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Rabbi Hillel’s Blog

The Ten Commandments

  • Posted on February 14, 2020
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This week we read of the revelation on Mount Sinai and the giving of the Two Tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments. According to Jewish tradition, the tablets were enormous in both size and weight. They were likely made of lapis lazuli rock, and were one cubit tall, one cubit wide, and half a cubit thick (or 48 × 48 × Continue Reading »


  • Posted on February 7, 2020
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This week we read of the parting of the Red Sea. On their way out of Egypt, the Israelites found themselves trapped between the sea on one side and the Egyptian army on the other.   The people panicked. Moses told them to have faith and to continue travelling towards the sea. And when they Continue Reading »

A Sign For You

  • Posted on January 31, 2020
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In our Torah portion this week we read of the Exodus from Egypt. The night before the Exodus, while the Egyptians were suffering from the final plague, Slaying of the Firstborn, the Israelites were sitting down for the first Passover Seder. They had been instructed to take a branch of hyssop, dip it in blood Continue Reading »

Returning the Favour

  • Posted on January 24, 2020
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This week we continue reading the story of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt, eventually leading up to the Exodus. In this week’s portion we read of the first seven of the ten plagues. One of Judaism’s foundational values is showing loving-kindness to those in need. Loving-kindness towards others is central to the Exodus story as Continue Reading »

The Message of the Burning Bush

  • Posted on January 17, 2020
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When Moses has his first encounter with God at the Burning Bush, Moses questions his own worthiness to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. God tells Moses that he is worthy, even if only because God is sending him and will be with him. God then gives Moses a sign by which he can know Continue Reading »

Recognizing the Good We All Do

  • Posted on January 10, 2020
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This Shabbat we complete the first book of the Torah, Bereshit (Genesis). When we read the very last verse of the five books of the Torah, custom is for the congregation to exclaim “Ḥazak Ḥazak VeNit’ḥazek!” which means, “be strong, be strong, and let us all strengthen ourselves!” We encourage the Torah reader and congregation Continue Reading »

A Message Regarding the Ukrainian Airlines crash in Tehran

  • Posted on January 9, 2020
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Beth Jacob Synagogue joins the world community in mourning the incomprehensible loss of 176 innocent lives, aboard the Ukrainian International Airlines flight which crashed minutes after takeoff from Tehran, Iran’s main airport, Wednesday. Among the victims were 63 Canadians. Two were grad students at McMaster University, and a third was a researcher at McMaster until Continue Reading »

Coming Out as Joseph

  • Posted on January 3, 2020
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As we continue reading the Joseph story, many of us are surprised by how cruel Joseph appears to be towards his brothers and his beloved father. Joseph’s actions are completely human and expected; how could he have responded otherwise after what his brothers had done to him? Still, with the story recounted in the Torah Continue Reading »

Is Life’s Ḥanukkiah half-full or half-empty?

  • Posted on December 27, 2019
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Is Life’s Ḥanukkiah half-full or half-empty? In the Talmudic discussion about Ḥanukkah observance, there is an argument between the schools of Hillel and Shammai. Shammai’s school maintained that the Ḥanukkiah should be full, with eight candles, on the first night, and each subsequent night one candle should be removed. This, to signify that the miracle was running out. Hillel’s Continue Reading »

Ḥanukkah Gelt (or Guilt)

  • Posted on December 20, 2019
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Ḥanukkah Gelt (or Guilt) When we think of the Ḥanukkah celebration, the image of the Ḥanukkiah (menorah) comes to mind: starting with one candle on the first night, and working our way up to eight candles on the last night. But one can actually observe Ḥanukkah perfectly well without a Ḥanukkiah at all. Lighting candles lined up on a Continue Reading »