Passover (seventh day)(Exodus 13:17-15:26)
GOOD MORNING! Sunday evening, March 31st, begins the last two days of Pesach -- a full-fledged holiday which extends through Tuesday night, April 2nd. The crossing of the Yam Soof, usually translated as the Red Sea, more correctly translated as "The Reed Sea" or "Sea of Reeds," took place on this day. And thus continued the 50 day journey through the desert working on self-perfection until receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai.
How do we begin to improve ourselves? It starts with seeing a need for change, then a decision to change -- and a plan. The problem: we're not in a hurry; we think we have plenty of time. What if you had a special clock on top of your television that was counting down the hours and minutes until you were to die? When would you get up, turn off the TV and do all the things that you planned to do, hoped to do or in passing thought about doing?
And what if in addition to your special clock, you had a special bank account where every morning you were credited in your bank account with $86,400 dollars on condition that you had to spend it all or lose it? What would you do? Spend it!! Well, you do have a special bank account called the Bank of Time! Each day you have exactly 86,400 seconds. What you don't invest wisely is written off each night. You can reap dividends, but you can't go into overdraft!
One has to value his time and know that it is limited in order to change. The Sephirat HaOmer period is about valuing time and about changing.
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 to do an extra act of kindness; this will help 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, April 28th. 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, April 10th) until Shavuot (starting Tuesday evening, May 14th). Unusual for our heritage, one can choose each year which custom to follow!
These 50 days also correspond to the seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt when the Jewish people prepared themselves to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai. When we left Egypt we were on the 49th level of Tuma, spiritual degradation. 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) each day as a means to personal and spiritual growth. Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the great educator and founder of Aish HaTorah, has his flagship series of lectures of the 48 Ways available on cd -- available by calling (800) 864-2373. They are also available in mp3 format via 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! For more on Sephirat HaOmer and the 48 Ways go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com !
Torah Portion of the Week
Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach
(Shabbat of the intermediate Days of Passover) Exodus 33:12 - 34:26
(We also read Shir HaShirim, King Solomon's Song of Songs)
Moses pleads with the Almighty not to send an angel in His place, but to accompany the Jewish people Himself through the trek in the wilderness even though they had sinned with the Golden Calf. Moses asks the Almighty to reveal how He interacts with the universe (it is a mystical interchange). Then the Almighty commands Moses to carve two stone tablets and to ascend Mt. Sinai so that He can engrave the replacement tablets for the set that Moses broke at the transgression with the Golden Calf.
The Almighty reveals his Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (Exodus 34:5) which we repeat on Yom Kippur and other times of seeking the Almighty's mercy. Moses asks the Almighty to forgive the Jewish people. The Almighty renews the Covenant with the Jewish people commanding us not to enter into a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, not make molten gods, to observe the Festival of Matzos, laws of first born issue, to keep the Shabbat, celebrate Shavuot and Sukkot and ends with assorted laws of offerings.
In the story of the Exodus of Egypt, the Almighty commands Moshe to request a 3 day retreat to the desert for the Jewish people, though the intent was to leave Egypt permanently. The Almighty is not a trickster nor a liar. Why was it done in this manner?
The Vilna Gaon comments that there are two other times where the Almighty used deception -- Jacob's dealings with his father-in-law, Lavan, and during the Purim story. The Almighty enabled Jacob to use deception to receive his fair wages. The flocks produced offspring with the coloring -- that according to Jacob's agreement with Lavan -- would belong to Jacob. In the Purim story, the Midrash tell us that the Almighty sent angels dressed as servants to malign Haman so that Achashverosh would not cool off from his anger at Haman for wanting to kill Esther and her people.
The Almighty is always sending us messages for us to recognize our mistakes and be able to correct them. With regards to Pharaoh, Lavan and Haman -- each one used deception. Pharaoh enslaved the Jews by having a "National Work Day" where the Jews volunteered their labor -- and then he kept them as slaves. Lavan substituted Leah for Rachel thus deceiving Jacob. Haman deceived Achashverosh about the people he wished to exterminate. Thus, the Almighty returned measure for measure so that each could learn his lesson.
CANDLE LIGHTING - March 29
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:56 - Hong Kong 6:19 - Honolulu 6:27
J'Burg 5:51 - London 6:10 - Los Angeles 6:53
Melbourne 7:01 - Mexico City 6:31 - Miami 7:19
New York 6:59 - Singapore 6:55 - Toronto 7:22
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually
One must fight for a life of action, not reaction
-- Rita Mae Brown
A Sweet & Healthy Pesach to all of my beloved readers!
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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