Rosh HaShanah prelude



On the second day of Rosh HaShanah the centrepiece of the Torah reading is "Akedat Yitzchak", the Binding of Isaac.  The story has three characters, not just one… not just Abraham, but Isaac and G[-]d too, and we wonder whether any of them has any real say in the unfolding events.


Abraham is being "tested", whatever the word "tested" means. Does anyone ask him whether he is prepared to go along with the plan?

One answer: he could (at least in theory) say No. G[-]d doesn’t command him: He entreats him. He says, "Please take your son…" He is given time to think it through.

The Sefat Emet notes that it takes the patriarch three days to reach his destination, three days to think the plan through and either to reject it or decide to go ahead.


Does Isaac have any say? The text says – twice – "And they (father and son) went ahead together." The implication is that Isaac knows what is going on and is prepared for it to happen.

He had a dream that family destiny would be assured because of him, and now he has acquiesced in the fateful decision that there might be no destiny, no family, no dreams fulfilled.

It would help our understanding of the event if the chapter began, "G[-]d tested Abraham and Isaac" instead of leaving Isaac out.

Despite the wording of the text, is  not caught up in events that might get out of His control?

The Torah is adamant that man has free will. How can G[-]d be certain that Abraham (and Isaac) will exercise that free will to act in a way that proclaims G[-]d in the world?

Has G[-]d any option but to put the patriarch and his son through the harshest test that any human heart and mind could ever be asked to contemplate?

Isn’t G[-]d putting Himself through a test too, to ascertain whether He possesses the determination to ask His creatures to give Him the apparently impossible?


It’s customary to call it "teki’at shofar", the blowing of the shofar, but that in fact is not the mitzvah at all. The mitzvah is "lishmo’a kol shofar", to hear the sound of the shofar.

There are two aspects, two obligations: the blowing must be by a competent person who follows the rules, whilst the congregation as a whole need not have the ability to blow but must hear the sounds.

By analogy, there is a wider sense in which everyone has a duty to hear.

When someone is in pain, others must hear their cry. When G[-]d says, "I shall hear, for I am compassionate" (Ex. 22:26), we human beings have a duty to emulate the Almighty. When we hear the call, "Sh’ma Yisra’el" – "Hear, O Israel", we must be receptive and take the message seriously.

Rabbi Elazar ben P’dat asks in the Talmud (Ket.5b), ""Why do fingers look like pegs?", and the answer is given, "So that when a person hears something unworthy, they can plug their ears".

Conversely, when one hears something important, they must listen intently and not pretend to be deaf.


"Un'tanneh Tokef" is an unending source of emotional, spiritual and intellectual fascination.

Its depiction of the Heavenly court on Rosh HaShanah is unrivalled. The court scrutinizes a stream of defendants.  The prosecutor makes his accusations; the defending counsel makes a response. G[-]d Himself sits in judgment.

As the proceedings unfold, every case is entered in the court books.  But not by a court official. No: each person's record writes itself.

The idea derives from a Talmudic passage (RH 16b), which says, "Three books are opened on Rosh HaShanah… the wholly righteous are written and sealed at once for life and the wholly wicked for death; the intermediate category have their cases suspended".

The text does not say that any specific official makes the entry in the record. The words are passive, not active: "the wholly righteous are written and sealed…"

By whom? The answer of Un'tanneh Tokef is unequivocal: our deeds write their own record.

To which the Chafetz Chayyim adds: it all depends on how we deal with other people.  If we judge them uncharitably and speak ill of them we are inviting the Chief Justice to judge us negatively.

"Therefore a man needs to bear in mind that whenever he judges another human being, either favorably or otherwise, with his words, he is actually, literally, arranging and determining his own judgment in heaven" (Sh'mirat HaLashon, Sha'ar HaT'vunah 4).


I have known it, Baruch HaShem, all my life.

I cannot remember a time when Rosh HaShanah was not a highlight of my year. As a small child I was not quite certain what it was all about, but I knew something solemn was in the air, and I constantly hummed the yom-tov melodies I heard in shule.

Then I grew up and discovered the serious content of the occasion. Not merely the sounding of the shofar, but the liturgy that celebrates G[-]d as king, judge and redeemer, the majestic words and uplifting thoughts – all gave me something for the mind as well as the heart and soul.

Every year since then the Rosh HaShanah experience has been a trusty old friend. But every year it speaks to me with a new freshness and challenge that never ceases to amaze me.

As a ba’al k’ri’ah I know well the Torah readings for the two days, and the haftarot. Not just their phraseology and trope, but their substance.

All deal with yearnings, hopes and fears.  All are ancient stories, but it could be my yearnings, hopes and fears they depict.

On the first day the Torah reading is the story of the birth of Yitzchak after so many years in which his parents were barren. The haftarah tells a similar story, of Channah’s prayer answered by the birth of Shmuel.

On the second day the Torah portion is Avraham’s anguish at the Akedah; the haftarah is of Rachel’s tears when her children go into exile.

My mind is awash with thoughts evoked by these familiar stories. Four in particular –

1. The age-old Jewish concern for continuity. Avraham and Sarah, Channah and Rachel, Jews in every generation were apprehensive that the tradition might end with them unless there was a future generation to maintain the heritage.

2. The confidence that G[-]d will help. When almost consumed with worry, none of the Biblical figures gives way to pessimism or thinks there is no way out. They – we too – understand that if we play our part, G[-]d will match us and play His.

3. The innate piety of Jewish women, even greater than that of the men. All the Rosh HaShanah readings focus on prayers offered by women. Judaism recognises that men need more rituals than women in order to cultivate a spiritual feeling: women, on the other hand, seem to have a more natural spiritual sensibility.

4. The fulfilment of dreams does not come easily. The Rosh HaShanah readings show that sometimes you are in danger of losing what is most precious to you – in one chapter Yitzchak is given, in the next almost taken away; in the haftarot – especially on the second day – mothers weep at the possibility that their children may be lost to them. What you have you must cherish and guard with fierce determination, but if you have to let go you must do so with dignity.

This is part of what I read into and out of the Rosh HaShanah tradition.

Shanah Tovah Um’tukah… a year of peace, health and Divine blessing!


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        23-29 Elul, 5778                                                          Sept. 3-9, 2018 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES --  610th Web Ed.



HILLSIDE, New Jersey  -- With Rosh Hashanah almost here and summer coming to an end, now is the perfect time for your friends and family to enjoy the complete line of Glatt Kosher Abeles & Heymann premium beef salami, delicious sliced deli meats and mouth -watering kishka.  Choosing the right holiday dishes just got easier, and our recipe, below, will make your table shine this Rosh Hashanah.

“Our Kosher provisions are perfect for every holiday table and really for every day,” says Seth Leavitt, CEO of Abeles & Heymann.  “Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time to show off your foodie side, with this creative,  delicious and simple-to-prepare dish.”


1 package           A&H salami - cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup                   cut-up carrots
1 cup                   cut-up sweet potatoes
1/2 cup               cut-up dates
1/2 cup               cut-up dried apricots
1 tablespoon     honey
1 tablespoon     vinegar
1 teaspoon        salt
1/2 cup               orange juice
Optional - 1/4 cup cut up prunes
Optional- 1/4 cup dried cranberries

1.       Combine all ingredients in oven-safe container
2.       Cover tightly
3.       Bake at 350 for 60 minutes
As featured in The Nibble and The Supermarket Guru, A & H are consistently voted as the “Top Dog” in America because they are produced in small batches, use only premium quality ingredients and are slow cooked to perfection. The complete line of products has been made using old world recipes to ensure the superb taste and quality the company has been known for since 1954.  The products always are packaged with purity of ingredients that meet the highest standards   Abeles & Heymann premium deli products can be found at Costco and BJ’s, national chain supermarkets such as Stop & Shop, Shoprite, Kroger, Ralph’s, and Acme, as well as independent kosher stores coast to coast.

About Abeles & Heymann.

In 1954, Oscar Abeles & Leopold Heymann opened a small manufacturing site in the Bronx, NY known as Abeles & Heymann.  In 1997 Seth Leavitt and his attorney cousin David Flamholz bought out Mr. Heymann and his wife Sophie. Heymann, the only surviving partner, stayed on for over a year to teach the two young guys how to make a hot dog among other things, in the Bronx facility.

After growing exponentially, A&H then relocated to a state-of-the-art facility in Hillside, New Jersey and also partnered with Israel based Hod Golan, part of the manufacturing arm of Israeli Kibbutz Maadany Yehiam. A&H  produces a line of Kosher products including reduced fat, no nitrate or nitrite added hot dogs; all beef hot dogs, cocktail franks, chipotle franks, kishka, salami, beef fry, knockwurst, cervelat, corned beef, pastrami and new deli line of turkey.


LOS ANGELES -- Free tuition is a hit!  With thousands of students back in the classroom at the Los Angeles Community College District’s nine colleges, preliminary figures show student participation has jumped up about 25 percent in the second year of the Los Angeles College Promise Program that provides free tuition to qualifying first-year, full-time students.

“The message is out: if you want tuition-free college, come to any one of our nine outstanding colleges,” Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez, Ph.D. said.  “The L.A. College Promise has struck a positive cord with high school students and their parents who can see how the free-tuition program makes college a reality for students and makes it more affordable for families.”

Preliminary enrollment numbers gleaned during the first week of classes show about 5,000 of the incoming, first-year students for the Fall 2018 term are on track to receive a year of tuition-free college under the Los Angeles College Promise program, now in its second year.

The district wide figure is 1,000 more students above the approximately 4,000 students who enrolled a year ago for the Fall 2017 term as part of the first-ever Los Angeles College Promise cohort, a 25 percent jump, according to Ryan Cornner, Ed.D., LACCD Vice Chancellor for Educational Programs and Institutional Effectiveness.

The preliminary numbers won’t be finalized for another few weeks as staff tracks more student data for analysis, Dr. Cornner said.  Some of the colleges with low enrollment figures last year saw the biggest jumps this year as more students learned about the program.  For example, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College had only 83 students enrolled in the L.A. College Promise Program in 2017.  This year, the figure has mushroomed to more than 300, he said.

“Thank you so much to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Foundation for the Los Angeles Community Colleges for their amazing support of the L.A. College Promise that is embracing the hopes and aspirations of thousands of students,” LACCD Board of Trustees President Mike Fong said.  “LACCD created a life-changing program in partnership with Mayor Garcetti and LAUSD to generate a community of college graduates in the LA region and we’re doing just that.”

The L.A. College Promise program first began in 2017, helping then to spark a 40-percent increase in enrollment by local seniors who graduated from Los Angeles Unified School District high schools.  To qualify, L.A. College Promise students must enroll full time at an LACCD college beginning in the fall term, taking between 12 to 15 units per semester.  They also must participate in summer transition sessions immediately prior to the Fall semester; take a structured educational schedule including required classes and participate in success coaching.

LACCD is the nation’s largest community college district, educating about 250,000 students annually at its nine colleges that serve the residents of more than 36 cities and communities from 900 square miles of Los Angeles County.  Since 1969, the District has been providing an important learning pathway for students seeking transfer to four-year colleges or universities while also offering two-year degrees and certificated training programs to Southern California’s diverse workforce in many specialized trades and professions.


LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang has certified the 2018 Assessment Roll, which indicates growth in real estate and business property values and record-setting savings for homeowners, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations.

The roll value of $1.57 trillion (gross) and the $80 billion in business property have set new highs for the county, as have tax-saving exemptions, which topped $59.8 billion.

“Los Angeles County’s economic base is strong and continues to be on an upswing,” Assessor Prang announced. “The appreciation of real estate for the 8th consecutive year, coupled with optimism in the business sector, means additional resources will be available for education, public safety, firefighting efforts, health services, and transportation.”

The leading indicators in the roll's increase are: a) sales and other transfers of real estate, which added $47.6 billion as compared to 2017, and b) new construction, which added another $11 billion. The combination of these and other factors yielded a net increase of 6.62% – the greatest growth in values since prior to the 2008 recession.

However, the Assessor also emphasized that the average growth in assessed values across the county does not mean property owners will be subject to a corresponding increase of 6.62% on their property tax bills. Existing homeowners will see only the standard 2% annual adjustment for inflation, pursuant to protections set out by Prop. 13.

Assessor Prang’s proactive efforts to promote savings for seniors, veterans, disaster victims, and homeowners has resulted in record-setting tax reductions. This year, over 1 million will claim the Homeowner Exemption, and a record number of veterans will save through the Disabled Veteran Exemption – a total of $7.74 billion that will be exempt from taxation, saving $77 million. Likewise, non-profit, community service, and faith-based institutions will see a record $52 billion in exemptions, producing $521 million in savings.

Another indicator of the growing economy and business optimism is the record-setting $4.53 billion (or, 5.9%) increase in business personal property. This reflects record growth in investment in equipment and technology as well as marine vessels and aircraft. The resulting $80 billion in business property is another new high for Los Angeles County.

The 2018 Assessment Roll comprises 2.57 million real estate parcels and business assessments, including 1,874,588 single-family residences, 249,660 residential-income properties, 248,198 commercial/industrial properties, and 205,204 business properties.

In his announcement, Assessor Prang concluded, “I want to thank my team for their diligent efforts to ensure fair and accurate assessments, which serve as a foundation for vital local public services that will directly benefit Los Angeles County's residents and businesses and improve quality of life in our neighborhoods."