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GOOD MORNING! Mark your calendars. March 1st, 5:30 PM EST is the date and time of a major Jewish happening! Over 100,000 Jews in more than 40 cities across the North American continent - and even more across the World - are convening to take part in the celebration. This event occurs only once every 7 and 1/2 years and this year will mark its 11th occurrence. It is so big that in New York alone Madison Square Garden is too small to host all New York area Jews who want to attend. It will be beamed across the globe by satellite. And chances are ... you have never heard of it before! Curious as to what it is?
The Siyum HaShas - the ceremony marking the completion of learning the whole Babylonian Talmud. Jews everywhere study each day the same new page for 2,711 consecutive days to complete the Talmud. Now is the time to gather together to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment ... and to immediately begin again to start the next cycle. For a Jew, learning of the Torah never ends!
What is the Talmud? Our 3,300 year tradition teaches that the Almighty gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai. He dictated it word for word and letter by letter to Moses, who wrote it down in a scroll. Every subsequent Sefer Torah, Torah Scroll, was then checked against the original for accuracy. (It is commonplace in the synagogue for the Torah reading to stop in the middle over a cracked, faded or even a missing letter; if the Torah is not perfect, it is rolled up, the belt is placed on the outside of the mantle and it is not used until fixed. Another Torah Scroll is used to finish the reading). This is the Written Torah; in Hebrew it is called the Chumash, referring to the Five Books it contains (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy); in English it is called the Pentateuch.
The Written Torah is only "half" of the Torah. The other "half" is the Talmud, the explanation of the meaning and application of the laws and standards set forth in the Torah. It also contains aggadata, homiletical stories which transmit insights into life, values and the mystical traditions. This explanation was handed down as the Oral Law to ensure the accuracy of its transmission (unlike the game "telephone" where one passes a word or sentence from mouth to ear to see how it becomes transmuted, the Oral Law transmission process was rigorous with constant testing for exactitude). Close to 2,000 years ago because of Roman persecutions, the Sages redacted the Oral Law into the Mishna, Teachings; the expanded commentary on the Mishna was redacted approximately 1,500 years ago as the Talmud (also known as the Gemara in Aramaic, the language of the Talmud). Together the Torah and the Talmud are the central unifying force of the Jewish people.
In 1923 Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the famed "Lubliner Rav," proposed that Jews across the world learn the same daf, page, of Talmud each day. The program is called Daf Yomi, Daily Page. Since then, every 7 and 1/2 years, Jews around the world have celebrated the completion and commencement of the Talmud. Wherever one is in the world, he can call up the local synagogue and find out where the class is being given - or look in a printed or online directory; and the class he attends will be discussing the exact same page he would have studied at home with his usual class.
Who is invited to the celebration? Every Jew who cares about being Jewish, who either has a thrill of being part of an event of this magnitude or who is curious as to what would cause so many people to dedicate a portion of each day for 7 years to learning Talmud. Any Jew who yearns for Jewish unity and wants to experience it should be sure to attend!
If you are in Miami, I invite you to join me at the Jackie Gleason Theater on Miami Beach. For tickets in Miami, call your local Jewish bookstore or 305-945-5091. If you are not in Miami and want to know where the closest celebration is or how to pick it up on satelite, call the Agudath Israel of America, the coordinator of this celebration, at (212) 797-9000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877- UNITY- 2005 (877-864-8920).
Torah Portion of the Week
One of the longest Torah portions, containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative precepts. Included are laws regarding: the Hebrew manservant and maidservant, manslaughter, murder, injuring a parent, kidnapping, cursing a parent, personal injury, penalty for killing a slave, personal damages, injury to slaves, categories of damages and compensatory restitution, culpability for personal property damage, seduction, occult practices, idolatry, oppression of widows, children and orphans.
The portion continues with the laws of: lending money, not cursing judges or leaders, tithes, first-born sons, justice, returning strayed animals, assisting the unloading of an animal fallen under its load, Sabbatical year, Shabbat, the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot & Succot).
Mishpatim concludes with the promise from the Almighty to lead us into the land of Israel, safeguard our journey, ensure the demise of our enemies and guarantee our safety in the land - if we uphold the Torah and do the mitzvot. Moses makes preparations for himself and for the people and then ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"You shall not curse a judge, and a ruler among your people you shall not curse." (Exodus 22:27)
Even though you might think that a judge has erred in rendering a decision against you, you are forbidden to curse him. It is very possible that he is correct and you are wrong, but you are unaware of the justice because a person often overlooks his own guilt. However, even if a judge has erred, you nonethelss have no right to curse him.
In the late 1800's and early 1900's Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld lived in the Old City of Jerusalem. He was an exemplary talmud chacham (scholar) full of knowledge, wisdom and refined character. Before Rosh Hashana, someone who lost a court case over which Rav Yosef Chaim presided, approached Rabbi Sonnenfeld and cursed him for what he felt was a distortion of justice.
Rabbi Sonnenfeld was grieved to see the man behave in such a manner, especially right before Rosh Hashanah. With an outward appearance of anger, he said to him, "Listen to me! If you are right, I will pray to God to forgive me, because a judge is not infallible and can only decide a case in the manner which he thinks correct. But if I am right..."
The person was in a very nervous state as Rabbi Sonnenfeld continued, "If I am right, God should forgive you."
Upon hearing this, the man calmed down and asked forgiveness from Rabbi Sonnenfeld. When the man left, Rav Yosef Chaim explained to those who were in the room with him, "This man is really a fine person. I knew that when he would calm down, he would definitely regret his behavior and he would surely want to repent for what he has done. However, knowing that for his repentance to be accepted he would have to ask me for forgiveness, he might have been embarrassed to approach me and wouldn't repent at all. I therefore decided to make it easier for him to repent."
CANDLE LIGHTING - February 4:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:44 Hong Kong 5:56 Honolulu 6:04
J'Burg 6:40 London 4:37 Los Angeles 5:07
Melbourne 7:08 Mexico City 6:16 Miami 5:48
Moscow 4:54 New York 5:00 Singapore 7:04
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
There are no short cuts
to any place worth going .
In Loving Memory of