Chavurah Masarti

Lynchburg, VA                  Founded on 2 Cheshvan, 5766 

Resources on Jewish Culture, Ritual and Opinion

Topics Arranged Alphabetically
Chavurah Study Resources
Chavurah Service Leader Information

Local Responsa

ABORTION:  At our recent Torah study session, we discussed the beginning of the Samson story (Judges chapter 13).  A question came up regarding the Jewish view of the fetus.  As a result, I sent out an email confirming much of what we talked about.  The text of that email can be found here.

ADDITIONAL LINKS:  The National Center for the Hebrew Language has a long list of excellent links.

Shamash, The Jewish Network.  This is a fantastic site run by Hebrew College that has a tremendous amount of information on a variety of topics and resourse.

This is a great links page from The National Havurah Committee

The Judaism and Jewish Resources Links


ASTRONOMY: The Hebrew names for the planets are not the same as the English names.  Mercury is Kachav Chamah or just Chamah, Venus is Nogah, Earth is Olam or Adama, Mars is Ma'adim, Jupiter is Tzedek, Saturn is Shabtai, Uranus is Oron and Neptune is Rahav.  Pluto isn't a planet.


BIRKAT HACHAMAH:  Once every 28 years we have the opportunity to celebrate the return of the sun to the location in the sky where it was on the day of creation.  This year (5769) we have the added good fortune to celebrate the Birkat Hachamah, the blessing of the sun, on Erev Pesach.  This special timing of the blessing has only occurred 11 times before, so this year's birkat is very special.  Click here to dowload the Chavurah service for Birkat Hachamah.


1) A fantastic program that calculates and displays the Hebrew calendar for the dates you specify.  This site also provides imbedded links to holiday information, Torah portions and commentaries: Hebcal Interactive

2) This program will calculate candle lighting and service times for any date and location: Zmanim

3) This is my own Zmanim calculator that you can download and run in Microsoft Excel.  Enter Sunrise and Sunset in military notation.

4) These links are good if you want to learn more about how the calendar works: Intro, Advanced

CHILDREN'S RESOURCES: A monthly magazine that is oriented toward children:

DICTIONARY: An online English-to-Hebrew dictionary: Milon Morphix.  The Babylon Dictionary is covers a wide range of specialized vocabulary.


1) So how do Hebrew numbers work?

2) Table of Hebrew numbers.

3) Introduction to Gematria

4) Two Gematria calculators:  calculator one, calculator two (downloadable).

GAY-LESBIAN ISSUES: An interesting article on gay/lesbian commitment ceremonies written by a Conservative Rabbi (contrary to the official position of the Conservative Movement)


1) This site is fantastic: Judaism 101

2)An Excellent Resource on a wide variety of topics including history and observance: My Jewish Learning

3)  The Jewish Encyclopedia is now in the public domain and fully available on the internet.


1) Jewish Law articles

2) See 'Talmud' below


1) A timeline showing the erosion of Jewish Civil Liberties in Nazi Germany

2) The Ethics of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments (you may agree or disagree with the thesis)

3) An overview of Yom Hashoah

INTERMARRIAGE: How has the Jewish view of intermarriage evolved throughout history?

ISRAEL:  An interesting editorial from the Haaretz Daily on Israeli Nuclear Strike Options

JEWISH LETTER WRITING (Bet Hay):  A member of the Chavurah recently asked why many Jewish documents or correspondence from traditionally observant Jews often have a Bet Hay in the upper write hand corner.  The answer is simple, although there are three distinct traditions on this matter.  Many observant Jews will place B"H in the upper right hand corner, but you might also see Bet Samech Daled, and less commonly Bet Ayin Hay.  These are all variants on the same theme of asking for Hashem's blessing over the document, guidance in creating the document, or thanks for the good fortune of being able to send and receive the document.  Bet Hay (sometimes written Bet-slash-slash-Hay) stands for "Baruch Hashem", or "Blessed is Hashem".  Bet Samech Daled stands for an Aramaic phrase, "B'siata D'shamaya" which means "with heavan's guidance".  Bet Ayin Hay stands for "B'einei Haschina", translated as "in the eyes of G-d".

KASHRUT: The basics of Kashrut

KENITES:  While reading the Song of Deborah at a recent study session, question emerged about the relationship between the Kenites and the Jews, and the lineage connection between the Kenites and the Moabites.  A quick scan of the literature indicates that the Kenites and Moabites were either identical groups, or that the Kenites were a subset of the Moabites who descended from Moses' father-in-law Jethro.  Throughout Jewish history, the Kenites have been somewhat friendly to the Jews and have even shared in the spoils of Jewish defeats over other Canaanite tribes.  Many argue that the Hebrew deity is an inheritance from the Kenites.  We may owe more to Jethro and Yael than we think!  For a brief discussion of these issues, see this article in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

MIDRASH: This is an online version of the The Legends of the Jews, one of the most complete compilation of Midrash available.  This is an online version of various midrashic texts.

MINYAN: Click here to read the final report of the National Spiritual Communities Study that looked at trends in emerging new independent Jewish organizations.  We are mentioned in the introduction!!

MARIT HA'AYIN: Should a Jew wear a medallion that contains a cross-like element even if the jewelry is not a Christian cross?  Sevaral Halachic principles indicate that Jews may not engage in behavior that is acceptable by itself, but appears to be inappropriate.  Follow this link for a full discussion of  'For the Sake of Appearances'.

MOVEMENTS: Different approaches to Judaism

NOAHIDE LAWS: A question was raised at one or our recent gatherings about the content of the Noahide Laws.  According to Jewish tradition, most of the commandments in the Torah are intended only for Jews, and are referred to as the Mosaic or Mosheanic laws.  Those laws that are intended for all people, Jews and non-Jews alike, are called the Noahide or Noitic Laws.  These seven commandments are discussed here.

NUSACH: The Virtual Cantor is a great place to review prayer tunes.  Siddur Audio also provides chanted versions of many services.  Ellie's Torah Trope Tutor  site will help with learning to lein (chant) Torah and Haftarah.  Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, MA has created this trope lessons page. Hava Nashira has lyrics for many songs.

PRAYER: Click here for Chavurah Prayer Resources.

PIRKE AVOT: The "Sayings of the Fathers" online

PROSBUL:  We discussed the concept of legal fictions at a recent dinner and made mention of Hillel's device for allowing debts to survive the Shmita (every seven) and Jubilee (every 50) years.  According to Hillel's plan, a creditor could transfer his debts to the court, which, not being a person, could maintain the debt throughout the proscribed period.  We discussed the fact that this arrangement recognized the existence of a non-human entity that had legal rights and powers and might, therefore, be an early version of modern day corporations.  The prosbul was actually more of a legal fiction than a corporation, since it didn't create a new organization that held debts during shmita or jubilee years.  This link will take you to an article in the Jewish Encyclopedia that deals with the prosbul.


1) Orthodox "Ask the Rabbi"

2) Conservative Responsa, additional Responsa

3) Reform Responsa

4) Local Responsa

SHABBAT IN THE ARCTIC: When does Shabbat begin and end if the sun never sets?  Click here to find out.

SHAVUOTH: History and meaning.

SHIVAH ON YOM KIPPUR: How should a person observe shivah if it coincides with Yom Kippur?

SPINOZA:  Was Spinoza Jewish even after he was excommunicated?  Can a Jew ever become a non-Jew?  Click here to find out.

STUDY: Click here for Chavurah Study Resources

SUKKOT: Some interesting information on Succoth:  Lulav and Etrog


1) The Talmud in Hebrew

2) The Talmud in English (downloadable Soncino Translation)

3) Excerpts from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Another version

4) Sections of the Shulchan Aruch have been translated here, and summaries of passages can be found  here.  Another effort can be found here.

5) An online translation of the Mishheh Torah by Maimonides

TEFFILLIN: Just in case you've forgotten how to lay Teffillin

TIMELINE:  This is an incredible timeline of Jewish history.


1) Online Tanach

2) An online Tikkun

3) Custom online Liturgy

3) Reconstructionist Divrei Torah: JRF

4) Orthodox d'vrei Torah: OU Torah Resources

5) This link points to a variety of commentaries from many sources: Shamash

TORAH STUDY HANDOUTS:  A variety of readings

THE ZOHARAn English Translation