SURVIVAL IN 10 EASY STEPS
31 May 2009
SURVIVAL IN 10 EASY STEPS
28 May 2009
Shavuos - Matan Torah
What significant moment from Jewish history is celebrated on Shavuot? The giving of the Torah, right? Wrong.
Unlike other holidays such as Pesach and Sukkot, the Torah does not assign a historical significance to Shavuot. In Pesach’s case the Torah tells us “On this day I took you out of Egypt” (Shmot 12:17). In Sukkot’s case, the Torah tells us we dwell in Sukkot “because I had the Israelites dwell in booths when I took them out of Egypt” (Vayikra 23:43).
Rabbi Joshua ibn Shu’ib pointedly reminds us that the Torah never says “Celebrate a holiday of Shavuot for on that day I gave you the Torah.” We know that Rosh Hashana is a “day of truah” (sounding the shofar), and Yom Kippur is a “day of forgiveness,” but Shavuot is considered “zman matan torateinu” — the general time frame of the giving of the Torah, but not “yom matan torateinu” — the day of the giving of the Torah.
One can argue that Pesach and Sukkot are also called “zman” something, such as the time of our freedom (Pesach) and the time of our rejoicing (sukkot). They also are not called “Yom” –– the “day” of these celebrations. But the difference between these two holidays and Shavuot is that they are each spread over a seven-day period, which by default can not be defined as a single “day of” our freedom or rejoicing.
One reason why Shavuot can never be called the “day of” anything is because Shavuot does not celebrate a historical event. In the Torah it is depicted only as an agricultural holiday. In Shmot 23:16 it is called “Chag Hakatzir” –– the holiday of harvest. In Shmot 34:22 it is called “Shavuot,” as the acts of harvest and bringing first fruits are mentioned. In Vayikra 23, the holiday isn’t even called by name, but is set in the context of Sefirat Ha’Omer, in that the 50th day, also known as the day after the completion of seven full weeks, is the day of the holiday. (Devarim 16 has a similar context, as it calls the holiday Shavuot as well). Finally, in Bamidbar 28:26 the holiday is called “Yom Habikkurim” –– the day of the first fruits.
So why is the connection to the giving of the Torah so ensconced in our heads? Obviously we do not live in an agricultural society, nor do we live in Israel, so perhaps we needed to develop an additional significance to this holiday. If not for some deeper symbolism, that is, in our own hearts we would have difficulty understanding the need for this holiday at all.
There are two Talmudic passages that can shed light on our quandary.
Rosh Hashana 6b points out that before there was a set calendar, any month on the Hebrew calendar could potentially be 29 or 30 days. If Nissan and Iyar were both 30 days, Shavuot would be on the 5th of Sivan. If Nissan and Iyar were both 29 days, Shavuot would be on the seventh of Sivan. If one was 30 and the other was 29, Shavuot would be on the sixth of Sivan.
In Shabbat 86b-88, the Talmud goes through painstaking detail and argument over the date of the giving of the Torah. It boils down to two opinions: the sixth or seventh of Sivan. The back and forth is not relevant to our discussion, but the fact that the date of the giving of the Torah is uncertain is highly relevant. In the previous paragraph a fifth-of-Sivan Shavuot was raised as a very real possibility. Such a Shavuot would be completely disconnected from any commemoration of the date of the giving of the Torah. As well it should be, for the event of the holiday and the event of receiving the Torah are unconnected.
But there is some connection. It is the same season. In some cases Shavuot will fall out on the day of the giving of the Torah. The Minchat Yitzchak notes how the seven weeks of sefira parallel the seven preparatory days a woman takes before going to the mikvah. We count as she counts, and like the bride awaiting her chupah, the Jewish people prepared to bind themselves to G-d forever at Sinai. These connections, plus the coincidence of the calendar put Shavuot and a celebration of the receiving of the Torah into the same ballpark.
So why doesn’t the Torah give us the date of “matan Torah”?
Rashi says in Shmot 19:1 “Because the Torah should be new to us every day, as if it were given today.” We can not limit our celebration of the Torah to one night and day of the year. It is a constant gift, with no time limits and no set dates.
27 May 2009
26 May 2009
Rabbi Pinchas Winston has written a superb shiur on Parshas Nasso, Why Cover Your Hair? that relates 'perah' (wild), 'pharah' 'peruah' uncovered, and 'parah' restrained (or unrestrained), and 'Paroah' "the very symbol of immorality and sensual living from which the Jewish People were to resist and flee!"
* * * * *
Let me take his analogy a bit further (based on a personal viewpoint):
'Irony' and its definition -
* an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
* the incongruity of this.
* an objectively sardonic style
'Pereh' is also used to describe Yishmael (pere adam, a wild creation) and his descendants, which includes that less than human clan residing in Aza.
Perhaps we could connect the 'wildness' of the 'perah' with the brazenness (going uncovered ‘peruah’) of married Jewish women not covering 'pharah' their hair?
And maybe there could be a further connection between 'peah', using foreign hair to cover one's own hair, which davka ends up looking like one's own hair, or better or much better, and 'perah' - wildness, which gives rise to sensual living and thus the immorality of 'paroah'? Rabbi Winston in discussing Western society, elucidates how hair can symbolize sensuous living, narcissist behavior, and brings there a discussion from the Talmud.
[And contrary to what some may say, the teichel "was in use until Russian laws made it illegal for women to wear, enforced with great cruelty; it was these wicked laws which resulted in many women in Russia and Russian Poland to stop covering their hair." (Yerushalayim). And hence the phenomen of Rabbis’ wives when they arrived in America from Europe, wearing no head coverning]. An outward sign of a frum man is first and foremost his head covering, and then (depending where he resides) his tzitzis, tefillin, and on Shabbos his talis. Is there less of a distinction for women?
Contrary to some commentary, the softness of a scarf, worn properly with an undercover, creates a majestic appearance, and allows the head to be clear of hautiness, and more receptive to divine understanding, 'bina'. It is not the way of the modest Jewish woman to appear as if she is wearing her own hair, or mistaken for being uncovered altogether. It is her spiritual and halachic responsbility to do this properly. Western society has made “individual freedom” and the expression thereof (carried to great lengths) into an ‘idol’ of accumulation and gashmius (which includes designer this and that). It matters most delicately that men not be drawn to gaze at a woman. All learned men know this (Avoda Zarah 20a and Devarim 23:10). [Even Rav Winston alluded to this in his shiur.]
With that 'perah' on your head, you cannot possibly think rationally and resist the notion or suggestion that you just may be creating spiritual havoc among Klal Yisrael. Because of the sheitel, you are not able to connect your head (bina) to your body, covering your hair with hair that blinds your eyes from seeing your own brazenness in exposing your body in clingy tight material that shows every nook and cranny, even during pregnancy. What fashion will be invented next, to immitate your sisters, blinded to the downward spiral of fashion's pritzus. [ed. In no way does Rabbi Winston make a distinction of the type of covering. He even invites questions of clarification.]
Midrash Rabba says "R’ Joshua of Siknin said in R’ Levi’s name: Vayiven is written, signifying that He considered well from what part to create ‘her’ … from the modest part of man, for even when he stands [unclothed] that part is covered. And as He created each limb He ordered her, ‘be a modest woman’. G-d said to each limb of Chava 'be tznius' - to each limb." (Midrash Rabba, Bereshis XVIII 2).
“Vayiven” as Rabbi Winston explains, "is also in common with the word “bina” (understanding), referring to the woman’s extra intuitive understanding, which is particularly endowed at her marriage to man. She gains this extra insight … intricately dependent upon her covering her hair." There are coverings and there are coverings; intuitive understanding would lend itself to a ‘cover’ and not another layer of hair atop her own hair. A ‘sheitel’ is the antithesis and contradistinction to the spiritual intent of a Jewish woman covering her hair. It is just plain counter-intuitive!
Contrary to what some may say, there is a prevailing custom for women to cover their hair with a simple cloth cover (going back to Talmudic times and earlier as the parsha of the Sotah clearly shows). This was in effect for thousands of years, until the vicious antisemitism of the turn of the century. Western society, since the two world wars, has become an antithesis to modesty.
As the Rabbi states further on in his shiur, “there is a concept that, although the same mitzvos apply in all generations … some prove to be more of a test for one generation than for other generations. ‘Eretz Yisroel’ and ‘hair covering’ are proving to be tests of Jewish spirituality specifically in this post-way, glamour-oriented generation.”
Women, wake up, open your eyes, take off the sheitel, replace it with a modest covering, allow your 'bina yeseira' to breathe and guide you on the correct path, do not be pulled by 'designer fashion' or 'they're all wearing them' or 'I want to look pretty'. You should want to look like a bas Yisroel of Sarah Imeinu, Rochel Imeinu, and grow in Holiness, as Hashem has asked us, Sefer Vayikra, Parshas Kedoshim:
"Hashem spoke to Moses, saying:
Speak to the entire assembly of the
Children of Israel and say to them:
You shall be holy, for holy am I,
Hashem, your G-d."
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Here's another strange ironic twist we might take as a 'siman'.
The sub-humans (pere adam) kidnap young Jewish girls into marriage (and have been doing this over 20 or more years), make as many babies as they possibly can, and then raise those babies to be Shahids, to martyr themselves by killing Israelis. Isn't this a sordid twist of the imagination. [I heard this first-person account with my own ears at a presentation by Yad L'Achim]
Well maybe from this we can extrapolate a message that we Jews need to be more forgiving, understanding, and kind to our fellow Jews no matter at what level of frumkeit we find them. Instead of condemning them, reach out and share something beautiful about Shabbat, or even invite a not-yet observant Israeli to spend Shabbat with you and your family!
As the nations of the world spin their twisted anti-semitism into a rabid nuclear foaming storm, bent on irrational chaos, we Jews need to take history and bend it benevolently toward Hashem with the ways of pleasantness taught by our Torah, and save the world from destruction.
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In the Womb
In a passage demonstrating a keen sensitivity to the subconscious of man, the Talmud describes the experience of the embryo while in the uterus (1):
"A lamp is lit above the child's head, by which it can see from one end of the world to the other end; there are no days during which a person experiences more bliss than those days in his mother's womb. They [G-d and the angels] teach the unborn child the entire Torah, but as soon as the child is to emerge into the air of the world, an angel comes and strikes it on its mouth, causing it to forget the entire Torah."
But what's the point? Is it not futile to teach an embryo the entire Torah if he is made to forget it shortly thereafter?
Several answers are given to this question. As we approach the two-day festival of Shavuos, commemorating the giving of the Torah 3,321 years ago, I wish to present one of the answers, culled from the writings of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (2).
The Inner Melody
It is extremely difficult to remain spiritually and emotionally inspired while living in this world. G-d may give us life, but He does not always grant us the ready-made inspiration required for living a meaningful and elevated lifestyle. We need to stimulate and motivate ourselves through our own efforts.
But how? Life is often stressful and burdensome. Also, our physical and animalistic cravings and temptations are so powerful that they almost completely eclipse our sensitivity to spirituality.
This is the accomplishment of G-d infusing each unborn child with the entire Torah before he is born, though he later forgets it all. This nine-month implantation of G-dliness and holiness in the brain of the child creates a condition in which the spiritual message of Torah forever remains the most familiar information to the soul.
Affluence, power, good food, nice clothing and physical temptations may excite us. Debt, responsibility, laziness and numbness may bog us down. Yet despite all of these sensations being a real part of our lives, the voice of our inner spirituality - the voice of Torah within us - has a deeper, though often inaudible, resonance within us.
It's like a melody that you once knew and have since forgotten. When it is sung to you again, you don't have to memorize it anew, because the song was always a part of you, stored in the memory of your brain.
The melody of spirituality and Torah has been on the lips of our souls since time immemorial. Although in the process of growing up we may have forgotten the tune, none of us have to learn it anew. We need only to pay heed to the silent vibrations stored within us since our days in the womb.
So although upon birth we were made to consciously forget, but the truth remains etched in our unconscious psyches. When we discover a truth in our lives – when we are educated and taught wisdom – the truth resonates, because we already have it inside ourselves; it was just concealed beneath the conscious layers of existence. The function of a true Torah teacher is never to teach people a new truth, but to help them access the truth ingrained already deeply within them. A good teacher is one who helps us cut away the weeds and uncover the flowers within.
Or as the Italian sculptor Michelangelo once said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
This is the deeper meaning in King Solomon's presentation of the bride saying to her groom, "Draw me, we will run after You, the King has brought me into His chambers (3)." The grammar in the verse seems amiss: If the King already brought me into the chambers in the past, why is there a need to "draw me" close to Him in the present?
But King Solomon is addressing two different times in our lives, the time of pre-birth innocence vs. the time of adulthood disillusionment. We turn to G-d in our days of adulthood and say, 'Draw me, we will run after You,' which means that if G-d draws us in a little bit, we will run after Him. The reason is that since 'the King has brought me (us) into His chambers' during the nine months in the womb, long before we developed our cynicism, we already have experienced the purity of G-dliness (4).
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1) Niddah 30b.
2) 1745-1812. The following teaching is in Likkutei Torah Shelach 43a. Cf.
3) Song of Songs 1:4.
4) Likkutei Torah Shelach ibid.
25 May 2009
24 May 2009
Maimonides serves a multi-ethnic clientele in central Brooklyn, including an Orthodox Jewish community where large families are the norm. With the demand for maternity care certain to grow, the hospital is in the process of expanding its maternity care facilities.
22 May 2009
Visit The Temple Institute and enter the world of the Holy Temple. Visit the Gallery for a potpourri of fascinating exhibits, especially "Tomorrow" and wish in your heart that it would be so. See the City of David as it never before has been shown; see a depiction of Shlomo HaMelech dedicating the Temple; and imagine what the gathering at Har Sinai might have looked like; and glimpse inside the Bayit Sheni. A vast gallery of depictions await the viewer in The Gallery .
21 May 2009
At the urge of autistic Binyamin Golden, Rabbi Sachs Shlita recently opened a new site together with Binyamin to help us understand current world events and wake us up to realize how close we are to the end.
Autistic Binyamin Golden recently said: “Barak Hussain Obama has been sent by Shamayim to help destroy much of the world. Therefore we should keep our eye on him and his erratic and wild actions in order to realize that Hashem is making him do these strange things in order to destroy the world of lies and bring us to the world of Truth..."
Want to know what’s really going on? Explore Torah News if you wish to learn more about current events, faith, spirituality and more.
20 May 2009
Please visit Arutz Sheva to see the videos and articles to read, in addition to "first hand interviews". So many, it will take several days to cover it all. In light of the happenings and machinations of the nations of the world, those who understand should appreciate the efforts of Arutz Sheva in collecting and providing this material for us to be aware of; to open our hearts to the Hand of Hashem in history.
History of the Six Day War - Forty Years in Review: Jewish Growth in the Liberated Lands
The Six Day War in Pictures - Photo Essay: A Visit to Jerusalem's Shuk Machaneh Yehuda and today's community of Elon Moreh Living in Avraham's Footsteps
Perspectives on the Six Day War - especially, The Six Day War: Not Only Jerusalem
Our Return to the Temple Mount - among others Photo Essay: The Temple Mount - The Awakening (From The Temple Institute)
Below is a video of the near-miss Geula, a propitious moment that we should have held onto and what could have ushered in the Geula for all of us. As HaRav Bar-Hayim says:
"On the heels of this God-given victory, the then Minister of Defence, Moshe Dayan, took the keys to the Temple Mount, and in an act of madness indicative of the ideological malaise of Zionism in general, returned them to Am Yisrael's arch-enemies. Let us be clear about this. Hashem had just returned His people to Judaism's Holy Place-- the focus of the Jewish People's aspirations for 2000 years--and after only a few days of fighting during which we and the entire world had been witness to miracle after miracle, we threw it back in His Face!
The day the Jewish People had awaited for 2000 years was lost in the blink of an eye!"
The accompanying post (just below this) is an excerpt from Time for Redemption by Matityahu Glazerson. Please note the footnotes.