Parshat Tetzaveh/Shabbat Zachor 5778–Shabbat Torah Study–See the Light and Be the Light

This week’s Parasha Tetzaveh contains the instruction for the Ner Tamid—the so-called “eternal light.” The light of the Ner Tamid symbolizes God’s eternal and imminent presence. We cannot see light. We only recognize light because of what it allows us to see. Perhaps we equate God and light because, “while we cannot see God, we become aware of God’s presence when we see the beauty of the world and when we experience love and the goodness of our fellow human beings.” Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary at 503.

The Sages debate what the word “Tamid” means. We translate it as “eternal,” and since the light bulb was invented, keeping the light lit has made it seem eternal. We don’t usually see our custodians, fulfilling the duty of the Kohanim, changing the bulbs in the synagogues of today. The Sages tell us that the lights in the Mishkan were not necessarily lit at all times. They only needed to be lit from evening until morning—every day. The eternal aspect of the command is that it is “chukat olam” a statute for all future generations. Exodus 27:21.

Is the light bulb in the Ner Tamid good? Was it an advance? Progress? Is technology a good thing?

Maybe it depends on how it is used.

My concern is that we take the Ner Tamid for granted because it is just there. It is a tiny light bulb in an already lit room—people wondering if it really is lit or not. Did you ever do that?

The Ner Tamid used to be quite a big deal because of the effort and expense it took to maintain. How did the Ner Tamid function before the electric light bulb in the synagogues of the not too distant past?
This was actually quite a major effort. We still say a prayer before the Musaf service on Shabbat asking for a special blessing for those who provide funds for purchasing oil for the lamps—now a metaphor for those who support the synagogue and Jewish community in general. The Ner Tamid is the only commanded practice associated with the Mishkan that is still with us today. But if we think about it at all, we may think of having the Ner Tamid to remember the Temple, but not think about what it truly stands for.

I am not advocating going back to an oil lit menorah or Ner Tamid in our synagogues. That would be very messy, cause carpet stains and would probably cause a huge increase in insurance costs.

However, I am advocating greater awareness of the Ner Tamid as a symbol of the special light of God in our lives. There may be times when we cannot perceive God’s light, but we must constantly look for it in ourselves and in each other. The Ner Tamid must burn brightly in each of us.

This Shabbat we learn with Jodi Gross, Adat Shalom’s Director of Adult Learning who will teach on the ner tamid as tehe sacred light that elevates us in times of joy and sorrow and how the clothing of Aaron and his sons, inspire our Torah scroll covers and metal accessories. Our Shabbat Torah Study is something many people look forward to every Shabbat—and with very good reason. 9:45 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Shabbat Shalom,


P.S. On Shabbat Zachor it is a special mitzvah to come to synoagogue for the Torah reading involving the evil of the Amalekitse and for us to alwsys remember and never to forget its lessesons. This year’s communal Purim celebration is hosted at Adat Shalom, the grown up fun begins at 7:15 p.m. with the Mgiallah reading and a dessert reception with live music from renowned Maggie McCabe. See you there!

P.P.S. If you have not bought your tickets to Adat Shalom’s annual fun and fund raiser—Missebaba, do so before it is too late. Saturday, March 3rd at 7:30 p.m. Cocktails, dinner and dancing with Hazzan Gross and the Cliff Monear Big Band! I am not saying that you should come just because it is the coolest party ever, but it is. Buy your tickets on line now.

P.P.P.S. Also REMEMBER our annual day of learning, Limmud Michigan 2018. With a faculty of more than 80 experts, it is a day devoted to the exploration and celebration of all things Jewish. Sunday, March 11, 2018 10:00 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. at the Wayne State University Student Center. You must register. Don’t miss it!

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Shabbat Chanukah 5778–Parashat Miketz–Shabbat Torah Study–Joseph and Chanukah

Chanukah has so many important meanings and messages. For table conversation this Shabbat, try to think of as many as you can. Perhaps reward the child (of any age) who can think of the most. Try to include in the discussion why Chanukah is as relevant these days as ever and why it may be even more important now than ever.

I try every year to make sure that I learn something more about Chanukah than I knew or thought about before. In my case, that is not that difficult.

I love Chanukah because, for me, it symbolizes the war we fight every day to maintain the identity, values and traditions we hold dear against the pressures of society, that God is with us in our struggles and that as partners with God, we can help bring about miracles for ourselves and others.

Now a little learning….

On Chanukah we read from the Book of Bamidbar in Parashat Naso and specifically about the gifts of the Princes of the Tribes for the dedication of the Mishkan. One might think that perhaps we should read about the Menorah in the Mishkan instead. Indeed, isn’t Chanukah about the miracle of the lights of the Menorah?

Actually, our Sages tell us that the construction of the Mishkan was actually completed on the 25th of Kislev (but the dedication was delayed to Nisan for another reason). So, we are told that the dedication of the Mishkan is the template Torah reading. It is also no coincidence that these readings from the Torah are immediately preceded by the priestly benediction (and it is the Kohanim who are the heroes of the Chanukah story). Interestingly too, the gifts of the princes are followed immediately with the dedication of the Menorah in the Temple in the Parasha of B’haalot’cha.

So the Torah itself has a clue to Chanukah and the Torah reading is a micro version. And now you know the rest of the story.

This Shabbat we learn with Jodi Gross who says that we will discuss, “…Joseph’s transformation from a slave to a leader in Egypt, how he handles new responsibilities and his reactions to reuniting with his brothers who sold him into slavery.”
Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Please accept my heartiest best wishes to you for all the blessings of Chanukah to be renewed through and for you. May you celebrate many more Chanukah festivals with family and friends long into the future.

Chag Chanukah Sameyach and Shabbat shalom!


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Parashat Vayishlach 5778–Paul Magy’s Shabbat Torah Study–The Lord Helps Those who Help Themselves

This week’s Parasha reunites Eisav and Jacob for the first time in at least 20 years (some say 34).

Jacob prepares for this dangerous and fearful meeting in three (3) ways — gifts, preparation for battle and prayer.

For a man of Jacob’s faith, blessing and connection with God, why wouldn’t prayer be enough?

There is a reason for the saying that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Jacob’s preparations, PLUS prayer establish the important precedent that we must first expend our own energies and resources to bring the good we are looking for.

Of course, we see doctors, buy life insurance to protect our loved ones and much more. We ask God’s assistance in our lives and with our struggles, but show God that we care enough to be making our own efforts too.

In the end, Jacob (now renamed Israel) was successful.

Jacob struggled with and succeeded against the Angel of Eisav and his prayers for a safe (and non-eventful) reunion with Eisav were answered.

May you be successful in all of your struggles with evil and, with strong and positive efforts on your part, may all of your prayers for good be answered favorably as well.

We learn with Ruth Bergman this Shabbat at 9:45 a.m. She says that part of her shiur will include the symbolic mathematical properties of the ages of the patriarchs. Learning with our Shabbat Torah Study is a great way to be prepared for our daily struggles (apparently this week too if math is one of your struggles). I am confident her session will be fantastic as it always is. The Torah Study is completely informal, casual and friendly. One hour. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Stay for the sermon and the rest of a wonderful Shabbat experience if you like…or not. No judging. Just incredible learning.

Shabbat shalom my friends,


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Shabbat Vayeitzei 5778–Shabbat Torah Study–More Strength than You Thought Possible

Jacob finally arrives in Haran fourteen years after fleeing home to avoid Esau’s revenge. His mission now is to fulfill his parents’ instructions to find a wife among his mother’s people. On arrival and waking from the famous ladder dream, Jacob finds a group of shepherds waiting for other shepherds needed to help roll a stone off the mouth off a well. Genesis 29:9. While speaking with the shepherds, it turns out that Jacob is in the exact place that Rachel will arrive, bringing her own flock. Jacob sees her and rolls the stone off the well by himself!

Have you ever felt like you were actually watching God’s plan unfold? Have you ever felt that you were in the plan and an important part of it? Have you ever felt that something could not just be a coincidence? The Sages say that this is exactly what happened to Jacob. He was completely overwhelmed by witnessing the hand of God. After 14 years away from home and suddenly arriving in Haran, the first woman he would meet would be the woman he was intended and destined to meet; none other than Rachel.

Jacob was so inspired, so moved, so excited and so empowered by personally experiencing this providence that he drew the strength to move the well stone himself. Though Jacob is described earlier as the mild man of the tent, compared to Esau pictured as the burly hunter of the outdoors, we can see that Jacob was a man of strength too, not merely brains. The midrash is that during the 14 years between home and Haran, Jacob studied at the Yeshiva of Shem and Eber in preparation for dealing with the Laban’s chicanery. It may be that the Yeshiva had a gym there for Jacob to work out in.

Have you ever been surprised at you own strength—mental or physical—courage, perseverance or drive? Was it in response to inspiration? Desperation? Adversity? Didn’t know that you had it in you? Look at what you can be accomplish.

This Shabbat we do not have a formal Torah Study, but a wonderfully warm Shabbat community awaits you anyway!

Have a great Shabbat,

Paul Magy

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Parashat Chayei Sara 5778–Torah Study–Ruth Bergman–The greatest value for a spouse–Hospitality

This week’s Parasha finds our patriarch Isaac a mate.

Do you believe in a b’shayrt (predestined soul mate)?

Do you believe in matchmaking?

Would your parents have selected the spouse you chose (or may be choosing)?

Would you have appreciated their involvement?

Did they approve of your choice or will they? What if they did not or will not?

Of course, if you believe in a b’shayrt and in the sanctity of marriage, it may not matter how you found each other.

We do not hear that Isaac complained or expressed anxiety over possibly being a sacrifice on the altar on Moriah. We also do not hear him express any anxiety at the marriage altar.

In each case he is trusting of his father and the will of God. Indeed, we read that Isaac loved Rebecca using words that describe feelings in a relationship and a depth of emotion, not just the marital act.

For those who question Isaac’s relationship with his father after the akeidah test, would you not also have Isaac appreciate his father finding Rebecca, the love of his life for him?

This Shabbat, we are privileged to learn with Ruth Bergman. She will discuss the story and talk about the most important trait the Abraham’s servant was looking for in a mate for Isaac—hachnasat orchim…hospitality.
9;45 a.m. in the Shiffman Chapel.

We welcome you to this great learning experience whether you have come before, come regularly or never have. It has never been easier to build some new relationships, make new friends, be a part of a learning chavurah or just get a little more God in your life.

Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Shabbat Shalom,


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Shabbat Lech L’cha 5778–Paul Magy’s Shabbat Torah Study– Where Are You Going?

And so the journey begins. “Lech L’cha…” Avram and Sarai are told. Genesis 12:1.

God uses a lot of words for what should be a simple instruction. Instead of God just saying “Lech” – “Go” to Eretz Yisrael, God says:

1) Lech L’cha— Go get yourself
2) May’artzecha—from your land
3) U’memolodetcha—from your birthplace
4) U’mebayt Aveecha—from your parent’s house
5) El Eretz Asher Arecka—to the Land that I will show you.

I recently had shared with me a word of Torah attributed to the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Shneerson, z’l who was a firm believer that every word of Torah has perpetual relevance. The Rabbis teach us of the Torah in general and Genesis in particular —“Maasei Avot, siman l’banim.” We are to learn from the stories of our ancestors. The Torah is not a history book of the past, but a guide book for the future.

Correlating with the words above, the Rebbe taught that:

1) the word “L’cha” is important in order to realize that even if a journey will be a schlepp and you will be tired along the way, you must approach every task with your full being.

2) leaving your land was to tell Avram and all subsequent generations that we have to focus on our inner spirit that is infinite and not on our mere surroundings

3) leaving your birthplace means that it is possible to transcend and leave behind childish things and to be confident, strong and mature

4) leaving your parent’s house means that God looks to each of us to grow and go beyond our comfort zones in pursuit of all that God, Torah and Judaism hold dear.

5) “To the Land that I will show you” reminds us that there is a plan for each of us and it requires faith in the Almighty.

If you do these things, God tells us through Avram and Sarai that we will be blessed and so much more. Genesis 12:2-3.

We are each on a journey of one kind or another. The message of Lech l’cha resonates today.

This Shabbat we learn with Melissa Ser at 9:45. Find us in the Shiffman Chapel. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Shabbat shalom,


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Shabbat Shabbaton — Yom Kippur 5778–Yom Kippur/Yom HaKippurim

I read recently that we sometimes refer to Yom Kippur as “Yom HaKippurim.” This is not just the Day of Atonement (singular), but a Day of Atonements (plural). What can that mean? We seek forgiveness for ourselves. We seek forgiveness for our families. We seek forgiveness for the sins of our relatives, now deceased (for instance pledging Tzedaka in their memory). There is an interesting Midrash that as we seek forgiveness from God, God also seeks forgiveness, faith, trust and understanding from us!

The Almighty knows that we do not and cannot fully understand God’s ways. As parents we may ask our children to do things our way, to trust us because we know better and to have faith that one day they will come to understand. Even more, we tell them that one day they will thank us for what we have required of them or how we may punish them. Yet, we ask them to forgive us for the stress, anxiety or even pain we may cause them as we help them to grow into mature, contributing adults in our society.

Has anyone ever used the cliché expression that this hurts me more than it hurts you? Is it hard to imagine God asking us to trust that whatever is inscribed and sealed for us in the Sefer HaChayim is for our own good? If God has given each of us responsibility for completing the work of creation and helping bring holiness and betterment to the world, is it hard to imagine God asking to be forgiven for imposing such an awesome responsibility on us?

My prayer is that each of us and our families will be inscribed and sealed for a year filled with the love of the Almighty and God’s love of each of us, a year of Torah, mazel (the stars aligned for us), brachah (blessings), hatzlachah (success), parnasah (livelihood) and gezunt (good health).

I pray for a strong, vibrant and peaceful Israel under God’s sheltering protection.

I pray for a strong, vibrant and peaceful United States of America to stand as an example of freedom, liberty and hope against tyranny and oppression in so many places around the globe.

I pray that each of us will be up to any challenges the new year presents.

My prayer is that we will develop a deep appreciation for all of the blessings in our lives and take nothing for granted.

Let us be partners with God in God’s work, just as we ask God to help us in our own lives.

It may not be easy to fast, but most matters of true and enduring worth are not obtained with ease. Or, if easily obtained, they may not be fully appreciated or truly valued. May you be so focused on the meaning of Yom Kippur and so intent in achieving its purpose that the day seems short.

If you have not experienced Neilah at Adat Shalom, I encourage you to do so this year. The warmth and special holiness of the final moments of Yom Kippur are palpable. The Doors of the Ark are open and everyone has the opportunity to approach with private intensity.

G’mar chatimah tovah! Easy fast,


P.S. This Yom Kippur, there will be 2 opportunities for Torah Study (in addition to the readings in the worship). After the Rabbi’s Drasha, Ruth Bergman will teach us. Then at 3:00 p.m. Adat Shalom holds its annual “Ask the Rabbi.” Rabbi Bergman is most approachable and accessible, but this Yom Kippur tradition is a congregational favorite. So come prepared!

P.S.S. We say that Teshuvah, Tefilah and Tzedaka have the power to transform any potential harshness of our destiny. As we are partners with God in Tikkun Olam, please remember to bring Tzedaka and food items for Yad Ezra to Kol Nidre services.

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