GOOD MORNING! Now is an important time to pray for world peace. The people of Kosovo certainly need our prayers ... as do the people of Yugoslavia. It is interesting to compare the reaction of the world today with the world 2,000 years ago. Two thousand years ago the world touted war as the great heroic adventure, the proof of the nation. The Jewish people taught then, as now, the concept of world peace -- "Beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:2-4).
Today we go to war not for conquest and pillage, but for the sake of human rights and the right to life -- Jewish values to which the world has subscribed. Let us pray that we have the fortitude to adhere to our beliefs and principles. Our modern world is one of instant gratification; if it takes too long, becomes boring, costs one American life, there is that tendency to turn the channel and to modify one's values...
My heartfelt thanks to all who responded to "The Russin 10 Bucks Appeal"! Final score: 112 people gave $10; 89 people gave more than 10 dollars. I especially appreciate the notes that some readers sent. I keep every note (actually, just the positive ones) in a folder. I think of it as my "Depression File" -- if I ever feel depressed, I can go to the folder to read the notes and letters!
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 each year 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 proper respect towards 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 to help bring perfection to the world and unity amongst Jews.
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. An excellent tape collection by the great educator and founder of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, is available for $135 from your local Jewish bookstore or by calling (800) 864-2373. I refer to this collection of 25 tapes as the "Jewish Dale Carnegie Course" for getting the most out of life! It will be one of the great purchases in your life!
Portion of the Week
Concluding the 7 days of inauguration for the Mishkan (Portable Sanctuary), Aaron, the High Priest, brings sacrifices for himself and the entire nation. Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aaron, bring an incense offering on their own initiative, and are consumed by a heavenly fire (perhaps the only time when someone did something wrong and was immediately hit by "lightning").
The Cohanim are commanded not to serve while intoxicated. The inaugural service is completed. G-d then specifies the species which are kosher to eat: mammals (those that have cloven hoofs and chew their cud), fish (those with fins and scales), birds (certain non-predators), and insects ( certain species of locusts). The portion concludes with the laws of spiritual defilement from contact with the carcasses of certain animals.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "And these you shall consider an abomination amongst the birds, they shall not be eaten; they are detestable -- ... and the stork" (Leviticus 11:13,19). The Ramban, Moshe Nachmanides, a great Torah scholar, writes that the birds enumerated in this portion are forbidden for consumption because of their cruelty. The stork's name in Hebrew is chasida because it acts with kindness, chesed, towards its friends. Why, then, should the stork be considered "detestable" and an "abomination"?
The Chidushai Ha-Rim answers: The stork does favors only for its friends. since it doesn't do chesed for strangers, it is considered not kosher. Chesed, kindness, must be done for everyone, not only one's friends!