MOS 5-Point Parasha - Shemini 5780

Join us for ShabbaZoom: A Virtual Warm-up for Shabbat at Home, Friday, April 17, 7 pm and/or Omer Counting & Meditation, Mondays 7:30 pm (See announcements below.)


Here is our weekly "5-Point Parasha", a short list of what we are enjoying or pondering, as it relates to life and Torah.

Rabbi Sherril is thinking about KEYS on this first Shabbat after Passover:

Parashat Shemini 2020 – in the Time of Pandemic

It’s been really interesting reading Facebook in this second month of life-during-Covid19. One of the things that people are complaining about online is that there is a serious yeast shortage in the grocery stores. Yes, a yeast shortage. It seems that people are baking like crazy, stocking up on yeast, and now the baking sections are empty.

It’s too bad, because this Shabbat is a special one, coming as it does right after Passover. This Shabbat we start eating challah again now that Pesach is over. And there is a custom to incorporate a key in some way in making this first post-Pesach challah. It’s even called “key challah,” or shlisl khale in Yiddish (from the German schlüssel, or ‘key’).

There are different variations; some form and bake the entire challah in the shape of a key, or with an image of a key on top; while others bake a real metal key under, on top or even inside the challah. One of the earliest descriptions comes from Avraham Yehoshua Heschel (the great-great-grandfather of the theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel), an important Hassidic rabbi from late 18th-century Poland, also known as the Apter Rebbe. In his book “Ohev Yisrael,” he adds a comment after his explanation of parashat Shemini: “On the Shabbat after Passover, there is an old custom to imprint the challot with keys, and make the shape of a key on the challah.”

For the reason, he says, we need to turn to Torah, in the book of Joshua. The Israelites were still in the wilderness. They didn’t actually enter the Land of Israel until the book of Joshua. And when they finally did enter, they did something very interesting: “they celebrated Passover, on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho” (Joshua 5:10).

And then: “They ate from the produce of the land on the morning after Passover… and the manna stopped the next day, after they had eaten of the produce of the land; there was no more manna for the children of Israel, but that year they ate the produce of the land of Canaan” (Joshua 5:11-12). Once they entered the Land, they began making their own food and the manna stopped falling.

Here we have the movement from human passivity and complete reliance on God, towards productivity and involvement in their own liberation; as the Apter Rebbe says, “they now needed parnassah.” Parnassah is often thought of simply as income from employment, but in reality, it is more than just ‘making a living’ financially. Parnassah, according to the rabbis, involves the larger concept of self-sufficiency, where every person has the ability to be a contributing member of a community, meaning that they can create things, that they can support themselves, or their community, or a family. Parnassah is about taking wheat and making bread. The Apter Rebbe taught that the key that we refer to after Passover represents the symbolic opening of the gates of parnassah.

Now, it’s true that some rabbis opposed (and still oppose) the custom of shlisl khale as a meaningless superstition, possibly derived from non-Jewish customs. Others criticize the practice as a fantasy, as if we were hoping for a segulah (omen) to open the gates of parnassah instead of working for it ourselves.

But this is precisely what shlisl khale teaches us. The movement from manna to bread, the movement from Egypt to Israel and the movement from Passover to Shavuot are all linked through the commitment to human activity. We put a key on our challah this Shabbat to remind ourselves of that moment, that first communal moment where we stopped waiting for bread to fall from the skies and started making it ourselves — and perhaps to remind ourselves that the key to this kind of freedom may already be in our hands. Shabbat shalom.

D’var Torah inspired by Noam Sienna, a Jewish educator, foodie and graduate student in the Department for the Study of Religion and Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.

In honour of Earth Day coming up next week, Rabbi Sherril shares one of her favourite eco-spiritual songs:

Gentle Arms of Eden by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer. Link to video here

This is my home, this is my only home This is the only sacred ground that I have ever known And should I stray in the dark night alone Rock me goddess in the gentle arms of Eden

On a sleepy endless ocean when the world lay in a dream There was rhythm in the splash and roll, but not a voice to sing So the moon shone on the breakers and the morning warmed the waves Till a single cell did jump and hum for joy as though to say This is my home, ... Then the day shone bright and rounder til the one turned into two And the two into ten thousand things, and old things into new And on some virgin beach head one lonesome critter crawled And he looked about and shouted out in his most astonished drawl This is my home ... Then all the sky was buzzin' and the ground was carpet green And the wary children of the wood went dancin' in between And the people sang rejoicing when the field was glad with grain This song of celebration from their cities on the plain This is my home ... Now there's smoke across the harbor, and there's factories on the shore And the world is ill with greed and will and enterprise of war But I will lay my burden in the cradle of your grace And the shining beaches of your love and the sea of your embrace

Rabbi Sherril shares a link for Rabbi Daniel Siegel's new blog post "Defiant Earth and Paradigm Shift Revisited".

Rabbi Schachar shares a link for Taya Ma's "Haggadeck"

It can help liberate our seders next year. May we all be free.

Cantor Heather shares an online meme:

Announcements & Upcoming @MOS --

* ShabbaZoom: A Virtual Warm-UP for Shabbat at home

Friday April 17, 6-7 pm

Join Montreal Open Shul to welcome in Shabbat online with a virtual pre-Shabbat gathering over Zoom.

Download the Zoom app in advance, and then Please Note: Due to current health concerns, 3rd Friday Shabbat and New/Old-school service will be temporarily suspended until further notice.

* Omer Counting & Meditation with Cantor Heather Batchelor, Mondays, April 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18, 25, 7:30 pm via Zoom.

A simple gathering to share space, meditate and mark the spiritual passage from the Passover holiday towards Shavuot.

Register in advance for this meeting. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

* Friday Night Service - Every Third Friday of the Month...stay tuned for new dates

* New/Old-school service every fourth Saturday of the month...stay tuned for new dates

* Are you (or is someone you know) facing a food shortage at this time due to the pandemic? Montreal Open Shul participants may be able to receive help from MOS, thanks to support from the Jewish Community Foundation and FederationCJA. Please get in touch with us by email at or contact Rabbi Sherril directly at

And, if you are in a position to help, we ask and encourage you to please support FederationCJA's Community Crisis Response effort by donating to the community CrowdFunding campaign. Visit

Finally, FederationCJA has established a "helpline" for anyone in the community to ask for help. Call 514-734-1411.

* Let us know if you have something that you would like us to include in the 5-Point Parasha (by Wednesday of the week)

*Did you know that you can donate to MOS and receive a tax receipt from Aleph Canada? Go to the Aleph Canada page on Canada Helps and us the drop down menu under "APPLY YOUR DONATION TO A SPECIFIC FUND SET UP BY THIS CHARITY" to select Montreal Open Shul.