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Walking to Shul...

My walk to Shul on Shabbat morning is a wonderful thing on many levels. I get to talk to the children, enjoy the peacefulness of Shabbat, and walking is never a bad thing... Last week I learned of another benefit to this practice. 

As every winter Shabbat when I get to go to sleep early, I wake up before the sun, I study a bit and prepare a relevant lesson from the weekly Parsha for the sermon after the Torah reading. Last Shabbat morning was the same. However, after leaving the house I changed my mind.  I felt the need to share an insight in conjunction with the terrible shooting in Newtown Connecticut.

While I spoke about it last Shabbat, the day after it happened, I felt that something was missing in the discussion following it. It wasn’t about gun control or school safety, but about education. How do we educate our children to be kind and make the right choices in life? What is the message that could bring out the beauty of each child, especially those who are mentally challenged? When I got to Shul I knew, more or less, what I wanted to share.

There was a good attendance that morning. The service went well and I thought that my speech was well received. When we were setting up for Kiddush and lunch, a young mother came over to me "thank you for your words about the Shooting in Sandy Hook. As you know I don't usually come to Shul on Shabbat morning, in fact it is my first time.  I was so deeply affected by the Connecticut story that I felt the need to go to Synagogue this morning. It was the right thing for me to hear"... 

The great grandmother story

While it is not the first time it happened to me and I have shared similar stories in the past, every time it happens it gives me a sense of purpose and joy in living in this part of the world. So here is my email exchange with Elizabeth:

Hello Rabbi Meir, I was not raised Jewish, but I am interested in Judaism and I have recently found out that I have Jewish lineage on my mother's side. My great-grandmother was Jewish, born and raised in Poland and then later moved to Canada. I am currently an undergraduate student at Uvic and taking religious studies, but I want to connect with my Jewish identity. I'm wondering if you can provide guidance and where I should go from here.

Thank you,


Dear Elizabeth,

Great to hear from you!
Was this great grandmother your grandmother's mother or your grandfather׳s mother?

My mother's grandmother. So my mom's mom's mom (If that makes sense).


Are you positive about that? I.e. that both parents of your mother's mother's mother were Jewish?


Quite positive, yes. My great grandmother came from a Jewish family in Poland, but she didn't raise her children under her faith unfortunately. I'm not sure of what her maiden name was either. Ack - sorry, that's probably not of much help.


Dear Elizabeth,

Jewish law considers you 100% Jewish. According to Jewish law one who is born to a Jewish mother is as Jewish as can be for the rest of one's life! You don't only have jewish lineage, you are a Jew and no wonder you have an interest in your own heritage! Welcome home!
 I'll be very happy to meet you and talk about it further. Do you have time next week?

Oh, and Happy 2nd night of Chanukah!

Warm wishes!


Thank you! Yes, that's wonderful news. I'm very happy to hear that. I do have time next week, apart from an exam on the 18th. I'd really like to figure out where I go from here.



Elizabeth will be in our home for Shabbat dinner next Friday. Our family and guest will be there to celebrate Shabbat with her for the first time. I think her great grandmother will be there too...

Chanukah inspiration in Duncan

When planning the "Festival of Light tour" across Vancouver Island, I surly didn't expect that out of all places, the moving Chanukah event would take place in Duncan.

The Mayor of Duncan couldn't participate this year in the lighting in the city square, so he sent his representative, city councilor Mr. Joe Thorne.

As in all of these events, the city representative lights the Shamash, and a member of the community lights the rest of the candles. It was just before the ceremony began that Mr. Oscar Pelta, a Jewish man from Maple Bay agreed to light the Menorah.

Before Mr. Thorne lit the Shamash he shared a few words. "On this Jewish celebration - a Jewish man who lived in my home town when I was growing up comes to mind, Joe was his name. I remember as children we questioned the numbers tattooed on his arm, and he told us about the holocaust and concentration camps...

"While this man had experienced evil in its worst form- he was a kind and compassionate man, who would’t hurt anyone. He was a store owner who would give for free or sell with credit to people who needed, a real kind man".

When I came to the podium to call Oscar to light the Menorah, I saw that he was overwhelmed with emotion. Oscar was born in Bergen-Belsen after the war; his parents had him after they survived the horrors of the holocaust. He was the light that came after the destruction.

On the 3rd night of Chanukah in Duncan, the message of the holiday was as clear as can be. Chase evil with compassion, send darkness with increasing light.

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