Passover (first day)(Exodus 12:21-51)
Passover (first day) 5769
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GOOD MORNING! This Shabbat coincides with the Seventh Day of Pesach, a full-fledged holiday which extends to Sunday evening, the April 27th. The crossing of the Yam Soof, usually translated as the Red Sea, more correctly translated as "The Reed Sea" or "Sea of Reeds," took place on this day. And thus continued the 50 day journey of self-perfection until the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.
How do we begin to improve ourselves? It starts with a decision to change. What if you had a special clock on top of your television that was counting down the hours and minutes until you were to die? When would you get up, turn off the TV and do all the things that you planned to do, hoped to do or in passing thought about doing?
And what if in addition to your special clock, you had a special bank account where every morning you were credited in your bank account with $86,400 dollars on condition that you had to spend it all or lose it? What would you do? Spend it!! Well, you do have a special bank account called the Bank of Time! Each day you have exactly 86,400 seconds. What you don't invest wisely is written off each night. You can reap dividends, but you can't go into overdraft!
One has to value his time and know that it is limited in order to change. The Sephirat HaOmer period is about valuing time and about changing.
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 sufficient respect for 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 an extra act of kindness; this will help to 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 Friday, May 23rd. 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, May 5th) until Shavuot. 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. Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the great educator and founder of Aish HaTorah, has his flagship series of lectures of the 48 Ways available on cassette, cd or mp3 download. You can even buy them on a specially pre-loaded mp3 player or Ipod! - available by calling (800) 864-2373 or at http://www.ShabbatShalomAudio.com! I think of this series as the "Jewish Dale Carnegie Course" for getting the most out of life! It will be one of the great purchases in your life! For more on Sephirat HaOmer and the 48 Ways go to http://www.aish.com/omer.
For more on "Counting the Omer" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
The Torah reading for this Shabbat is Exodus 13:17-15:26 which tells the story of the Egyptians, having changed their minds about letting the Jewish people go, pursuing us unto the Yam Soof (Red/Reed Sea), the splitting of the sea, the salvation of the Jewish people, the drowning of the Egyptians, the song of rejoicing and thanks to the Almighty. We also read Shir HaShirim, The Song of Songs, the Megillah (scroll) which describes metaphorically the love affair of the Almighty and the Jewish people.
On the last day of Pesach, Sunday, we read Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17 from the Torah portion of Re'eh including the Second Tithe, remission of loans every seven years, directive to open your hand to the poor, laws of a Jewish bondsman and ending with details of the three Pilgrim Festivals - Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot - when all of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel would come to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate. Also, on Sunday is Yizkor, memorial prayers for parents who have passed on.
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The Torah states regarding the splitting of the Yam Soof (the Sea of Reeds which is commonly translated as the Red Sea) that:
"The Children of Israel came within the sea on dry land; and the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left." (Ex. 14:22)
Seven verses later the Torah states "The Children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea; the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left." Why the change in the two reports of what happened? And why in the first report is the Hebrew word for "wall" spelled with the letter Vov and in the second report, it is spelled without the letter Vov? (There is significance and meaning to every word and every letter in the Torah.)
The Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer, comments that there were two groups of people amongst the Jews at the Yam Soof. There were those who trusted implicitly in the Almighty and who jumped into the sea and found themselves on dry land. The other group did not have such a high level of trust in the Almighty - even though they had seen the Ten Plagues afflict the Egyptians and had witnessed the miracles accompanying the Exodus from Egypt; they waited until they saw the dry land and then went on the dry land in the midst of the sea.
Evidence for this interpretation, writes the Vilna Gaon, can be found in the Hebrew spelling of "wall." Though it can be spelled and pronounced properly with or without the Hebrew letter Vov, without the Vov the word can be pronounced either Choma, "wall" or Chaima, "anger." Thus, with the second group which expressed the lower level of trust in G-d, the continuation of the verse hints at the Almighty's anger at them for their lack of trust in Him.
Our lessons: (1) realize that everything in the Torah is exact and intentional, has depth and must be studied for lessons in life and (2) We should strive to develop trust in the Almighty in our daily living.
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 25
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 6:00 - Hong Kong 6:29 - Honolulu 6:36
J'Burg 5:24 - London 7:55 - Los Angeles 7:14
Melbourne 5:23 - Mexico City 7:39 - Miami 7:32
New York 7:28 - Singapore 6:50 - Toronto 7:55
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The difference between UNITED and UNTIED ...
is where you put the "I".
-- heard from Rabbi Paysach Krohn
A Sweet & Healthy Passover
the Cadillac of Seltzers