Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Torah Lesson From Dr Reiner Knizia

In Israel, every synagogue has one or more weekly Torah pamphlets available for its congregants when they arrive on Friday afternoon before services. The pamphlets include a few pages of discussion about the portion of the week, and may also include other stories or Halachic discussion.

You are supposed to read them after synagogue when you return home; of course, most people read them during synagogue when they are supposed to be praying or listening to the Rabbi's sermon.

The pages come in various languages: Hebrew, Russian, French, English, and from various political and religious bents: from Chabad, by settlers, women's voices, for kids, and so on.

The most popular English language Torah page is Torah Tidbits from the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem. The brain-child of Phil Chernofsky, TT is huge - some 40 to 50 pages - and populist: written in simple language with a very decisive strict Orthodox pro-Zionism slant. In each issue, you will find: almost no Hebrew, that everyone should get off their can and make aliyah (unless they really have no alternative), many word puzzles on the Torah portion, that adherence to the strictest of all opinions is probably best, and that readers must consult with their local Orthodox Rabbi for anything beyond the simplest of questions. (This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.)


TT has a weekly column called "Portion from the Portion". It's a small thought about the weekly Torah portion, followed by a recipe that is supposed to be linked to the portion somehow.

This week's thought was about Amalek, and how we have to protect the weakest elements of our nation to ensure that they are not left behind to fall prey to outside attacks. And the inspiration for this thought, according to the columnist?

Fantasy Flight Games' Ingenious by Reiner Knizia, known in Israel as Hiburim or Connections. You see, in Ingenious your score is the value of your least numerous color out of six colors. So you have to remember as you're playing the game to watch out for your least strong color, so that it doesn't get left behind.

Yeah, ok. But isn't it funny when you find games in places you least expect it?


Friday night we had some friends over for dinner. While waiting for the latecomers, we played Bananagrams. Actually, we don't have the game Bananagrams, but we played with Scrabble tiles. I'd never played before, but both Nadine and my wife Rachel had. It's cute, and I would rank it fairly high as far as word games go, but certainly lower than straight Anagrams. But I would have to play with the correct number of tiles and scoring to be sure.

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