Rabbi Harry writes…


Erev Shabbat Yitro

Dear Ones,

Greetings from Rehovot, Israel. After some grueling hiking and climbing in the desert, we are now on a short break with Daveed and our extended Israeli family. India was a place of massive craziness and wonder. Amidst all the filth and noise, we met and connected with remarkable people and found oases of calm and spiritual connection. Life in the ashram was very intense and a bit too regimented for me. RaeAnn loved the morning yoga despite the fact that it began at 4:30 am. The daily learning was meaningful and I really loved the guru and the ashram administrator—two men who radiated compassion and friendship. We spent a Shabbat in Kolkata and gave some support to a young rabbinical couple who are caring for the dwindling Jewish community. They are working for Star-K Kosher certification and are lovely people committed to serving a struggling Jewish community. We also did some touring with a street urchin who showed us Kolkata through his eyes. Varanasi is a powerful place where life and death intermingle at the Ghats, the banks of the Ganges.  We met some sadhus, holy men who have renounced material possessions and wander about the country in prayer. One sadhu who befriended us spoke fluent English and, on our last night saying goodbye, he taught us a beautiful chant that I now sing to myself on the trail.

Two personal goals for our journey have been to make pilgrimage visits. One is to the former home of a nineteenth-century swami, Lahiri Mahasya, who for reasons unbeknownst to me has come to me in dreams and visions. A core teaching of his for me to remember: “It is all God, Ain Od Levado.” We live in the world of impermanence, in the world of illusions, and it takes awareness to remember that it is the Eternal—both inside us and around us—that is true and real. The other pilgrimage place for me will be Kever Rachel, the place where our biblical mother, Rachel, is buried. For me, Rachel teaches that, for us to know that it is all God, we need to reach into our aspirational selves and then interact with each other from a place of compassion and love.

There is a powerful teaching from Talmud that I was learning while in India that for me speaks to all the lessons I experienced in India. It comes from tractate Bava Metzia, and is a well-known passage that sets out a hypothetical question about two men wandering in the wilderness who have between them only one canteen.  The canteen holds enough water for only one of the men to reach civilization and survive. Ben Petura, a relatively obscure Talmudic sage and probably a colleague of Rabbi Akiva, taught that both men should drink from the canteen and die so that one man does not need to see the death of his friend. Rabbi Akiva taught that your life should come before your friend’s, using the verse from Leviticus as a proof text, “And your brother shall live with you.”  Both men should not die, the one who owns the canteen should live.

There is an understanding that the torah of Ben Petura is the one we should accept in the world to come, whereas the torah of Rabbi Akiva is the torah that we hold now. The torah we hold now sees the individual as separate from other. This is the torah that works in the realm of impermanence and illusion. It allows for an ethical system and a framework for life. On a practical level, one death is preferable to two deaths. However, when we take a stark look at our current world, we can see that the systems we hold onto no longer contain us. The level of fear that manifests in xenophobia, racism, and classism, where cultures and peoples choose tyrannical leadership, is expanding all over our planet. Environmental degradation, which is so powerfully evident throughout India, cannot be solved using the same consciousness that allowed us to generate the destruction in the first place. Ben Petura represents the paradigm shift, a deep change in consciousness that understands that the life of another is intrinsically connected to my life and that we are all a part of Divine Unity. We cannot wait for the torah of unity to be the torah of the world to come. We need to live and learn the torah of the world to come now, in this world, because this is the eternal torah of permanence. Gurujis teach that the Ātman, self, is Brahma, God. Our work is to realize this. Ain Od Levado–there is nothing but God. When we realize this, we can emulate Rachel our mother and be our aspirational selves, interacting with one another and with self in love.

B’virkat Shalom

Rabbi Harry


The Latest on Israel Today rescheduled

FL Trip Talk 1000Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education Team invites you to join them on Sunday, October 6, at 4 pm for a presentation by Dr. Francis Landy on “The Latest on Israel Today”. Admission is by donation; refreshments will be served.

In May 2019, Emanu-El member and Torah reader Francis Landy, took part in a study tour in Israel organized by the New Israel Fund, which gives grants to about 70 Israeli human rights and civil society organizations. Continue reading The Latest on Israel Today rescheduled

The Latest on Israel Today

FL Trip Talk 1000POSTPONED — Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education Team invites you to join them on Wednesday, September 18 at 7 pm for a presentation by Dr. Francis Landy on “The Latest on Israel Today”. Admission is by donation; refreshments will be served.

In May 2019, Emanu-El member and Torah reader Francis Landy, took part in a study tour in Israel organized by the New Israel Fund, which gives grants to about 70 Israeli human rights and civil society organizations. Francis’ group had the opportunity to speak to and go on tours with representatives of 11 or 12 of the sponsored agencies. The overwhelming impression was of the urgency and intensity of the problems facing Israel, and the many wonderful people and groups who are working together to make Israel a more hopeful and more sustainable society, across its many political and cultural divisions.

Highlights included a visit to Givat Haviva which has an arts centre and a centre for Arab-Jewish education, an afternoon spent with Segal from the African Migrants’ hotline centre, wandering around South Tel Aviv, and a day in Jaffa with Re’ut, an Arab-Jewish youth cooperation network. And, of course, the food!

Francis Landy



Francis Landy is a biblical scholar who has recently made his home in Victoria, after a career of over thirty years at the University of Alberta. He has published a number of books and many articles, and is a specialist in the poetry of the Hebrew Bible.  He is a member of Congregation Emanu-El synagogue.



Two states – a hopeful opinion!

A hopeful opinionOn Wednesday May 1, Tal Svoray, Israeli citizen and visiting professor from Ben-Gurion University spoke with clarity and hope at Congregation Emanu-El to an engaged but somewhat skeptical audience about why he believes Israel will pursue a solution to the Palestinian question, why two states is the only tenable answer and what the solution would involve.

Two is greater than One

Tal Talk PNWednesday, May 1, 2019, 7 pm, Congregation Emanuel, 1461 Blanshard Street, Victoria — Invited by Rabbi Harry, Tal Svoray, Professor, Ben-Gurion University, Department of Geography and Environmental Development currently in Victoria on Sabbatical will speak to us about current affairs in Israel on May 1, 2019 7 pm at the synagogue. Tal will speak to us, not as a “professor” but as a native of Israel, a member of the Six Day War baby boom, someone who is contemplating the fate of Israel over the next 100 years rather than just a few years or months, as one who considers the big clock ticking over Israel’s head is the “Palestinian question” and as one who believes in a two state solution.


Israel at 70: A Celebration


Wednesday, April 18 starting at 4:45pm at the Da Vinci Centre 195 Bay Street  (at Wilson in Vic West) — The Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island invites community members to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israeli independence with an evening beginning with a Yom Ha’Zikaron ceremony followed by Yom Ha’Atzma’ut Festivities featuring a sumptuous Kosher Israeli dinner, music by the 7-piece Sulam Ensemble from Vancouver, a children’s choir, and Israeli folk dancing!

This event will take place at the Da Vinci Centre at 195 Bay Street (at the corner of Wilson and Bay). Doors open at 4:45pm. Tickets are now on sale and cost $20 each, $10 for students, and $50 for families.

Tickets are now available in Congregation Emanu-El synagogue office or CLICK HERE to purchase tickets.

Realizing Israel’s Potential: One Town at a Time

aug-18-cov.18.Ruth-Wasserman-Lande-IMG_6857-600x636Thursday, September 14, 7 pm: — Ruth Wasserman Lande will launch the annual VVIJF fundraising campaign on September 14 at 7 pm in the Jewish Community Centre of Victoria with a talk entitled Realizing Israel’s Potential: One Town at a Time. Lande is a respected Mid-East expert and former advisor to Shimon Peres z”l who rose through the ranks at the Israeli Embassy in Egypt. Continue reading Realizing Israel’s Potential: One Town at a Time

Obligation in Exile: The Jewish Diaspora, Israel and Critique

Ilan(August 17) — Congregation Emanu-El Adult Education Committee is pleased to present a talk at the synagogue on Thursday, August 17 at 7:00 pm by a former member of our shul, Ilan Avi Baron, about his new book, “Obligation in Exile: The Jewish Diaspora, Israel and Critique”. Admission is by donation.

Combining political theory and sociological interviews spanning four countries ‑ Israel, the USA, Canada and the UK, Ilan Zvi Baron explores the Jewish Diaspora/Israel relationship and suggests that instead of looking at Diaspora Jews’ relationship with Israel as a matter of loyalty, it is one of obligation. Continue reading Obligation in Exile: The Jewish Diaspora, Israel and Critique

“In Our Hands: The Battle for Jerusalem”

Sunday, July 9, 7:00 pm

The JCC Victoria Discussion Group invites you to the
screening of the docudrama “In Our Hands the Battle for Jerusalem on
Sunday, July 9, 7:00 pm at Chabad Centre, 2955 Glasgow Street.

Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day
War, In Our Hands: The Battle for
, tells the story of Israel’s 55th Paratrooper
Brigade and their role in liberating the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967. With
firsthand interviews and historical reenactments, this film focuses on the
soldiers who reunified Jerusalem and announced to the world, “Temple Mount
is in our hands.”

Admission is by donation ($10 suggested). Donations will go
to Beit Halochem Canada – Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel (Canada) (https://beithalochem.ca/ )

Israeli World Jazz Duo

Thursday, June 8

Caravan World Rhythms presents the Israeli
World-Jazz Duo
Noam Vazana and Itamar Erez on Thursday, June 8, 8:00 pm at
Hermann’s Jazz Club, 765 View Street, Victoria.

Israeli singer and jazz pianist Noam Vazana’s hypnotizing
vocals breathe life into the ancient Ladino language. Together with Itamar
Erez’s virtuoso guitar, Noam’s infectious ballads bring together Sephardic and
Middle Eastern music with Jazz, Flamenco and Mediterranean rhythms.

  • Info & Tickets: www.caravanbc.com or call 778-886-8908  
  • Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/237091963433859/

Here are a couple of youtubes to give you a sense of the
headliner Noam Vazana. Her guest Itamar Erez is an accomplished
flamenco-world-jazz guitarist, based in Vancouver.

Here’s a video clip of Noam: