Torah showcase

Rabbi Eliyahu and Chanie Canterman, the directors of Chabad of Talbiyeh, have their hands full this month with gala events marking Yod Tet Kislev and Hanukka

WHO SHOULD head the haredi education administration?  (Pictured: Geula neighborhood (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
WHO SHOULD head the haredi education administration? (Pictured: Geula neighborhood
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
■ Synagogues are the citadels of tradition. Although one synagogue may vary from another in size, architectural design and customs, the prayer book is essentially the same and so is the Bible reading. But change can still be introduced without intruding on the manner in which a synagogue is conducted.
An example is the double-sided ark in the synagogue of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Old City. The ark, which is the repository for the Torah scrolls, some of which have the most beautiful casings, is opened during certain parts of the service, but is not open all the time. Yet the Torah contains all 613 laws and statutes given to the Children of Israel at Sinai, and aside from chronicling their history, it is a permanent reminder of how Jews should behave. It therefore stands to reason that the Torah should be more visible.
At the request of Rabbi Shalom Cohen, Lavi Industries, which is Israel’s premier designer and builder of synagogue furniture, designed a glass-enclosed ark, the contents of which are permanently visible both inside and outside the synagogue. The synagogue furniture factory, located on Kibbutz Lavi, which this year celebrated its 70th anniversary, also designed and produced the furniture for the Porat Yosef synagogue and library.
■ SOME THINGS in synagogues are inexplicable. Just over a month after her brother Meishor celebrated his bar mitzvah at Hazvi Yisrael synagogue, Shenhav Ote celebrated her bat mitzvah. Because it is an Orthodox synagogue, Shenhav, unlike her brother, was not called to read the Torah portion, nor was she able to accept the synagogue’s gift in person, because the gift is presented in the men’s section at the conclusion of the service, and now that she has reached the age of maturity, she can no longer go into the men’s section when services are in progress. Instead, her parents Rabbi Yosef and Atira Ote hosted a kiddush in her honor. However, after the kiddush, several congregants went downstairs into the men’s section to hear a lesson on the Torah given by Rabbi Yaacov Peterseil. Such lessons are given in the men’s section almost every Sabbath, and men and women sit together. So what would have been so terrible if at the end of the service, Shenhav would have been able to come in to receive her gift? After all, Talbiyeh is not Mea Shearim.
■ SPEAKING OF Talbiyeh, Rabbi Eliyahu and Chanie Canterman, the directors of Chabad of Talbiyeh, have their hands full this month with gala events marking Yod Tet Kislev and Hanukka. Yod Tet Kislev is the anniversary of the release from prison of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, who was the founder of Chabad, and the Cantermans are planning a major celebration at the Inbal hotel on Monday, December 16. Hanukka is the following week, and if the past is any indication, they have a nightly celebration planned in another venue. With respect to Hanukka, did anyone notice that doughnuts began appearing in cake shops almost immediately after Sukkot?
■ THESE DAYS, many people live alone – divorced people, childless widows and widowers, and people who never married. Not all these people have relatives or friends to look out for their welfare, and sometimes when they die, no one is aware, until an unpleasant odor emanating from their apartment begins to permeate the stairwell of the building in which they lived. This happened last month in a luxury apartment in Zevulun Hammer Street on the former Foreign Ministry site. One of the residents had been dead for a week and his body had already started to decompose when police were notified. In Talbiyeh, the bodies of two brothers who had broken away from the ultra-Orthodox community to pursue a secular life style were found in an Airbnb when the owner of the apartment came to ensure that they had vacated. Instead, he found that they had committed suicide.
Not all young people leaving the haredi world find their way to Hillel, the organization that for more than quarter of a century has been helping such people to make the transition.
It was interesting last Friday at Mahaneh Yehuda market to see a small cluster of Chabadniks standing less than a meter away from a small Hillel cluster to provide services for those who wanted to become more religious or less religious. It was almost as if they were working in tandem to save souls.
But getting back to people living alone, the Hanassi synagogue in Rehavia has introduced a heartfelt custom to honor the memories of those of its members who lived alone and had no family to mourn them. When one of their members, Gail Bodenstein, died recently, there was no shiva because there were no relatives. So Rabbi Berel Wein and the congregation arranged for an afternoon minyan in her memory so that all her friends could come and pay tribute to her.
Many congregations make a point of taking note of which of their congregants live alone, and make sure that they are invited to Sabbath meals. That’s what community is all about. Shira Hadasha in the German Colony is in the forefront of making sure that lone congregants are invited for Shabbat, and even announces at the end of services that people who have nowhere to go are welcome to meet hosts who will take them home. The Moreshet Yisrael Conservative congregation on Agron St. has a kiddush that is almost equivalent to a lunch in order to give all its congregants, but particularly its lone congregants, a sense of community. Around the corner on King George St., Chabad of Rehavia does the same.