Shapell’s/ Darche Noam is excited to announce that the fourth annual David Shapell z”l Memorial Married Couples Fellowship has been awarded to Simcha and Sabrina Brick.

This extraordinary couple will spend the 5780 (2019-20) academic year studying at Shapell’s/Yeshiva Darche Noam and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya, which will include participating in special classes and programs designed for young married couples. This prestigious fellowship will provide their full tuition and subsidized housing, thus allowing them to spend their year focused on their academic, spiritual and leadership growth.

A native of St. Louis, Simcha grew up in a family actively involved in the Jewish community. He was always interested in learning more about Judaism. After completing his degree in creative writing at Binghamton University in New York, he studied at Shapell’s/ Yeshiva Darche Noam from 2014-16. His professional roles have all been in Jewish education (both formal and informal). From 2010-2015, he acted as the "Camp Rabbi" for a small camp in Southern Illinois, Camp Ben Frankel, teaching about Judaism to students from elementary school through college. In 2016, after leaving Shapell’s, he became the director of NCSY’s "Jewish Student Union" in Houston, running programming and classes for Jewish teens in public schools. He also taught Jewish philosophy and history in a local Jewish high school, Beren Academy. In 2018, he was promoted and made the NCSY Director of Westchester County in New York.

Sabrina grew up in Metuchen, New Jersey in a proudly Jewish home. She went on to study journalism at Rutgers University and simultaneously became involved with Rutgers Jewish Experience/Meor on campus. Subsequently, she went on three Jewish learning trips, including Pathways Plus at Midreshet Rachel. Her first job after college was as a production assistant on CBS This Morning, where she worked for about eight months before leaving and spending almost a year and a half learning at Neve and as a madricha for MEOROT, NCSY's gap year seminary program in Israel for public school teens. Already having decided to give back professionally to the Jewish community, she spent this past year doing outreach in private and public schools for Brooklyn NCSY, working part-time for Souled NYC, the women's division of Meor Manhattan, and just recently began writing for Mishpacha 2.0.

Simcha and Sabrina were married just before Purim, and are beyond excited for the opportunity to spend a full year learning in Jerusalem. Sabrina shared, "I hope to come out of this year with a confidence in my knowledge of halacha, specifically those related to running a home (kashrut, Shabbat). I also hope to build a network of close friends and mentors who I can have meaningful conversations with, learn from and with and who can help and inspire me to develop myself into a confident Jewish woman and leader. Jewish outreach is something I want to be involved with my entire life. Something I've found gratifying about my work for both NCSY and Meor has been the conversations with both teens and young professionals who are thinking deeply and dynamically about the role that religion plays in their lives. I love listening to their experiences, understanding where they are coming from and going back and forth sharing insights about Judaism and life, leading to a greater sense of understanding themselves and the world around them."

Simcha said, "Getting to come back to Shapell’s, for me, is a dream come true. It’s somewhere you can never truly finish, where you can be growing no matter how long you’ve been there. To be able to take time out and go back to learn with my wife is beyond what I dared to hope for! I know that being in learning, particularly surrounded by the rabbis and role models at Shapell's, will ground our marriage in the best way possible. What could better guarantee a life of Torah and goodness than immersing ourselves in Torah and goodness?"

Of course, this program is not just about building their personal lives, but also building themselves as Jewish leaders. They have already distinguished themselves in this way. We have no doubt that after a year in our Married Couples Program they will have even more to contribute to the Jewish People. As Simcha put it, "I've been working in kiruv (outreach) for three years now, and nothing could help me more than another year of learning. Every hour of Torah we can spend at Shapells is another hour I can give over to my students, another hour to introduce them to Hashem."

For forty one years, Shapell’s/Darche Noam in Jerusalem has been giving English speaking adults the skills to be independent and engaged in their Torah learning, to be deeply connected to the Jewish People and to Israel, and to become leaders in their community.

The Married Couples program is a signature program that allows husbands and wives to study at the Yeshiva and Seminary in the regular learning programs, as well as providing them with special classes designed for married couples focusing on marital harmony, parenting, practical halacha in the areas of Shabbat and Kashrut, choosing a community and more.

The David Shapell z"l Fellowship was created by alumni who wished to honor the memory of Mr. Shapell, who, along with his wife Fela, are our long-time benefactors who particularly appreciated our focus on strengthening both Jewish families and communities.

Rabbi Shmuel Jablon
Executive Director
Shapell's/Darché Noam





Abraham Joshua Heschel said that our generation knows the answers but has forgotten the questions.

With regard to Pesach we know that our ancestors were slaves in Egypt, G[-]d redeemed them and took them out across the Red Sea to become a free nation, and we celebrate these events by observing Seder night and reading the Haggadah.

That’s the answer, but what is the question?

The question seems to be "Mah Nishtanah". But there are at least two problems with this phrase.

Problem 1:

What do we mean by "mah"? Is it "What?" – i.e. "What is different about this night?" – a question. Or is it "How!" – i.e. "How different this night is!" – an exclamation.

If it’s a question, the four statements that follow are answers and not questions. In other words, "What is different…? The fact that we eat matzah, etc." That means that there aren’t four questions but only one.

On the other hand, if "mah" is an exclamation, the four statements in Mah Nishtanah are illustrative explanations, and therefore there are no questions at all and nobody is asking anything.

Problem 2:

What do we mean by "nishtanah"?

Most translators render it in the present tense, "Why is this night different?" or "How different this night is!"

But "nishtanah" is actually not present but past tense from the root "shin-nun-heh", to change or differ. The translation therefore ought to be, "In what way did this night become different?" or "How different this night became!"

In that case the topic of discussion is not what we thought it was, the Seder procedure.

What we are called upon to do is not to talk about the content of the Seder but the history of the Haggadah.


Don’t be taken in by "Chad Gadya".

It’s not as ancient as people imagine, even though it is in Aramaic. It has no real connection with Pesach, even though it concludes the Seder ceremonial. It is philosophical, even though it looks and sounds like mere fun. It is messianic, even though it seems quite mundane.

The song begins with a kid which was bought for two zuzim. The kid was eaten by the cat; the cat was eaten by the dog; the dog was beaten by the stick; the stick was burnt by the fire… and so on until in the end G[-]d Almighty appears and brings the chain effect to an end by destroying the Angel of Death and asserting His sovereign power.

The first Haggadah to include it seems to have been as recent as 1590, though the idea goes back to the Mishnah (Avot 2:7), where Hillel sees a skull floating on the water and says, "Because you drowned others, you yourself have been drowned – and they who drowned you will finally be drowned themselves."

The Vilna Ga’on applied the song to Jewish history, identifying each of the characters with a person or age in Jewish history until in the end nothing remains but G[-]d. Emil Fackenheim pointed out that history – as poetically described in "Adon Olam" – began with G[-]d’s sole Presence and will end with G[-]d once more reigning alone.

What Chad Gadya has to do with Pesach is questionable, though some see in it a hint of the paschal lamb.

There are those who simply say that it is a nursery rhyme, written to keep the children awake and alert but adopted by adults to end the long Seder procedure with a triumphant crescendo.

The truth probably is that the poet who composed the song was no comedian but a subtle philosopher. We don’t know his name. His theme was Cause and Effect. His maxim was that nothing just happens randomly.

There may even be a hint of Darwinian Survival of the Fittest – with a devastating commencement and a decisive conclusion that totally contrast with Darwin.

Chad Gadya starts with the purchase of a little goat. By implication the song asks where everything began. Its answer: "Father", i.e. G[-]d. Nothing occurred or erupted by mere chance. There was an act of Creation. G[-]d brought the world and its inhabitants into being. He gave man free will.

He said, "Man, I have given you a world. I have endowed you with the energy and ability to make something of the world and yourself. What now happens is up to you. If you are wise, you will follow my recipe of moral principle. If not, you will be responsible for your results. I will not dictate to you or force you. I will not intervene. But I will be there and when I am ready I will assert My control."

If we want a connection with Pesach, it must be that this is the festival that shows how low man can sink and how high he can rise. The despair and gloom of Egyptian slavery is everyman’s depth of darkness. The Hebrew yearning for freedom is everyman’s saving grace. Man can be pulled towards either pole.

Pesach proves that breaking free and bringing the Messiah is possible. The Angel of Death can and will be vanquished and the Holy One, blessed be He, will have the last laugh and rule forever.

Dr. Raymond Apple, Jerusalem, Israel


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                            10-16 Nissan, 5779                                             April 15-21, 2019 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES --  622nd Web Ed.