GOOD MORNING! Last week I participated in the Washington Solidarity Rally for Israel. I made a poster with my friend, Michael Gerson (a professional graphic artist -freecolor.com). Soon we'll have a webpage up where you can download signs for rallies. It would make a great billboard and generate lots of coverage and PR!
Also, if you would like a copy of the 5 psalms, including translation, to say for the merit of the Jewish people and Israel, send a blank email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. A printable file with the Psalms will automatically be sent back to you.
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 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 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 Tuesday, April 30th. 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 12th until Shavuot, May 17th. 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. An excellent tape collection by the great educator and founder of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, is available by calling (800) 864-2373. refer to this collection of 25 tapes (or cd's) 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 L'AG B'OMER AND HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
According to Jewish cosmology, the day begins with nightfall. That is why all holidays start at night after the stars can be seen. Monday night, April 29th, begins the holiday of L'ag B'Omer. You may have seen advertisements for picnics from synagogues and JCC's.
L'ag 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 L'ag 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 L'ag 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.] 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? Lev. 24:14.
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corner of your field; and the gleanings of your harvest you shall not gather; for the poor and the stranger you shall leave them (the corners and the gleaning)."
Why is the owner commanded to leave the corners and gleanings rather than being commanded to gather the produce and give it to the poor?
By not presenting the produce to the poor man, the poor man escapes the humiliation of being handed charity. Instead, he maintains his dignity as he feels that he is just taking what is his due by Torah law. It is important to be sensitive to others.
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 19:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 6:00 Hong Kong 6:29 Honolulu 6:37
J'Burg 5:24 London 7:57 Los Angeles 7:15
Melbourne 5:22 Miami 7:31 Moscow 7:38
New York 7:29 Singapore 6:49
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The future belongs to
those who believe in
the beauty of their dreams.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
Please Daven (pray)