2710 Genesee St.
Utica, New York 13502
Phone: (315) 724-4751

A Conservative Jewish Congregation
Established for the Worship of God, the Study of Torah,
and the Practice of Righteous Deeds


Candle Lighting

February 2 - 4:56 P.M.
February 9 - 5:06 P.M.
February 16 - 5:15 P.M.
February 23 - 5:24 P.M.
March 2 - 5:33 P.M.

Help Temple Beth El
by Making a Donation
In Honor or
In Memory
to a Temple Fund:

•The Victor H. Flax Fund
•The Dr. Leonard Levinson Cemetery Care Fund
•The Minyanaires Fund
•The David M. Philipson Fund
•The Religious School Education Fund
•The Harry N. & Eleanor L. Savett Scholarship Fund
•The Dr. Albert A Schwartz Education Fund
•Memorial Plaques
•Simcha Plaques
•Tree of Life Plaques

To Make a Donation Contact the Temple Office at
(315) 724-4751

is selling SCRIP

You may buy cards
in any amount.
Help support
by purchasing
a card today.
Stop by or call!
To see detail
on this project,
click here.

Please notify Temple of any ADDRESS CHANGES you may have for the winter months, we need these address changes if we are to continue sending the bulletin.
Thank You

CantorA Message from Cantor Socolof

On the first Shabbat of February, we will be reading from Parshat Yitro, which means we will be reading the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are generally acknowledged, both among Jews and among others, to be among the greatest sets of precepts for how to live a proper life. Their wide acceptance has provided a sort of ethical lingua franca. Even those who profess no faith at all will generally stipulate the majority of the ten (those concerning God and the Shabbat being the outsiders).

Add to this the many references to the centrality of the Ten Commandments in Judaism. They are seen as category headings for all of the other mitzvot. Philo of Alexandria, in the first century, stated his belief that they are the essence of the Torah. A number of ancient texts suggest that at the time of the second Temple, the Ten Commandments were part of the daily service, being read right before the Sh'ma. There are even references to them being included in tefillin.

This brings up an interesting question: If the Ten Commandments are so important to us (and, of course, they are), why do we not read them as part of our regular prayer service? We read the Sh'ma (all three paragraphs of which come from the Torah), we read the Song at the Sea, we even read a hefty chunk of the Book of Psalms. Why snub the Ten Commandments?

We get parallel, but not identical, answers from the Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) and the Yerushalmi (Palestinian Talmud). In both cases, we are told that it was in order to help silence the heretics. As the Yerushalmi says, "Lest they say, These alone were given to Moses at Sinai." The concern, then, was that people would think that only the Ten Commandments were of divine origin, and therefore of greater import and significance than the remaining 603 mitzvot. Maimonides, writing in defense of people sitting, rather than standing, when reciting the Ten Commandments during services, said "…they think that the Torah contains different levels and some parts are better than others, and this is very bad." By the sixteenth century, the practice grew of reciting the Ten Commandments silently by one's self towards the beginning of the morning service.

The notion that no one mitzvah is more important than another is pervasive and of long standing. Deuteronomy 7:12 states "And it will be, because you have listened to these ordinances, and observe them and do them…." The Hebrew word used for "because," ekev, is an unusual one. It comes from the same root word as the Hebrew word for "heel." Thus, Rashi comments on the use of the word by suggesting we read the verse: If you observe and do even the minor commandments (which one would ordinarily trample under one's heel, i.e. not observe).

We read the Ten Commandments publicly three times a year: twice when they appear in the weekly Torah portions of Yitro and Ve'etchanan, and on the first day of Shavuot. But most prayer books include the Ten Commandments so that they are available for personal study and contemplation. The fact that we read them out loud less than one per cent of the time does not mean that they are any less important to us the remaining 99 percent. That said, you are most certainly welcome to join us as we read them in public this month. Take advantage of the opportunity to stand and listen like those at Sinai.

Cantor Kalman Socolof

Contact him at uticacantor@verizon.net