The Pulse of Our Congregation March 2007

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

March 2007 Activities

Members participate in Shabbaton and Tu B'Shvat seder

Message from Rabbi

Looking at God’s Name in Judaism
by Jacqueline (Eliana) DeLeo

Your Cantor's Operatic Corner!
by Beatrice Beer


Looking Ahead

Here are a few upcoming events you might consider participating in:

Leyv Ha-Ir's Annual Race for the Cure May 13th, Sunday, at 8 AM at the Art Museum. Susan Berger, Team Captain, will distribute information.

Annual Second Night Passover Seder Tuesday, April 3rd, 6:30PM Held at Ethical Society Details about registration will follow, or call 215-629-1995 or email info

Roy Shenberg's song "Moving to the Energy of Love" will be featured at the Choir Festival "Beyond Measure" on Saturday evening, April 14 at Haverford School's Centennial Hall. More information is available at

Marking Life Cycle Events

Making a financial contribution to Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir is a great way to mark special life events, simchas, yahrzeits, etc. We are happy to send an acknowledgement of your contribution to a designee of your choice. Contributions can be sent to our regular P.O. Box address, or contact Evy Simon, at 215-561-7474 or, if you'd like to have an acknowledgement card sent.

Thank you.

"OLAM " © 2007, Roy Shenberg

God made a big blue ball, y'all
Spun it 'round the sun
Pleased at what GOD did y'all
Called the ball OLAM

GOD filled OLAM with living things
On the land and sea
Formed in GOD's image
To branch out like a tree

OLAM speeds through the sky, y'all
Warmed by the sun
What keeps us from falling off?
Our faith in Adam Olam.

Don't despair, our future's bright
Olam shines like a star
GOD never wants Olam to stop
Or we wouldn't have come this far

For Olam's the world and all, y'all
Forever and a day
GOD made the world to last, y'all
Let's help keep it that way.

The big, blue ball Olam
Shows rips and tears and runs
Let's sew it up with mitzvahs
Our thread? TIKUN OLAM.

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Dear Friends of Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City,

My number one goal as President of Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City is to help our core membership create a legacy so that the spiritual home they have created will endure. The (mostly) older (mostly) women who founded this congregation created an institution, with a decentralized decision-making structure, in which everyone’s Jewish spiritual journey is honored. This synagogue has worked very well for the small group it serves, swelling during the High Holidays to meet the needs of the larger community.

The next task is to open up this core to let in new people (many of whom are reading this e-newsletter). For the most part, we are a community of adults, who do not worship with family. Over the last two years, with Rabbi Julie’s leadership, we have taken steps to broaden this community by developing a Family Torah Group. We have identified and funded a skilled Jewish educator. We have reached out and attracted about ten families who regularly enrich each other’s experience of Judaism together as parents and children. The next step is to bring together this small group of families with our small community to see whether we want to become a multi-generation Jewish Community Center serving our common values.

If we do want to come together, what will we look like? How do we move forward keeping our values in place, and meeting the needs of a broader community? Please get together and talk with each other about how this synagogue grows.

Michael Meketon, President
Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City

  • March 2007 Activities
  • March 3 SATURDAY
    Shabbat Services
    Ethical Society
    10:00 AM
    Lay Led

    March 3 SATURDAY
    Purim Celebration
    Ethical Society
    7:30 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    March 7 WEDNESDAY
    Taste I Ed. Program
    Ethical Society
    7:00 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    March 11 SUNDAY
    Jewish Ceramics Workshop
    Ethical Society
    2:00 PM

    March 11 SUNDAY
    Family Torah Group
    10:00 AM
    Call 215-629-1995 for more details.

    Kabbalat Shabbat
    Ethical Society
    7:30 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    Shabbat Services
    Ethical Society
    10:00 AM
    Lay Led

    March 18 SUNDAY
    Jewish Ceramics Workshop
    Ethical Society
    2:00 PM

    Beginning Hebrew
    Ethical Society
    4:00 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    Shabbat Services
    10:00 AM
    Lay Led

    March 25 SUNDAY
    Bagels & Books
    11:00 AM

    Council Meeting
    Ethical Society
    7:00 PM

    As part of the Kehillah of Center City we are invited to attend all of the events that are sponsored by the Kehillah and our larger community:

    To learn more about these events, check out the link to Center City Kehillah.

    Click here for a complete look at activities for the upcoming two months.
  • Members participate in Shabbaton and Tu B'Shvat seder
  • Shabbaton, February 3, 2007, held at Chamounix Mansion in Fairmount Park. A Tu B'Shvat seder was led, following Shabbat services. 28 members participated.

  • Message from Rabbi
  • Dear Chevre,

    I’d like to share with you three highlights from this past month:

    (1) At our monthly Council meeting (always open to all) congregants came together to discuss feelings about how we integrate into our congregational life the Jewish tradition’s command to “Tzedek tzedek tirdof, Justice justice you shall pursue.” Some of the dialogue focused on our Martin Luther King, Jr./Abraham Joshua Heschel service. A wide range of feelings and ideas surfaced as people listened respectfully to one another. I hope that this discussion is an on-going one. How do we want to continue in Jewish community to engage in justice work even when we have different opinions? How do we support a diversity of perspectives without paralyzing ourselves? How can we support spiritual activism, or tikkun olam, in a pluralistic environment? These are very important issues for us.

    (2) Our synagogue housed the first Taste class, sponsored for us by the Kehillah of Center City, a project of Jewish Federation. We welcomed close to thirty seekers from all backgrounds, including adults from interfaith families, Jewish and non-Jewish fiancés, Christians wanting to know more about Judaism, a Jewish Russian immigrant with Jewish identity but no education and more. It was so exciting to share this “taste” of Judaism and we hope that many of these class members will become regular participants in other Heart of the City events.

    (3) Thursday, February 22, 2007 was a joyful day as we welcomed two new Jews into the Jewish community. Jackie DeLeo took the name Eliana Bat Avraham V’Sarah and Emily Shiver took the name Esther Tikva Bat Avraham V’Sarah. (Converts are always considered to be the children of the very first two Jews, Abraham and Sarah.) We will be honoring these individuals at our Friday night service, March 16. I hope to see you there!

    Rabbi Julie

  • Looking at God’s Name in Judaism
    by Jacqueline (Eliana) DeLeo
  • The Tetragrammaton, often spelled “YHWH,” is the distinctive personal Name of the God of Israel. Of all the names of God, it appears most frequently in the Bible: 6,823 times. (Wikipedia)

    In Judaism, the Tetragrammaton is the Ineffable Name of God, and is therefore not to be pronounced. ( The Four-Letter Hebrew Name of God (Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh ) indicates that God is timeless and infinite. During prayer, when a blessing is recited, or when Torah is read, the Four-Letter Name should be pronounced as if it were spelled Adonai. (Complete Artscroll Siddur ) Adonai is the name that refers to the immanent (indwelling) Divine Presence. The predominant custom in prayer, study and blessing has been to hold the unpronounceable Name in conscious meditative focus while vocally substituting the name Adonai. (Path of Blessing, p. 100) When used in everyday speaking and according to many, in learning, the Tetragrammaton is pronounced Hashem, literally “the Name.” (

    Nothing in the Torah expressly prohibits a person from pronouncing the Name of God. Indeed, it is evident from scripture that God’s Name was pronounced routinely in ancient times. Many common Hebrew names contain Yah or Yahu, part of God’s four-letter name. (Jewish Virtual Library)

    According to rabbinic tradition, the Name was pronounced by the high priest on Yom Kippur, the only day when the Holy of Holies of the Temple would be entered. With the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 C.E., this use also vanished, resulting in the loss of the correct pronunciation. In one midrashic tradition, only seven Cohanim, individuals of priestly lineage, know the Name of God, which is passed down throughout the generations in order to be ready for invocation during the rebuilding of the Third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. ( This Name contains that much power! But what is this Name?

    Most scholars believe that it is a form of the verb “to be.” Others say that it is also the sound of the breath, both human and Divine, which is the source of life. Ultimately, we do not know. “For YHWH by any other name is still YHWH.” (A Reconstructionist Dvar Torah for Va’era )

    According to Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan and those who follow his Reconstructionist Judaism, God is “the power that makes for salvation.” God is seen as a force in the universe that enables us to strive to better our lives, the lives of all human beings and the entire world. Both the term ‘God’ and ‘human’ are symbols that represent something far beyond that which our limited minds can comprehend. “That is the beauty of God’s ‘true’ Name YHWH.” (A Reconstructionist Dvar Torah for Va’era )

    13th century Kabbalist, Joseph Gikatilla, described the relationship between the Torah and the letters of God’s name as follows: “The entire Torah is like an explication of, and a commentary on, the Ineffable Name of God.” How is this Ineffable Name explicated? The Torah is formed from the many names of God, out of which the one Ineffable Name emerges. The four-letter Name or Tetragrammaton can be compared to the mystic body of the Godhead. “Indeed, God Himself is the soul of these ineffable letters.” (Kabbalah)

    This perspective suggests that the Torah is a living organism, and all its narratives and chapters are bound together in a single organic pattern. (Kabbalah)

    In Jewish thought, a name is not merely an arbitrary designation, a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing being named. It represents its history and reputation. Because a name represents the essence of the thing named, it should be treated with the same respect as the thing’s reputation. God’s Names, in all their forms, are treated with enormous respect and reverence in Judaism. (Jewish Virtual Library)

    The Name Yah is composed of the first two letters of YHWH. It appears in names such as Elijah, as well as in the joyful expression, Hallelujah. (Wikipedia) In the Jewish Renewal Movement, some pronounce ‘Yah’ in such a way as to recall the feminine aspect of the Divine and also to recall the breath of God. (Muse)

    It is true that we cannot pronounce the Name of God! But “cannot” does not only mean forbidden; it also means it is simply not possible in any ordinary way. One way to understand this is that the Holy One revealed to us an unpronounceable name, thwarting our temptation to appropriate God. Just at the point where our use of language to define, limit, and control might be activated, Jewish tradition has inserted a profoundly counteractive experience. If we try to speak a limiting and confining name, we experience just the opposite; “We try to pronounce the Name... and we breathe!” “Then we understand that the Name of God is neither Yahweh or Jehovah; it is the breathing of soul and life energy into existence.” (Path of Blessing, p. 87)

    As we breathe, we remember not only that we cannot define and control the Source of Life but that the Source of Life unites us in a chain of reciprocity. My breathing out is your breathing in. The very molecules that were a part of me, become a part of you. Breathing in oxygen, I exhale the carbon dioxide everything green “breathes” in to make more oxygen. “Each breath revitalizes.” With each breath we recall God’s Name and are inspired. “Each breath is life.” (Path of Blessing, p. 87)

    The letter Heh, the dominant letter of the Name, is the letter-energy of life force. With each breath we once again sing with the psalmist, “Kol ha’neshama t’hallel Yah!” “Every soul-breath praises God, the breath of life!” (Path of Blessing, p. 87)

    In the Torah the Holy One gives us a whisper. Moshe hears: “I am the Eternal Being. I am Being calling Being into Being each moment.” Here is a glimpse of the divine essence as “existence itself.” Through this hint we begin to learn a Name that is not a name, a Name transcending names, a name including and subsuming all names. (Path of Blessing, p. 82)

    This glimpse of the divine essence as existence itself leads us to look more closely at how Hebrew fashions the words for existence. When we look at the Hebrew verb of being, we see verb forms for “was”: hayah ; “is”: haveh ; “will be”: yihyeh . (Path of Blessing, p. 84) Recall that Moshe heard “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” — “I am Eternal Being, Eternally Becoming.” Eternal being coalesces past, present, and future in a unitive now. Eternal being encompasses is-ness, was-ness, and will-be-ness, but is in itself none of these words. Or is it all of them? If we could somehow conflate “is,” “was,” and “will be” into one word, an “iswaswillbe,” perhaps we would be closer to expressing the “power of eternal becoming.” (Path of Blessing, p. 84)

    One way to know God’s Name is by linking our own life-breath with the life-breath of Creation. Consider how it will affect even our casual conversation when we realize that each time we breathe, we call God’s Name. Whenever we breathe, we invoke the Sacred. “How this awareness will change the way we use our breath and our speech!” (Path of Blessing, p. 88)

    With every breath we invoke the Name of God. Each breath contains Divine energy and is a gift from God! What an awesome responsibility this entails in our daily interactions and, in particular, in the words we use with each other.

    Words have the power to heal or wound; to buildup or destroy. We should not waste this precious breath-gift from God and the Divine energy it contains in speaking words that are unkind, hurtful or destructive. We are all made in the image of God. Therefore, we should use our life-breath and speak words that buildup rather than destroy; that are kind rather than harsh; and that heal rather than wound.


    1. Wikipedia


    3. Jewish Virtual Library

    4. Muse, Chava Weissler

    5. Kabbalah

    6. The Path of Blessing, Rabbi Marcia Prager, Bell Tower, New York, 1998.

    7. The Complete Artscroll Siddur, Mesorah Publications, New York, Third edition, 1990.

    8. A Reconstructiuonist Dvar Torah for Va’era, Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan

  • Your Cantor's Operatic Corner!
    by Beatrice Beer
  • I, along with the Atlantic Coast Opera Company, will be featured at the following concerts:

    Wednesday, March 7, 12:30-1:30, Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square

    Sunday, March 18, 3PM, Sterling Glen, 150 N. 20th St.

    I would so enjoy seeing you guys !!

    :: 215-629-1995