Passover (seventh day)(Exodus 13:17-15:26)
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) Mke 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. Whether you think you can or you think you can't -- you're right.
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 Sunday, May 18th. 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.
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 Matzot, laws of first born issue, to keep the Shabbat, celebrate Shavuot and Sukkot and ends with assorted laws of offerings.
The Haftorah is Numbers 28:16-25 including: the laws of Pesach, the offerings of the holiday and the designation of Pesach as a seven day holiday.
* * *
adapted from The Passover Survival Kit by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf
During the Passover Seder we ask the Four Questions. So, why IS this night different? Because on this night we experienced our freedom. Because only on this holiday do all of the special observances, mitzvot, apply only at night. On Rosh Hashanah we blow the shofar only during the day. On Sukkot we sit in a Sukkah during the day or night. Only on Passover do so many mitzvot apply only at night. Why is this the only night of the year so brimming with mitzvot? Because on the night of Passover we not only commemorate the moment of our birth, but we express the very meaning of our existence as a people. Our sages tell us, "For the mitzvah is like a candle and the Torah a light."
The purpose of Jewish existence is to be a source of light where otherwise darkness would hold sway. No matter how dark the world around us seems to grow, no matter how dim humankind's future may seem -- the Jewish nation never gives up. Deep inside we all know that things can be different. Deep inside we feel the call to cast a light on a darkened life, or to illuminate a clouded corner of the globe.
As dark as our lives may seem, lost though the world may have become, we still believe in the power of light. To illuminate our lives and our potential. to be a radiant force for all mankind. This is our message and our goal. We will not rest until the dark night again shines like the day.
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No God, no peace. Know God, know peace
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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