our attention at this time of year. When the Israelites safely crossed the Reed Sea, they sang a song of faith and deliverance which is recited to this day every morning seven days a week. While the Song of the Sea affirms our faith in God who sanctifies freedom, the ancient Midrash raises a concern: "The Egyptians were drowning in the sea. At the same time, the angels wanted to sing before God. The Lord, God, said to them, 'My creations are drowning, and you are singing before me?'"

In a commentary on this teaching, it is understandable that the people of Israel sang and praised God for their deliverance, but angels were held to a different standard for us to internalize. Alternatively, it is correct for us to celebrate our freedom, but as taught in the book of Proverbs, "Do not rejoice at the downfall of your enemy." From this, we are saddened at the deaths of others even when they are necessary for our own survival and liberation. Thus, at the Passover Seder, we diminish our cup of joy during the recitation of the Ten plagues. Similarly, after the first two Yom Tov days of Pesach, we recite a partial Hallel and not a complete Hallel for the duration of the Festival. 

With these Torah lessons in mind, it is understandable if not obligatory for Israel to eliminate the threat of Hamas. It is not the fault or responsibility of Israel when Hamas hides itself within the civilian population. Yet, we are saddened and should be when non-Hamas civilians lose their lives - comparable to Egyptian soldiers drowning in the sea. Sadly, this is the cost of war.

Today is called Shabbat Shira - the Sabbath of Song. Let us sing appropriately and remember appropriately at the same time. There is a time to be strict and a time to be merciful.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Parshat B'Shalach - To what extent are we united?

26/01/2024 09:05:56 AM


Here is the scene - The Israelites have approached the banks of the Sea of Reeds. A stormy sea awaits them, and the Egyptians are pursing them. There is no sign of a miracle at this point.

An ancient Midrashic interpretation based on Biblical verses suggests that the Israelites were divided into four camps: Let us throw ourselves into the sea; Let us return to Egypt; Let us fight them; Let us cry out against them."

In the Torah text, God instructs Moses, "Speak to the Israelites that they should move forward." The text is then silent on the matter.

In the Midrash, an unknown Israelite at the time, Nachshon ben Aminadav, jumped into the sea. He was in the process of drowning as the water reached his nose. Then, the sea was miraculously split. All of the Israelites followed and walked through the sea on dry land.

Not a leader, but an unknown Israelite who believed in God, took the plunge. He demonstrated not only a leap of faith but also a leap of action. His behavior united what had been a divided and diverse people.

Another Midrash raises the question - How could all of these many thousands of people have emerged together on the same spot of dry land? Each tribe was united in the midst of the sea in a transparent vault. Thus, each tribe saw where it was in relation to the other tribes so that they could emerge as one. This is another instance where a diversity of tribes truly became one nation.

The famous song of deliverance, recited in daily morning prayer, has Moses and the children of Israel singing as "one," given that the verb for "sang" is in the third person singular.

Men and women are also united as one, given that Moses initiated the song with the children, perhaps, the men of Israel. At the end of the song, Miriam unites all of the women in song and dance with instruments.

From the text and commentaries, we witness a fragmented people uniting in common purpose. With all the challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people these days, may the unity of our contemporary common purpose be our lesson, one learned from this week's Torah portion.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Tu- Bishvat has arrived - the new year of the trees

25/01/2024 09:03:01 AM


Today is Tu-Bishvat, the new year of the trees. Already the early signs of Spring emerge in Israel. As a child growing up in the Diaspora, I remember celebrating Tu-Bishvat by raising money for the purpose of having the Jewish National Fund (JNF) plant trees in Israel. Years later, whenever I would lead a tour of Israel, we would make sure to plant saplings in JNF parks to continue transforming Israel into an oasis.

In my adulthood, the Tu-Bishvat Seder has become a popular way to celebrate Tu-Bishvat. Rooted in the sixteenth century mystical tradition, the Kabbalists authorized a Seder text called, "Pri Etz Hadar - Fruit of goodly trees," as a manual to observe the new year of trees. Over the last several decades, all kinds of Tu-Bishvat Seder variations have been introduced focusing on such themes as Israel, ecology, conservation, and more. All share in common the transition from Winter to Spring with wine or grape juice starting with white and ending with red. In addition, all share different kinds of fruits: those with a shell, an outer skin and a pit, an inner pit alone, and free from any outer or inner protection.

Each year at Beth Emeth, we conduct a Tu-Bishvat Seder at the Seudah Shlishit, Third Sabbath Meal, closest to the date of Tu-Bishvat. I invite you and your family to join us this coming Shabbat afternoon.

During a year of sadness, horror, and anxiety since October 7, we could all benefit from celebrating a holiday centered around the beauty of the land of Israel.

"Tu- Bishvat higiah Chag Ha'Ilanot - Tu-Bishvat has arrived, the new year of the trees.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Parshat Bo - The significance of Tefillin

19/01/2024 09:22:14 AM


Before there was sensitivity to left-handed people, the world had a right-handed bias. Some of us remember when school desks and scissors were always made for right-handed people, and everyone was forced into that reality. Similarly, instructions in old Siddurim advised one to don Tefillin on the left arm. However, these myths and assumptions would be correctly challenged.

All of my life, I have written left-handed but done almost everything else right-handed. When I was near Bar Mitzvah age, my mother asked Rav Joseph Soloveitchik about Tefillin for me. The Rav explained that the hand you write with is the hand you bind with. This ritual practice is based on the juxtaposition between "you shall bind" and "you shall inscribe" in the first paragraph of the Shma. At least twice daily, we recite two paragraphs of the Shma (from Devarim and B'Midbar) which contain two Biblical references to Tefillin.

The first two references (there are four in total) appear at the end of Parshat Bo (Exodus 13:9 and 13:16). The Tefillin remind us that God liberated us from Egypt with a "Strong hand." 

On weekdays, observant Jews don Tefillin every morning whether praying in private or public. The boxes on the arm and head are called "Batim," houses, for they house four hand written parchments containing the four references to Tefillin in the Torah.  The house for the hand is angled to the heart to show that we serve God whole-heartedly. The seven wrappings around the arm signify the seven days of creation, including Shabbat. Since both, Shabbat and Tefillin, are called "Oht-Sign," it is unnecessary to don Tefillin on Shabbat and Festivals. While there are many customs on the actual donning of Tefillin, all end up wearing the letters Shin, Dalet, and Yud. These letters spell "Shadai," a Biblical reference to a name of God. In addition, one makes three rings around the middle finger, the origin of wedding bands, and recites Biblical words of betrothal between God and the Jewish people. 

With the Tefillin on the hand, head, and angled to the heart, we serve God with intellect, faith, action, and passion, symbolized by the three H's of hand, head, and heart. While the daily Mitzvah of Tefillin is incumbent on men and exempt for women, I do know a number of women who choose to accept the daily obligation of donning Tefillin. The two sets of leather straps are akin to jumper cables, warming us up spiritually on an ordinary weekday.

The four parchments in the hand box are all housed in one chamber, teaching us to be unified as a people in terms of ritual practice. The four parchments in the head box are each housed in a different chamber, teaching us to study and comprehend Torah in diverse and meaningful ways. The two shins on the head box remind us of the 613 Mitzvot. Each shin is numerically 300, four branches on one shin, three branches on one shin, and the two shins combined spell "shesh," meaning six.

It is appropriate that during the Superbowl season which often falls out around Parshat Bo, the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs (FJMC) designates Superbowl Sunday as a time to appreciate the Mitzvah of Tefillin. This year, Parshat Bo occurs during the weekend of the divisional playoffs. Let us make Tefillin a super Mitzvah in our lives.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Howard Morrison

Parshat Bo - 100 days later

18/01/2024 09:13:06 AM


In Parshat Bo, we continue to read about the Ten Plagues. A constant refrain is Moses declaring to Pharaoh, "Let my people go that they may serve God." In modern life, these words were made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Both are remembered this week, as they walked together during the civil rights movement in the 1960's.

Notice that the words "let my people go" are followed by the expreession "that they may serve God." Freedom is not only from oppression but for the purpose of a higher goal, serving God. In the Jewish calendar, "freedom from" is celebrated during Passover, and "freedom for" is celebrated during Shavuot.

This week marks over 100 days since the horrors of October 7 and the taking of hostages. The status of some 136 hostages is unknown as of this blog. The words and the prayer of "Let may people go that they may serve God" take on contemporary meaning over the past three plus months.

With the reading of Parshat Bo and the celebration of the ancient Exodus, may all of our persecuted brothers and sisters know of freedom very soon.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Parshat Vaera - Evil's hardened heart

15/01/2024 09:33:03 AM


When people talk about great philosophical challenges in the Torah, they often cite some verses toward the end of the ten plagues. For example, after the Egyptians suffer from boils, the Torah says, "And God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not hear them (the suffering Egyptians)."There are challenges to free will here. If God hardened Pharaoh's heart, how could God continue to punish him and the Egyptians?

In actuality, we read five times before the plague of boils that Pharoah hardened his own heart. Thus, in Midrashic literature, Rabbi Simon ben Lakish taught, "Since God sent the opportunity for repentance and doing the right thing five times to Pharaoh and he sent no notice, God then said, 'you have stiffened your neck and hardened your heart on your own. . . . So it was that the heart of Pharaoh did not receive the words of God." In other words, Pharaoh sealed his own fate, for himself and his relationship with God. Pharaoh refused to change. He became recalcitrant and arrogant. Pharaoh was unable to be self-critical and introspective. Thus, he led his army and his nation to disaster.

There have always been, and there will always be, Jew-hating Pharaohs and those who serve them. We are witnessing this phenomenon most recently since October 7. While a small few may be able to self-assess and change, the many do not and cannot change. They have put themselves in a place where their hearts are completely hardened and stiff. 

So, how do we overcome them? We are in the process of doing so by our unity, our caring for each other, our commitment to the ideals and principles that have guided our people for millennia. A modern miracle - the State of Israel - the Jewish people have returned to our homeland, established Jewish sovereignty, and are in the midst of building the third Jewish civilization and commonwealth. 

Sadly, and tragically, we are witnessing the hardened heart right here in the GTA. If any particular group wants to have its own demonstration or rally, there are appropriate ways to do so. The Pro-Israel rallies in Toronto and Ottawa have been done in peaceful ways and which have not disturbed the lives of innocent people. The Pro-Hammas rallies have been the opposite. These hardened and stiff-heartened people have recently held their so-called protests in the heart of the Jewish community. On recent Shabbatot, these have occurred at the Avenue road bridge hovering over the highway 401 and where a good part of the location is residential and largely Jewish.

Even more disturbing is the participation of a small but significant number of police officers distributing coffee to these supporters of Hammas. Rightly so, the Jewish community has responded. These hateful rallies in Jewish neighborhoods, without sufficient police protection, and with inadvertent support by giving coffee, only serve to validate these modern supporters of Pharaoh and which can only exacerbate further attacks on Jewish owned businesses, establishments, and other Jewish institutions. Due to the proper outcry of the Jewish community this past week, local police leadership endorsed some changes to better support the needs of our people. We will watch and see if progress is made.

We are forever grateful for the police support on a daily basis around our shul and the local Jewish community and do not fault the entire police for the acts of a few. However, all need to know the difference between an appropriate versus an inappropriate form of protest.

We have overcome the hardened heart in the past, and we will do so again and again.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

​​​​​​​Parshat Vaera - A shift in sibling relationships

12/01/2024 08:58:00 AM


The book of Bereishit was fraught with sibling strife and tension, with the younger being favored over the elder. The transformation from family to nation is made significant by the change in sibling relationships. Would Moses the younger be greater than Aaron the older? Would the law giver be superior to the priestly Temple officiant?

In chapter 6, we find a genealogy mentioning Moses and Aaron so that the people would accept their leadership. In verse 26, the brothers are listed as Aaron and Moses. In verse 27, they are listed as Moses and Aaron. Together, they form a partnership. For their mission to be successful, that is a necessity.

So it is in our sibling, family, business and other relationships - Each person, each participant, each contributor is a necessity.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Howard Morrison

RTI - Rabbinic Training Institute

11/01/2024 09:41:47 AM


This past week, I attended the annual Rabbinic Training Institute at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Maryland. An opportunity for professional development, I had attended almost annually until the pandemic. This was my first retreat in four years. 

Arranged by the Jewish Theological Seminary, my alma mater from 1982-1987, fifty Conservative rabbis became students for a four-day period. There was a colleague from Israel and from Germany, but most were North American. I am now one of the older students who attends. I met many returning colleagues, saw some colleagues whom I had not seen in many years, and discovered new acquaintances.  We picked our classes from a number of options. Mine were as follows:

Early morning - "Should we still care about obligation?" A Talmud/Rabbinics class on the notion of obligation regarding prayer and Mitzvah observance.

Mid-morning - A roadmap for preventing burnout and building resilience

Mid-afternoon - "Who was Moses?" This was a Biblical text on Moses. What were his origins? Was he a magician/warrior? a passive vessel of God? and more.

Evening - The cornerstone of healing

As you can see, a couple of classes were academic, and a couple were focused on physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

Regardless of our professional and personal station in life, I encourage us all to deepen an appreciation of our heritage and our self-fulfillment on a regular basis.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Wed, 29 May 2024 21 Iyyar 5784