January 12, 2024/ 3 Shevet 5784

 Light Shabbat candles at 5:22 p.m.

Dear Congregation Kehillah and Friends,

Our parasha  this week is Va'era in which the first seven plagues afflict Egypt in response to the hardening of Pharoah's heart. The term 'plagues' is a later rabbinic description; the Torah text uses the words "signs" (otot), "marvels" (moftim) and "wonders" (niflaot).


The opening verse is curious: God spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am Adonai. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by my [real] name Y-H-V-H."


What difference does it make by which Name the Holy One is known, and why does the text use the connecting word 'and' between each of the patriarchs' names, rather than just say "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob"? The Baal Shem Tov (founder of hasidut/Chassidism) explained that Abraham's understanding of God was different from Isaac's knowledge of God, or Jacob's, teaching us that God reveals Godself differently to each one of us. We each come to know God through our own personal encounters, in our own way. Rabbi Zev Wolf of Zitomer offered a similar teaching, suggesting that The Holy One chooses to reveal to each of us through a different Name, and we are charged with the task of discovering and exploring this unique expression; if we can't seem to find God, it's because we're seeking God through a Name other than the one that is meant for us.


The first step out of emotional and spiritual 'slavery' is to be able to know the Name revealed to us individually - who or what God is in our lives - and by extension, know well our own.

A kavannah for candle lighting for Shabbat Va'era

Please God, let me come to know You, let me know Your ways, let me feel Your presence in my life and please, Holy One, answer my prayers favorably.

I look forward to seeing you next Shabbat morning, January 20 at 10:30 a.m. for Torah Talk (Zoom) and Shabbat morning, January 27 at 10:00 a.m. for Shabbat morning service followed by a Kiddush luncheon (with your RSVP). A study shows it's healthy for you! See the (not recent but even more valid today!) article below. 

Shabbat Shalom,  


Rabbi Sharfman

Study links synagogue affiliation to better health


Regular synagogue attendance may make you healthier, a study of four large American Jewish urban communities by Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion indicates.


"Adults who affiliate with a Jewish religious denomination and attend synagogue report significantly better health than secular or nonpracticing Jews," Jeff Levin, director of the institute's Program on Religion and Population Health, said in a statement issued yesterday (Jan. 13) by the Texas university.


"People with a strong sense of religious identity and who participate in their faith seem to do better, on average, than people without an active spiritual life," added Levin, a professor of epidemiology and population health, who conducted the study.

The study, based on data collected throughout the 2000s as part of Jewish community surveys from Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New York, was published in January's Journal of Religion and Health.


"While there have been hundreds of studies of physical and mental health among Christians and members of other faiths, Jewish studies have been limited mostly to Israelis and to smaller clinical samples in the U.S. or the United Kingdom," Levin said.


The results were consistent across denominations. Whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist or Reform, affiliated Jews reported better health than secular, nonaffiliated Jews. Likewise, Jews who attended synagogue, whether regularly or less frequently, reported better health than those who never went.


Levin suggested following up with a national health survey of the Jewish population.

"This would provide an opportunity to dig a lot deeper than what's possible using data from existing community surveys, which weren't really designed to assess health," he said. "It's fortunate that a question or two on health was included in these surveys, but we can do a lot better."


A sophisticated national survey also could serve as a needs assessment that would provide valuable information for Jewish organizations seeking to address the health and life needs of American Jews, Levin said.

Congregation Kehillah
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