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Rabbi’s Update 12/29/2023

A Note from the Rabbi

Dear Friends:

Please note that on Sunday evening Dec. 31 minyan will be held at 5:30 pm.

If you are not traveling and are able to attend services tomorrow morning in person, it would be much appreciated. With a lot of our “regulars” traveling or otherwise unable to attend, there is always a concern about having the necessary ten adult Jewish worshippers in person in order to conduct the Torah service.

This will be my last morning message to you of the 2023 calendar year.

Israelis have an ambivalent relationship with New Year’s. January 1 is a regular work day in Israel (unless it happens to fall on Shabbat) and perhaps as a result, most Israelis don’t attend New Year’s parties. The holiday is known as “Sylvester” because in a number of European countries it’s known as “St. Sylvester’s Day” after the Pope who reigned from 314 to 335 and who died on December 31. Ironically, St. Sylvester convinced Emperor Constantine to prohibit Jews from living in Jerusalem. While most Americans consider New Year’s Day to be completely secular, besides December 31 being St. Sylvester’s Day, January 1 in the Catholic liturgical calendar is known as the Feast of the Circumcision because if Jesus was actually born on December 25, his bris would have been on January 1.

While in the current situation no one in Israel really feels like partying -- a sense that I share --even under normal circumstances there aren’t a lot of big New Year’s celebrations in Israel because almost all hotels and many restaurants (especially in Jerusalem) are kosher and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate every year reminds kosher-certified establishments that their kashrut certificate will be revoked if they have New Year’s parties or Christmas trees or anything of the sort.

Nevertheless for most Israelis if you ask them the date they will give you the secular rather than the Hebrew date. Technically both calendars are legally in use and if you wanted to, if you wrote a check today you could date it 17 Tevet 5784 rather than December 29, 2023, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing that. In fact, there was a scene in the Israeli tv series Shtisel on Netflix where an ultra-Orthodox character in his 60s asks his mother who is in her 80s for the date and she gives him the Hebrew date and he’s taken aback.

I have to say that for me, the rhythms of my life generally go according to the Jewish calendar although I sometimes have to look at my Google calendar online or on my phone to tell you what the Hebrew date is. January 1 is most significant to me as the date that my insurance deductible rolls over and I always make sure to refill any eligible prescriptions before December 31. At any rate, I wish all of us only good things in 2024.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by. 


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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