Rabbi Benjamin’s Blog

Hannukkah 5782 and Thanksgiving 2021 Together – Never Before Or Again

This year Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving, on 11/28/2021. The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7 year cycle. You would therefore expect them to coincide roughly every 19×7  = 133 years. Looking back, this is approximately correct – the last time it  would have happened is 1861. However, Thanksgiving was only formally  established by President Lincoln in 1863. So, it has never happened before.

Because the Jewish  calendar  is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000years . This means that while presently Hanukkah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Hanukkah can be is 11/29.

Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, then it will slowly move forward through the Gregorian calendar, until it loops all the way back to where it is now. So, Hanukkah could again fall on Thursday, 11/28…in the year 79,811 * .

Calendars , not with standing we need an early Hanukkah this year.  It is a holiday that brings hope and good cheer to all of us regardless of our religious backgrounds.

So pass the cranberry sauce AND the latkes, please.

  • NOTE: The 79811 date is NOT accurate, but was meant to be tongue in cheek. Jewish law requires Passover to be in the Spring.  Therefore, the Jewish calendar will have to be adjusted long before it loops all the way around.
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

A Wedding At Sea

Performing a Jewish wedding ceremony on a cruise boat in the East River is no easy task. Carrying a portable Chuppah on my shoulders while juggling a heavy bag filled with my Kiddush cup, a bottle of kosher wine, my Tallit, and a large Ketubah rolled in a long tube I inched my way up the gangplank which was swaying in the late summer breeze.

I reminded the crewmen that I was there only to perform a wedding ceremony and would have to disembark before the boat was to leave the dock. Our wedding cruiser which was near Manhattan’s fashionable east 60s, was packed with family and friends of the bride and groom. After receiving their warm greeting it appeared to me that they hadn’t decided where to have me perform their ceremony, much less providing and setting up a table on which to place 0ther items I had brought on board.

After filling out and obtaining the witness’s signatures for their marriage license and instructing the photographer not to crowd the bride and groom, we lined up for the ceremony.
As the boat rocked in the late afternoon breeze, the wine cup spilled, the canopy slipped off the poles holding the Chuppah and the Ketubah blew off the table. As the groom’s foot smashed the glass amidst shouts of Mazel Tov, I scrambled to collect my equipment and make a hasty exit onto dry land and back to New Jersey for a memorial service I had to officiate. When I tried to find the gangplank all I could see was the Triboro Bridge ( a.k.a RFK Bridge) towering overhead as we veered up the East River toward the Long Island Sound .
” Help ” I shrieked. ” I have to get off. I have another service to perform in an hour. We have to go back right now. “
The newlyweds graciously invited me to continue on with them for their dinner cruise and even suggested that I lead them in the “Motze” over the Challah , and perhaps offer a toast later on. After all, hadn’t I prepared the bride for her Bat Mitzvah 12 years earlier ?

I was now one of the family.

But, duty called and I insisted that they return to port and to my car which was parked nearby.
I have shared many more joyous occasions with this family and we always recount the story of their wedding day and of how the boat set sail with me on it.

Rabbi Nat Benjamin

Yom Hazikaron

This evening will begin Yom Hazikaron, a day we honor the fallen soldiers of Israel.
To allow us all to understand the importance of this day, we share with you the words of Ryan Greiss, originally from Cresskill, NJ. and a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces’ Golani Brigade. I was honored to perform Ryan’s Bar Mitzvah many years ago and his family were members of our Chavurah for many many years. Thank you Ryan for allowing your moving words to be shared with our Chavurah.

  • A lot of Americans think of Yom HaZikaron as Israel’s Memorial Day, but it’s really so much more than that.
    How many of you are soldiers?
    How many of your children have you worried would fall on the field of battle?
    How many people do you know who have served in the military?
    Could you count them on one hand? In Israel, everybody serves. In Israel, everybody has lost friends and family to acts of war or terror. So in Israel, Yom HaZikaron isn’t just a state holiday; it’s a national day of mourning.

It’s a metaphorical yahrzeit that every single person commemorates together, all at once. When the sirens sound, one at 8 p.m., Tuesday night and the other at 11 a.m.,Wednesday morning, the entire country will literally stand still:
Cars on the highways will grind to a halt and remember all the people who laid down their lives so that they could live free in the Jewish state.

When the siren sounds:
I remember Max Steinberg, usually over a glass of bourbon. Originally from Los Angeles, Max struggled to learn Hebrew but was strong as an ox and never stopped smiling until he was blown up in an armored personnel carrier during Israel’s 2014 war with Gaza.
I remember Oron Shaul, another soldier from Golani’s 13th Battalion, who was riding with Max and whose body is still being held for ransom by Hamas.
I grieve with my friend Shai Amichai, whose little brother took his own life with his service weapon, and with Mikhael Precel, who’d just walked out of the Sbarro in Jerusalem when it exploded, killing 15 people — including his friend — and wounding 130 — including Mikhael. He was only 16 years old.

After a day full of grief, in a uniquely Israeli way, Yom HaZikaron flows right into Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.

It’s a doubleheader: Memorial Day and July 4th, one after the other.
We remember the price and then we celebrate the rewards.

This Yom HaZikaron I ask you to remember my friends and all the heroes who paid the ultimate price to preserve the only Jewish state, and I wish you a very happy Yom Ha’atzmaut. –

Thank you Ryan
Rabbi Nat Benjamin
Chavurah Beth Shalom

Chavurah Beth Shalom Virtual Seder, 2nd Night of Passover

We cordially invite you to our Chavurah Beth Shalom’s virtual second night Passover Seder, Saturday, April 16, at 6:00 pm via Zoom online.

Passover is a time of remembrance of those Jews in the past who did so much to ensure that we would survive as a people and be free to celebrate our Passover Seder.  It is also a time of renewal when we celebrate the Exodus from slavery and our love of freedom. As we wish to preserve this freedom, it is important for us to do our part to preserve those institutions that help guarantee Jewish survival.

Our Chavurah works relentlessly to educate our children and adults, to celebrate the holidays and to serve the community. As always, we are available to you for your life cycle events and pastoral needs. We are ever mindful of your continued friendship and generous support, which have enabled us to succeed and serve our community.

Come and celebrate our virtual Passover Seder on Zoom with your wonderful friends from our Chavurah, your out of town family members, and special guests.

This year, we need your help more than ever and so we have inaugurated a Passover Appeal which we hope will meet with the same generous response from our members and friends as in the past.

Whatever you contribute would be deeply appreciated and in the spirit of Passover.

Passover is a time when we say memorial prayers for our departed loved ones. Please email us the names of your dear ones and they will be read at our special memorial service along with the candle lighting. 

Jewish Genetic Diseases

The subject of Jewish genetic disorders, is rarely discussed openly. However, since 20 per cent of the Jewish population may be carriers, the need be tested is extremely  important. 

Jews of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic ancestry may be affected because of many generations of intercommunity marriage among the dwellers of the European Shtetl  and other isolated Sephardic communities. 

Without realizing it, the genes from these disorders may be passed on to generations to come.

Testing is essential for all of us especially for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

We share below a few key resources for everyone with more to follow.

Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium

Learn About Gaucher’s Disease – 1 in 15 Ashkenazi Jews carry the genetic mutation of this disease and yet so few people even know the name. Please note carriers do not suffer from this disease but they carry it from generation to generation.

Jewish Genetic Screening

A Directory of Jewish Genetic Diseases

Jewish Genetic Disease Frequently Asked Questions

A Thanksgiving Message For 2021

Although Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, for Americans of all religious denominations, one cannot overlook the religious ethic of giving thanks to God. Indeed,  many communities make Thanksgiving a time for Interfaith gatherings which include churches and synagogues alike. During my forty years in this community I have frequently participated in joint worship services with our many friends of other faiths. The services always include readings, prayers and devotions of  many  traditions and are  always well attended by members of the respective houses of worship in the community.

Chavurah Beth Shalom

We look upon Thanksgiving as our one true secular  holiday, universal to all of us.  As Jews we regard  all of our Religious Holy Days, Festivals and of course Shabbat as days of Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims in looking into the Hebrew scriptures recognized that Sukkot,  the “Feast of In gathering”, was also a festival of Thanksgiving. It is a parallel to the redemption from slavery in Egypt and the Pilgrims quest to find religious freedom in America. The Puritans saw much in common between themselves and the biblical narrative of the children of Israel. Both peoples shared a common hope for a new life in the promised land.

All Jewish holidays are related to the theme of the “Shehecheyanu” prayer which thanks The Almighty for “… giving us life, sustaining us and bringing us to this season “.  The prayers, and meditations in our prayer book stresses God’s beneficence toward  us. as we seek to acknowledge divine goodness through our thankfulness for all we have been given.   Although we often take so much of what we have for granted, the events of recent times should now awaken us from  our complacency. The world is becoming a frightening place and we need to be thankful for what we have. We often fail to feel gratitude for the people in our lives whom we love, for the beauties of nature, for the natural gifts and skills which we have have attained and achieved, and for the gifts of insight, wisdom, and love, as well as the opportunity to pursue our dreams in a society which affords us the freedom and security  to do so. We know this to be true as American Jews living in this wonderful country.