GOOD MORNING! Are you happy with who you are? Wish you could change, but don't know how? How does one change?
The formula is straightforward: (1) Recognize that there is need for improvement. (2) Make a decision to improve. (3) Make a plan. (4) Follow through on the plan.
What holds us back? We think we can't change. Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, the founder of Aish HaTorah, would ask his students, "If God would help you, could you do it?" The answer is obviously "Yes." Then he'd ask, "Do you think the Almighty wants you to change, to improve?" The answer again is obviously "Yes." So, why is it so difficult to change? It's too painful. One doesn't want to take the pain of change. Only through taking the pain and realizing that time is limited will we change. Failure is a status reserved only for those who try.
The Midrash tells us that the Jewish people had the same problem in Egypt. Only 1/5 of the Jewish people were on a high enough spiritual level to leave Egypt - and they were on the 49th level of Tuma, spiritual degradation - and were within a hair's breadth of being destroyed.
Yet, what is amazing is that in the next 49 days they raised themselves to the spiritual level to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai! Each day we climbed one step higher in spirituality and holiness. Many people study one of the "48 Ways to Wisdom" (Ethics of the Fathers, 6:6 - found in the back of most siddurim, Jewish prayer books) each day in the Sephirat HaOmer period between Pesach and Shavuot - which will be explained below - as a means to personal and spiritual growth. This is a propitious time for perfecting one's character!
Rabbi Noah Weinberg created his flagship series of lectures on the 48 Ways. They are available on cassette, cd or mp3 download by calling (800) 864-2373 or at ShabbatShalomAudio.com. I think of this series as the "Jewish Dale Carnegie Course" for getting the most out of life. It will be one of the great purchases in your life!
Q & A: WHAT IS SEPHIRAT HA-OMER?
On the second day of Pesach, the Omer offering from the new barley crop was brought in the Temple in Jerusalem. It began a period of counting and preparation for Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the yearly celebration of re-accepting the Torah upon ourselves. This period is called Sephirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer.
Forty-nine days are counted and on the fiftieth day is Shavuot, the Yom Tov celebrating the giving of the Torah. There is actually a mitzvah to count each specific day which is done at the completion of Ma'ariv, the evening service.
This is a period of national semi-mourning (no weddings or even haircuts). It was during this period that Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students died for not showing sufficient respect for each other. It is a time for us to reflect how we look upon and treat our fellow Jews as well as the tragedies that have befallen us because of unfounded (self-justified) hatred. It is a wonderful time to undertake an extra act of kindness; this will help to bring perfection to the world and unity amongst Jews.
There are two customs for observing the semi-mourning period. The first is to observe it from the end of Pesach until the 33rd day of the Omer, this year Sunday, May 22nd. Many people get married on the 33rd day of the Omer for this reason. The second custom is to observe it from Rosh Chodesh Iyar (the beginning of the month of the Hebrew month of Iyar, which begins May 3rd in the evening this year) until Shavuot. Unusual for our heritage, one can choose each year which custom to follow. For more on Sephirat HaOmer and the 48 Ways go to aish.com/omer.
For more on "Sephirat HaOmer" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
This is the portion that invokes the Jewish people to be holy! It then proceeds with the spiritual directions on how to achieve holiness, closeness to the Almighty. Within it lie the secrets and the prescription for Jewish continuity. If any group of people is to survive as an entity, it must have common values and goals - a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we can learn much about our personal and national destiny. It is truly a "must read"!
Some of the mitzvot: Revere your parents, observe Shabbat, no idol worship, gifts to the poor, deal honestly, love your fellow Jew, refrain from immoral sexual relationships, honor old people, love the proselyte, don't engage in sorcery or superstition, do not pervert justice, observe kashruth and more. The portion ends, "You shall observe all My decrees and ordinances ... you shall be holy ... I have separated you from the peoples to be Mine."
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based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"Before the gray haired you shall stand up, and you shall bestow honor upon the face of the old man, and you shall fear your God, I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:32).
We learn from this verse that we are required to honor a Torah scholar, even if he is not aged, and an elderly person, even if he is not a Torah scholar (Kiddushin 32b). "Old" in this verse does not merely refer to someone who is elderly; it also refers to someone who is mature in wisdom.
A young scholar sees with his wisdom what the average person sees with his years (Chinuch 257). Failure to show respect toward Torah scholars is a very serious matter. Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 students -all Torah scholars - who died within a thirty-three day period as a punishment for not treating each other with proper respect (Yevomos 62b).
How does one show respect? Stand up for a Torah scholar or an elderly person (one seventy years or older) when he comes within approximately 8 feet of where you are sitting. Interestingly, an employee is forbidden to stand up for this would constitute stealing time from his employer (Code of Jewish Law, Yorah Daiah 244:5). If an elderly person enters a room (or a bus) and you are sitting, you should offer him/her your seat.
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 29
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 6:01 - Hong Kong 6:30 - Honolulu 6:37
J'Burg 5:21 - London 8:03 - Los Angeles 7:17
Melbourne 5:18 - Mexico City 7:40 - Miami 7:32
New York 7:31 - Singapore 6:50 - Toronto 7:59
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
It is never too late to be
the person you could have been.
-- George Eliot