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In applying for jobs I found myself limited by the standard format of resume and cover letter. All people, including rabbis, are more than just a sum of degrees and metrics. With this in mind I’ve decided to create a portfolio of some of my writing, programming, educational and creative work. Everything, except the furniture drawing, was created by me. Marketing and clarity of message play a significant role in education today. The posters and promotional ideas are a response to that. Colorful texts are also important. Judaism isn’t ‘black & white’ and should be multi-colored and multi-dimensional. Photography is my most cherished mode of personal artistic expression. I’ve had a passion for it since my childhood and now with improvements in cameras, storage and software there are infinite opportunities for photographic expression. I invite you to explore this document and to contact me with any questions. You can also read more at Contents 3. What the heck is hand-washing? 4-5. A Kitchen Confessional -- 6-7. Rabbi Believes Montreal Food is Sexier -- 8. Film/Text/Jews - Program/Poster 9-13. Kol Nidre 2012 14-15. Rav Moshe Feinstein on Smoking Marijuana, layout and translation 16. Synagogue furniture designs - drawings by David Straus 17-18. Various design pieces for Brown RISD Hillel 19. Kindle Your Judaism - Promo/Progam 20-21. Kehati Mishnah Shabbat - Program/Poster 22-29. Photos





What the heck is hand-washing? The Rabbis of the Mishna (100 b.c.e. - 200 c.e.) instituted the practice of ritually washing hands prior to prayer, the fulfillment of commandments and the consumption of certain foods. There are various reasons given for the practice including, but not exclusively: 1) tumaat yadaim - impurity of the hands, 2) commemoration of Temple practices and, 3) cleanliness. When the Temple stood in Jerusalem there were complex rules of ritual purity primarily aimed at maintaining distance between carcasses, animal and human, and the priests, their accessories and food. Included in this framework was a series of laws governing immersion in ritual baths (mikvaot) and hand-washing. Priests washed hands and feet (from a giant samovar) before entering the Temple - just as Muslims do today before prayer. Jews maintain the practice of washing hands upon waking and prior to prayer. (Maimonides, the 12th century Spanish/Egyptian rabbi, maintained that Jews should wash their hands and feet every morning.)

Prepared as a series for students at Brown RISD Hillel to help overcome barriers to access

The laws of purity also applied to non-priests as these people would tithe and donate food to the Temple and priests and the food had to be pure. In the 16th century Rabbi Yehuda Loew, also known as Maharal, (famous for creating the Golem) discussed hand-washing and suggested that today when the Temple was in ruin the practice was primarily about cleanliness. Whichever reason you ascribe to, the hand-washing we do today before eating bread is special. It is a combination of both ritual cleanliness and hygiene. It is customary to do it with a widemouthed cup with an unblemished lip - i.e. no spout or chips. Many people wash two or three times on each hand. This is only necessary if the hands are dirty as the first one or two applications serve to remove dirt. One may pour a number of ounces of water onto each hand and then raise them while drying and recite the blessing: Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh Haolam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al netillat yadaim. Blessed are You Adonai, our Lord King of the Universe, who commanded us in respect to the elevation of the hands. The blessing is not about cleanliness or purity as the commandment is about consciousness and sanctification. Were this not the case then we would not wash our hands with a cup if we had just washed them with soap. The ‘what the heck is’ series is brought to you by Rabbi Mordechai Rackover of Brown RISD Hillel.



A Kitchen Confessional ! Published October 4, 2011 There are a lot of clichés concerning Jews and food. And, just like the A version of the Yom Kippur Viddui/ notion of “Jewish time” is a poor excuse for being late, so too are the Confessional written for clichés poor excuses for some of our behaviors in relationship to food. In preparing to write this it occurred to me that there aren’t very many chores left in the world that are as critical, personal, and labor intensive as food. We have dry cleaners for our clothes. Gardeners for our lawns, growing food has become a luxury – it means you have land – and not a necessity. But cooking, no matter how much take out you eat, is still a labor-intensive and critical chore. Another aspect of cooking and food is that by its nature, the aspect of our lives that is the most involved with shipping, transporting, and importing. True we get oil from overseas and clothes from Asia. But we don’t consume clothing on a daily basis, and no matter how much you drive, your oil intake doesn’t compare to your food intake in terms of carbon and waste. With all of the above in mind I came to think about the idea of looking back at my year in food. There are two times of the year when Jews take stock. At Passover we clear out our homes obliterating any crumbs of leaven, preparing to reenact the Exodus from Egypt. And, during the Ten Days of Repentance, between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, we again take stock, obliterating any crumbs in our soul as we prepare to leave the bad behind and head into a year focused on the good. As we approach Yom Kippur I thought this would be a good time to take stock, not only of my spiritual and moral self, but also of my culinary self. In the familiar mode of the Yom Kippur viddui, the confessional, I present a list of reflections. These reflections range from the lighthearted to the serious and are to be read to awaken thought and mindfulness in one of the most important areas of our lives – how and what we put in to our bodies.



For the offense of eating and running For the abuse of white sugar For the lie of “one ‘last’ piece of pie” For the shortsightedness of eating fruit imported from half-way across the globe For the lack of fortitude in ignoring the warnings and drinking a 64oz Slurpee For seeking comfort in that childhood favorite that wasn’t meant for an adult stomach For the violation of eating in front of the TV For fooling ourselves in saying “I’ll do any extra thirty minutes on the tread mill” For not checking the pantry before going shopping For ignoring the prophet Michael Pollan in eating California lettuce in the eastern time zone For setting the wrong example and Giving-in to the whining and buying those cookies For forgetting our bags For wastefully not clipping coupons For pretending that this time I’ll wash-up in the morning before I go to work For thinking of myself and not the world by using disposable pans and plastic plates For buying that fish even though there may not be any left in 5 years For not trying new foods For not using an oven mitt and burning yourself for the ‘millionth time’ For tasting and not washing the spoon For Double dipping For not using leftovers

For all of these and more. For the sins that hurt others and those that hurt me. For each one I am sorry. I will try harder in the year to come to improve myself, my family and my home, the planet Earth, through my kitchen and my belly.



Rabbi Believes Montreal Food is Sexier Published November 12, 2011 http://

I had written a blog post about making homemade ravioli from yuntoff leftovers. All food is an expression of sensuality and sexuality, and that’s how my friend Charlie read the post. “It was kind of…erotic” he said in a Facebook IM. And then I realized that that is my problem with food in America, at least in large swathes of America: it is no longer erotic. Not even sexy.

Food here is moribund. As the dictionary says, “in terminal decline; lacking vitality or vigor.” The biggest food news in USA Today last week: the McRib Makes a Comeback. Really? The McRib? A pork patty pressed into a shape that mimics baby-back ribs (bones and all, which normally one discards rather than eating) covered in sugary nasty sauce and pressed into a white sesame seed bun. The McRib is like Frankenstein crossed with a Kardashian; a grotesque attempt to artificially synthesize the perfect piece of meat. To substitute surgery for sensuality, and hope no one knows the difference. The McRib. That’s the big story. Nowadays I keep kosher but I have a foodographic memory and I remember the McRib. It was nice. I liked that the bun was ovular and not round; it felt ‘other’ in a sea of burgers. I was turned on by the molded pork patty, but I never sat shiva for it. I wouldn’t have signed a Petition for its return. Yet, there it was on the front page of, in all it’s sickening sugar and white bread glory. And what does this have to do with Shtetl? I’m a Montrealer in exile. I am approaching over half of my life away from the sacred land of the Habs and the Expos, ob”m and R.I.P. I miss it. But I like my job and my students and my tax rate and health insurance. But I miss Lafleurs at 2am, Mrs. Whytes with every meal, Schwartz’s before a game at the Forum ob”m, Souvlaki (anywhere) and really at anytime. And this sexually charged ravioli made me realize that the food I miss is sexy. Obviously I need to explain because really Lafleurs’ on St.Denis is anything but sexy at 3am with a drunk rolling in his own vomit at the front door. What’s charged about the food that I remember in Montreal is that it is made with care and swagger. It is fatty, rich, unapologetic and real. Consider the humble patates-frites. The chain restaurants in this country use frozen fries that are unceremoniously dumped into oil



with one hand while the other presses down on a timer. In my memory, at Lafleurs’ the potatoes were cut in the shop, they were not peeled, or, if they were it was without much care. The fries then took a bath in a 5 gallon plastic bucket strategically placed on the floor between the fryer and the trash and filled with water. They were unscientifically cooked in batches – not once, but twice. Imagine if McDonalds or TGI Fridays started double cooking their french fries? It doesn’t compute. Why would any company concerned with profits even consider it? It’s true that I’m romanticizing, but it’s my memory so I’m allowed. I also think of trips to Schwartz’s with my dad. When I was a kid it still had an apostrophe. The briskets were just stored in the front window. Piled up. It was nasty and sick yummy. Unapologetic – “Hey, this is where the meat goes. Don’t like it? Go to The Main.” The waiters were unpleasant and no one cared. You got a half hot dog and a piece of liver with your steak. What? A liver? Sexiness is about really being yourself. It’s the opposite of pornography. Sex porn and food porn are made up; they have a function, but they are always ultimately unsatisfying — because they are unreal. Deeply sexy people are utterly and totally themselves and manage to still be attractive and desirable. Montreal food at its best is just that. It is authentic, rich, unapologetic and the way it has always been. I suppose that this is more than a eulogy or a love letter. This is, I guess, an embracing of the Montrealer in me. The one that doesn’t say in the fast foody way that Americans do “have a nice day” to every person that passes me on the street or at work. It is an ode to honesty and clarity. A what-you-see-is-what-you-get mentality that loses a little more footing every time the media celebrates the re-release of the McRib. Montrealers! Shtetl Residents! Eat your fatty luxuriousness and continue to thumb your nose at the rest of the continent. Embrace with love your waiter who won’t speak to you in English. Realize that honesty and the Montrealer way are bound together with eros and emes (truth). Oh Wilensky, how I miss thee.

RABBI MORDECHAI RACKOVER Learning program for Brown RISD Hillel

Film/Text/Jews Using popular media to explore Jewish text, culture and religion Class This Week:

Sex in the Holy City: the comedy of sex in the Talmud & Film

•Learn about the Rabbi Under the Bed! •Consider saying a blessing on sexual relations •Watch Woody Allen Clips - Laugh •Eat good snacks

This learning experience will be a combination of film, text, and other media. All texts will be in English. No background necessary. All welcome.

Wednesday Tuesday Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Tuesday Tuesday Wednesday

Jan. 28 Feb. 3 Feb. 11 Feb. 18 Feb. 25 Mar. 4 Mar. 11 Mar. 18 Mar. 25 Apr. 1 Apr. 7 Apr. 14 Apr. 22

Topic Introduction: Why this course? - How to read Superman, Moses & Jesus: Heroes and Myth Sex in the Holy City: the comedy of sex in the Talmud & Film See “Waltz with Bashir” (Ticket with course commitment) Discuss “Waltz with Bashir” Pre-Purim: Esther in Comics and Culture Power & Powerlessness: Schindler’s List & Exodus Man, Woman, Torah: challenging sex roles The iWorld: technology, pre-technology, & the Sabbath The Ten Commandments & Prince of Egypt Haggadah: telling stories, art, & text Kabbalah: how to blow your mind and stay sane Closing Reflections & Party

Rabbi Mordechai (Michael) Rackover is the Associate Chaplain for the Jewish Community of Brown University and the Rabbi of Brown RISD Hillel.

Rabbi R. is available any time for conversation, exploration or learning. 401.863.2733




Kol Nidre Sermon 2012 I want to start by saying something rather difficult: being here tonight, at Kol Nidre, in religious services, is fundamentally and essentially irrational. We are here to seek forgiveness, to engage with community, with God. But deep down it’s really hard to pin down what we are doing here. I feel very strongly about this issue this year. I want you to know that your rabbi struggles with belief and prayer and all the aspects that I’m sure you find challenging as well. So there are two questions: How did I get here? And how do I stay here? --I woke up the other night at 4:30 in the morning, no idea why, and the following question was in my head: why am I a Jew? At 4:30 in the morning I was obsessing over the following issue: how is it statistically possible. I mean there are 7,000,000,000 people on Earth (granted there were less when I was born.) Of those 7,000,000,000 there are somewhere between 13,000,000 and 15,000,000 Jews. There are 1.3 billion people in China. 1/5.25 people on the planet is in China. At the same time only 1/525 people is Jewish. So these numbers were blowing my mind. I want to point out that at Brown/RISD it’s more like the China ratio 1/7 so it’s a strange thing. There are, by percentages, as many Jews at Brown and RISD as there are Chinese people on Earth. But, also, I’m a Jew by choice. You all are. Not that everyone here converted, but, in modernity everyone has the choice to be secular. In Not in the Heavens: the tradition of Jewish secular thought, the author David Biale says: “Religion may continue to exist in modernity, but it has become one choice among many and is no longer hegemonic. All of us are free to choose and if such choice is an inherent meaning of secularism, then even those choosing to be religious are, in a sense, secular.”



So each of us in this room has a reason for being here. Something in them that is driving them to their Jewish roots, to their desire to be in this room. You, like me, could ask - why am I a Jew? How did I get here? I was born in Montreal and I grew up in a relatively high connection Jewish home. I went to an orthodox synagogue on the high holidays and was bar mitzvahed in one but we were not shabbat observant or kosher keepers - I know the delight that is bacon! But I did have the distinct privilege of going to a Jewish Day School. The school wasn’t even kosher when I started - just so you understand that we are talking about a very unusual place. I was connected to jews and judaism. I didn’t have any non-Jewish friends till I was in middle school. Fast forward to college. I wanted to take a break and I decided that I would go to a yeshiva. I can tell a longer version of the story another day. I’m here because I dropped out of college and decided to go to Yeshiva. I wasn’t religious, I smoked cigarettes on Shabbat for almost a year after I decided to check in to Yeshiva. But I was learning and I was loving it. I wasn’t on fire for God. That’s not who I was or am. I was blown away by Jewish learning. I realized that I could be in control of my religious destiny, my fate, if only I studied. So I did. I learned a lot. And from the age of 21 to 30 I was in Yeshiva or in Jewish studies at McGill. I learned and learned and learned. But I never got locked in on God. God and faith are elusive. If anyone tells you otherwise they are lying or wrong. One may have a deep sense of belief but everyone struggles with that, on a lower or higher level at some point. --So if God is such an elusive mystery how do I do it? Why does Rabbi Mordechai Rackover get up everyday and pray? Why doesn’t he go back to what he really loves: bacon?! Why does he come to work every day and try to get us to do more Jewish? I do it because I learned it. I learned it so deep that I am convinced of the rightness of the Jewish Tradition. We are going to talk about pluralism later, so hold on with questions of what ‘tradition’ means.



I look at my teachers, at the rebbes, at Rav Soloveitchik. I read what they wrote I examine and learn about them and I see that there is something bigger than me here. Something of the mysterium tremendum that I have approached but always seek. Something that they too were working with. That learning, for me is expansive. Of course I’ve studied Talmud and Jewish law. Bible commentaries, philosophy and other areas that are germane to my roll as a rabbi. But also through Jewish texts I have studied, only to name a few topics: the biology of fish-borne parasites, the history of astronomy, electrical engineering, cooking and food history, biology of the male and female reproductive systems and the impact of various IUDs on the uterine lining. I walked past a book case in my office and jotted down anything that wasn’t ‘run of the mill’ Jewish but was a Jewish book - here’s what I got: Philosophy - existentialism Modern Design Poetry Historical women’s lit Secular psychological talmudic textual analysis Music Philology Lego Mysticism World history & Archaeology Of course food, food history, paleo-botany, etc... I have 3 or 4 times as many books at home and there are of course more areas that are out there that I’ve never engaged with. I want to mention how I’m consistently blown away but what undergraduates around here know and learn. So how I got here - Jewish identity that has shifted and learning that has made me confident in my choices. So why am I telling you all this: because for a couple of years now I’ve been asking students to try and answer the following question: What is the content of your Jewish identity? I want to explain the question and I think I can do it. If you say you are a liberal I would say to you - explain your liberal values. Or explain how you relate to being an American. What is the content of that identity. Now we know based on the earlier quote from Biale that you’ve all chosen to identify as



Jews. Your presence here is a part of that identification. One might even say that “Yom Kippur services are part of the content of my Jewish Identity.” I believe strongly that each of us could benefit from enriching the content of our Jewish Identity. Birthright, for example, is a way to start that process. You get like a giant buffet of Jewish identity choices; Zionism, arts, beautiful men and women, history, religion. It’s a great start. [Really I want to tell you about an opportunity that I’m very excited about. It’s a student generated idea that inspired me to seek out funding and to make it happen. Some students came to me and said, “Rabbi, birthright was great but I really wish I’d known more before I left.” Other students came and said, “Birthright was great and now I really want to know more about X.” We thought about this and came up with a program called “Kindle Your Judaism.” The idea is to get a group of students together on a weekly basis. Give them books and get them to read and discuss. What books? Anything Jewish. Holocaust. Arts Michael Chabon Ideally there will be meals and a stipend. That is still pending. But the idea is really strong. Because I want us all to see that: Judaism is not just a religion - that is only one way to connect Judaism has a deep, broad and rich culture and history Students loved the idea. They complained they didn’t have time for pleasure reading. So we’ve got an internship and are hoping to kick off a cohort in November. A pilot.] I want to leave you with some parting thoughts. The content of your Jewish identity - that question is one that you should think about for the rest of your life. It is my belief that by learning more about this magnificent culture and people that you will have more ways to identify. To find a place in Judaism where you are comfortable. This is Yom Kippur - what the hell kind of rabbi says there is doubt. The kind of rabbi who wants people to know that no one is alone.



These next 23 hours or so are very deep. I will feel very high and sometimes I’ll feel detached. Yom Kippur is part of our collective Jewish Identity. We are all here to share of it and in it. There are three services in this building. All kinds of rabbis and Jews and non Jews. There are a million faces to this experience. And while the essential experience of belief is beyond rational proof. The experience of identifying and attaching to a community is rational. It’s brilliant. So why is Yom Kippur so deep? In the times of the Temple there was so much mystery to Yom Kippur. There still is. But the amazing thing is that the Cohen Gadol, the high priest, did everything himself. He changed his clothes 5 times. He went into the mikvah 10 times. He slaughtered all the animals and said all the confessions. He went into the Holy of Holies and he and God were alone. So what did the Jewish people do? They watched. That’s it. They said Amen now and then. But on a deep level they gave themselves over to the mystery.


Translation and Layout for Brown RISD Hillel weekly beit midrash program


Iggerot Moshe - Rabbi Moses Feinstein Rabbi Moshe The prohibition of smoking drugs. Feinstein was born in Russia The second day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5733 - 1972 i n 18 9 5 , a n d died in 1986. He From a letter of Rabbi Yeruham Pram. studied and served as rabbi ! Concerning the issue of a number of students of the seminary in Russia until [yeshiva] who have begun to smoke hashish (marijuana), obviously it is he moved to the prohibited by a number of essential principles in the Torah. U. S . i n 19 3 7. Firstly it destroys and damages the body. Even if they are Under his ! leadership, the healthy people for whom it does not do that much damage, it nonetheless y e s h i v a h h e damages their minds to the point where they cannot understand simple headed, Mesivta things. This is even more severe [than damaging the body]. For not only T i f e r e t h are they stopping themselves from appropriately learning Jerusalem in Torah, it also is an obstacle in prayer and in the fulfillment of the New Yo r k , became a commandments [mitzvot] of the Torah. For one who does them [the leading center of commandments] without the appropriate intention is as if they Torah study in have not done them at all. America. He ! Further, it causes tremendous desire which is even greater than the was the leading desire for food and the like, those things which are necessary for people h a l a c h i c to live. And there are those who are not able to contain this desire and to authority of stop the craving. This is the very severe prohibition which is mentioned in A m e r i c a n Jewry, and his regard to the stubborn and rebellious son. He has a tremendous responsa, which desire for food and even though it is for kosher food [it is nonetheless w e r e w i d e l y prohibited]. All the more so is it forbidden to bring oneself to this circulated, are considered authoritative. bury a body (if there is someone else who Many of these responsa deal with modern can do it.) Appropriate intention: There is technological problems. Rabbi Feinstein was a Ta l m u d i c d i s p u t e a s t o w h e t h e r active in Jewish communal affairs. commandments require the intention of the Destroys and damages the body: This actor, i.e. If I sit in a Succah but don’t know would be considered a meta-legal principle I am in a succah, have I fulfilled the that is often explained as follows: the body commandment to sit in the succah? The is on loan; give it back in the best condition final position is that fulfilling possible. So one should not speed, overeat, commandments does require intention. etc... This is based on the verse Deut 4:15 Stubborn and rebellious son: “If a man has Stopping themselves from appropriately a stubborn and rebellious son, who does not learning Torah: Rabbinic law understands heed his father and mother and does not Torah study to be the greatest obey them even after they discipline commandment. One is not permitted to him...Thereupon the men of his town shall exempt oneself from it’s fulfillment even to stone him to death...” Deut. 21:18-21



Giving lashes as a punishment: This is Commandments - it is a positive a technical question and not a practical commandment that has no punishment question. In Biblical times, or when associated with it but would, if there is a sovereign transgressed, be Jewish Court, lashes reason for a Jewish may be used as a tremendous desire for something for which C o u r t t o g i v e penalty. In this case there is absolutely no necessity. lashes. Positive Rabbi Feinstein is ! As concerns giving lashes as a p r o h i b i t i o n : A t r y i n g t o m a k e punishment: we do not [punish] based p e c u l i a r l e g a l arguments from on logic alone . That [pr inciple] category. If there is logic and analogy a positive that would correlate notwithstanding there cer tainly is a c o m m a n d m e n t the pot smoker to a p r o h i b i t i o n w h i c h t h i s p e r s o n i s Honor your Father stubborn a n d transgressing. We may also say that just like and Mother - and rebellious son who is in the stubborn and rebellious son the issue you do not fulfill it not liable for the is that the child will come to be a thief t h e n y o u h a v e death penalty but so to here. Further, the father and mother t r a n s g r e s s e d a should at least be of those who smoke are very distressed p o s i t i v e punished. Based on p r o h i b i t i o n . logic alone: There is and therefore he is also transgressing the S a n c t i f y i n g a rabbinic principle positive commandment of honoring oneself: R amban, t h a t w e d o n o t one's father and mother. also known as derive punishments ! Fur ther there is the positive Nahmanides, a 13th b a s e d o n l o g i c a l prohibition of sanctifying oneself c e n t u r y s c h o l a r deduction and as in the commentary of the Ramban on w h o c o n j e c t u r e s reasoning. Come to that the verse “you the Torah. be a thief: The shall be holy” (Lev. Not that which is mentioned above 19:2) is a positive rabbis of the Talmud ! w o n d e r e d w h y a but they [the smokers] also cause many p r o h i b i t i o n t h a t young man should other prohibitions aside from this. All in all it war ns us against be killed for taking is clear and obvious that this is one of the turning even those food and wine from most severe prohibitions and one must do t h i n g s t h a t a r e h i s p a r e n t s . T h e everything that one can to wipe away this permissible to us c o n c l u s i o n : h e i s impurity from all of the children of Israel kosher food, wine, punished based on sexual relations especially those who learn in yeshivot. the fact that we into activities that know he will come to undermine the Your friend, Moshe Feinstein a bad end. It should g e n e r a l be noted that the commandment of rabbis say b e i n g h o l y. H e r e categorically “there Rabbi Feinstein is never was and never will be a stubborn implying that marijuana would fit into and rebellious son.” Thus the concept is the general categor y of per mitted relegated to an ethical/moral teaching objects, after all it is merely a piece of and not a practical one. Honoring one's vegetation, all of which are kosher. father and mother: One of the Ten

RABBI MORDECHAI RACKOVER Having the privilege to work with a great designer and fabricator, David Straus, we were able to envision and create two arks and a reader’s table that truly reflected the spirit of our space and needs. I asked David to design arks based on traditional ideals of learning. Arks that would mostly be closed but would invite exploration and learning. The arks (only one featured here) display the Talmud page as doors and rest upon legs made of the six orders of the Mishnah and the five books of the Torah. The table is meant to echo the shapes of the arching books and, per my request and design, features a movable a platform that can be lowered for wheelchair access or raised for a sephardic torah.




all your essential Chanukah needs:




Counterclockwise from left: 3x5 Sticker for Hannukah gift bags Cover from annual report to trustees Annual report focussing on testimonials from students, parents and staff of Brown.


A Dreidel Open the bag and find out how to get your Chanukah

Flame On I T WA S E R E V RO S H H A S H A N A A N D M Y DAUGHTER A. called and said “La Shona Tova

Mom.” But somehow, in her voice, I knew she was about to burst into tears. I said, honey are you calling me to wish me a Happy New Year? She replied by bursting into tears. She sobbed "I have the swine flu and I am quarantined." I felt like a deer in head lights. We live in Oakland, California, a mere 3,000 miles from Brown University. In a few days we were to bring our second child to his freshman year in college in Oregon. I felt paralyzed. How could I help my daughter, I needed to get her chicken soup, but I felt that contracting the flu myself would put a real crimp into our son's foray into college. I thought for about 30 seconds. " I know, I'll Google Hillel at Brown University and get their number. " I bet they are hosting a Rosh Hashana dinner and maybe they are having chicken soup. I was right except the soup would be vegetarian. Now what, I thought? In the background, I heard someone volunteer to go the store, and drop off the soup. A few hours later I got a call from my kid saying “Mom, did you get soup dropped off for me?” Home away from home. Hillel was so good to my kid even though she has spent little time there over her three years at Brown. Yet I know she will never forget who came to her rescue. I quickly sent a donation to Hillel; it wasn't my first and it won't be my last but it felt like the most important check I'd ever written. I would encourage all of you to make a year end gift to Hillel and if your child is not actively involved, tell them about this story. Perhaps the next time they need chicken soup, they will be able to get some, or perhaps they will be like Megan and be the deliverer. Thank you Hillel for caring about our A. With deepest gratitude and regards, Laurie G. & David W.


ASK ME Brought to you by Brown RISD Hillel

Hillel Is:

T-Shirt concept and design. We used these shirts on move-in day. Student leaders and upper-classmen made themselves available as helpers to freshmen and their parents. In so doing they brought good will to the Hillel name and attracted a lot of Jewish and non-Jewish families to check out Hillel in their first few hours on campus.

Engaging ● LGBTQ ● Klezmer Magical ● Shabbat ● Open Learning ● Cooking ● Kindness ● Israel ● Baking ● Shabbat ● Environmental ● Welcoming ● Arts Travel ● Succot ● Torah ● Hebrew Literature ● Volunteer Dali ● Intergenerational ● Open ● Activist Hillel is Yours



? Finally, an opportunity to learn more about Jewish history, Jewish culture, Israel, and more through contemporary Jewish literature using the newest technology. Welcome to Kindle Your Judaism. This paid fellowship gives you a Kindle and an opportunity to explore 5 books over the course of a semester in a salon environment with your peers. Each meeting will include dinner and a discussion of the current readings. All students are encouraged to apply. The process takes about 10 minutes. If you are accepted you will have the opportunity to take time for yourself, for pleasure reading, and for growth in selfknowledge and knowledge about the Jewish people. For more information contact Benny Becker or Rabbi Rackover via or go straight to the application A project of the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life of Brown University


Kindle Your Judaism In response to students who wanted to have enrichment outside of the classroom and not through religious texts, we designed and received a $8500 grant for Kindle Your Judaism. In our inaugural year we have read: Six Days of War, Man’s Search for Meaing, Sacred Trash and Operation Shylock. 12 students have participated and have been strongly engaged. A final analysis is forthcoming.



Pinchas Kehati’s Introduction

reaping; binding sheaves - gathering ears of reaped corn to make sheaves, or gathering sheaves to make a stack. After the preceding mishnah taught, one who knows that it is The derivatives of binding sheaves include: collecting fruits Shabbat and performs many activities on many Shabbatot is or wood in their place of growth and making them into one liable for each main class of work, this mishnah lists the main pile; piercing figs and stringing them on a rope until they classes of activity. We have already mentioned (in the are pressed together into one block, and similar Introduction to the Tractate) that the proximity of the Torah operations; threshing - beating ears of corn to remove passages about Shabbat and the work of the Tabernacle their seeds from them. The derivatives of threshing include: indicated to the Sages that all types of activity which were separating beans from their dry pods, and similar performed in the construction of the Tabernacle (such as the operations; winnowing - Scattering produce in the wind making of the linen and the goats' hair with a winnowing shovel to remove curtains, the preparation of the rams' The main classes of activity [melakhah] the chaff from it; sorting - the skins and of tahash skins, the are forty less one: sowing, plowing, waste matter, e.g., pebbles and dirt, preparation of the ingredients for the reaping, binding sheaves; threshing, from the food by hand or with a dyes) are the main classes of activity sieve; grinding - the grains of that are prohibited on Shabbat. Other winnowing; sorting, grinding, sifting, produce, turning them into flour. types of activity which resemble the kneading, baking; shearing the wool, The derivatives of grinding include: m a i n c l a s s e s a re d i v i d e d i n t o bleaching it, grinding coffee in a grinder, splitting categories according to their logs into chips, crumbling a clod of resemblance to the main classes of earth; sifting - flour in a sieve, to activity. Those activities which resemble a main class of remove from it bran and coarse bran. The Gemara explains activity are called the derivatives of this main class; the that although the purpose of the three types of work derivatives of some of the main classes will be listed in our (winnowing, sorting, and sifting) is to remove waste matter commentary to this mishnah, below. It has already been from the food, nonetheless since all three were types of explained (see the preceding mishnah) that the penalty for work in the preparation of the Tabernacle, each is listed as transgressing a derivative is the same as for transgressing a a distinct main class of activity, i.e., since their actions are main class. If, however, one unintentionally (in one single not identical, are not performed at the same time, and have state of unawareness) performed a number of activities, one not the same function. Winnowing removes the straw, of which is a main class and the others are its derivatives, sorting removes pebbles and earth, whilst sifting removes e.g., if one reaped produce (a main class), and also picked bran and coarse bran (Hameiri); kneading - dough; baking fruits, picked flowers, and gathered mushrooms (each of - actually, this work was not performed in the preparation which is a derivative of reaping), one is liable for one sinof the Tabernacle, for baking relates only to bread, and offering. bread was not required for the construction of the Tabernacle. Boiling, however, was performed in the work of The main classes of activity [melakhah] are forty less the Tabernacle, for they had to boil the ingredients of the one - The mishnah uses the expression forty less one and blue, purple, and scarlet colors. As the mishnah listed the not thirty-nine, because it follows the expression used in types of work necessary for the preparation of bread, it Makkot (3:10). The reason for the circumlocution in Makkot mentions baking instead of boiling, both of which is because it is written “Forty lashes he shall give constitute the same type of work. Whoever accelerates him” (Deut. 25:3), and a tradition teaches, this means forty cooking or baking, e.g., he stirs a pot or puts a cover on a less one (see Tosefot Yom Tov, who cites additional pot which is on the fire, is liable on account of boiling. This reasons): sowing - this main class includes the following concludes the list of eleven classes of activity needed for derivatives: planting, bending a vine, grafting, pruning the preparation of food, all of which were performed in the (cutting branches from) a tree so that the tree will grow Tabernacle for the preparation of the ingredients of the better and become thick, pouring water on seeds; plowing dyes. - the mishnah mentions plowing after reaping though one generally plows first and reaps afterwards, to teach that if a The mishnah next lists thirteen classes of activity necessary person had hard land, and he plowed it, planted, and once for the preparation of clothing, all of which were performed in again plowed it, he is liable for the second plowing as well. the Tabernacle for the preparation of the curtains: The derivatives of plowing include: digging in the ground, shearing the wool - this main class of activity includes the levelling holes, and any work performed to improve the following derivatives: plucking goat down, plucking land; reaping - this main class includes: gleaning grapes, chicken feathers, plucking out hair; bleaching it - washing gathering dates, picking olives, gathering figs. Similarly, the wool to make it white. The derivatives of bleaching plucking anything from its point of growth is a derivative of


Mishnah Shabbat 7:2 Commentary of Pinchas Kehati Mordechai Rackover

Shabbat Melakhot - Mishnah Massechet Shabbat with Commentary of Pinchas Kehati For some time we have used the prohibitions of Shabbat as a means of teaching about rabbinic thought and religious practice. By examining this mishnah students are able to create a conceptual structure for their understanding of Shabbat practices and are also able to move away from a concept of perceived arbitrariness in Jewish law. This study has worked well with initiated and uninitiated students. In particular with secular Israelis who have never understood many aspects of the cultural choices that their state makes. We use the layers of the mishnah, as delineated by colors, to teach about a hierarchy of needs that are used to create societies. Food, clothing, shelter, communication, society. Thus keeping Shabbat is an echo of the creation.



include: washing a garment in water, wringing a wet of tahash skins: trapping a deer - or other animals, or any garment, soaking a dirty garment in water; beating it living creature which requires catching; slaughtering it, combing the wool with a comb to separate its strands. This flaying it - its hide; salting it - the hide, which is the first main class includes: carding flax, carding fiber or reed until step in the tanning process; curing its hide - with lime or strands are formed, striking sinews until they are turned similar materials. The Gemara asks, What is the difference into strands for spinning (as is done by the scribes who between salting and curing? It replies that salting and write Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot); dyeing it - the curing are indeed one class of activity, and adds an wool, as well as any other dyeing; spinning - making additional class, scoring it; scraping it - Scraping the hairs threads from wool, flax, cotton, or similar materials; of the hide, and smoothing it to make parchment, or stretching the warp on the loom - from the top beam to anything else which requires a smooth hide; cutting it up the lower one; making two loops into strips, as needed; writing two making or repairing two rings or two beating it, dyeing it, spinning, letters - they marked the boards of loops, in each one of which one stretching the warp on the loom, the Tabernacle to identify their warp thread is put (Tiferet Yisrael). pairs, writing a letter on one board According to another interpretation, making two loops, weaving two and a letter on the other; erasing in it is the bringing in of the warp threads, separating two threads; tying a order to write two letters - at threads through the leashes in the knot, untying a knot, sewing two times they erred in the Tabernacle, loom, making two meshes (Rabbi H. stitches; tearing in order to sew two and they would erase in order to Albek), as will be explained below stitches; trapping a deer, slaughtering write anew. If, however, one erases (mishnah 13:2); weaving two it, flaying it, salting it, curing its hide, purposelessly, this is merely a threads - weaving the woof thread destructive activity, and he is into the warp thread. The derivatives scraping it, cutting it up; writing two exempt; building - erection of a of this main class include: plaiting letters, erasing in order to write two building; pulling down - destruction threads, weaving a net for windows, letters; building, pulling down; of a building, according to one etc.; separating two threads - extinguishing, lighting a fire; striking opinion, one is liable for pulling removing woof threads from warp with a hammer; carrying from domain down only if it is done for the threads, or vice versa, in order to to domain these are the main classes of purpose of building (Shab.3b),; arrange the weaving. According to extinguishing - a fire; lighting a another interpretation, when a thread activity: forty less one. fire - and similarly, one is liable for breaks in the middle of the curtain, extinguishing only if this is done in and one wants to join it and repair it, order to light a fire, or to make he separates two ends of the threads and he spins them charcoal (Tosafot, ibid., see also Tosefot Yom Tov, who with his fingertips (Hameiri). According to yet another explains why the mishnah mentions extinguishing before explanation, after the person completes the weaving he lighting a fire); striking with a hammer - to complete a cuts the remaining warp threads (Shenot Eliyahu); tying a job. Hence, any completion of a job is called "striking with permanent knot; untying a permanent knot - the Gemara a hammer," for it is the practice of artisans who complete explains that these two activities were performed in the an object to examine it, to see if any small touch is lacking Tabernacle when trapping the hilazon (mollusk) from which to complete the object, and then strike it with their hammer the tekhelet color was produced, for at times the trappers to deliver the finishing touch; carrying from domain to had to take strands from one net and add them to another domain - from the private domain to the public domain, or net, untying from one net and tying them to the other net. vice versa (as explained in previous chapters), - these are sewing two stitches - the Gemara explains that this refers the main classes of activity: forty less one. This number to one who tied a knot after he had sewed two stitches, for was also stated at the beginning of the mishnah to teach otherwise he is not liable, because a tie made by two that even if one performed all the forbidden types of work stitches alone is not permanent; he is thus liable on of Shabbat, both main classes and their derivatives, in one account of two activities: "sewing two stitches" and "tying single state of unawareness, i.e., he knew that it was a knot"; tearing in order to sew two stitches - i.e., a Shabbat but he did not know that the types of work were destructive act for the purpose of performing a prohibited, he is liable to only thirty-nine sin-offerings, constructive one. If, however, one tears purposelessly, he because he is liable to only one sin-offering for each main merely destroys, and he is not liable to bring a sin-offering. class and its derivatives (see Bartenura, Tosefot Yom Tov, The following classes of activity relate to the processing of Tosefot Rabbi Akiva Eiger on why the mishnah mentions hides (to prepare parchment upon which to write), all of extinguishing before lighting a fire). which were performed in the Tabernacle for the preparation

Mishnah Shabbat 7:2 Commentary of Pinchas Kehati Mordechai Rackover

RABBI MORDECHAI RACKOVER Berries at Jean Talon Market Montreal

Abandoned building St. Denis Street - Montreal.

Sunset in Narragansett



23 The General Lee loses his stripes. St. Denis Street Montreal

Self-Portrait in Pie


Switzerland, Winter 2012 - From airplane window




Fruit Battery experiment in 3-4th grade class at JCDSRI Winter 2013

Orchard, Fall 2010


Salatim, Winter 2012

Montreal Breakfast Winter 2012




Spied in a restroom in NYC - Winter 2011. Spot color carrot -Israel 2011 Yellow beet died with red beets. Winter 2010. Mushroom, Wiinter 2013


Carnivorous plant - color highlighted Providence, Botanical Garden, 2011

Sunset at Sde Boker, long exposure. Winter 2011




Magical Children Eden in long exposure Hannukah 2011

Long exposure/ miniaturization, Providence Zoo, Fall 2012



More programs and materials are available on request including cooking and torah seminars, leadership training programs, informal educational programs and curricula. twitter: @mrackover Also on Linkedin

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