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GOOD MORNING! I received a number of emails after the last edition. The messages - or rather the questions - can be summed up as, "So, nu, what is the evidence that there is a World to Come?" God-willing, next week I will address that issue. However, since Monday evening, May 19th, begins Lag B'Omer, I want to inform you and prepare you for that holiday in this issue.
Just a quick observation about questions - if you can get someone to ask you a question, s/he will be more likely to listen to the answer. I think it is a matter of focus. Since he asked the question, he is interested to the answer and therefore will pay attention to it.
I often advise people who are having troubles with their spouse, their child, their business partner to ask questions. Making statements is confrontational and pretty much demands a response; a question, particularly if asked in a soft and sincere voice, gives the other person the opportunity to explain and even introspect. With a question, you can get the other person to make the point; more than likely he will hear it better than if you made a statement.
One last thought about questions. It is often said, "Ask a Jew a question and he responds with a question." Do you know why one might want to answer a question with a question? If you answer a question with a statement, then you are accepting the premise and information as stated in the question. If someone asks, "When did you stop beating your spouse?" you are better off asking, "Where did you get that erroneous idea?" than trying to defend with a statement. Questions let you clarify and verify the issue to keep it on target.
And now to a question about the upcoming holiday ...
Q & A: WHAT IS LAG 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. As mentioned, Monday night, May 19th, begins the holiday of Lag B'Omer. You may have seen advertisements for picnics from synagogues and JCC's.
Lag 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 U.S. 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 Lag 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 Lag 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. From that day until Shavuot (the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the Festival of the Harvest) is called the period of the Counting of the Omer. 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
The Torah portion begins with the laws of Shemitah, the Sabbatical year, where the Jewish people are commanded to not plant their fields or tend to them in the seventh year. Every 50th year is the Yovel, the Jubilee year, where agricultural activity is also proscribed.
These two commandments fall into one of the seven categories of evidence that God gave the Torah. If the idea is to give the land a rest, then the logical plan would be to not plant one-seventh of the land each year. To command an agrarian society to completely stop cultivating all farm lands every 7th year, one has to be either God or a meshugenah (crazy). No sane group of editors would include such an "insane" commandment in a set of laws for the Jewish people; only God could command it and ensure the survival of the Jewish people for following it.
Also included in this portion: redeeming land which was sold, to strengthen your fellow Jew when his economic means are faltering, not to lend to your fellow Jew with interest, the laws of indentured servants. The portion ends with the admonition to not make idols, to observe the Shabbat and to revere the Sanctuary.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And you shall blow the Shofar on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the Day of Atonement shall you sound the Shofar throughout all your land. And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you, and you shall return every man to his possession, and you shall return every man to his family." (Leviticus 25:9-10)
What lesson for life can we learn from this verse?
The Sefer HaChinuch teaches a lesson regarding coping with suffering from the commandment to blow the Shofar in the fiftieth year, the Yovail (Jubilee year). The reason for this is that on the Yovail the servants were set free. When a master had a servant for a long period of time, it was difficult for him to lose the helping hand. The Shofar was blown for the master to realize that he was not the only one to free his servant. Rather, the same was happening to everyone else who had servants. The knowledge that others are also suffering in the same way makes it much easier to accept hardships.
There are many difficulties in life that people subjectively make worse for themselves because they feel that they are the only ones who are suffering. The more you realize that each person has his own life-problems, the easier you will find it to cope in a positive way with your own. While not everyone will have the same problems as you do, everyone does have hardships and tests. Gain greater awareness of the suffering of other people and you will be able to put your own suffering in a perspective that will decrease the pain.
PIRKEI AVOT 3:19
"All is foreseen, yet free will is given. In goodness the world is judged and everything (is judged) according to the majority of one's actions."
-- Rebbi Akiva
CANDLE LIGHTING - May 16:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 6:03 Hong Kong 6:37 Honolulu 6:43
J'Burg 5:11 London 8:26 Los Angeles 7:30
Melbourne 4:58 Miami 7:40 Moscow 8:17
New York 7:48 Singapore 6:49
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A cloudy day is no match
for a sunny disposition.
In Loving Memory of
Happy Birthday Mom!
In honor of