Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel

85 Harrison Street, New Haven, CT 06515-1724 | P: 203.389.2108 |

Our banner is based on BEKI’s stained glass, designed in 2008 by Cynthia Beth Rubin. For information on this and other of Cynthia’s work, go to: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Artisan Fabrication by JC Glass of Branford, CT

Prayer & Synagogue Ritual

Posted on July 16, 2014

Dear Rabbi, What determines which sefer Torah [Torah scroll] is taken from the ark? Sincerely, Better Sefer than Sorry Dear Safer, It is common to have more than one sefer Torah in the ark, which is the case at BEKI. All of the Torah scrolls are identical inside, with respect to the letters, words and Continue Reading »


Posted on July 16, 2014

Dear Rabbi, I know that the Conservative movement said it is okay to drive on shabbat, but I for one don’t want to. Yet, the synagogue is a bit too far to walk. Can I ride a bike and still keep the rules of the sabbath? Signed, At the limit Dear Limit, The problem you Continue Reading »

Death & Dying

Posted on July 16, 2014

Dear Rabbi, Can say I say mourners’ qaddish at a Shiva Minyan if I’m observing a yahrzeit but not one of the mourners during shiva? Signed, Still Mourning Dear Still, Yes, you may. “Mourners’ Qaddish” is specifically for anyone who is mourning and needs to say qaddish. Dear Rabbi, Why do people use the back Continue Reading »

Food, Kosher, Kashrut, Kosher for Passover

Posted on July 16, 2014

Dear Rabbi, I like to brush my teeth after every meal. Do I need separate toothbrushes for meat and dairy? Signed, Choppers Dear Compulsive Cavity Curber, The rules of kashrut (keeping kosher) require the strict separation of meat and milk. To answer your question, we must ask two more. Do actual meat or dairy pieces Continue Reading »

Ottoman Land Registration Law as a Contributing Factor in the Israeli-Arab Conflict

Posted on July 16, 2014

The Ottoman Land Code and Registration Laws of 1858 and 1859 contributed to the conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine and Israel. (See map below.) This essay will outline the intent and provisions of the laws; then, will describe some effects of the laws; and finally, will discuss the implications for Jewish-Arab relations. Intent Continue Reading »

Seeing God’s Face: Jacob & Esau

Posted on July 16, 2014

The reconciliation of Jacob and his brother Esau is narrated in Genesis chapter 33. After an unfriendly parting, Jacob had been away from home for about 22 years. Now, after having married and begun a sizable family, he wishes to return to his ancestral home. He is frightened. In fact, he is terrified of what Continue Reading »

Animal Rights and Wrongs

Posted on July 16, 2014

“What did the animals do to deserve destruction?” This question, raised by our students when discussing the Noah story, is also asked in the Zohar (Perush HaSulam I:68a), the 12th-century work on Jewish mysticism (Qabbala). The Torah text explains that humanity had become corrupt and irredeemably sinful. But why should the innocent animals be washed Continue Reading »

Hunting in Law & Tradition

Posted on July 16, 2014

In Western civilization, hunting is seen as a noble and manly pursuit. In Greek and Nordic mythology hunters are heros; in popular culture hunting is the epitome of manliness. Twenty-five million people in the US hunt, killing over 100 million animals each year. In a typical year, several hundred people are killed and 1,500 are Continue Reading »

The Cycle of Violence

Posted on July 16, 2014

The Torah tells of the conflict and partial reconciliation between Jacob and Esau, two brothers from a “dysfunctional family.” Va-yomer im-yavo `Esav el-ha-mahane ha-ahat vehikkahu (whkhw) ve-haya ha-mahane ha-nishar li-feleita Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Continue Reading »

Motifs of Nonviolence in Shivhei HaBesht (Tales of the Ba’al Shem Tov)

Posted on July 15, 2014

Shivhei HaBesht is a collection of tales mostly about Israel Ba`al Shem Tov (known as “The Ba`al Shem Tov” or “The Besht,” 1700-1760), the founder of the modern Hasidic movement. In his preface to Shivhei HaBesht, the author of the manuscript, Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezhirich (1710-1772), explains, The reader should realize that I wrote Continue Reading »