Learning About Teshuvah From Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

08/01/18 12:34:39 PM


By Rabbi Richard Hirsh

It was the summer of 1967. Wear some flowers in your hair. Free music in the park. Acid Trips. Haight-Ashbury. The Monterey Pop Festival. “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

And it was also fifty years ago today, Sgt Pepper taught the band to play.” A half-century ago, the Beatles released the soundtrack to the summer of 1967. Endless essays and analyses have assessed the importance and the impact of...Read more...

My Spiritual Journey: Remarks by Pamela Chapman, Kallat B'reishit, 5778 / 2017

18/12/17 12:18:19 PM


Any talk about my Jewish journey begins with one simple – but somehow very complex – statement: I am a Jew by choice. 

The usual response to that statement – among Jews and non-Jews – is “why did you become a Jew?”.  Or sometimes “why WOULD you become a Jew?” which I take as a slightly different question.  So – when I was invited to talk about my “Jewish journey” I knew I would have to reframe...Read more...

My Spiritual Journey: Remarks by Steve Wolfe, Chatan Torah, 5778 / 2017

01/12/17 10:28:31 AM


I stand here today, before my synagogue community, still in awe and feeling incredibly humbled at the honour that you have bestowed on me.   I have to admit I have sat where you are now while others from our community shared their personal journeys with us and wondered “What would I say if that were me up there”.  But still, my first thought when Ryan called me was “is he sure he meant to call...Read more...

D'var Torah by Jenny Isaacs, Social Justice Scholar-in-Residence - October 14, 2017

21/11/17 01:06:40 PM


Good morning. Shabbat Shalom. I am honoured to have been chosen to be the Social Justice Scholar-in-Residence for this new year, 5778. Over the past many years, I’ve had multiple opportunities to connect with the Darchei Noam community. Each time has been positive and enriching and I look forward to the year ahead of connecting in this new way.

My first time at Darchei Noam was as the Assistant Coordinator of the Shinshinim Program...Read more...

Self-Forgiveness - Kol Nidre Sermon by Rabbi Tina Grimberg, September 29, 2017

07/11/17 10:14:52 AM


A white note in a shape of a dove flew past me as a late autumn wind carried it in to the sky. Shivering daveners at the Wall hurried home as the Jerusalem evening descended. The note was taken by the wind from the crevices of  Western Wall and carried in to a shivering air. What happens to these notes I asked myself, never wondering before. Since I learned that one million prayer notes are placed in the crevices of the Western Wall...Read more...

Many Messiahs - Rosh Hashanah Sermon by Rabbi Richard Hirsh, September 21, 2017

24/10/17 01:49:36 PM



A year ago on Rosh Hashana, I offered a sermon based on three Jewish teachings about Satan. In Jewish tradition, Satan is the persecuting prosecutor. He is the one who places the record of our accumulated transgressions before God on these days of reckoning.

In the interests of equal time, this year I want to share three Jewish teachings about the Messiah, the mythical character who...Read more...

The Gantze Megillah: About the Five Megillot

10/10/17 11:48:53 AM


By Sydney Nestel on behalf of the Adult Education Committee

Almost everyone has heard of Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther), but not everyone knows that there are five “megillot” (scrolls) in the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible).

And those who know even a bissel Yiddish ( a little Yiddish) know that the phrase “the gantze megillah” means, literally “the whole scroll”, but figuratively-  “the whole story”: (an allusion, perhaps, to having to sit through a complete and overly...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah D'var Torah by Marcy Tepner & Rona Kosansky, September 21, 2017

02/10/17 10:44:19 AM


We are about to participate in a mitzvah – the sounding of the shofar. But, before we do, I would like to talk about the last of the 613 mitzvot, the obligation for every Jew to write a Torah scroll, and about the concept of “Hiddur Mitzvah”, the “beautification of a mitzvah”. 

Take a moment to look at the magnificent panels of Torah that surround us. This is Hiddur mitzvah....Read more...

My Summer at Darchei Noam, by Katarina Kusic

18/09/17 01:05:34 PM


This summer I had the pleasure of working at Darchei Noam as the summer student administrative assistant. Through this position I learned valuable professional skills, worked with an amazing group of people, and was warmly welcomed into a kind and compassionate community.

My primary role as the administrative assistant was to assist with the membership renewal process and High Holy Days ticket mailing. This included the mailing of...Read more...

Experiencing the DN Downtown Pop Up School, by Jessica Greenberg

05/09/17 03:06:10 PM


I grew up at Darchei Noam. I attended Shabbat services, Hebrew School (the very first classes of which were held in my family's basement!) and had my Bat Mitzvah and later my aufruf at Darchei Noam. Now I have my own family and I've migrated downtown. We are an interfaith family committed to the values of inclusion, social justice and creativity, and while Darchei Noam will always feel like a kind of home to me, I've been craving a Jewish...Read more...

Parshat Ekev D'var Torah by Judy Katz Howard

14/08/17 11:56:57 AM


“ And if you do hear these rules and keep them and perform them, God will maintain for you the covenant and the love  that He swore to your fathers.  He will  love you and bless you and multiply you.  He will bless the fruit of  your belly and the fruit of your soil, your new grain and new wine and oil, the calving of your herd, and the lambing of your flock in the land that He swore to your fathers to give to you....Read more...

From the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College: Let's Journey Together

11/07/17 02:26:45 PM


In the words of Rabbi Deborah Waxman, the president of RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities:

This beautiful collection of words reflects so well on participants in the Reconstructionist movement. It is a mirror of who we are – a community of thoughtful, engaged people on the frontier of new ideas who welcome all people to join with us in ways they find comfortable and meaningful.

"These are the times that try men’s souls.” While Thomas Paine’s famous first sentence of his Common Sense pamphlets supporting the American Revolution could use some serious updating in terms of gender inclusivity, his sentiment, unfortunately, feels quite contemporary.

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College recently held its graduation ceremony for the class of 5777, celebrating a dynamic, talented and passionate group of new rabbis. I reflected to the hundreds of people who gathered that, even as we celebrated, we were also coming to terms with the conclusion of a most challenging academic year. The RRC community and most people associated with the Reconstructionist movement began the year believing that America and the Western world were traveling on a trajectory that was bending toward justice. These beliefs — and we ourselves — have been destabilized.

Political developments, the rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the closing of...doors to refugees and the attempts to roll back the monumental gains made by the LGTBQ community all demonstrate that this trajectory has been rudely interrupted....It feels to me that we are in the midst of a significant rewriting of the history of the post-World War II era.

We are still working out how to discern, how to react and, most importantly, how to act.

Several things are clear to me. Never has there been a greater need for progressive moral leadership and for communities that are at once intentional and welcoming. To face these times, Jews and the people who make their lives with us can draw on and must advance powerful, bedrock Jewish values: tzelem Elohim (we are all created in God’s image), ki gerim hayitem (remember that you were strangers), ahavah rabbah (there exists an expansive universal love we can draw upon), and tikkun olam (the world is broken and it is our task to repair it).

Across North America, people of faith have responded to the challenge of history by working to make the world — and their local communities — a better place. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and people of no faith stood alongside Jews in the wake of cemetery desecrations. So many of our progressive coreligionists have taken to the streets and airports in defense of refugees. At the local, state and national levels, progressive Jewish voices have responded to the challenge of our time with a clarifying vigor.

Recently, Rabbi David Wolpe, an articulate thinker about matters of faith and public life, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal that argued that rabbis should keep politics off the bimah. “All we hear all day long is politics,” he wrote. “Can we not come to shul for something different, something deeper? I want to know what my rabbi thinks of Jacob and Rachel, not of Pence and Pelosi.”

I agree with Rabbi Wolpe’s premise that rabbis are trained to be experts in Jewish texts and traditions, not in political science. Yet I also believe the synagogue — bet knesset, or “house of gathering” in Hebrew — must not only be a house of worship and study but also must be an engine of justice and compassion.

Rabbis and religious leaders can and must talk about contemporary social and political issues in ways that speak out of and back to Jewish values.

We are often called the people of the book, but lately, our movement has embraced video as a means to encapsulate our message, to tell our story in a contemporary idiom. In our third annual video report, called “Let’s Journey Together,” we name, confront and illustrate the darkness of our age. In it, compassion, meaning, community and adaptation prevail. We surely don’t have as much control over the course of history as we do over a video script. Yet, by framing and articulating a way forward, we offer a vision for how to navigate the spiritual challenges of our times.

I invite you to journey with us through these challenging times and into the future.

Our congregations offer meaning, connection, conversation and, when needed, healing and support.

This past year reminds us all how much our voices matter, how much Reconstructionist Judaism and progressive religion more generally act for the good. We may never get to a point in history where our souls won’t be tried. Yet together, we can work to tilt the moral arc of the universe toward justice.

Parashat Korach D'var Torah by Avi Magidsohn

27/06/17 10:43:07 AM


D’Var Torah

Parashat Korach

June 24, 2017


Shabbat Shalom.  And Happy Pride! 

Today’s reading is Parashat Korach - a difficult one to link to Pride Day, what with the earth opening up...Read more...

Event Recap - Israel at Risk: Preserving the Two-State Option

12/06/17 02:26:05 PM


“Israel at Risk: Preserving the Two-State Option” was the title; “Security First” was one of the underlying themes. A secure, Jewish, democratic state is the goal. Unilaterally completing the security barrier, ending the demolishon of the homes of Palestinians, and taking other immediate steps to bolster its security while at the same time improving the lives of Palestinians and empowering more moderate Palestinian leaders: These...Read more...

Ten Things We Can Learn from Leviticus: D'var Torah by Rabbi Richard Hirsh

29/05/17 12:24:28 PM


We are nearing the end of the annual reading of the Sefer VaYikra, the Book of Leviticus. Of the five books of the Torah, the one that most often agitates, aggravates or annoys liberal Jews is Leviticus. The archaic content, the priestly perspectives, the elaborate attention to the ancient system of sacrifices, and the regulations about ritual purity and impurity makes Leviticus a considerable challenge for teachers, preachers, and b’nei...Read more...

Yom Ha'atzmaut Speech by Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada

16/05/17 12:16:55 PM


Thank you, Ambassador Barkan, for such a kind introduction. It is so great to be with you all for the celebration of Yom Ha’atzma'ut —the 69th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. And it's wonderful that we are here amid the opening of this exhibit of...Read more...

From CIJ News: Congregation Darchei Noam Celebrates Israel

30/04/17 10:48:29 AM


by Tamar Dobner

(see below for Hebrew)

In celebration of Israel’s 69th Yom Haatzmaut, Congregation Darchei Noam is inviting the community to a myriad of events, starting with an Israeli Singalong of Shirei...Read more...

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Class Shabbaton

19/04/17 10:00:54 AM


From Friday, March 31 to Saturday, April 1, our Bar/Bat Mitzvah class spent a wonderful Shabbat together at Woodland Trails in Stouffville, Ontario.

We asked the students about their experience attending the Shabbaton. Here is what they had to say:

I have learned Jewish Laws We talked about certain Jewish justifications The Shabbat morning service was great and meaningful I enjoyed learning Birkat hamazon we learned new...Read more...

DN: The Early Years - Reflections from Eric and Lil Mendelsohn

03/04/17 12:20:28 PM


What inspired us to get together in that gathering of like-minded people? Even before the first time we came together ‎with others in a Toronto Reconstructionist service, Lil had a good feeling when she made the first phone call and connected ‎to Rhonda Schild. When Rhonda outlined plans for the first...Read more...

Refugee Family Sponsorship in Lunenberg, NS

20/03/17 01:18:35 PM


By David Friendly

In late 2015, I was one of 50 residents of the Lunenburg, Nova Scotia area who met at the St. John’s Anglican Church to discuss whether we could collectively sponsor a Syrian family under the umbrella of the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and PEI, one of the local Sponsorship Agreement Holders with the Canadian Government. At that meeting were people from 5 local churches, the Rotary...Read more...

Event Recap: Mysticism Then & Now, World Interfaith Harmony Week

07/03/17 02:51:59 PM


This year, World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) came along just when we all needed it. More typically, the timing of this celebration is not ideal – the first week of February, when twilight descends fast. Many of us would prefer to stay at home than attend a night-time event in mid-winter.

This year, however, was different. Given the U.S. immigration ban targeting seven Muslim majority countries, as well as the terrorist attack against a Quebec mosque, many of us felt a strong need to demonstrate our support of the Muslim community by embracing interfaith solidarity. Over 250 people from across Toronto came to Darchei Noam’s February 2nd WIHW celebration Mysticism Then and Now, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam in Word & Song. As noted by Rabbi Tina Grimberg at the opening of the event, “The knowledge we seek tonight, and the God we’re looking for, is reflected to us in the human face of the other... It is in the time of darkness that we seek light.”

The event, created by Darchei Noam’s Interfaith Committee in partnership with both the Intercultural Dialogue Institute and Vishnu Mandir, was a truly interfaith initiative. It began with greetings from John Voorpostel, Chair of the WIHW Toronto Steering Committee, who explained the history of World Interfaith Harmony Week (adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2010) and emphasized the essential role of interfaith initiatives as a counter measure to xenophobia. His committee generously sponsored the evening.

Next up was James Pasternak, Toronto City Councillor for York Centre, who spoke with feeling about City Council’s commitment to strengthening Toronto’s role as a safe haven for refugees. On behalf of City Hall, he condemned discrimination of all types.

Following Mr. Pasternak, the evening shifted from politics to mysticism (although subsequent speakers continued to comment on the political context, expressing compassion for the terrorist’s victims and the need for interfaith collaboration). Rabbi Grimberg explained about the mystical experience that, “It is popularly known as becoming one with God. It can also refer to an altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning.”

We learned about Hindu mysticism from Dr. Budhendranauth Doobay, Chairman and Religious Advisor, Voice of the Vedas Cultural Centre (Vishnu Mandir). Dr. Doobay explained, among other things, that the popular impression of Hinduism as being polytheistic, with many gods, is wrong. There is one God in Hinduism – Brahman - and the other “gods” are actually symbolic representations of Brahman’s various aspects. He explained that Hinduism teaches about God that “All is One; All is He” in contrast to other traditions that more typically assert that “All is His”. “God lives in you”, he said. “When you find him, all the mysticism will come to you.” Following Dr. Doobay, the Vishnu Mandir Choir chanted an upbeat bhajan (devotional song) that raised our spirits and gave us a sense of Hindu religious music.

Next we learned about Sufism, the mystical tradition of Islam, from Azim Shamshiev, Former Vice-President of the Intercultural Dialogue Institute. Mr. Shamshiev described Sufism as the way in which Muslims seek truth, divine love and knowledge, explaining how it can help people from all faiths to find a more meaningful connection to God. He discussed its history, explaining, among other things, that women have played a significant role in Sufi practices going back hundreds of years, with some of the great medieval Sufi Masters having been female. The Band11, a group of three talented, traditional Sufi instrumentalists, then performed entrancing Sufi music, while Farzad Attarjafari, a classically trained Whirling Dervish, whirled before us into an altered state of consciousness. It was a remarkable sharing of meditation that we were able to experience up close – unforgettable.

Rabbi Grimberg then explained the link between Jewish mysticism and tikkun olam by recounting the Kabbalist creation myth. In the beginning, there was only God. In order to make space for creation, God contracted to become smaller. God then created 10 holy vessels filled with divine light. But the vessels were too fragile to hold the light and they broke, scattering light shards throughout creation. We need to release the sparks, through holiness, to restore the vessels and achieve tikkun olam – repair of the world. Jewish mysticism is, therefore, outward looking in its intention. Holiness might come from within, but the mystic’s goal is not simply to become one with God, but to repair the world for everyone.

Rabbi Grimberg was followed by Aviva Chernick, Toronto’s award winning, Juno nominated, singer, musician, and educator. Ms. Chernick led the audience in a profound exercise of voice, prayer and meditation, giving us a sense of contemporary Jewish mysticism. She brought us into her own embracing spirituality in a way that was inclusive, authentic and inspirational.

Despite the disturbing political backdrop, the evening was, overall, joyous and big-hearted, and those who attended came away feeling uplifted and inspired. In the words of Farzad Attarjafari, the Whirling Dervish, “I’m thankful Beloved brought us together. We are all ONE and turn to ONE. I felt at home; it’s so heart warming when I see us in Canada come together in solidarity & union.” These sentiments were echoed by all those who participated.

At the close of the evening, many people stayed behind to chat and nibble on Indian, Turkish and Jewish refreshments, and about 50 people took the tour of Darchei Noam’s sanctuary. All in all, it was a beautiful night.

Parashat Yitro D'var Torah by Rabbi Rena Arshinoff

22/02/17 12:57:12 PM


Darchei Noam Dvar Torah February 18, 2017

Rabbi Rena Arshinoff

Parashat Yitro

Last month, I observed yarhrzeit for my mother z”l who died 14 years ago. I found myself reflecting on her and our relationship. My mother was loving, but quite demanding of my attention and we sometimes struggled to...Read more...

Darchei Noam's Participation in the Circle of Unity with the Islamic Foundation, by Rabbi Grimberg

08/02/17 01:16:12 PM


In my hands, I’m holding more than 20 colourfully decorated cards. I love one in particular. It is bright pink with two smiling faces on the cover. One has dark and a beard and is wearing a white head covering. The other has lighter skin and wears a green yarmulke. Between them, a heart. When I open the card, it reads: Thank you for supporting us and standing by our side. Our differences should not separate us but they should bring us...Read more...

D'var Torah by Bernie Farber, Social Justice Scholar-in-Residence

23/01/17 01:54:07 PM


I was brought up in the shadow of the refugee experience. Both my parents left their ancestral homes not because they wanted to but as a result of persecution and antisemitism.

My late mother Gertrude was brought to Canada as a child prior to the Second World War. Driven from their village of Zaslav in the Ukraine by violent pogroms, Canada was a welcoming home at that time.

Arriving by Steamship to the Harbour in Halifax...

Diversity Committee's December Event: Remarks by Andria Spindel

09/01/17 01:27:37 PM


The Emerging Jews of Brazil and Elsewhere in Latin America


On December 4, 2016, 120 members and guests of Congregation Darchei Noam were presented with an historic and current verbal and pictorial overview of emerging Jewish communities in Brazil and other Latin...Read more...

Sukkot's Harvest Kiddush: Recipes

27/12/16 02:23:26 PM


The following dishes that were added to the Sukkot Kiddush by the Shomrei Adamah Committee were prepared by Joel Troster and Gloria Boxen with locally grown produce purchased at the Farmers Market held at Mel Lastman Square Thursday mornings in warmer months. These items are marked in the recipes with an “*”.

We once again enjoyed the seven species challah first introduced by Joel for the last Erev Shavuot kiddush. The recipe...Read more...

My Spiritual Journey: Remarks by Paula Blackstien Hirsch, Kallah Bereishit, 5777 / 2016

12/12/16 10:52:19 AM


Shabbat Shalom, and Chag Sameach

As the wheels of our plane touched down in Berlin 4 weeks ago, I turned on my phone – there was a voice mail from our President, Ryan Friedman, to call back as soon as I could. I assumed he was calling to ask me questions regarding a Special Meeting of the Congregation being held the following evening – one that I was sorry to be missing. I am likely one of few people in this congregation who would...Read more...

My Spiritual Journey: Remarks by Effi Gold, Chatan Torah, 5777 / 2016

30/11/16 02:52:56 PM


Shabbat Shalom,

This is exciting. I just can’t wait to hear what I have to say.

It would be a stretch to say my spiritual journey began at the Orthodox Shul in my home town of Bournemouth. I would walk 3 miles to Shul every Shabbos with my brothers, I attended children’s service religiously, and I went three times a week to Heder until the age of 16. But this mostly involved learning by rote. I didn’t find it...Read more...

Malchuyot & Zichronot: Rosh Hashanah reflections by Stephen Lurie & Ellen Bialystok

15/11/16 11:08:06 AM


Malchuyot, by Stephen Lurie

These days on the internet you can find an abundance of information - for example, controversy about where to place the Malchuyot blessing, its combination with Zichronot and whether it occurs on Rosh Hashana only or on Yom Kippur if it is a jubilee fast day.

I will leave this subject to Rabbi Tina and other scholars, but do want to thank her for asking Ellen and I to use Malchuyot and Zichronot to...Read more...

Holy Lies: Rabbi Grimberg's Kol Nidre Sermon, October 11, 2016

02/11/16 01:33:55 PM


Kol Nidre

5777 / 2016

Holy Lies


Part I

When the Holy One was about to create Adam, an argument broke out in heaven: “Is it a good idea to create a human being or rather four other entities:Righteousness,...Read more...

Fri, 19 January 2018 3 Sh'vat 5778