GOOD MORNING! A woman once asked a perplexing question to Rabbi Ya'akov Weinberg, of blessed memory, who was the Rosh HaYeshiva (Dean) of Yeshivat Ner Yisroel. Asked the woman, "Must I buy kosher meat?" Rabbi Weinberg was puzzled. If the woman was Jewish and knew enough to know that there is kosher meat (meat from an animal that chews its cud, has split hoofs and is slaughtered in the manner dictated by the Torah and properly salted to draw out the blood), why was she asking him, an Orthodox rabbi, whether she should observe this mitzvah? If, on the other hand, she wasn't Jewish, why would she even ask the question?
So, Rabbi Weinberg asked her, "Why do you ask whether you should buy kosher meat?"
The woman responded, "I understand that one of the 7 Noahide Commandments is to not eat meat removed from an animal while it is still alive (a common practice in the ancient world where there was no refrigeration). I have heard that in most slaughtering houses they use stun guns to kill the animals. Perhaps they start cutting up the animals before they are actually dead?"
How did this woman ever hear of the 7 Noahide Commandments? Her Jewish roommate at college was given a copy of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's magnificent work Horeb: A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances. The roommate never read the book, but she did.
The Torah teaches that there are 7 Commandments which are incumbent upon all non-Jews. Tradition has it that the laws were actually given to Adam and Chava (Eve) the first day (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, chapter 9, law 1). They were reaffirmed after the flood ("As for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your seed after you" -- Genesis 9:8) and an intrinsic part of the Divine Revelation on Mt. Sinai. They are called the 7 Laws of the Children of Noah (Bnei Noah) or the 7 Noahide Commandments --- because after the flood EVERYONE is a descendent of Noah.
From the Jewish experience our history is filled with other nations "inviting" us to convert to their religions and all will be well ... however, there was usually a caveat about "or else" that followed the "offer" to convert us. The Jewish people, however, always maintained that to live righteously and earn a portion in the next world, a non-Jew does not have to be Jewish -- he must just keep the 7 Noahide Commandments.
If a non-Jew recognizes that there is a God Who commands all non-Jews to keep the 7 Noahide Commandments ... and he observes the commandments, he is guaranteed a place in the World to Come, Heaven. What are the 7 Noahide Commandments?
- Do not murder. (Human life is sacred; it can only be taken with legal sanction)
- Do not steal. (Respect the rights and property of others)
- Do not worship false gods. (Only the Almighty is the Creator, Sustainer, Supervisor and can answer prayers)
- Do not be sexually immoral. (Wife of another man, male homosexuality, incest and bestial relations)
- Do not eat the limb of an animal before it is killed. (Do not be cruel to animals)
- Do not curse God. (Speech is unique to humans, using it to express ingratitude is wrong. Gossip, obscenity and lies are also forbidden under this commandment)
- Set up courts and bring offenders to justice. (Society cannot exist in anarchy; due process is required).
There is a growing movement of Noahides. One can learn more via an internet search. One site is Noahide.org. Two good books: The Path of the Righteous Gentile: Introduction to the 7 Laws of the Children of Noah by Chaim Clorfene and Rabbi Yakov Rogalsky and The Seven Colors of the Rainbow: Torah Ethics for Non-Jews by Rabbi Yirmeyahu Bindman (there is an allusion that the 7 colors of the rainbow refer to the 7 Noahide Laws in the verse "And God said, '... My bow I am placing in the cloud and it shall be for a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth' " [Gen. 9:12,13]. Both are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
And, the answer to the woman's question -- non-kosher meat is killed before being cut up ... and is therefore permissible for Noahides to eat.
According to Jewish cosmology, the day begins with nightfall. That is why all holidays start at night after the stars can be seen. Wednesday night, May 9th, begins the holiday of Lag B'Omer. You may have seen advertisements for picnics from synagogues and JCC's.
Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer, the period between Pesach and Shavuot. On this day the plague which was killing Rabbi Akiva's disciples stopped. It is also the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, the Kabbalah, the book of Jewish Mysticism. Tradition has it that the day of his demise was filled with a great light of endless joy through the secret wisdom which he revealed to his students in the Zohar.
In Israel there are huge bonfires across the country. From Pesach onwards the children gather fallen branches and old tires and build pyres often 20 and 30 feet high. Then as the sky grows dark, they are lit and the sky is filled with flames -- and smoke. (I have often wondered what the reaction is to the pictures from the US and Russian Spy satellites.)
The fires are symbolic both of the light of wisdom Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brought into the world and as a "yahrzeit candle" to the memory of his passing. Haircuts and weddings take place on this date and there is much festivity including dancing, singing and music.
Why the name Lag B'Omer? Every Hebrew letter has a numerical value. An aleph = 1, a bet = 2 and so forth. The two Hebrew letters lamed (30) and gimmel (3) = 33. So Lag B'Omer means the 33rd day of the Omer. [The word "Omer" literally means "sheaf" and refers to the offering of the barley sheaf in the Temple on the second day of Pesach marking the harvesting of the barley crop.] From that day until Shavuot (the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the Festival of the Harvest) is called the period of the Counting of the Omer. It is a time for reflection upon how we view and treat our fellow Jews and what we can learn from the tragedies that have befallen us because of unfounded (self-justified) hatred for our fellow Jews.
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's portion sets forth the standards of purity and perfection for a Cohen; specifies the physical requirements of sacrifices and what is to be done with blemished offerings; proclaims as holidays the Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.
It reminds the Jewish people to provide pure olive oil for the Menorah and designates the details of the Showbread (two stacks of 6 loaves each which were placed on the table in the portable sanctuary and later in the Temple once a week upon Shabbat).
The portion ends with the interesting story of a man who blasphemed God's name with a curse. What should be the penalty for this transgression? Curious? Leviticus. 24:14.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And you shall observe my commandments and do them, I am the Almighty. And you shall not desecrate my Holy Name and I will be sanctified among the Children of Israel, I am the Almighty who sanctifies you." (Lev. 22:31,32)
What connection is there between the two verses?
The Chasam Sofer comments that verse 31 is an introduction to verse 32. Rashi states that "you shall observe my commandments" refers to studying Torah since the only way to have the knowledge to observe the commandments is through studying them first. Therefore, the Torah immediately warns those who study Torah against chilul HaShem, desecration of the Almighty's name; it obliges those who study Torah to make a kidush HaShem, a sanctification of the Almighty's name. The behavior of anyone who studies Torah should be on such a level that it will be an expression of the sanctity of the Almighty. People who observe those who study Torah should be able to say that the Torah gives those who study it much wisdom and promotes excellence in their daily behavior.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz used to stress, "Everyone who studies Torah must excel in his love for other people, in showing honor and respect to other people, and in the pleasant manner with which he should always speak to others. His elevated behavior should be on such a level that everyone will say about him, "How fortunate is his father who taught him Torah. how fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah. How unfortunate are those who have not studied Torah. This person who has studied Torah, see how pleasant are his ways."
This statement of Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz should be repeated over and over again. Based on the Talmudic statement in the Bavli Talmud, Yoma 86a, it stresses three points: 1) love for other people 2) honor and respect for others 3 )a pleasant manner of speaking. Not everyone can appreciate the genius of deep Torah thoughts. However, everyone does appreciate being spoken to with kindness and respect.
CANDLE LIGHTING - May 11
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
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.... some day you will be right!
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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