The Canadian Jeiwsh News

Saturday, October 10, 2015

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Penny ante

Tags: Jewish learning
Rabbi Erwin Schild

Gevalt! My fundamental human right to practise my religion without government interference has been violated! I raise my voice, or more realistically, I press my computer keys in protest and indignation.

My outrage is directed at the abolition of the one-cent coin. The penny, like the ancient “pruta,” is to be no more.

Jews associate their daily prayer services with the giving of tzedakah. In my synagogue, the Adath Israel Congregation, as in almost every shul, a pushke, a charity box, is circulated during the service so that the worshippers, while praying for their own needs, may perform a meritorious deed by giving a little to charity. It is a token gift, requiring no cheque or credit card, though I must mention that one of our daily worshippers drops a five-dollar bill into the box each morning.

My contribution is much more modest. Like the majority of our worshippers, I extricate some coins from my pocket. However, the amount of my small gift is calculated on the basis of “gematria,” the numerical values of a Hebrew word that guide my gift in a mystical way.

I take out my coins and combine several coins to amount to 36 cents, which is twice “chai,” “life,” a silent prayer for life and health for my wife and me. Or I may find a quarter and three pennies, for 28 or “koach,” strength, a blessing that I certainly need. Sometimes I make it 32 cents, the number value of “lev,” the heart, symbolizing my prayer for the health of my heart that I cannot take for granted.

So you see that I need pennies. I cannot do without one-cent coins. I can compose 30 with a quarter and a nickel, and 30 is “lamed,” which is a word related to learning and teaching, but I need a little more choice.

I therefore appeal to the government to rescind this haughty abolition of the humble penny. If that is not possible, then I demand the introduction of a new 18-cent coin, to be called the “chai,” possibly with the images of Queen Esther and Mordechai (not the editor of The CJN).) I will then use two of these every morning for double chai, or as an alternative, combine one new coin with a dime for 28 which means “koach”, strength. Or I would combine our new coin with three dimes, so that it would amount to “moach,” brains, and that’s something we all need.

Happy Purim!

Rabbi Erwin Schild is rabbi emeritus at Adath Israel Congregation in Toronto.

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