Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mishpatim’s awful pun

Camp Ramah taught me so much about Judaism and how to live and breathe it.  The camping movement also taught me what’s known as “Rega shel ivrit”- a moment of Hebrew.  Using bad puns, I’d like to give an example:

Person 1: Quick Quick, my hair’s on fire!

Person 2: Whatcha talkin about?

Person 1: Quick Quick, myhair’s on fire!

Quick, Maheir, Maheir, Quick. (Maheir means quick in Hebrew)

The puns can go on and on.  But in a weekend when all we get to watch in the football world is the Pro Bowl, I’d like to say that I just really miss my team- be it the Patriots or Jaguars. Hating most of the remaining teams this past weekend, I couldn’t bear to watch any of the games (though I did root for the Packers).  Instead, I practiced my torah reading for this week’s parsha, which discusses God’s ordinances.  I kept thinking, “I need to learn these ordinances, but really missmyteam though.” I really miss my team, but I need to learn these ordinances.  Ordinances, Mishpatim, Mishpatim, Ordinances.  What a rega shel ivrit!

Barry Manilow and Parshat Mishpatim

Below is an excerpt from an email sent to the entire JJC community:

A note from Hazzan Jesse Holzer…

Over the past few years, our MJGDS choir has expanded its presence within our congregation and the community at large.  It is with great excitement that I share with you the news that we’ll be performing alongside the one and only Barry Manilow this upcoming Wednesday at the Jacksonville Arena.  What a giant leap forward! As co-director of our choir, along with Jeanine Hoff, MJGDS music teacher, I am thrilled at this rare and unique opportunity.  I hope to share this experience with you all.


Our 4th and 5th graders have been fantastic in learning about Barry Manilow and his music.  The song we will be performing with Mr. Manilow is called One Voice.  What Mr. Manilow may not know is that he will be forever linked to this Hazzan and his love for connections to the week’s torah portion.  In this week’s parsha, the Israelites receive a myriad of laws from Moses- the topics range from the pilgrimage festivals to polytheism to loans and pledges.  When all the laws are read, Exodus 24:7 has the pivotal line of “naaseh v’nishma”- we will do and we will obey, but this only can happen because of what is stated in verse 3: And Moses, came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the ordinances, and all the people answered in One Voice and said, “All the words which the Lord hath spoken we will do.”  This is the first time the nation speaks as One Voice. How appropriate it is that we can sing this song with a legend tomorrow night, during the week we read this liminal verse in our nation’s history.

Not a betting man…

I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d use this upcoming parasha as inspiration for my NFL playoff picks.  As we encounter the Israelite people in Parashat Beshalach, they are beginning their ultimate road journey- leaving the home they’ve inhabited for generations for a long road that will hopefully lead to the promised land.

Even on the surface, we see the power of the road team.  It’s not surprising, then, to discover that 3 out of the 4 road teams won their wild card matchup this weekend.  What might be surprising is that the one victorious home team was Seattle.  And so we return to the text, to dig deeper, in order to find our answers.

The Israelites crossed the split sea, the uprights if you would, following wit h a remarkable song and dance.  The song, known as Shirat Hayam (song of the sea), tells the story of triumph over the Egyptians who were unable to cross.  These Egyptians “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath He cast into the sea, and his chosen captains are sunk in the Red Sea,” the text exclaims.  Chariots led by horses, or COLTS, drowned.  Chariots ridden by chosen captains, CHIEFtains if you would, drowned.  This possibly alludes to losses by the Colts and Chiefs this past weekend.

That’s two games explained, but what about the SEAHAWKS? That’s easy- they wouldnt drown in the SEA if they are SEAHAWKS!!

The argument that the Eagles should have been victorious as well is muted by two factors- their coach and their opponent.  Often referred to as the Red Sea, the Sea of Reeds bears its name because it is filled with REED.  Andy Reed, coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, needed to drown in the Sea of Reeds- it was destiny foretold.  Reed and his Eagles also faced this year’s Superbowl sleeper, the Green Bay Packers- it sounds like the perfect nickname for the Israelites- packing only what could fit on their back, the Israelites began their journey on the road to the promised land.

There you have it.  All four games told in the prophecies of Parashat Beshalach.  As Shabbat Shira approaches, may we continue to find favorable metaphors from the torah to sing in our own lives.



On a somber note

This weekend the entire Jewish community mourns the loss of Debbie Friedman, a true matriarch of the American Jewish community, who reinvigorated synagogue music and worship services for over a generation. Zichronah L’vracha: May her memory be for a blessing always.

Torah Thoughts from this Past Shabbat

Here’s some thoughts from this past week’s sermonizing:

Introduction to Torah Reading:

This week’s torah introduction was inspired by a great piece on Parashat Vaera and Environmental awareness/appreciation.

Introduction to Haftarah:

The phrase tanim hagadol, or tannin hagadol, the great sea monster, the serpent or dragon, is also what we might think of as crocodile or Gator. The crocodile was worshipped in Egpyt as a god. In the Haftarah, the term is used to describe Egpyt itself.

The Gators have a tough schedule in this week’s parasha- its one thing to handle Alabama crimson blood, or the wild beasts like the Auburn/LSU tigers, but TCU frogs or Georgia Tech yellow jackets (insects)? Gators can’t handle all of those plagues alongside pestilence (dever) or boils (shechin).  Even if the Egyptian Gators get past the first six tests, that seventh plague, well of course, it’s a Hail (Mary).

Having experienced 7 plagues already in this week’s torah portion, the oracle against Egpyt continues in this week’s Haftarah taken from the book of Ezekiel chapter 28.

Fight Song Trivia:

The following is the fight song for one of two NCAA athletic programs nicknamed the Jaguars, namely the University of South Alabama.  The other school is IUPUI.

We’re the mighty Jaguars
Stand up and cheer,
In our colors we take pride;
On to vic’try lead us year after year
We will stand here side by side.
Through the years we’ve prov’n
Our glory and fame.
Honor be to the victor’s name