Every Two Weeks
In this Newsletter:

 . Register for Dec. 5 Shabbat Service
.  Edit the Newsletter or Join the Board
. Memorial Service for Annette Salem Dec. 13
. Shir Libeynu AGM Dec. 20 with Special Guest!
. Rabbi Lithwick's Reflections on Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z''l
. Limmud Today
. Queer text study

Dear Members,

November can be a dark month, especially in this time. We start wearing warm clothes and prepare to hibernate. Not all of us, of course. If you have children or dogs, then you know the delight of fresh snow and fast ice. This year, we’ll all have to find new ways to enjoy the cold.

One of the momentous things that happened in November was Anwar Sadat speaking about peace in the Knesset. Our president, Karen, was living on a kibbutz in Israel then, near the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem road. Many kibbutz members went down to the road with candles to light his way to Jerusalem.

This is also the season of many festivals of lights, starting with Diwali, which took place last week. Interesting that almost every culture has a festival of lights in this season when darkness comes so early. Still, “there is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in,” wrote our poet Leonard Cohen. Perhaps we can see in the US election results the light starting to shine through the cracks.

Closer to home…

The board has received several requests recently from families that want to schedule a Bat or Bar Mitzvah. We encourage members who are planning a simcha to hold them during our monthly Shabbat services so the congregation can celebrate and honour you. Rabbi Lithwick will be officiating at these events and is already working with some families. Please let us know if there are ways in which we can help you plan or produce your simcha. 

We are looking for a new editor/writer for this biweekly newsletter. It’s a wonderful, creative volunteer opportunity for someone who has great writing skills and would enjoy working with the board, members and our administrator, Natalie, to keep our congregation informed and connected. If you are interested, please contact Karen and Dahlia at: slboard@shirlibeynu.ca.
Last but not least, we are also seeking members to join the Board of Directors. We are very efficient and have fun! At our AGM in December (see “Save the Dates” below), we will be proposing to expand the board. We could especially use new directors with communications, policy, fundraising or community engagement skills. Reach out to us if you would like to discuss this opportunity: slboard@shirlibeynu.ca.

Let us try to continue to care for ourselves and each other, strive for Tikkun Olam, and search out the light.

Stay well,

Board of Directors
Our next Shabbat morning service is on Saturday, December 5th at 10:30 am. The service will be led by Rabbi Lithwick, with the participation of our Chazzanim and members.
To participate in virtual offerings, you need to have a Zoom account and register. Email shirlibeynuzoom@gmail.com to register.
Please invite family and friends and help us grow our congregation! 
Shalom! For those of you who do not know me, my name is Yonah Sienna and I am the new leader of the Shir Libeynu B'nei Mitzvah Program. Our intrepid students have been hard at work, thinking about what it means to be a member of a 3000-year-old tribe, today in 2020. Our class is full of such creative, critical, and conscientious adolescents and we are all so excited to see what they will come up with over the year. Keep an eye out in future newsletters for content from our soon-to-be teens!

Shir Libeynu’s B’nei Mitzvah Program is for 11- to 13-year-olds who want to develop their own understanding of what it means to be Jewish and part of a Jewish community. Having a bar/bat mitzvah is not a requirement for taking this program, although most participants go on to celebrate a simcha. If you would like to talk about enrolling your child next fall, contact Karen Charnow Liorslboard@shirlibeynu.ca.
Memorial Service for Annette Salem - December 13, 2020
Congregation Shir Libeynu, friends and family will be holding a virtual memorial service for Annette Salem on Sunday, December 13 at 2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. More details and the Zoom link to register will be sent out closer to the date.
Annual General Meeting and Special Presentation by Daniela Gesundheit - December 20, 2020
We will be holding our virtual AGM on Sunday, December 20 at 11:00 am. Notice of the meeting and materials will be sent out to all members at least 10 days prior to the meeting. We will be proposing a few changes to our bylaws, including increasing the number of board members. We are expecting a big turnout this year because you don’t need to leave home to attend and you won’t want to miss our special event following the short business meeting…
The AGM will be followed by a presentation at 11:30 am by our Chazzan, Daniela Gesundheit, on her new album, “Alphabet of Wrongdoing.” She will perform and discuss the prayers sung during the High Holidays. (You can purchase the album and libretto here.) This is the second event in our Speaker Series and we can’t wait!
Reflections on the Passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, z”l
Last Shabbat, on November 7, 2020, the world lost a gadol, a giant in the Jewish world and beyond, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, z”l, at 72 years of age. The British Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, theologian, author, and politician served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013 and was appointed as a crossbench peer to the U.K. House of Lords in 2009. He held multiple professorships and wrote more than 30 books. Through his work he bridged Jewish communities around the world and emphasized the ongoing relevance of Jewish teachings and values.

I knew Rabbi Sacks through his writings, which I sought out throughout my rabbinic training. Indeed, almost every sermon and d’var Torah that I have ever written has contained a citation from him. I loved the clarity and meaning of his writing and looked forward every week to receiving his d’var Torah on the weekly portion. I especially appreciated how Rabbi Sacks articulated central tenets in Judaism regarding diversity and inclusion.

Rabbi Sacks posited that a positive respect for diversity, and a commitment to keep working at the divine unity underlying diversity, is the central contribution of Judaism to religion. In Radical Then, Radical Now (London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000), Rabbi Sacks presciently argued that the great challenge and strength of Jewish theology is how it views diversity being a necessary component to creation, and reaching out to the “other” as being a central element of Judaism:
Judaism is also religious revolution. Alone among the great religions, it argues that there is one God and many faiths – and only one world in which to live together in peace. That means that for Judaism the great spiritual challenge is not so much finding God within oneself as finding God within the other, the stranger. In an age of ethnic wars and religious conflict, that remains a monumental and still-urgent challenge. [i]
For Rabbi Sacks, the greatest principle found in the Hebrew Bible is not “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17), but rather “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of the stranger – you yourselves were strangers in the Land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). Or “When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not ill-treat him. The stranger who lives with you shall be treated like the native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34). Rabbi Sacks explained his choice for the greatest principle in the Hebrew Bible as “it is easy to love our neighbour. It is difficult to love the stranger. That is why the Torah commands us only once to love our neighbour, but on thirty-six occasions commands us to love the stranger” (citing Babylonian Talmud Baba Metzia 59b).[ii] He explained:
A neighbour is one we love because he is like us. A stranger is one we are taught to love precisely because he is not like us. That is the Torah’s repeated and most powerful command. I believe it to be the greatest religious truth articulated in the past four thousand years.[iii]
Please click here to continue reading:

[i] Radical Then, Radical Now at p. 96 (emphasis added).
[ii] Ibid at p. 92. The number 36 is special as well. 18 is the number for chai, life. 36 is life x 2, perhaps representing two strangers coming together.
[iii] Ibid at p. 93.
Limmud Toronto 2020
Today on Zoom
Participate in this innovative, inclusive festival of Jewish learning that brings people of all backgrounds together to celebrate the rich diversity of Jewish culture and heritage. For presenters’ list, tickets and more: https://www.limmud.ca. After purchasing tickets, you must register for the sessions.
Queer Text Study
LGBTQ+ at the J (MNjcc)
Thursday, November 26, 6:00 pm

Queer text study is a thing! Join LGBTQ+ at the J for their new series with awesome queer educators holding space for us to learn together. For more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/712056476163649?active_tab=about
Congregation Shir Libeynu