Wednesday, May 31, 2006


...which are SEVEN WEEKS of the omer!!!!!

Peace out everyone, it's been fun. Next year may we merit to count the omer in a (figurative) rebuilt Jerusalem.

כאשר זכינו לספור אותו
כן נזכה לעשותו

Now get your rest; tomorrow night's a big night:

On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn...
(Exodus 19:15)

...and you know the rest of the story.

It was not with our ancestors that God made this covenant, but with us, the living, every one of us who is here today.

(Deuteronomy 5:3)

We'll receive many commandments, including:

From the day on which you bring the sheaf of waving, the day after the sabbath, you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week--fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to God.

(Leviticus 23:15-16)

And so it continues in this recursive loop, this endlessly rising canon.

Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Lost in translation?

Moses came down from the mountain to the people and warned the people to stay pure, and they washed their clothes. And he said to the people, "Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman."
(Exodus 19:14-15)

Monday, May 29, 2006


...and the coal came home.

Something really big must be happening in three days.
God said to Moses, "I will come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after." Then Moses reported the people's words to God, and God said to Moses, "Go to the people and warn them to stay pure today and tomorrow. Let them wash their clothes. Let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day God will come down, in the sight of all the people on Mount Sinai. You shall set bounds for the people round about, saying, 'Beware of going up the mountain or touching the border of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death: no hand shall touch him/her, but s/he shall be either stoned or shot; beast or human, s/he shall not live.' When the ram's horn sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain."

(Exodus 19:9-13)

Sunday, May 28, 2006


...and the coal ran out.

Happy Yom Meyuchas!

The adventure continues:
Moses went up to God. God called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to me. Now then, if you will obey me faithfully and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is mine, but you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel." Moses came and summoned the elders of the people and put before them all that God had commanded him. All the people answered as one, saying, "All that God has spoken we will do!" And Moses brought the people's words to God.

(Exodus 19:3-8)

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Rosh Chodesh Sivan!

This Rosh Chodesh has its own niggun, written on this date in 1999/5759.

On this day:
In the third month after the Israelites had gone forth from the land of Egypt, on that very day, they entered the wilderness of Sinai. Having journeyed from Rephidim, they entered the wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the wilderness. Israel encamped there in front of the mountain.

(Exodus 19:1-2)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


What do you get if you multiply six by nine?

We will return to you, children of the city, and the web of the scroll went up to itself

We finished Masechet Megillah tonight! And not a minute too soon, since MAK and RLK are packing up their apartment and almost ready to move out of NYC. Stay tuned for a siyyum sometime this summer, at which Rav Papa's sons will be invoked, and the One who is above all blessings (le'eila min kol birchata) will be blessed.


The best views in town, for functions or just a great place to eat. Your first choice for news.

"Pharaoh said to Joseph: See, I have put you over the whole land of Egypt."
--Genesis 41:41

Be that as it May

The following message comes to us from LRH, all the way on the west coast. You can email your submissions to lioracle at gmail dot com.

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 4th annual celebration of National Subjunctive Month!

Hard to believe, but it was back in 2003 when I unilaterally declared for the first time that, come what may, each May from here on out would be marked as a celebration of subjunctives in every language. Why did I do this? Well, I noted that English by and large lacks a subjunctive--that "mood" which in other languages is used to express desire, hope, or uncertainty, and is employed for various and sundry grammatical purposes. Rather, in addition to some vestigial subjunctives like "I wish I were" and "Truth be told," English sometimes uses various constructions of the word "MAY" to express what other languages might express in the subjunctive mood (come what may, be that as it may, may the force be with you). Desiring to carve out some space to honor this much negelected mood, I thought May might be fitting.

Mighty May has returned! And it is time to celebrate with what has become an annual tradition on this ever growing and ever more national (and international) list. I ask you to dig deep inside your minds and send me back some combination of the following:

--Recall your favorite examples of subjunctive usage or misusage in English or other languages. (My longstanding favorite is from a goofy ad for Clorox bleach on the top of a cab, proclaiming, "if this cab was a floor, we'd clean it.")

--Provide explanations of how the subjunctive works in your particular obscure (or non-obscure) foreign language.

--Provide your bits of subjunctive thoughts about the year behind us or the year to come.
(I define "subjunctive thoughts" broadly: Subjunctive thoughts might start like this: "If only..." "I wish..." "I wonder..." These can be subjective, subversive, sublime, and/or subpar...)

The deadline for submissions is May 31 at midnight. On June 1 (or shortly thereafter), I'll send out a compilation of our collective subjunctive wisdom of 2006 to those who decide to participate in the festivities.

Thank you and happy May,


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Independent minyan gossip column #3

  • Minyan war in the City of Brotherly Love??? After years of discontent about the lack of independent minyanim in Center City Philadelphia (that's "downtown" to everyone else), someone had the idea to start one. And someone else had almost exactly the same idea at almost exactly the same time. There is a popular trend of giving minyanim names that translate English terms associated with the locality into Hebrew: in NYC alone, Greenwich Village has Kol HaKfar ("the Village Voice"), and Harlem has Techiyah ("renaissance"). Both new Center City minyanim hopped on this nomenclature bandwagon. Minyan Merkaz ("minyan of the center") is an independent traditional egalitarian Friday night minyan that has met a few times so far. Meanwhile, B'Merkaz ("in center" or "in the center of") is an independent traditional egalitarian Friday night minyan that has announced its first service for June 9, the same time as Minyan Merkaz's next meeting. According to Mah Rabu's sources, the two minyanim arose entirely independently, and were not aware of each other's existence before this week. What will happen? Will the two minyanim join forces? Will one of them change its name? Only time will tell.
  • Kol Zimrah's style of musical prayer (called "spiritual, highly idiosyncratic" by the Forward) combines a diverse set of Jewish influences. This has the benefit of bringing together a diverse community of people drawn from the union of sets A, B, and C (Note: three is an arbitrary number here and has no deeper significance), but has the complication of restricting the pool of potential self-sufficient shelichei/ot tzibbur (service leaders) to the intersection of A, B, and C. In order to expand this pool and become a more participatory community, the Funk is launching a weekly workshop this summer in which KZ participants will exchange skillsets. Experienced guitar players will teach others how to play guitar, and experienced service leaders will teach others how to lead services.
  • All of these independent communities are converging in August at the National Havurah Committee Summer Institute. As many as can fit, anyway. This year's Everett Fellows Program was more popular than ever, with 33 people applying for 18 spots. Unfortunately, this means that many qualified applicants had to be turned away due to finite funding. Someone reading this post must have some money lying around; would you like to fund some more scholarships so that all these great folks can come to Institute? In the meantime, regular Institute registration is still open (and filling up faster than usual), while supplies last!

Let's do the time warp again

This is fabulous! Check it out before it gets fixed.

The Wikipedia article on Edward Morley (1838-1923), of the famous Michelson-Morley experiment, seems to be taken primarily from a (presumably now public-domain) biographical brief written during Morley's lifetime. From examining the article's history, it looks like the reference to 1895 at the bottom was a later addition. Otherwise, the article seems to have been written before 1887, so that it makes no mention of Morley's most notable contribution! (The 1884 collaboration with Michelson mentioned in the article was a different experiment.)

  • "...and more recently they have experimented with a view of testing Fresnel's explanation of astronomical aberration. Their most recent work in this direction has been..."
  • "At present he is engaged in redetermining the atomic weight of oxygen."
  • "Professor Morley has collected a unique chemical library, and has the most complete files of chemical journals in the United States."
UPDATE: Tee hee! Someone (perhaps inspired by this post) has added the line: "It is anticipated that his studies in collaboration with Albert A. Michelson (completed in 1887) will lead to important conclusions regarding the luminiferous aether and its effects upon the velocity of light."

Monday, May 22, 2006


It rained and poured for 40 daysies daysies
It rained and poured for 40 daysies daysies
Drove those animals nearly crazy crazy

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Things to do today:
  • plow
  • sow
  • reap
  • bundle sheaves
  • thresh
  • winnow
  • sort
  • grind
  • sift
  • knead
  • bake
  • shear wool
  • whiten it
  • comb it
  • dye it
  • spin it into thread
  • stretch thread onto a loom
  • make two loops
  • weave two threads
  • separate two threads
  • tie
  • untie
  • sew two stitches
  • tear in order to sew two stitches
  • trap a deer
  • slaughter it
  • skin it
  • salt it
  • tan it
  • scrape it
  • cut it up
  • write two letters
  • erase in order to write two letters
  • build
  • demolish
  • extinguish
  • kindle
  • hit with a hammer
  • transfer from one domain to another


Monday, May 15, 2006


Thirty-three three-toed tree toads.

Pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. The glass is 2/3 full!

From last year: Why I don't observe Lag Ba'omer.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Did you miss Pesach the first time? Tomorrow is Pesach Sheni, so you get another chance!

UPDATE: Bush at 29%!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Independent minyan gossip column #2

This week's big story comes to us from the colony of Washington DC. (That's right, this is the story from outside the fifty states that we hinted at last time.) I believe Mah Rabu is the first to break this story on the blogosphere. Tikkun Leil Shabbat and DC Reform Chavurah are merging! The new super-havurah will combine Tikkun Leil Shabbat's name, DC Reform Chavurah's space at the Religious Action Center, and both groups' passion for social justice activism and ruach-filled prayer. This is no shotgun marriage; the two minyanim have co-sponsored services in the past, including a combined service the weekend of the Darfur rally that attracted 115 people, beating out Kol Zimrah's 108 that same Friday night (or, more to the point, combining with KZ for a total of 223). In fact, there was so much overlap between DCRC and TLS that they decided that there was no point in having one group of people run two minyanim, inside sources say. The new TLS juggernaut will meet monthly or more, and will alternate between two "aesthetics": (1) musical instruments, sitting in a circle; (2) no instruments, facing east.

Why this is big news:
  • The new TLS combines two (and possibly more) styles of services, in series rather than in parallel. This means that individuals can go only on the weeks that their preferred style is happening, or they can go every time. It sounds like many will opt for the latter. This bimodal distribution will allow each style of prayer to be fully actualized, rather than averaging the two styles for a half-assed "compromise". It also creates an environment for built-in cross-fertilization. The diverse community will be a laboratory for Stage-3 pluralism.
  • The TLS juggernaut, with its increased size and frequency, instantly challenges the hegemony of DC Minyan (which, despite its website's uncanny similarity to the Kehilat Hadar website, isn't fully egalitarian) as flagship minyan of DC's young Jewish transient scene. The appearance of this second duumvir will lead to a healthier DC independent minyan scene all around, as the constellation of minyanim comes to more accurately reflect the Jewish identities of their constituent population.
  • Kol Zimrah has a sister minyan on this continent!
  • Self-identified Reform Jews are finally building up the confidence and social capital to join in the reindeer games of the funky pluralistic post-denominational Jewish world, rather than being the tiny invisible outcast minyan that the rest of Hillel never hears about. Sure, DCRC is dropping the "Reform" from its name so that the combined DCRC/TLS can appeal to people across denominational lines, but through this merger (which happened entirely naturally as a result of the strong connections between TLS and DCRC) the Reform influence will continue to be felt by people from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds, and through this merger the people from specifically Reform backgrounds can experience a broader understanding of what a Reform Jewish community can be.

The news from New York:
  • The Hadar Shavuot Retreat is sold out. In other news, the sun rose this morning, and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. It's nice to see the universe following its natural order.
  • The solid and growing Brooklyn delegation to Kol Zimrah has pulled off a benevolent coup. After three years of dedicated trekking to the Upper West Side, this March they invited the whole community to a bonus Brooklyn edition of Kol Zimrah, with assistance from the Park Slope Minyan. It was such a success that the Funk hasn't seen the last of Kings County. This summer, KZ will return to its usual stomping grounds in Riverside Park (hoping to decrease its historical rain-out rate of 36%), but there will also be special Brooklyn Funks in July and August. Which borough is next?
  • Jew It Yourself is going to revolutionize the independent Jewish world when it goes live. But I can't say any more until then.
Keep the tips coming!


28 is the second perfect number, a number that is the sum of its factors!

1+2+3 = 6
1+2+4+7+14 = 28

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Google is not AskJeeves

Yes, there really is a book called Google for Dummies. This is because not everyone knows how to use Google, and not everyone understands that you don't actually ask it questions or feed it complete sentences or clauses. I know this because, thanks to the good people at Site Meter, I can find out what search terms are leading people to Mah Rabu. Here is a sampling, all from Google, and all (obviously) not in quotes:

  • Can you have a funeral on Purim?
  • What does Reuven mean?
  • What is an unaffiliated Jew?
  • why can't jewish people turn on and off their stove on sundays
  • is God really talking when there's thunder?
  • does duane reade sell their chametz
  • what is the difference between zav and
  • why do action and reaction pairs of forces never cancel each other?
  • how to compromise on issue of gender identity
  • is arne duncan jewish
  • about rav shimon ben lakish also known as reish lakish
  • why was Nisan 27 chosen as Yom Hashoah
  • articles about keeping a kosher kitchen what it means and how to implement it


"Do it, Lisa! You'll be greater than or equal to boys."
"Even though you're only 8, your possibilities are infinite."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Self-sufficient prayer

Tonight on Jewschool, the Rooftopper Rav has an eloquent and thorough defense of stage-direction-free prayer, which started as a response to a comment on the Hilchot Pluralism series. Go read it.

In related news, I've been reading Douglas Rushkoff's Nothing Sacred.

Nano-review so far: I like the big ideas, but the small factual errors are driving me batty.

But here's an insightful excerpt that dovetails with Rooftopper Rav's post, about what went wrong with Classical Reform:

Traditionally, the rabbis' main function was educational. They spoke to the congregation in the synagogue only twice a year, before Passover in order to remind Jews of specific rules and again before Yom Kippur to explain the meaning of repentance. Otherwise, their job was to teach Torah study in a classroom around a big table. Occasionally, their knowledge of Jewish law would enable them to resolve a local dispute. Religious services were led by the cantor, who stood at a table in the middle of the room, surrounded by congregants and other laypeople.

By changing the role of rabbi to that of a minister and putting him on what amounted to a stage in front of the room, reformers inadvertently led congregants to think about their own role in services very differently. Rabbis were now intermediaries between Jews and the God and laws with which they had always enjoyed personal relationships. Instead of focusing on the community of congregants with whom they were worshiping, Jews faced a stage and listened to the words of their rabbi, engaged in responsive reading, or followed along in rabbi-led rituals.

Congregants couldn't help but regress into a more childlike relationship to their rabbi and the religion he ministered. They transferred parental authority onto the rabbi and expected him to exemplify the piety to which they themselves could only strive. This served only to isolate rabbis from the spiritual communities on whom they could once depend for comfort and support.

Relieved of personal, adult responsibility for their religious practices, Jews tended to perform rituals and observances in a more perfunctory fashion. The religion became less participatory and more talismanic. Traditions like the mezuzah on the doorpost or a skullcap on one's head now served not as a point of mental focus, but as a hollow, rote performance or compulsive superstition. Religious education stressed how to behave, but very rarely delved into why.

"Talismanic" is the best description I've seen for the approach to physical ritual in some Reform (and other) Jewish communities. The Classical Reform leaders tried to be iconoclastic by eliminating tefillin and such, but the masses still had a need for ritual objects, so they ended up fetishizing things like the Torah trimmings (we spent lots of time in Sunday school learning about the crowns, the belt, etc.). So the result, after this attempt at iconoclasm, is the same reliance on physical objects, but the situation has worsened, because the ritual objects are now up on a stage in the front of the synagogue, rather than wrapped around one's arm and between one's eyes.

Of course, Orthodox communities are no better. Some new minhagim surrounding kiddush seem to border on transubstantiation. I've seen people make kiddush on a cup of wine, then pour that cup back into the bottle, mix it up, then pour for everyone from that bottle, to make sure everyone gets some of the wine that had been "blessed". And there are other variants that also ensure that the transubstantiated wine makes its way to everyone. This is unnecessary! Jews don't bless the wine; we bless the creator of the wine. The blessing does not change the status of the wine; it changes the status of the person who makes the blessing (or the people who respond "amen" to it), so that s/he becomes permitted to consume the wine. Therefore, there's no non-superstitious reason against someone making kiddush on his/her own cup and everyone else responding "amen" and drinking from their own cups.

It is not in heaven, to say "Who will go up for us to heaven and get it for us and tell it to us so that we may do it?" And it is not across the sea, to say "Who will cross the sea for us and get it for us and tell it to us so that we may do it?" The thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.


Next time, won't you sing with me?

Sunday, May 07, 2006


With your past and your future precisely divided
Am I at that moment? I haven't decided

Thursday, May 04, 2006


There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. 'That's some catch, that Catch-22,' he observed. 'It's the best there is,' Doc Daneeka agreed.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


You must have been born on or before today's date in 5745.

Leviticus 18:22 according to Rabbi Ishmael

This Shabbat we read the portions of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim, containing the famous verse Leviticus 18:22:

וְאֶת זָכָר לֹא תִשְׁכַּב מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה תּוֹעֵבָה הִוא

"A male do not lie the lyings of a woman; it is an abomination."

If this English translation is less than lucid, then it faithfully transmits the clarity of the Hebrew original. Whether one agrees with Ben Azzai that the central principle of the Torah is Genesis 5:1 ("When God created humankind, God made it in God's image") or agrees with Rabbi Akiva that it is Leviticus 19:18 ("Love your neighbor as yourself"), one way or the other it is incumbent upon us to read Leviticus 18:22 in a way that is consistent with these Torah principles. Many such readings of this verse have already been proposed, often taking into account the historical context of the Torah text and/or our contemporary understanding of human nature. In this post, I will supplement these with a new reading that I believe to be consistent with the methodology of midrash halachah, the process by which the rabbis established a correspondence between the mitzvot as written in the Torah and the mitzvot as observed.

Rabbi Ishmael, the second-century tanna, listed 13 hermeneutical principles by which the Torah can be interpreted. Of course, little original work has been done in this area for the last 1800 years, but I'm going to try. I won't be so arrogant as to propose a new gezeirah shavah (R. Ishmael's 2nd principle: connecting the contents of two apparently unrelated verses because they share a common word), since classically a gezeirah shavah must come from a received tradition. However, the other 12 principles are fair game.

R. Ishmael's 6th principle is kelal ufrat uchlal i atah dan ela che'ein ha-perat ("general, specific, general - you can only infer [items that are] similar to the specific [items]"). As The Practical Talmud Dictionary explains:

When a general term is followed by a specific term (or terms) that is in turn followed by a second general term, the halakha neither includes the whole general class (since a specific term has been stated) nor is it restricted to the specific item(s) (since general terms have been stated), but it applies to all items that are similar to the specific term(s) stated in the Biblical text.

Let's apply this principle to the overall structure of Leviticus 18. The chapter contains a series of commandments regarding forbidden sexual relationships. All of the commandments are given in the second-person masculine singular, but all agree that these prohibitions apply to both men and women. For example, 18:9 forbids the male addressee from having sexual relations with his sister, but if such an action were carried out, both the brother and the sister would be culpable. (Leviticus 20:17 prescribes the punishment of kareit for both of them.)

Kelal (general): Leviticus 18:6 says אִישׁ אִישׁ אֶל-כָּל-שְׁאֵר בְּשָׂרוֹ לֹא תִקְרְבוּ לְגַלּוֹת עֶרְוָה -- "None of you shall come near anyone of his own flesh to uncover nakedness."

Perat (specific): Verses 18:7-20 list a series of specific sexual prohibitions, all referring to relations between a man and a woman. A man may not have sex with any of his close female relatives by blood or by marriage, or with another man's wife.

Kelal (general): Leviticus 18:22 says וְאֶת זָכָר לֹא תִשְׁכַּב מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה תּוֹעֵבָה הִוא -- "A male do not lie the lyings of a woman."

According to the principle of kelal ufrat uchlal, the general terms ("kol she'eir besaro / anyone of his own flesh" and "mishkevei ishah / the lyings of a woman") only apply to items that are similar to the specific items on the list, viz. incestuous and adulterous relationships. However, the general terms extend the reach of the specific list so that it includes some additional prohibited relationships in the same general category. Leviticus 18:22 says that the male addressee should not lie these mishkevei ishah with a male. Therefore, just as a man is forbidden from having sex with his mother, his sister, or a married woman, he is also forbidden from having sex with his father, his brother, or a married man. Likewise, since all of these commandments apply to women as well, we can derive an equivalent category of forbidden relationships between two women.

The other verse to address is Leviticus 20:13:

וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת-זָכָר מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה תּוֹעֵבָה עָשׂוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם מוֹת יוּמָתוּ דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם
A man who lies a man the lyings of a woman, they have committed an abomination. Both of them shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

Rabbi Ishmael's 3rd principle is binyan av (constructing a prototype). In particular, we'll use binyan av mikatuv echad, constructing a prototype from one verse. A classic example is Deuteronomy 22:11, which forbids clothing of sha'atnez, a combination of wool and linen. This verse constructs the prototype that sha'atnez refers specifically to wool and linen, so that Leviticus 19:19 (which also refers to sha'atnez, with no further details) is also understood to refer only to wool and linen, rather than any arbitrary mixture of fabrics.

Likewise, Leviticus 18:22 (by way of the kelal ufrat uchlal that we have explained above) constructs the prototype that mishkevei ishah refers specifically to the incestuous and adulterous relationships of the sort listed in Leviticus 18, so that Leviticus 20:13 can also be understood to refer only to these categories of same-sex relationships.


Leviticus 19:2, at the center of the Holiness Code, commands "Kedoshim tihyu / You shall be holy", and a long list of positive and negative commandments, including the arayot (prohibited relationships) in Leviticus 18 and 20, explains precisely how to do this. The first part of the marriage ceremony, in which two individuals become consecrated to each other, is called kiddushin, sanctification. The blessing over kiddushin begins "...asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu al ha'arayot" -- "...who has made us holy with commandments, and commanded us about forbidden relationships." Why are the arayot invoked in the blessing for marriage? Because just as the Torah's prohibition of certain foods sanctifies the act of eating, the Torah's prohibition of certain relationships emphasizes that the relationship between the two people getting married is not only permitted, but sanctified.

The juxtaposition of the arayot with Kedoshim tihyu and with kiddushin has long been understood to show that some heterosexual relationships are forbidden while others are sacred. Likewise, by reading Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 to refer to similar classes of same-sex relationships that are forbidden, we see that this sanctity applies to two people of the same sex who consecrate themselves to each other.

Independent minyan gossip column #1

  • Mah Rabu's attempt to enumerate the independent minyanim of New York City fell short by at least two. The list should be expanded to include two minyanim that (unlike everything on the list so far) are neither in Manhattan nor in parts of Brooklyn that might as well be Manhattan. The Tehillah Minyan is a new monthly Friday night "partnership minyan" in Forest Hills, Queens. Brooklyn Experimental Tefilah has been listed in the NHC's havurah directory for a long time, but I hadn't heard hide or hair about it in almost 4 years in New York, so I figured it was defunct. Not so! This "Renewal havurah" is still meeting for Shabbat morning services in homes in Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Kensington, which I hadn't heard of before. Any more minyanim to add?
  • Which minyan has become the unofficial NYC Jewish blogger hangout? Kol Zimrah! This past Friday's service and potluck included a large chunk of the Jewschool team (yours truly, shamirpower, Ruby K, EV, and Rooftopper Rav), as well as a small contingent from Jewlicious (Esther), plus Ariel from Blogs of Zion, General Anna from Live the Questions, Drew from The Last Trumpet, Ahavatcafe, and probably more that I'm leaving out.
  • Also, Kol Zimrah has been Shteeblehopped!
  • Registration has been open for the Kehilat Hadar Shavuot Retreat for over a week, and it still isn't sold out! Does this mean that Hadar has jumped the shark? Or that people aren't interested in receiving Torah anymore?
  • Hardly. Hadar celebrated its 5th anniversary this past Shabbat. They did a show of hands to see how many people were present at that first service in an apartment 5 years ago on the same auspicious parsha of Tazria-Metzora. I certainly wasn't. (Kol Zimrah and Darkhei Noam might be the only minyanim whose first meetings I have attended.) I saw two hands (though maybe there were more). One belonged to a Hadar founder who no longer lives in NYC and was back to visit, and the other belonged to someone who is moving away this summer. The haters will allege that this high rate of turnover indicates that the new independent minyanim aren't building sustainable communities. To that I say, humbug. The turnover is almost entirely geographic. [Anecdotal evidence: All of Hadar's founders, and most people I can think of who used to go to Hadar and don't anymore, no longer live in NYC. Most people I know who were in the room and didn't raise their hand didn't live in NYC five years ago.] People have been moving into NYC, staying less than 5 years, and moving away for a long time, long before independent minyanim existed, and will continue to do so regardless of the independent minyanim's fate. But these independent minyanim are finally creating meaningful Jewish communities that meet the needs of these thousands of transients, and should be commended for this. If anything, Hadar's continued successful operation in the face of almost 100% turnover is a sign of its strength, just as the fact that I probably contain none of the same carbon atoms that I contained 5 years ago is a sign that I am alive. I wish Hadar another 5 great years, regardless of whether I'm living anywhere near NYC for the 10th anniversary.
  • Finally, Mah Rabu is sitting on a big big story from outside the five boroughs (outside the fifty states, in fact) that is still embargoed. We'll be right here with the story as soon as we obtain permission.
Send your tips and leaks to mahrabu at gmail, and we'll be back with more!


Happy 58th birthday Israel!

Last year's posts:

Since then:
  • Disengagement
  • Realignment
  • Incapacitation
  • Election

Monday, May 01, 2006


Tonight the State of Israel mourns all of its fallen soldiers, many of whom were only 19 at the time of their tragic deaths. Yehi zichram baruch.