GOOD MORNING! Tuesday evening, June 3rd, begins the two day holiday of Shavuot (or Shavuos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation). (Yizkor is on Thursday, June 5th.) It is the anniversary and celebration of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people 3,326 years ago. It is a time of rededication and commitment to learning Torah. (It'll be worthwhile to go to http://www.aish.com/holidays and click on Shavuos).
Q & A: WHAT IS SHAVUOT AND HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
The Torah calls Shavuot the "Festival of Weeks" (Numbers 28:26). The very word "Shavuot" is Hebrew for "weeks"; it refers to the seven weeks that one counts from the second day of Passover (when the Omer [barley] offering is brought) until the holiday of Shavuot. It is one of the three Regalim, holidays, (Pesach and Succot are the other two) where every man in the land of Israel was commanded to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival when the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, stood in Jerusalem.
Torah is the life blood of the Jewish people. Our enemies have always known that when we Jews stop learning Torah, our assimilation is inevitable. Without knowledge there is no commitment. One cannot love what he does not know. A person cannot do or understand what he has never learned.
A Jew is commanded to learn Torah day and night and to teach it to his children. If a Jew wants his family to be Jewish and his children to marry other Jews, then he must integrate a Torah study program into his life and implement the teachings into his home and his being. One can tell his children anything, but only if they see their parents learning and doing mitzvot, will they inherit the love for being Jewish. Remember: a parent only owes his child three things -- example, example, example.
How can we utilize this opportunity to grow and strengthen our self-identity as Jews? Just as a baby crawls, then toddles and then walks, likewise with the mitzvot (commandments). A person should undertake one more mitzvah, do it well and then build on it. For some mitzvot that you might enjoy taking on...
A Few Suggestions
1. Read the Torah! The Almighty gave it to you as a gift. It is the instruction book for living -- how to be happy, choose the right spouse, make your marriage work, raise your children with values, get more joy out of life. I highly recommend the Artscroll Stone Chumash (Five Books of Moses).
2. Attend a Torah class -- or if you wish to listen to recorded classes, try AishAudio.com to download over 2,000 classes for your mp3 player! Buy a copy of Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) and read one page a day. It contains concentrated wisdom about life!
3. Make sure you have a Kosher mezuzah scroll on at least your front door. (A Jewish home should have mezuzot on all doorposts except for the bathrooms). Learn the deep, inner-meaning of mezuzah and reflect on it when you look at the mezuzah. To Be a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Donin nicely explains a lot of things.
4. Pick one non-kosher food item that you won't eat -- just because you're Jewish.
5. Say the Shema and its three following paragraphs at least once a day. Learn what the words mean and the ideas included. It will change your outlook and attitudes. Artscroll publishes a book on the Shema -- or look at the commentary in the Artscroll Siddur. Lisa Aiken's book, Hidden Beauty of the Shema, is spectacular!
6. Do something to make Shabbat special -- light two candles with the blessing before sundown, have a Shabbat Friday night family dinner and make Kiddush and HaMotzei (the prayer before eating the Challahs -- the special loaves of bread). You might want to buy Friday Night and Beyond by Lori Palatnik which is a hands-on guide for the novice wanting to enjoy Shabbat.
The Talmud says, "All beginnings are difficult." If you need help or have questions, please feel free to call me at (305) 535-2474 or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For the books or mezuzot, try your local Jewish book store, call toll-free 877-758-3242 or JudaicaEnterprises.com.
On Shavuot there is a custom to stay up all night learning Torah. Virtually every synagogue and yeshiva have scheduled learning throughout the night ending with the praying of Shacharit, the morning service. The reason: the morning the Jewish people were to receive the Torah on Mt. Sinai, they overslept. We now can rectify the tendency to give in to our desires by demonstrating our resolve through learning the whole night. It is a meaningful experience to share with your children. It would be wonderful if you could find a synagogue, JCC or yeshiva with a program that night; at very minimum, how about reading the story of the giving of the Torah to your family (Exodus 19:10 -20:23). For more on Shavuos, go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com !
Naso, Numbers 4:21-7:89
This week's portion includes further job instructions to the Levites, Moshe is instructed to purify the camp in preparation for the dedication of the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary.
Then four laws relating to the Cohanim are given: 1) restitution for stolen property where the owner is deceased and has no next of kin -- goes to the Cohanim 2) If a man suspects his wife of being unfaithful, he brings her to the Cohanim for the Sotah clarification ceremony 3) If a person chooses to withdraw from the material world and consecrate himself exclusively to the service of the Almighty by becoming a Nazir (vowing not to drink wine or eat grape products, come in contact with dead bodies or cut his hair), he must come to the Cohen at the completion of the vow 4) the Cohanim were instructed to bless the people with this blessing: "May the Lord bless you and guard over you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His Countenance upon you and give you peace."
The Mishkan is erected and dedicated on the first of Nissan in the second year after the Exodus. The leaders of each tribe jointly give wagons and oxen to transport the Mishkan. During each of the twelve days of dedication, successively each tribal prince gives gifts of gold and silver vessels, sacrificial animals and meal offerings. Every prince gives exactly the same gifts as every other prince.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states regarding a Nazir (see above in the "Torah Portion" for definition of Nazir) who completes his vow:
"...and afterwards the Nazir may drink wine." (Numbers 6:20).
Why does the Torah refer to him as a Nazir since he is no longer in the state of being a Nazir?
The Alshich, a 16th century commentator who lived in the land of Israel, explains that after the Nazir completes his period of deprivation, he elevates himself to a high level of spirituality. The very act of drinking wine is elevated to a higher level of spirituality reached by a Nazir.
One can drink wine to indulge the body and to escape the realities of this world. Or, one can drink wine in context of a religious ceremony or as a kindness to one's body -- with a higher goal!
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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