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Shabbat Shuva
New Additions to Avinu Malkeinu Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 October 2019

Sponsored by Vicky Wu on the 17th yahrzeit of JJ Greenberg z”l

May JJ’s love for the Land of Israel and for his People continue to shine


We recite the Avinu Malkenu prayer during the Shacharit and Mincha services on Rosh HaShana, throughout the Aseret Y’Mei Tshuva- The Ten Days of Repentance (aside from Shabbat) as well as on the evening, morning, afternoon and Neila services of Yom Kippur.


Repeating the same prayer so many times may cause us to rush through and lose kavana (intent). How can we keep up our kavana and make the prayer even more relevant to our lives today?


Rav Yoel Bin Nun came up with a more updated and expanded version of Avinu Malkenu. His view is that the prayer has had many additions made to it since it was first composed by Rabbi Akiva who requested rain during a drought (Talmud Taanit 25b). In fact, the petition for rain (Rabbi Akiva’s original request) is not in the versions of the prayer found in our machzors! Rav Bin Nun explains that this is because when the Jews were in exile, there wasn’t such a dire need for rain the way that we have in the Land of Israel as it says in Dvarim 11:11-12:


The land into which you go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys and drinks water of the rain of heaven: a land which HaShem, your God cares for: the eyes of Hashem, your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.


Rav Bin Nun suggests that we pray for rain in Avinu Malkenu requesting that God “give us rain of blessing in our land, fill our reservoirs with water as well as update and expand some of the other lines to match what we really need in Israel and throughout the world today. Here are a few examples of his additions:


Close the mouths of our adversaries and our accusers in the media, in Israel and in the world.


Remove kidnappings, murders, stabbings, vehicle ramming attacks, fires and bombs from Your land.


Remove missiles, tunnels and fires from above and below.


Save us from disasters that we have caused (pollution!).


Save us from disasters that arise from your creation (earthquakes!).


Save battered and tormented women and men who are threatened and tortured from the hands of cruel people.


Send your blessing to the poor and to those who have trouble standing on their feet.


Other themes that he includes are: releasing women and men who have not received a get (Jewish divorce), the soldiers fighting for the sanctification of God’s name, those who are being held as prisoners throughout the world, Raise the might of the State of Israel, Raise the might of Jerusalem, the Holy City, eradicate destructive weapons, evil rulers…


Rav Bin Nun’s full list of additions (in Hebrew) can be found here http://tiny.cc/xfmwdz .


May these additions help give us more kavana to pray for the things that are troubling the State of Israel and the world at large and may all of our prayers be fulfilled for the good.


Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim,

Sharona Margolin Halickman







The additions keep us focused Print E-mail
Friday, 14 September 2018

Sponsored by Vicky Wu in loving memory of JJ Greenberg z”l, whose inspiration for strength and kindness never ceases

The Aseret Yemei Tshuva (The Ten Days of Repentance beginning with Rosh HaShana and ending with Yom Kippur) are meant to be a time of repentance and introspection. This time of year is also an opportunity for us to step up our intent and focus when praying.

Additions to the service ensure that we are not praying by rote. Rather, they help keep our eyes in the siddur, ensuring that we say the extra phrases which are specifically recited this week.

 Where did the Aseret Yemei Tshuva additions to the Shmoneh Esrei (Silent Devotion) originate?

In the Tamlud, Brachot 12b Rabbah bar Chanina the elder said in the name of Rav: Throughout the year, a person prays with the text “HaE-l HaKadosh”, “The Holy God” as the concluding phrase of the third blessing of the Shmoneh Esrei and “Melech Ohev Tzedaka U’Mishpat”, “The King who loves Righteousness and Judgement” as the concluding phrase of the eleventh blessing, except for the ten days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur when one prays with the text “HaMelech HaKadosh”, “The Holy King” and “HaMelech HaMishpat, “The King of Judgement.”

The custom of adding the other additions to the Shmoneh Esrei dates back to at least the Geonic period (589 CE) where after some arguments, “Zachreinu L’Chayim…”, “Remember us for life…”, “Mi Kamocha Av HaRachamim…”, “Who is like you, Merciful Father…”, “U’Chtov L’Chaim tovim…”, “Inscribe all the children of your covenant for a good life” and “B’Sefer HaChayim…”, “In His book of life…” were included. The arguments were over the issue of adding these phrases to the Shmoneh Esrei since we don’t usually add personal requests to the first and last three blessings. In the end, they were added since they are not personal requests, rather they are requests made on behalf of the entire community.

Although Jewish law is usually very strict about making additions to the Shmoneh Esrei, the rabbis understood how important it was to make extra requests on behalf of the community at this time. It is also an opportunity for us to pay careful attention to the regular service as well as to the additions.

As we gear up for Yom Kippur, let’s make sure to have extra kavana (intent) throughout the Shmoneh Esrei and especially when saying the following words:

Remember us for life, O King Who desires life and inscribe us in the Book of Life.

Inscribe all of the children of Your covenant for a good life.

In the book of life, blessing and peace, good livelihood, may we be remembered and inscribed before You- we and Your entire people the Family of Israel for a good life and for peace.

Renewing our vows with God Print E-mail
Sunday, 09 October 2016

In memory of JJ Greenberg, may his path of Judaism continue to shine inside the hearts of the Jewish people


The Shabbat between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of Return, due to the fact that the Haftatah from Hoshea 14:2-10 begins with the words “Shuva Yisrael”, “Return, Israel to your God.”

Hoshea declares that although B’nai Yisrael sinned, they can still repent and God is always ready to forgive them. The theme that runs through is that God is like a loving husband who wants to renew his wedding vows with his estranged wife, the Jewish people.

Much of the imagery in the Haftara reminds us of Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs, the love story that symbolizes the love between God and the Jewish people.

In Hoshea 14:6 we read: “I (God) shall be like the dew (tal) to Israel, it will blossom like the rose and strike its roots like the forest of Lebanon.”

God will be a blessing for Israel, the way that the dew brings a blessing for all. God’s revelation of the Shechina, Divine Presence, is also compared to dew in Dvarim 32:2: “May my teaching drop like the rain, may my utterance flow like the dew; like storm winds upon vegetation and like raindrops upon blades of grass.”

Hoshea 14:8 states: “Tranquil will be those who sit in the shade, they will refresh themselves like grain and blossom like the grapevine, their reputation will be like the wine of Lebanon.”

The blessings of the dew, grain and wine are also mentioned in Yitzchak’s blessing to Yaakov (Breisheet 27:28): “May God give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fatness of the earth, and abundant grain and wine.”

The themes of dew, grain and wine are included as well in Moshe’s blessing to Israel (Dvarim 33:28):  “Israel shall dwell secure, solitary, in the likeness of Yaakov, in a land of grain and wine; even his heavens shall drip with dew.”

In Israel, between Pesach and Shmini Atzeret, we add the words “Morid Hatal”, “He causes the dew to fall” to the Shmoneh Esrei. In the winter, the words “Viten tal umatar livracha”, “Grant dew and rain as a blessing” are said. In this way, we are constantly reminded that we rely on God to ensure that the plants grow on a daily basis, even when it is not the rainy season.

A significant amount of produce and a large variety of wines can be found in Israel today. As these blessings are fulfilled, let us hope and pray that this symbolizes the Jewish people’s reunification with God and that God will continue to shower His blessings upon us and may we dwell securely in our land. 

Inspiration during the Ten Days of Repentance Print E-mail
Friday, 21 September 2012

Sponsored by Vicky Wu in Memory of JJ Greenberg z’l. The 8th of Tishrei marks 10 years since JJ’s passing. Memories of JJ continue to provide strength and hope to many of us because of his true love for life, Israel and the Jewish people.


During the Aseret Yemei Tshuva, the ten days of repentance between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, we look for inspiration. Some are inspired by a spiritual prayer service, others may be uplifted by a shiur or a lecture and others by a book.


In my mind, there is nothing as uplifting as a role model who inspires us simply by who they are. JJ Greenberg was this type of inspirational role model who still serves as an inspiration, ten years after he was tragically killed in a bicycle accident in Israel at the age of 36.


I remember attending Yeshiva University’s Sophomore Seminar when I was 15 years old. JJ was one of the leaders of the program. The students were comfortable talking to JJ about religious challenges that they were facing. JJ put on funny skits and presentations over the course of the program and made religion seem “fun” to thousands of high school sophomores who may have otherwise felt disconnected.


Eight years ago, I attended a memorial service for JJ in Jerusalem. The most inspiring part of the evening was when the people who received JJ’s organ’s stood up to thank the family.


In tribute to JJ’s inspiration, I asked a few people who felt close to JJ to say a few words about how JJ is still impacting their lives.


Lenny Solomon:


JJ Greenberg was a very close friend of mine. He was an inner circle band member of Shlock Rock, having performed on Yo Yo Yo Yarmulke http://www.myspace.com/music/player?sid=74519136&ac=now and many other Shlock Rock songs.

What made him special was that his only agenda was to make people happy.  There was never any manipulation for his own personal gain.  He just wanted me to be happy and Klal Yisrael as well.


It was an honor to know him and be his friend.


Jules Polenetsky:


Ten years later, so much of JJ's influence continues to affect life, from the large projects to the small things that were just "his way". Just this Rosh Hashana, as I put on my greeter name tag in shul and looked around to see who I didn’t know, I thought of JJ and how he would find someone new and immediately be able to make them feel like they were the most interesting person in the room. 10 years later, JJ's essence continues to shape the way so many of us live our lives in a way that reminds us to care about each other.


Rabbi Josh Feigelson:


JJ will always be in my memory for his smile, his energy, his genuine interest in and ability to connect with almost anybody. As much as JJ accomplished in his too-short life, the way we have remembered JJ since has enabled him to continue to inspire and transform lives. There's a notion in nature of the taproot--the tree that goes down in the woods, and in going down, and providing the home for new life, creates even more life than it did while it was standing. I like to think of JJ as a taproot. I know his memory has definitely been a blessing.


Vicky Wu:


I used to think of JJ often, thinking what he would have done under certain circumstances, what he would have said or not said about certain things, not just about Judaism, but maybe also about a movie, about a match in the Olympic games. It has been 10 years and in some ways time seems to have stopped since he left us.


I am not afraid of forgetting him, because I need him always. When facing difficult times, when feeling frustrated about the world, the society, about anything, I think of him. I just miss the beauty of his passion: his love for Jews and all people, his love for Israel, his love for Judaism, and his love for life.


KTF - Keep The Faith, is what I need.


As Yom Kippur approaches, let’s try to focus on how much JJ has done to change the world in his short life and use JJ’s achievements as an inspiration for what we too can set out to accomplish.


Shabbat Shalom and Gmar Chatima Tova from Yerushalayim!

Sharona Margolin Halickman


What Do Olives and Honey Have in Common? Print E-mail
Monday, 10 September 2007


In Parshat Ha’azinu, Devarim 32:13, Moshe recounts God’s kindness to the Jewish people: “God shall transport them over the summit of the earth (bamatei aretz) where they will consume the produce of the fields (tnuvot sadai); and God will nurture them with honey (dvash) of bedrock and oil (shemen) of staunchest rock mass”.

Rashi explains that the summit of the earth is the Land of Israel. According to Sifrei the Land of Israel is higher than all of the other lands (that is why immigration to Israel is called Aliya-going up). Sifrei adds that the fruits in the Land of Israel are quicker to develop and ripen than the fruits of other lands.

Chizkuni points out that the honey from the bedrock is date honey from dates that grow in the palm branches in the rocks. Chizkuni also brings a different opinion from the Bechor Shor who says that the honey from the bedrock is bee honey which the bees bring from the crevices in the rocks. Bechor Shor adds that the olive trees usually grow in rocky terrain.

Aside from their being the two species that are sold in bottles and easily exported, where else have we seen honey and olive-oil mentioned together?

In the list of the seven species of Israel, the olive oil and honey are singled out as separate from the other five species with a separate emphasis on the Land of Israel,  “Ertez chitah…eretz zeit shemen u’dvash”, “A land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranate, a land of olive oil and honey”.

In reference to the manna we read, Shmot 31:6, “The House of Israel called it Manna. It was like a coriander seed, it was white and tasted like a cake fried with honey”. In Bamidbar 11:8 “…it tasted like the taste of dough kneeded with oil”.

As we move into the Shmittah year (Sabbatical of the Land) let us remember that the produce of Israel is a gift from God just as the manna was.

Have a happy and sweet new year!

The Multifaceted Return Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 December 2005


Shabbat Shuva isthe Shabbat of return. On Shabbat Shuva we focus on both the personal and collective processes of returning to God.

In Parshat Nitzavim (Devarim 30:2) we read about the personal spiritual return to God: "And you shall return (vishavta ad) towards God and you shall obey His voice according to all that I have commanded you on this day, you and your children with all of your heart and with all of your soul."

In the next few psukim, the reward is described. The physical return of the Jewish people to God will ultimately lead to their return to the land of Israel: "And then God will turn (vishav) your captivity and have compassion upon you and will return (vishav) and gather you from the nations amongst whom God has scattered you.and God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed and you shall possess it and He will do good for you.if you listen to the voice of God, to keep the mitzvoth in the Torah and if you turn (tashuv el) unto God with all of your heart and with all of your soul."

Nechama Leibowitz brings the view of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael (before the State of Israel was established) in his Orot HaTeshuva, Lights of Repentence. Rav Kook emphasizes the role of Teshuva in the gradual onward progress of the Jewish people to the threshold of the Messianic age, to spiritual and national independence in the Land of Israel.

According to Rav Kook, "When people sincerely desire to do Teshuva, come back to God, they are held back by numerous hindrances.these hindrances constitute a very serious barrier.Nevertheless, since the desire to repent is so strong, such first glimmerings of Teshuva must be accepted as purifying and refining.This is true for the individual as well as for the public. The glimmerings of Teshuva do exist in Israel. The arousing of the will of the nation as a whole to return to its homeland, to its own essence, spirit and personality contains something of the genuine light of repentance."

Rav Kook's view is that Teshuva may start out as an inner striving but ultimately it can lead to bringing healing and redemption to the world.

As we continue to focus on our own personal Teshuva, let's not forget the importance of working towards the goal of communal Teshuva, the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. Although Rav Kook only saw the beginnings of the Jewish people's return to the Land of Israel, the first flowerings of our redemption, we see how prophetic his words were.

If we can make the first step in both our personal and communal Teshuva processes, then God will carry us along.