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The Art of Jewish Living


n o i t i d E t h g i L The A publication of Kehillat Ma’arav Winter 2016-17/5777 Vol. 1 / Issue 3

KAVANA Editor-in-Chief Masha Savitz Art Director & Graphic Design Mia Schaikewitz Contributing Writer Sabine Ganezer KEHILLAT MA’ARAV Rabbi Michael Gotlieb Cantor Samuel Cohen Executive Director Kathie Rose Director of Education & Youth Programming Sharone Weizman

KISLEV Hanukkah / TEVET / SHEVAT Tu B’Shevat COVER IMAGE Tel Aviv, Israel. Laser beams creating the image of a large lit Hanukkah menorah are projected on the Hiriya landfill, a former waste disposal site, now called the Ariel Sharon Park, near Tel Aviv, Israel, on the second eve of Hanukkah, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011. The Jewish festival of light, an eight-day commemoration of the Jewish uprising in the Second Century B.C.E. against the Greek-Syrian kingdom, which had tried to put statues of Greek gods in the Temple, started Tuesday. AP Photo.

Head of Early Childhood & Arts Programs Masha Savitz Events Coordinator Cindy Roth Administrative Assistant Rose Piccirilli Business Manager Joanne Klein Communications Mia Schaikewitz Building Manager Carlos Perez President Joel Krischer Executive VP Jamie Green

Kehillat Ma’arav (KM) is a Conservative congregation serving Santa Monica, the Westside and beyond. KM is a caring, involved community striving to meet the religious, spiritual, educational, and social needs of our diverse membership. Join us Shabbat mornings for an egalitarian, traditional service. We maintain an award winning K-12 religious school as well as youth programs and continuing adult education opportunities. We invite you to experience our community and help us serve the Westside with pride and dignity.

“Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.” Michael Strassfeld

KAVANA can be defined as “intention” or “direction of the heart.” It is most frequently used to describe the mindset that is necessary for performing mitzvot and celebrating rituals- in one putting one’s heart and soul into something, not simply going through the motions. Our intention is that K A V A N A opens paths for us to lead richer and fuller Jewish lives.

Our story begins with light. “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.…” God separates light from darkness, and we must discern between the two. Havdalah affirms that we do. A light guides our path through the desert, light heralds in as holiness on Shabbat and our sacred holidays, as we gather the light upon blessing. Light in our Hanukkah story is associated with miracles, and an everlasting light, ner tamid, hangs over our ark as a constant reminder. Finally, we are charged to be a light. So light is our test, reward, gift, and mission. This winter’s edition of K A V A N A focuses on light, and the many references, interpretations and miztvot regarding light during our year’s darkest months.

We invite you to celebrate light and to be a light. Masha Savitz Editor-in-Chief

RABBI’S REFLECTIONS Rabbi Michael Gotlieb

Friday Night Lights: The Romance of Shabbat


’ve often wondered why the 4th of the Ten Commandments (literally 10 statements, or utterances) is, “Observe the Shabbat.” Not only that, I’ve often questioned why it’s listed at all, regardless the number. Think about it, “Observe the Shabbat,” appears right up there with don’t murder, honor your parents, don’t bear false testimony and don’t commit adultery. One explanation is historic and tied to Suzerain law. As if to say: “These are the rules of our accord: You—i.e. you, the vassal—work for six days, after which, on the seventh day, you cease from your work.” The word Shabbat comes from the Hebrew root shevat which means cease or pull-back, it doesn’t mean rest. If someone were to ask you what is Shabbat? Outside of the Biblical commandment that dictates our observance, think of it as a divinely legislated candlelit dinner. It’s more than that of course. Not least of which, Shabbat, naturally, carries over into an all day observance on Saturday. But think about it another way: A candlelit dinner, one ideally without cellphones, television and appointments to rush off to. Minimally two candles are lit Friday evening prior to the start of Shabbat. What’s the reason? The Ten Commandments are mentioned twice in the Torah, once in Exodus and then again in Deuteronomy. In Exodus, the Torah instructs us to remember the Shabbat. In Deuteronomy, we’re told to observe the Shabbat. Some households light additional candles for each child, or grandchild. Rabbi Deborah Orenstein cites in her book, “Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life & Personal Milestones,” expectant mothers place an unlit candle on the Shabbat table in anticipation of their child’s birth. Fourteen years ago I travelled to Berlin with a small group of rabbis who were invited by the German government as an expression of outreach to, and support of, Jews and Israel. We enjoyed Friday night dinner at the home of one of Berlin’s prominent rabbis’. In his living room were votive candles placed throughout. There must have been thirty of them. The atmosphere could not have been more holy, relaxed and welcoming. Strewn on his and his wife’s Shabbat table were colorful, sweet-smelling rose petals. To this day, in addition to the spiritual glow of the Shabbat candles that brighten our home, I place rose petals on our Shabbat table as an expression of love and further beautification of this holy, light-filled, divinely orchestrated day.

Safed Candles; Out of the Box SABINE GANEZER

"Smiley Hassidic faces, carved Jewish stars, good luck Hamsas – outlines of a hand with a prayer inscribed – and many other images combine to show that Judaica can be created from anything.....even wax." So boasts Safed Candle Company's official page on the Israeli city's tourism website. The company started as a small, local job garden for artistic Tzfat residents, but with the water of time and the sunlight of uncompromising creative leadership, it has grown into a world-famous hub for observant Jews to procure holiday candles. "Despicable Me" minions, plump red pomegranates, and an Orthodox rabbi shredding on an electric guitar are just some of the shop's unique offerings. More traditional items are also for sale, such as regular Shabbat candles hand-decorated with glittering crepuscular mist, and Havdalah candles hand-braided before lucky visitors' eyes. Most of the manufacturing techniques of the company, however, remain secreted in its off-site production factory. But what is the point of paying good money for beautiful artwork, if all you're going to do with it is set it on fire and watch it melt to unrecognizable waxy globs? Why would you light a Safed candle? Shouldn't these unbelievable creations be displayed forever in cold pristinity? Well, some of the best ones are: the shop also functions as a museum, disappointing visitors daily with the news that an eye-catching piece is not for sale. But the ones that come home in shoppers' hands are meant to take part in something greater: the bright festival of Jewish holidays. Hanukkah is a celebration of the end of a war. More than winning or spilling blood, what Jews extoll on this Winter occasion is faith in God and in God's commandments, a faith that has carried our people through the tightest bottlenecks of persecution. For the Maccabee refugees, a tiny drop of oil from the destroyed temple provided light for a miraculous eight days. Light is more than the vehicle for seeing: it brings cheer in the colorless winter times, of history or of our lives. It insists upon a hope for a new sunrise. It affirms faith in God, as well as representing the work that humans on earth must do to extend God's miracles into every facet of life. First, we strike a match. Then we use the "helper candle", or Shamash, to pass the brilliant, sudden flame on to the rest of the candles in the Hanukkiah, for a total of eight days. The week is brought full circle with a roaring crowd of lights insisting jubilation even in the depths of winter. As we have explored before in this magazine, KAVANA refers to fullspirit commitment to every mitzvah we carry out. It requires that Jewish ceremonial objects be not only functional, but beautiful, crafted with love and intention to work our reverence into every cranny of a spice box, every blister on a candle-maker's fingers. All this, of course, is excellent if one can afford the top-quality Judaica that Safed Candles manufactures for this purpose. But what about those of more modest means? Fulfilling the commandment of beauty does not have to cost a fortune. It has to cost energy, in the form of true dedication. It has to cost the light that burns within our souls. Whether we are making a holy pilgrimage to Tzfat (or sending Google as ambassador) to purchase the world's most renowned holiday candles, or whether we are simply lighting a preschool-craft Hanukkiah with the same spiraled thin candles we will save for birthdays to come, it is this burning energy that beautifies our holidays long after all the candles are simple globs of melted wax.

Great Miracles Are Happening There

Nes Gadol Sham Reuters April 1, 2015; Retrieved December 1, 2016; Intro: Masha Savitz

In the time of the Maccabees, a miracle of light accompanied the re-dedication of the great Temple. Today in Israel, dedicated doctors, scientists and --discover miracles , making significant breakthroughs medicine and technology every year. Closing wounds and surgical incisions with a laser is a step closer to reality, Israeli scientists say. The futuristic technique is better than current methods which damage tissue and can cause scarring, researchers from Tel Aviv University believe. Head of the Applied Physics Department Abraham Katzir was behind the research. He says traditional stitches or more modern glues are inferior to his new method. “Today most of the incisions that are made by surgeons are bonded using sutures or clips or chemical glues and there are problems with these methods. And we found that if you heat the incisions spot by spot by laser you can bond it without incisions and hopefully with very little or no scarring,� he said.

Sutures have been used for thousands of years, but the researchers’ handheld bonding device could replace them once the technique is refined enough to be used in human patients. “The advantages of the procedure are that we can get bonding to be probably much stronger than with sutures. We hope that the scarring will also be less than with sutures and eventually we get the safety of the procedure to be better,” said Ichilov Medical Center ophthalmic surgeon, David Versano. An attempt to ‘weld’ tissue through heating was tried in the 1970s and 80s, but prior to the Tel Aviv University team’s experiments, nobody had been able to accurately control the heat created by laser light, Katzir said. “If you heat a spot on an incision to temperatures lower than say 50 or 55 degrees centigrade nothing happens. If you are above 65 degrees than you cause scarring and therefore we found that you have to heat each spot on an incision to roughly 60 degrees centigrade and then you get good bonding without scarring. And we carried out experiments on a large number of tissues, on skin, on cornea,” Katzir said. Katzir and his team made their discovery after developing an innovative optical fiber that can transmit infra-red light and simultaneously measure the heat of the tissue. Only the single fiber method affords the device the ability to accurately control the laser’s power, he said. “What we developed is a special optical fiber that can both transmit the laser energy to a spot on an incision and carefully measure the temperature of that spot, so then we can monitor and control the temperature of that spot and this is something that others have not done yet,” he said.

“There are two ways ofresembles Tissue bonding occurs with the aid of collagen, a protein whose structure microscopic hooks on each edge of a cut which can link together when heated. The bond spreading becomes firm when the tissue cools, Katzir said. light; to be He predicted that a practical tool, once developed, would have dramatic implications in medicine. the candle The laboratory device has been tested on healing corneal incisions in eyes taken from dead orminimal the thermal damage to cows and a permanent, tight seal was achieved instantly with the tissue, the research paper said. mirror that The single optical fiber is narrow enough to be threaded into a very thin tube which would reflects it.” allow the device to be used in endoscopic surgery for microscopic repairs to internal blood vessels and nerves, Katzir said. In the first tests on 10 human patients, undertaken in recent Edith months, wounds treated with the laser technique successfully healed, with a reduction in scar tissue. According to Katzir, follow-up examination one year after the surgery should Wharton show whether the technique leaves less scarring than traditional stitching. 9

The Temple’

‫ו ַ ֹיּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אֹור ו ַיְהִי אֹור‬

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Light was God’s first creation. Why?    There are many forms of light.   There is physical light which we use to see (in physics, light can be in wave form, particle form, or both). The sun allows us to see during the day and the moon takes over at night. We may use the light from a candle, and in our modern times, we have light bulbs. Light also comes in many different colors. We measure the brightness of light with the term lumens.  There is also the by-product of light, which is heat. The sun radiates both light and heat. A candle warms with it’s flame. Incandescent light bulbs omit heat. Every type of light needs energy to shine. Furthermore, we use the word “light” to reflect a spiritual meaning.  “The light of Torah” is used as an analogy for God and the Neshama - soul. Neir Adoni nishmat Adam: The light of God is the soul of man. The spiritual mission statement of the Jewish people is to be a “light on to the Nations.”  We combine both the physical light with the spiritual light when we engage in the tradition of lighting Shabbat, festival, Havdalah, and yartziet candles. The Talmud speaks about the construction of the Temple at length and one of the special features of the building itself was the shape of the windows.  Many buildings in ancient times would have windows constructed as narrow slits in the wall that would widen on the inside. This type of window design was for two reasons: 1) To let the light in. 2) To keep the inside safe so that arrows or other kind of projectiles could not enter. The Temple’s windows

’s Light Cantor Samuel Cohen

were just the opposite of that design. They were larger on the outside and narrowed on the inside to let the light out. The rabbis wanted the Temple, which was so full of light, to shine out and spread out to the world. Similarly to the light of the Menorah, which was alight 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, the spirit of the Jewish people and the light of God and Torah would emanate from the Bait Hamikdash - Holy Temple,  24/7.   This is why I believe light was God’s first creation. One does not need to do anything to have darkness because darkness already exists. Light is the action that removes the darkness. It takes energy, time and effort to have light 24/7. Therefore, in order to create anything at all, there must first be light. Only after light exists, so comes the rest of creation. Light, and the warmth that comes with it, helps to remove darkness, sorrow and sadness.   The speed of light is finite, but light and sharing light is infinite. There are many ways one can share light and bring warmth into the world, your own life, or someones els’e life. Our rabbis tell us that today, synagogues are our holy temples. Here at Kehillat Ma’arav, we strive to share the light of God and Torah and to be like candles emanating as much light as we can. You can be the candle and/or be the light that lights another candle to drive away the darkness and coldness of the world. Inviting others to a Shabbat dinner, saying a kind word, or doing a mitzvah can create light which can shine not just for the eight days of Hanukkah, but like the light of the Temple and creation, for 24/7. Photo: Kehillat Ma’arav Sanctuary December 22, 2016 by Masha Savitz. Stained glass windows by Phil Rose.


“The hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.” Felix Adler


Sharone Weizman, KM Education and Youth Director


hat does it mean to be an Ohr L’Olam? In the Torah the Jewish people are called an Ohr L’Olam,‘A Light to the Nations’. As we enter the winter months, light of day is shortened and darkness grows, but Hanukkah shines bright with Jewish families lighting candles to symbolically bring more light into a dark world. How can we kindle our inner light and be an Ohr L’Olam during this festival of lights? A Light to the Nations (Hebrew: ‫ לגויים אור‬Or LaGoyim) is a term originated from the prophet Isaiah which may express God’s kingdom of priests as a mentor for spiritual and moral guidance for the entire world. “I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to nations”. (Isaiah: 41–42, 49, and 60) How can our being an Ohr L’Olam inspire others to open their eyes, help to fulfill their needs, as well as to walk in the way of the One God? Being an Ohr L’Olam can be derived through the Three Pillars of:Torah, Avodah and G’Millut Chasadim. 1. Torah and the Jewish people striving to get closer to the ONE Creator. Key to the idea of our being an Ohr L’Olam is that God gave us the Torah and that, by following the guidelines, principles and Mitzvot in the Torah, we are to demonstrate to the world that the greatest wisdom is to be found in drawing close to God and God’s teachings. 2. Avodah (Prayer, self-reflection and striving for growth). Being an Ohr L’Olam can be a motivator to self-examination, what we should demand of ourselves as individuals and as a community.The notion that God expects us to model the ideal life of Divine service ought to be a challenge to us, a call to constant self-reflection. True morality is a product of an ideal vision of ourselves that we may never obtain but for which we continually strive.

3. G’millut Chasadim (Acts of loving kindness). Living the truth of the Torah through behavior and actions. By following God’s Mitzvot, our model behavior will inspire individuals and our community to action in helping and enhancing the lives of others and our world. By being a light to the world we can combine the holiness of all three Torah, Avodah and G’millut Chasadim and truly be partners with God and become better members of our community. In today’s day and age when the world needs more light especially during the winter months, I hope each of us will be an Ohr L’Olam during this Hanukkah season.

Photo: Damascus Gate at Jerusalem Light Festival (photo: Miriam Mezzera)


As published in The Wall Street Journal on December 23, 2016

Christmas fascinates me. I’m drawn to its history, its color, its atmosphere, its music. And, of course, I’m drawn to the fact that Jesus was a Jew. He was born a Jew, lived as a Jew and died a Jew. If for nothing else, I can appreciate Christmas as the celebration of one Jew’s epic birthday. The 20th century philosopher and theologian Martin Buber would often begin lectures to ecumenical gatherings by stating that a key difference separating Jews and Christians is whether Jesus was the messiah. Christians believe he was, and they are awaiting his return. Jews believe that the messiah hasn’t yet come. His suggestion: Let’s all pray for the messiah—Christians and Jews alike. When he arrives, we’ll ask if he’s been here before. While I am a religious Jew, and Judaism unequivocally promotes belief in a messiah, the concept sometimes puzzles me. My difficulty with the notion of a messiah is not an issue of faith—that’s too personal to argue. The question is if the messiah were to appear, or reappear, what would he say that hasn’t already been said? I assure you that there would be nothing new, no surprises.

The messiah would likely declare that we shouldn’t treat fellow human beings like objects and that we shouldn’t steal from one another. To bring peace to the world, the messiah would certainly demand, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Don’t murder—especially in the name of God,” “Don’t commit adultery,” and “Don’t bear false witness.” He would no doubt add that personal and universal redemption requires that we not gossip, manipulate others or act deceitfully, and that we should channel and refine our base impulses. This would help us become kinder, humbler and more human. All of us are well familiar with these timeless moral instructions, the result of our affiliation with churches and synagogues. Such lofty principles are hard-wired into the universal Judeo-Christian ethic. A messiah need not repeat them. Even if his message isn’t fresh, many idealize the messiah as a personal redeemer, a force capable of divine, superhuman power. Who hasn’t prayed for miraculous intervention? Whether it be for help to overcome a personal obstacle or for a loved one to survive a deadly disease. What is one to do when no more human interventions are available? Given that life is not merely physical, we all have a spiritual dimension that requires attention. Humans naturally search for a superhero—something to apprehend the bad guy, to stop the disease from spreading, to change human nature and the physical order of the universe and save the day. A messianic belief can help fill that yearning. It has for me. Yet the issue isn’t necessarily the messiah. To think so is to take one’s eye off the theological ball. The real issue is God. The messiah can become a veil, it can separate us from the primary source. I’d prefer to blame or praise God directly and not a messianic filter. Within Judaism, rabbinic law has become a potential veil between the individual and God. Rulings on Jewish law are too often engulfed in a labyrinth of hairsplitting debate. Not uncommonly its resolve depends on the authority of a particular rabbi or academy. The forest is too often lost amid the trees. So while Christians ask, “What would Jesus do?” Jews ask, “What does Jewish law say?” That’s completely understandable from a traditional Jewish perspective, and it is often praiseworthy. But, I wish Jews would learn from their Christian cohorts and ask directly, “What would God say?” Just as the Prophet Micah did by asking, “What does God require of us?” Christmas and its celebration of the birth of Jesus compels me to think about the concept of a messiah. I am grateful to my Christian neighbors and friends. Through their religious holy day, I am better able to confront and clarify my own religious convictions and theological certitudes. Like a brightly lighted Christmas tree, Christianity dispels a lot of darkness, theological as well as moral. In its glow, it challenges Christians and non-Christians alike to consider that which is transcendent, eternal and greater than us all. Merry Christmas indeed.

Rabbi Gotlieb is the rabbi of Kehillat Ma’arav, a Conservative congregation, in Santa Monica, Calif.

Photo: Aurora Rain Forrest ©2016 The Aurora Chasers

Tu B’Shevat: S h ’ e B v at: u T

g n S i t e n e a d l s P

According to Wisdom of the Mystics, the renown and respected Rav Abraham Kook was once walking in the fields, lost deep in thought, the young student with him inadvertently plucked a leaf off a branch. Rav Kook was visibly shaken by this act, and turning to his companion he said gently, “Believe me when I tell you I never simply pluck a leaf or a blade of grass or any living thing, unless I have to.” He explained further, “Every part of the vegetable world is singing a song and breathing forth a secret of the divine mystery of the Creation.” For the first time the young student understood what it means to show compassion to all creatures. Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28, says, ‘In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, He showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him: “See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.” Perhaps nothing illustrates the warning of this ancient text more than the new documentary, in the new documentary, SEED: The Untold Story. A farmer interviewed, compares himself to a modern day Noah; instead of collecting and protecting every species of animals, he like others, are collecting and protecting seeds from all species of plant life in ark like seed banks for future generations. So much of Gods creations are being destroyed and lost. Tu B’Shevat, reminds us of our responsibility to the earth, and the Torah’s agricultural laws. Perhaps more than ever, we need to heed the wisdom of our ancient texts. Tu B’Shevat which falls on 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat and can be celebrated, participating in a Kabbalistic inspired seder, by becoming active in protecting our environment and by planting trees- the life giving chain of seed to plant to seed. As it says, ‘And God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit trees yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is on the earth,” and it was so. And the earth blossomed with grass, herbs and trees, and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:9-13) Celebrate at Kehillat Ma’arav with a traditional Tu B’Shevat seder following services at our Shabbat in 3-D February 11, 2017.

“Havdalah” Marge Piercy The sun slides from the sky as the sparks of the day are tamped out. From the last we ignite the twisted candle that summons us to remember how to braid into the rough wool of our daily lives that silken skein of the bright and holy; that reminds us we are a quilted people who have picked up the dye of our surroundings, as tall and short, as dark and light as the lands we have been blown to, eating of strange and distant trees, that we are a varied people braided into one; the candle that reminds us we pray with many accents, in many languages and ways. All are holy and burn with their own inner light as the strands of this wax flame together. Woman, man, whomever we love and live with, single or coupled, webbed in family or solitary, born a Jew or choosing, pious or searching, we bring our thread to the pattern. We are stronger for the weaving of our strands. Let us draw in together before we scatter into the maze of our jobs and worries, let us feel ourselves in the paused dance that is the candle with its leaping flame: let us too pause before shabbat lets us go. Let us rejoice in the fruit of the vine, the blood of summer sweet and warm on the lips, telling us, remember to enjoy the swift innocent pleasures of the earth. Let us breathe the perfume of the spices. Ships sailed off the edges of maps into chaos, tribes were enslaved and rulers overthrown for these heady flavours more prized than gold, now sold like flour in the market. Let us not forget to savor the common wonders. Let us linger in the last candlelight of shabbat. Here we have felt ourself again a people and one. Here we have kindled our ancestors to flame in our minds. Here we have gazed on the faces of the year’s casualties, opened the doors of our guilt, raised our eyes to the high bright places we would like to walk soon. This little light we have borne on our braided selves – let us take it with us cupped in our minds. Now we drown the candle in the little lake of wine. The only light we have kept is inside us. Let us take it home to shine in our daily lives.

Find a special gift from candlesticks to hanukkiot, or enhance your own ritual experience bringing beautifully crafted Judaica into your home and life. Stop by KM or contact the office to set up an appointment to buy from our gift shop!

“The Musicians” menorah by artist Karen Rossi.

Kehillat Ma’arav - The Westside Congregation 1715 21st Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404 310-829-0566

KAVANA - The Art of Jewish Living  

Winter 2016-17 - Issue 3. Vol. 1 KAVANA is a quarterly publication of Kehillat Ma'arav, a conservative synagogue located in Santa Monica, Ca...