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Shavuot Message 5781 from Toronto Rabbis

14/05/2021 08:35:07 AM


Chaim Strauchler

Dear Friends –

We write this letter to you in advance of Shavuot 5781.

We are very much aware that many Israelis will spend this Yom Tov in bomb shelters and that many will be deployed in ongoing military action. Throughout these next days, we must daven for the safety and well-being of our brothers and sister in Israel.

We have all experienced losses throughout the pandemic. Those losses unfortunately...Read more...

A Great Community's Moment

15/03/2021 09:31:50 PM


We exist to serve Hashem. Hashem’s Torah is the ultimate and eternal source of meaning. Community is a force multiplier for living and spreading Torah. Relationships are the bricks with which community is built. To live and serve within a beautiful community like this one is a zechut and a mitchayev – a right and an obligation. Community affords us the opportunity to write great Jewish stories.


Adar on our minds

05/02/2021 09:43:38 AM


Three items:

CBC reporter Robyn Bresnahan recently recorded an interview with Rabbi Bulka. Rabbi Bulka spoke about his illness, the prayer service on his behalf, and how to encourage people facing illness. Honestly, I was encouraged just to hear Rabbi Bulka's voice. Click here to listen. In memory of Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski זצ״ל, his friends and neighbours have started a global initiative to encourage Jews around the world to...Read more...

כִּי־אַתָּ֥ה עִמָּדִ֑י 

03/02/2021 09:47:04 AM


During our Shabbat Shira Kumzitz on Motzei Shabbat,

Chazzan Freund beautifully sang the words of Tehillim 23:4.

גַּ֤ם כִּֽי־אֵלֵ֨ךְ בְּגֵ֪יא צַלְמָ֡וֶת לֹא־אִ֘ירָ֤א רָ֗ע כִּי־אַתָּ֥ה עִמָּדִ֑י שִׁבְטְךָ֥ וּ֝מִשְׁעַנְתֶּ֗ךָ הֵ֣מָּה יְנַֽחֲמֻֽנִי׃

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness, I...Read more...


31/01/2021 09:47:45 AM


I recently spoke to honour the memory of Ezra Witkin z"l, a childhood friend who passed away from cancer at sixteen. His family commemorates his yahrzeit with an annual Torah lecture. His 27th yahrzeit was 2 weeks ago.


I spoke on the topic of...


27/01/2021 09:05:04 AM


Seventy-six years ago, on Jan. 27, 1945, Soviet troops entered Auschwitz concentration camp, liberating some 7,600 emaciated prisoners. International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established to commemorate this day and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005.

I recently read a book entitled East West Street by Philippe Sands. It looks at the personal and intellectual evolution of two men - Hersch Lauterpacht and...Read more...


24/01/2021 11:08:13 AM


I have been working on a project called Rabbi Sacks' Bookshelves for Tradition Online. We have been profiling books that Rabbi Sacks often quoted. Click here to learn more about the project.

Rabbi Dan Friedman of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue in London recently wrote a piece on the idea of covenant in Rabbi Sacks' writing and H. Richard Niebuhr's “The Idea of Covenant in American Democracy.” In light of recent political...Read more...

Shul Skills - Mistake Making

15/01/2021 06:00:00 AM


Avital and I have been receiving a number of recommendation requests from Grade 12 students for yeshiva in Israel and university. Writing those recommendations sparked a memory of a conversation from when I was filling out my own applications many years ago. I was advised to include my "shul skills" in my applications to secular universities. The idea is that leading mussaf or giving a dvar Torah for hundreds of people are skills that we take...Read more...

Darkest Before the Dawn

11/01/2021 06:00:00 AM


We all feel a great deal of frustration waiting for a vaccine amid growing virus numbers and an ever-tightening lockdown. We are rightly disappointed by the lack of vaccine availability in our country.

There is a phrase: it is always darkest right before the dawn. It means that things always seem the worst right before they improve. There is hope, even in the worst of circumstances.

Interestingly, the phrase is not true,...

COVID-19: A SUCCESS STORY (Winter Bulletin 5781)  

18/12/2020 09:26:01 AM


In his book, The Home We Build Together, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l describes three parables for society and identity: the country house, the hotel and the home. The country house divides us into hosts and guests. There are insiders and outsiders, the majority and minorities. In the hotel, everyone is a guest. You pay the price; you get a room; and you are free to do what you like so long as you do not interfere with the other guests. In...Read more...

Don’t ignore the importance of religion as part of our health care during the pandemic

17/12/2020 05:45:58 PM


Chaim Strauchler

Published Dec 17 in the Toronto Star:

Karl Marx famously described religion as an opiate of the masses. In comparing religion to a potentially lethal medication, he meant to denigrate and bury religion; we should rather elevate and praise it. 

Religious institutions place the health and well-being of our communities, first and foremost. Throughout the COVID-19...Read more...


16/12/2020 09:50:41 AM


Chaim Strauchler

In most years, Parshat Miketz falls on Chanukah, and we read the Haftorah from Zecharia that we read last Shabbat in place of Miketz’s Haftorah. This Shabbat, we have the once in a decade treat to read of Solomon’s wisdom in the famous story of the two mothers who sue for the one living child.

Why? What does the story of Solomon’s wisdom have to do with the story of Joseph?


A Chanukah Message from the Officers of the RCA 

11/12/2020 12:06:11 PM


RCA Chanukah Message 2020 - YouTube

We celebrate Chanukah at a challenging time in the life of our people and our world. A terrible pandemic grows in scope and threatens the health of so many. We do not know when it will end. We have lost dear friends and family. We mourn each neshama that Hashem has taken from us. Chanukah teaches us that we are a resilient people. We honour the memories of those who have passed on by drawing...Read more...


14/09/2020 03:18:49 PM


Rosh Hashana 5781 Bulletin Article

“Preparing for a [Pesach] without family, without guests, without shul, without friends made me feel like in some small way, I was earning the right to look Jewish history in the face, to claim my place among the countless Jews who made [Pesach] with far more determination, facing far more adversity.”

- Rivka Press Schwartz

From early in the crisis, our community recited Tehillim...


31/05/2020 10:31:31 AM


I wrote the words below as a draft for my colleagues among the Rabbinical Council of America leadership. We each recorded a paragraph – in our own voice - and we set these words to a slideshow, which we shared with our communities in advance of Shavuot.



31/05/2020 06:14:06 AM


To My Dear Community,


We are all busily preparing for the holiday of Shavuot. As another yom tov arrives, we very much miss the opportunity to gather together as a community for tefillah. While the synagogue will not be holding prayer services this yom tov, this letter provides an update on plans for the resumption of tefillah b'tzibur - public prayer - at Shaarei...Read more...


31/05/2020 06:10:14 AM


Chaim Strauchler

Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. During these three seasons, the Jewish people gathered in Jerusalem for the shalosh regalim. Each holiday is associated with a certain physical space. Pesach is the home - where we gather for the Seder. Sukkot is the temporary dwelling, where we live for seven days. Both these holidays involve structures - the walls of the sukkah and the doorposts of our ancestors' homes. Shavuot is also linked to a physical...Read more...


12/03/2020 04:47:53 PM


Chaim Strauchler

My Pesach Bulletin article for 5780.


12/03/2020 04:39:05 PM


Chaim Strauchler

Remarks Delivered on Shabbat Zachor Parshat Titzaveh 5780 

Last night, our shul conducted a concluding ceremony for our Bat Mitzvah program. 16 young women presented divrei torah and reflections on the transition from childhood to adulthood. On the Sunday before last, Avital and I participated in another ceremony - the conversion of a young mother and her daughter, through the Toronto Beit Din. It was a very exciting day –...Read more...


16/12/2019 08:33:49 AM


On November 20, anti-Israel groups at York University resorted to violence in an attempt to disrupt a school-sanctioned panel discussion with Reservists on Duty, an organization of former members of the Israel Defence Force. This incident fits a pattern of conduct on university campuses, in which protestors attempt to silence speakers on topics they deem threatening. These incidents raise questions regarding what a university education should...Read more...


15/12/2019 11:55:49 AM


“You ain’t a real Jew,” I heard these words on a Manhattan A Train as a university freshman over 20 years ago. A Black Hebrew Israelite spoke them. I ignored the provocation; my Bronx-reared-mother had taught me, “Never engage in unnecessary confrontation.”

I imagine that until this week, the vast majority of people in this room have never heard of this sect.

Allow me to explain who they are: Black Hebrew...

90th Anniversary Address

12/12/2019 12:14:39 PM


Shaarei Shomayim begins its day – every morning at approximately 6 AM in the Weinbaum Beit Midrash. Rabbi Shore or I open the Talmud around a table of friends. On some level, the entire shul is with us in those moments. On some level, likewise, ninety years – the legacies of friends and family – are with us as we gather here this evening.

Among those legacies is the work of Rabbi David Monson, Rabbi Judah Washer, Rabbi Walter...Read more...


18/08/2019 02:09:54 PM


Rabbi Chaim Strauchler

Parshat Vaetchanan - 16 Av 5779 - August 17 2019

Two years ago, our shul hosted Eli Lebowicz – a New York based Jewish comedian – for a Saturday night comedy evening. Yes, Yes… It was during his routine that our crowd got more enjoyment watching me laugh then laughing themselves – prompting Eli to comment – “Rabbi – they’re not getting the minyan jokes – you’ve got some work to do.”

On Thursday night,...

We Are All Survivors

06/06/2019 05:13:24 PM


Remarks at Yom Hashoah Community Holocaust Commemoration May 1, 2019

“I used to sing a song to my children, a song that my father sang to me when I was a child. “Hashem is here,” I would sing, using a Hebrew name for God, pointing with my right index finger to the sky. “Hashem is there,” I would sing, pointing to my right and left. “Hashem is truly everywhere.” That finger I would use to point out...Read more...

Aging is Life's Shabbat

06/06/2019 09:25:38 AM


Remarks from MEMORY AND AGING BREAKING THE STIGMA 2019 June 4, 2019

Two themes make up tonight’s program. Physicians will address how we can diagnose and treat mental illness associated with aging. Rabbis will address the stigma that surrounds mental illness within our community and what we can do collectively to counter this stigma.

This is the fourth year that we have...

Prepare for Retirement

08/02/2019 09:52:20 AM


What do you think about when you hear the question, "Are you preparing for your retirement?" We are conditioned to think about this question in terms of money. I had the opportunity last week to visit a member of our congregation who was recovering from surgery. He told me that he was planning to retire, soon. He spoke about seeking more of the spiritual, as he gave up some of his physical pursuits.

In this week's parsha, we read...

The "You're a Human" Challenge

07/02/2019 08:09:45 AM


Chaim Strauchler

We live in an age of frivolous challenges. The latest of these is the "Ten Year Challenge." It follows the "Ice Bucket Challenge," the "Mannequin Challenge," and various "Dance Challenges." I would like to suggest a more meaningful challenge. Call it, "You're a Human Challenge" (or in Torah terms - "the tzelem elokim challenge"). 

Much has been said and written about our inability to speak civilly with those with whom...Read more...

A Torah Teacher and the Ikea Effect

24/01/2019 12:00:00 AM


This week is the second yahrzeit for Philip Zuckerz"l - Mr. Zucker served as the Shammash and Baal Koreh for our synagogue for many years, teaching a generation of our young people how to read the Torah. 

Mr. Zucker liked to share short d’vrei torah with me. He would begin with a question that often felt like a riddle or a puzzle? After waiting for me to come up with a solution – he...Read more...

In Praise of Jewish Privilege

17/01/2019 12:40:47 PM


Rabbi Chaim Strauchler

CJN January 16, 2019Published in the Canadian Jewish News January 16, 2019

If an unsuspecting time-traveler were to come across...

The Synagogue Archipelago 

18/12/2018 12:50:59 PM


Chaim Strauchler

There are things that I do, because I am a Jew. There are things that I do, because I am a rabbi. I daven every day, because I am a Jew; I daven at the front of the Shul, because I am a rabbi. I was heartbroken over the tragic attack at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, because I am a Jew; I travelled to Pittsburgh to represent my shul and the Toronto community, because I am a rabbi.

My plan was to attend funerals and shivas in...

Wed, 22 March 2023 29 Adar 5783