This week in grade 1 we had a special treat: one of our madrichim read the class a story and lead a discussion about it. We also did a whole bunch of review for all the hebrew letters we’ve learned so far.
Today we began our day by playing broken telephone with our buddies. At Tefilah, we said our prayers and talked about the importance of helping the homeless.
Back in class, we heard a longgggggg story about our forefathers and foremothers, leading all the way to Joseph and his brothers! We talked about how Abraham was the first person to believe in god, not idols. We focused on Jacob favouring Joseph and how that lead to Joseph’s brothers sending him away to Egypt, where he became almost a king for helping interpret Pharaohs dreams. All of this lead to Joseph’s brothers coming to ask for food, and not recognizing Joseph. Joseph tricked his brothers by placing his golden cup in Benjamin’s sack, and after a big commotion where the brothers begged him not to lock up Benjamin, Joseph realized his brothers had changed and revealed himself to them. All was forgiven.
Whew!! Next week we will have the corresponding craft 🙂
This past Sunday in Grade 2, we read the book “The Giving Tree.” We talked about the importance of being grateful and how the way we ask for something can impact the person we are asking. We applied this to the structure of the prayer service that we attend every week, because in the Amidah prayer we first thank God for what we are grateful for and then we put in personal prayers and requests. We did a little art activity where we talked about things that we are grateful for and then we came up with personal prayers of what we wanted to ask God for.
In Hebrew we learned the new letter “Tet” which makes a “T” sound. We played a very fun game of Jeopardy that tested our Hebrew letter, sound, and word knowledge. It was a close game but the boy’s team ended up pulling ahead and winning.
An evening with David Frum: A success in renewed spaces!
There was a special excitement in the Sanctuary for the David Frum conversation on January 14, a special event from the Schwartz/Reisman Adult Education Program, and one of a series on the topic of Human Rights in the Age of Nationalism. The fully subscribed evening provided an opportunity for considering with an articulate and supremely well-informed speaker, troubling trends in the world today. Judging by the number of questions and the engaged crowd, it reaffirms our congregation’s importance as a location for significant communal conversations.
We can look at back at January 14 particular pride: it was the first large public event in our almost completed renewed spaces. The Schwartz/Reisman Atrium was a perfect venue for the hundreds of people who shared coffee and cookies with David Frum.
Thanks to everyone who attended; deep appreciation for the large and devoted cohort of volunteers and staff without whose energetic and creative support the event would not have occurred. We also benefited from event financial sponsors whose generosity was invaluable. We all look forward to the next events in this important and timely series.
Enjoy these photos from the evening
Listening at Sinai
This week our Torah portion is Yitro which contains the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Utterances, or as we usually say, the Ten Commandments. We have all seen the commandments represented in art in synagogues or monuments. We have all seen the Charlton Heston movie. Many of us are pretty familiar with what the Big Ten are. I want to comment, though, on our people’s experience of standing at Sinai and receiving these words from God. What is revelation?
I would like to turn to an essay written by Rabbi Plaut in 1966 in Commentary Magazine. He was one of many Jewish leaders who filled the August issues with comments on Jewish belief. Here are some of his words about revelation:
Divine revelation is a self-disclosure of God. It requires God as well as [humans] to give it reality, for all revelation is a form of communication. To reveal need not imply speaking-and-hearing—perhaps it never does; it always means the communication of selfness and essence. Divine revelation is God’s-accessibility-and-[humanity’s]-knowing.”
First, Rabbi Plaut is saying that what our people experienced was not literally audible sounds from God, for God does not literally have vocal chords. Our people at Sinai experienced God in God’s divine essence. He continues:
. . . at Sinai God revealed no words, no commandments, only Anokhi, “I am.” The rest was, literally, commentary—human commentary, the attempt to translate the apprehension of God’s being into the imperatives of human behaviour. “God spoke” is a figure of speech, denoting, “This is what I know God wants of me.” It is the consequence of revelation, not the revelation itself.
Our Torah, our 613 mitzvot (yes, there are more than ten!), is our people’s ancient attempt to put write down the obligations that arose from the revelatory experience at Sinai. All of religious Jewish life is to continue to “listen” to that inaudible sound that God gave, and maybe continues to give so that we, as individuals in a community, can respond with love, loyalty, justice, and mercy.
Every Shabbat and Holy Day (and Monday and Thursday) we try to recreate the scene at Sinai with our Torah service. We go up the mountain (the bima), and we hear words of Torah like Moshe speaking to the people. We can also have this experience when we study or pray, look into the eyes of another. What is God calling me to do? How should I respond to this revelation?
This Shabbat as we study the experience of our ancestors when they first as a people experienced the commanding “voice” of God, we remind ourselves to open our ears to continue to listen.
Tours of the Renewed Spaces
You may have had the opportunity to make your way through the spectacular new and renewed spaces at one of the two occasions where guided tours were offered: at our Housewarming on Sunday, December 2, and on Monday, January 14, just before the lecture by David Frum. Altogether, over 150 congregants have explored the building with one of the delightful members of our team of volunteer docents.
While the descriptive article about the space in the Commemorative Booklet is, in essence, a reader’s tour of the new space, an in-person guided group tour offers an illuminating, hands-on experience that will thoroughly enhance your appreciation and understanding of the project.
A building is also work of art, and just as a museum visit is enriched by the insight and interpretation a docent or audioguide can provide, you’re likely to miss some of the most exciting and interesting features of the project if wandering through alone.
If you missed the opportunity to take one of our guided tours or you’ve cast your eyes around the Atrium while making your way to the Sanctuary on a Shabbat morning and seek the insight of an interpretative experience you’ll be happy to know that additional tours will be offered in the near future, after services on Shabbat morning as well as after some community events. Stay tuned for more details about upcoming tours very soon.
If you’re interested in training to become a guide of our renewed spaces, we’d love to have you on our team! Please share your name and contact info with us and we’ll get in touch with you. Contact Abigail Carpenter-Winch, Director of Membership and Community Engagement, at [email protected].
Renewed spaces inspire renewed giving
Holy Blossom Temple has reached a major milestone with the near-completion of Phase 1 of our Renewal Project. As you know, on December 2nd, we marked this monumental occasion at our Housewarming Celebration, attended by over 1000 people. And a massive crowd turned out for last week’s David Frum lecture, seeing our renewed spaces for themselves at a post-event mingle.
The responses have been overwhelmingly positive and centre mostly around the Schwartz/Reisman Atrium – the “living room” of Temple. Many of you have told us you feel inspired by the new light-filled space and how it showcases the various components of life at Holy Blossom. And we’ve had so much good feedback about the many opportunities the renewed spaces will provide – from hosting large gatherings in the Atrium to joyous family celebrations in the Mishkan (“…it’ll bring Simchas back to Holy Blossom!”) to how our new spaces will expand our work of chesed and good deeds to the community. Others have simply said, “it’ll just be nice to have peaceful and inspiring spaces for contemplating work and life.”
Not surprisingly, seeing the near-completion of the project and its impressive design has also inspired many members to consider their own financial contributions to the Project. To date, Phase 1 has raised $29.8 million – that’s over $300 thousand in the last 2 weeks alone – bringing us ever closer to our Phase 1 fundraising goal. Here’s what some of these new donors said about their gifts:
“For more than 40 years, I have cherished Holy Blossom Temple as a mainstay in my life,” says Sandra Atlin, who made a commitment to Renewal after seeing the building at the Housewarming. “Over the decades, both my late husband Gordon and I have been involved in many Temple committees and projects, with Gordon twice serving as Temple vice-president. By contributing to Renewal, I am honouring our strong connection to Holy Blossom. Through this legacy to the future, I am proud to be part of making the Renewal dream into a reality.”
Another long-time member, Annalee (Rother) Schnurr, commented on the recent passing of her parents who did not live to see the completion of Phase 1, but who left a legacy to the Temple as part of their estate. After discussing what their late parents may have chosen to do with this gift, Annalee and her siblings decided that it should be allocated, in its entirety, to the Renewal Project.
“Holy Blossom played a central role in the life of our parents, Irving and Florence Rother,” says Annalee. “Before their passing, they made clear their desire to leave a meaningful legacy to Holy Blossom. They understood the importance of Holy Blossom and left a gift in their will. My siblings and I are proud to designate this legacy gift to the capital campaign.”
With so many congregants expressing their wishes to help complete the funding of Phase 1, the Renewal Fundraising Committee is strongly hoping that the remaining fundraising balance will be quickly raised.
“My message to the congregation is that if you’re considering a gift to Renewal, the time is now,” says Renewal Fundraising Chair and immediate Past President, Joan Garson. “Phase 1 is 99.9% built. But we still need to complete the fundraising. We know we have the ability within the congregation to get there quickly. This is truly a member-by-member opportunity to play your part in ensuring the future of our congregation.”
And this sense of “the time is now” is being shared by our members. Long-term congregants Joe and Marilynne Cass, recently made a significant commitment to the Renewal Project, after seeing the successful construction of Phase 1.
“We are delighted to support Holy Blossom at this milestone moment of Renewal,” say Joe and Marilynne. “Having raised our children and grandchildren within the Congregation, we have made this Renewal gift, an act of tzedakah, with tremendous joy and pride. What an exciting opportunity to include our names with those who are building for future generations. We feel blessed.”
Our goal is for every congregant to say “Hineini” – Here I am – and to make a personally meaningful, and joyful, gift. To this end, we’re reaching out, one by one, to every congregant over the next number of months.
Meanwhile, if you feel inspired to give, there is no need to wait for our call. Our Director of Development Jonathan Ain is eager to speak to you today. Jonathan can be reached at [email protected] or 416.789.3291 ext. 249.
Is Phase 1 open yet?
The short answer is, unfortunately, not quite yet. The recent final inspection by the City’s buildings department has resulted in some revisions that need to be made to the smoke exhaust system. We expect to receive our occupancy permit shortly after this work is complete (and inspected), in a few short weeks’ time.
As always, we thank you for all your patience and for your support, financial and otherwise, of our Renewal Project.
We spoke about Joshua and how he had to step up as the new leader to help the Israelites. We also learned about the battle of Jericho and how the Israelites concurred the city.
This week we talked about everything and anything related to Tu B’shvat! We talked about why the holiday exists and came up with reasons to celebrate trees and all of nature every day of the year!
This week we played Tu Beshevat Bingo and made Mitzvah trees to celebrate the BIRTHDAY of trees! We discussed planting trees in Israel, had a visit from musician, Avishai, and learnt a hebrew song in honor of the holiday. Then we finished the day by playing broken pictionary, & kaboom to keep up with our Hebrew.