Carnegie Shul Chatter – April 3, 2014

Candle lighting time is 7:29


This week we observed Shiva for my father-in-law, Hyman Ginsberg.  So what exactly is Shiva and why do we observe it?

Here is an explanation from The Jewish Book of Why: The establishment of seven days (shiva means “seven” in Hebrew) as the first and most intense period of mourning is based on an interpretation of a verse in Amos (8:10): “And I will turn your feats [which usually lasted seven days] into mourning….”  The Rabbis ruled that just as the major festivals are celebrated for seven days, so should the initial period of mourning be seven days.  They also noted that Joseph mourned for his father, Jacob, for seven days (Genesis 50:10).

So that a mourner will have ample time to adjust to the loss just suffered, the Rabbis prescribed three additional weeks beyond the Shiva period be set aside for grieving.  This total of thirty days is known as Sheloshim period, shelsohim being the Hebrew word for thirty.  An even longer period was prescribed for children mourning parents: one full year, known in Hebrew as Yud Bet Chodesh, or Twelve Months (of mourning).

There are other customs that are often followed in conjunction with Shiva such as mourners sitting on low stools, covering of mirrors in a house of mourning, lighting a memorial candle in a house of mourning, placing a towel and a glass of water near the memorial candle, and refraining from shaving or getting a haircut during the period of Shiva.

Some religions celebrate or party during the week after a death.  Jews do not.  Shiva is a solemn period in which visitors pay their respects quietly, avoiding idle chatter, but reminiscing with respect about the departed loved one.

There is a tradition observed by many, especially in the Orthodox community, to say the following to the mourner, “May the Almighty comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”  I found these words to be particularly inspiring and meaningful.


There is a belief in Judaism whose origin I unfortunately do not know, that when one  performs a mitzvah or good deed, he is rewarded in blessings.

Wednesday evening I performed what my wife considered a good deed when I skipped that night’s Pirates game, which was also a Buc night with one dollar hot dogs and popcorn for all.  Why did I skip the game?  Well, we were having a Shiva minyan in our home, so how could I possibly attend the game?  It was really a no-brainer, even for a devout baseball fan like me.  Nonetheless, my wife claimed that I had done a good deed.

So Thursday morning I went to minyan to say Kaddish for my father-in-law, and a gentleman who was attending the minyan asked if there were any Pirates fans in attendance.  I said I was and that I attend almost every game.  He promptly offered me four free Lexus Club seats for Thursday afternoon’s game.  These are the best seats in the house and include a great lunch buffet before the games, and unlimited hot dogs, burgers and other ballpark food during the game.  The seats sell for $190 each and he gave them to me for free.

Draw your own conclusions.

Upcoming Events

Celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut at iFEST at the Science Center
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is calling all Jewish community members to the Carnegie Science Center to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut) during iFEST on May 6th. Together with over 1,500 community members, we will celebrate 66 years of Israeli innovation, ideas, and independence. The events will take place from 4:30-8:30 pm and will include a musical performance by Seeds of Sun, a presentation by the Misgav High School Robotics Team, a wine tasting for young adults, food vendors, and nonstop local Israeli musical entertainment and folk dancing.

Yom Hashoa – Remembering Through Music
On Yom Hashoa — Holocaust Remembrance Day — we will take a break from our busy lives to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust. This year Yom Hashoa is on Sunday, April 27 and the commemoration will take place at Heinz Hall at 6:30 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm). This program is in partnership with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / PSO musicians and is a free, ticketed event. Due to venue restrictions, attendees must have a ticket to enter the hall. Space is very limited. To RSVP please contact Samantha Chilton at or 412.421.1500 by Thursday, April 24th.

Discover how you can make a difference in April with National Volunteer Week 2014
This year marks the 40th anniversary of National Volunteer Week. From April 6 –13, 2014, the Volunteer Center of the Federation will feature different volunteer opportunities every day of the week. Opportunities include bingo with seniors, packaging medical supplies, preparing lunch services for seniors and delivering Mollies Meals, among others. To get involved during National Volunteer Week, contact Jessie Svec at or 412-992-5229.

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