Passover (seventh day)(Exodus 13:17-15:26)
Pesach (seventh day) 5772
GOOD MORNING! Are you happy with who you are? Wish you could change, but don't know how? Wondering how does one make real changes?
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 cd or mp3 download by calling (973) 767-3700 or at AishAudio.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 Thursday, May 10th. 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 this year April 21st in the evening) 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.
Try an Experiment ?
Read out loud the following sentence:
Did you read it as "opportunity is nowhere" or as "opportunity is now here"? Probably 90% of life is one's attitude -- how one looks at life. For most of us, life is a difficult struggle and filled with many challenges -- as well as sweetness and joy. If one is to be able to deal with the difficulties, he must have joy in his life. A person needs a warehouse full of "joys" to draw upon for energy in facing the vicissitudes of life. Would you rather have a happy surgeon who appreciates what he has and has accomplished and is energized, operate on you -- or one is worn out and burdened down by the cares of life?
Having a positive attitude is not a sign of being out of reality or pollyannaish. It means that you work hard to focus on what you have and to appreciate it. If you train yourself to respond to people who ask you how you are with "Fabulous, Thank God" (it is important to give thanks to the Source of your blessings) then many times a day you will focus on what you have to be thankful for and you will also hopefully bring joy to others by your uplifting example. If you say, "Can't Complain" you have fulfilled your social obligation of answering what is generally a social formality question of "How are you?" -- but you bring no joy to yourself or anyone else.
Torah Portion of the Week
7th Day of Pesach
This Shabbat has a special reading for the Eighth Day of Pesach. It includes the Second Tithe (the first tithe being taken for the Cohen and Levite) of one's crop which was to be eaten in Jerusalem; remission of loans in the Shemita year (the seventh year of a seven year cycle); take care of the destitute; the Jewish slave; the three pilgrimage festivals -- Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot -- where the Jewish people were commanded to go up to Jerusalem. The portion from the Book of Numbers deals with the mitzvot of the Pesach holiday.
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based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And you shall rejoice before the Lord, your God, you and your son, and your daughter and your servant and your maid, and the Levite that is within your gates, and the convert, and the orphan and the widow that are in your midst" (Deut. 16:11)
Rashi cites the Sifre which points out that in this verse we have a list of four members of a person's household: his son, his daughter, servant and maid. We also have four that are needy: the Levite, convert, orphan and widow. The Almighty says, "If you take care of My four, I will take care of your four." We learn from here that by helping the needy we merit that our needs are taken care of as well; the Almighty responds to us measure for measure.
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 13
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:57 - Hong Kong 6:24 - Honolulu 6:32
J'Burg 5:35 - London 7:35 - Los Angeles 7:05
Melbourne 5:39 - Mexico City 7:35 - Miami 7:26
New York 7:16 - Singapore 6:51 - Toronto 7:41
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
No God, no peace. Know God, know peace
In Memory of My Beloved Wife
Susan Ruth Fastow
May her memory be for a blessing.