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Rabbi Hillel’s Blog

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 »

Faithful Cautious Optimism

  • Posted on December 11, 2019
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This week we read of the epic reunion of Jacob and Esau, after twenty years of separation. Commentaries assume that Jacob was returning because his mother had sent him a message saying that Esau had forgiven him, but we see from our Parasha that Jacob did not feel sufficiently confident to rely on her message. Continue Reading »

Sweet Dreams

  • Posted on December 5, 2019
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This week, we read about Jacob’s dream about a ladder standing on Earth and reaching Heaven. The Talmud teaches that Jacob dreamed this sleeping on the Temple Mount, and ‘coincidentally,’ as I write these thoughts before attempting to overcome jetlag and fall asleep myself, I am visiting my older children exactly 400 metres from that Continue Reading »

Esau’s Rehabilitation

  • Posted on November 29, 2019
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In our reading this week, our matriarch Rebecca learned that her older son Esau was plotting to kill her younger son, Jacob. She told Jacob to flee to her brother’s home in Ḥaran and wait there until Esau’s anger would subside, at which point she would send for him. Her pleading words to Jacob end Continue Reading »

Kindness First

  • Posted on November 22, 2019
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When Abraham had buried his wife Sarah and mourned for her appropriately, he turned his mind to caring for his son’s pressing need, and helped him find a wife. The local women were not appealing in Abraham’s or Isaac’s eyes, so they dispatched Abraham’s servant to Haran to see if any candidates could be found Continue Reading »