From the desk of The Rabbi – Parashat Bo: The founders of Reform Judaism in the early years of the nineteenth century in Germany bemoaned the uncivilized way religious services were conducted by the orthodox synagogues of the time. Services were not decorous, but unsynchronized cacophonies of sound without any order.Unfortunately, those who want more sophisticated services akin to those which are conducted in churches, fail to understand the essence of tefillah, or prayer, which can be most effective and moving even while appearing to be disorganized. Had these individuals read the Ramban’s final commentary on the parsha of Bo, they would have understood the true nature of prayer, as Rambam described it.
The Ramban writes that prayer is most effective if it is arrogant, a strange word to use in relation to prayer, which usually connotes sincerity and humility. But the Ramban insists that prayer uttered in a strong and almost impudent manner can effect change in the heavens. He cites the passage from the book of Jonah which we read at Mincha on Yom Kippur, quoting the king of Nineveh who calls on his people to cry out to G-d “mightily” so that G-d can see the sincerity of their prayers and forgive them their sins.
The Ramban quotes the Jerusalem Talmud in Massechet Taanit that comments on the verse from Jonah, stating that as an arrogant voice can silence the humble, it can also affect the heavenly spheres. In a more modern sense, one can say that prayer is not designed to be a staid experience. Each of us has the capacity to reach out to G-d in an individual manner, even as we pray as part of a minyan.
The Chasidic movement takes prayer to new spiritual heights with its emphasis on almost ecstatic recitation and the development of the niggun, the wordless melody designed to reach out to G-d. The Misnagdim put their emphasis on pure kavannah, or intent, in ensuring that their holy words are acceptable by G-d. Others appreciate the presence and performance of cantors and choirs, and feel themselves uplifted by those experiences. The Sephardic Jews recite their prayers aloud and in unison in order to achieve their goal of Devekut, or “clinging” to G-d.
Within the orthodox community today, there are many variations on a prayerful theme, with synagogues exercising different options to meet specific needs. Our synagogue is no exception, with the presence of two minyanim on Shabbat mornings. Recently, we spent Shabbat at a shul in the Hollywood area of Florida that had seven simultaneous minyanim taking place in one facility. Services that meet Halachic standards are not to be judged as inferior or superior in terms of how they are conducted. Personal preferences are to be respected.
As a community, we may pray in different ways. But our goals and aspirations are the same. We ask Hashem for His protection and His guidance. Our pleas and supplications may not be arrogant, but they are heartfelt.
This week’s challenge questions:
1. What is the absolute latest that the morning blessings may be said.
2. Many communities (including ours) say ‘Shir Hama’alot memamakim’ after Yishtabach during the Ten Days of Penitence. Is this an acceptable practice?
Rabbi Yehuda Simes zt”l Sefer Torah
We have been so pleased with the response to Rabbi Yehuda Simes ztâ€l Torah Project and with the responses so far. We wanted to share with you the launch of a dedicated website for friends in the United States to help us reach our goal. https://www.jewcer.org/project/rabbisimestorahproject/We hope you will support this worthy initiative and help us spread the word to all those who knew Rabbi Simes.Please share this link with your family, friends and people who knew Rabbi Simes and who live in the US.
The Rabbi Simes Torah Project is a celebration of the man who positively affected so many lives. His lasting influence on the Ottawa Jewish community and his Congregation is immeasurable. Rabbi Simes loved his family. He loved Judaism. He loved his community and he loved learning.
A Torah scroll dedicated in his memory will honour his love of teaching, learning and commitment to a life of Torah. This Sefer Torah will be housed at Beit Tikvah, the shul Rabbi Simes attended. In recognition of the fact that Rabbi Simes reached the entire community, the Sefer Torah will be made available and brought to other locations for Simchas and sadly, during times of sorrow.
Help us reach our goal. Donations can be made by Interac eTransfer, cheque, credit card, and PayPal or by calling the Shul office at 613-723-1800.
Donations: * General Donations: $18
* Siddurim: Koren/Artscroll $50
* Koren Talmud Bavli: $100
* Wall of Honour/brick: $118
JFS VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: JFS is in need of Friendly Visitors for a few clients. All are isolated seniors in need of a little companionship, whether visits at home, over the phone, or going on outings. Some will be replacements for volunteers gone south for the winter. Students welcome. Commitment is for only 1 hour at a time, every week or twice a month. East and West end locations. 613.722.2225, ext.315 to help. ESL teacher needed beginning January 2018. Beginners’ conversational English for Russian-speaking seniors, on Mondays 1:00-2:30pm, at JFS on Carling Ave. Lesson prep, room set-up/clean up, and attendance taking. Occasional replacement for 10:30am-12 class, as well. Conversational Russian an asset, but not required. Call 613.722.2225, ext. 315 to volunteer. Russian-speaking volunteer needed to help plan and organize monthly day trips, cultural activities, picnics, and potlucks for Russian-speaking seniors. To help, please call Gohar at 613.722.2225, ext.425. Drivers urgently needed to transport clients to/from Adult Day Programs, medical appointments, and social programs. All areas of the city needed. 613.722.2225, ext.315.