Shabbat Shalom Weekly: Bechukotai 5768
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Bechukotai(Leviticus 26:3-27:34)

Bechukotai 5768

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GOOD MORNING! It amazes me how many times when I start to reply to a question, I am interrupted, cut off, shut down. I remain silent and let the other person finish his thoughts. Why should I be as inconsiderate as he is? It is actually quite amusing. Why ask a question if all you want to do is talk? Just talk! Actually, his interruption can save you a lot of effort. You don't have to worry about giving a response!

Recently, I found in my files the following rules for good communications. Even if one can't remember all of the rules, you can print this out on a card -- and hand it to the other person who is violating them!

The 10 Commandments of How to Have a Good Discussion

1. Begin with something positive to create a friendly atmosphere.
2. Appreciate the human being you are talking with. S/he is not the enemy.
3. Respect the other person's desire to do the right thing. When possible, give positive feedback.
4. Desire peace. If the other person makes offensive mistakes, don't retaliate, rather help him/her recover.
5. Be open-minded. If the other person makes a good objection, admit to it (and enjoy your new clarity).
6. Don't interrupt. Treat others as you would like to be treated. In the long term, you will save time.
7. Don't provoke the other person by hitting his/her hot buttons.
8. "Show me, don't shout at me." Keep the discussion intellectual. Don't force your opinion by shouting.
9. Lead by example. Don't expect the other person to keep these rules. Teach them by example.
10. End by summarizing what you have in common with the other person, a good start for next time.

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. Thursday night, May 22nd, 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 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 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.

For more on Lag B'Omer, check out aish.com and aishaudio.com !

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Torah Portion of the Week
Bechukotai

The Torah portion sets forth the blessings that you will see in this world in response to your deeds.

It then continues with the Tochachah, words of admonition, "If you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments..." There are seven series of seven punishments each. Understand that God does not punish for punishment's sake; He wants to get our attention so that we will introspect, recognize our errors and correct our ways. God does not wish to destroy us and will never annul His covenant with us. This is the Almighty's guarantee to the Jewish people: " ... I will not grow so disgusted with them nor so tired of them that I would destroy them and break My covenant with them, since I am the Lord their God." (Deut. 26:44-45) He wants to prevent us from becoming so assimilated that we disappear as a nation. I highly recommend reading Leviticus 26:14 - 45.

Many religions place their basis of faith in far away promises, i.e.. "Have faith in our religion and you will get Heaven." The Talmud teaches, "He who wishes to lie says his witnesses are far away." For example, "I paid back the money I owed you, but my witnesses happen to be visiting Europe" -- or "Have faith in our religion and you will get Heaven."

While Judaism believes in an Afterlife, a World to Come, the Torah makes no promises that are "far away." It makes definitive statements of consequences. This week's portion says, "If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them; then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. Your threshing will last until the vintage, and the vintage will last until the sowing; you will eat your bread to satiety and you will dwell securely in your land. I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you ... I will make you fruitful and increase you..."

The portion ends with instructions regarding gifts to the temple, valuation and redemption of animals, houses, fields ... and lastly, the second tithe and tithing animals. And thus ends the Book of Leviticus!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And I will place peace in the land" (Lev. 26:6).

Why is peace considered such a great blessing?

Rashi, the great commentator, elucidates: "If there is no peace, there is nothing." There are many people who would really feel satisfied with what they themselves already have. However, because they see that others have more, they feel envious of those people. They actually feel pain when they see that someone else has what they do not.

When a person feels sincere love for someone else, he is not envious of that person. It does not bother him if that person has more than him. Therefore, the only way for people to really experience a total blessing with what the Almighty has given them is for there to be true peace amongst people. This is the peace in which people feel love for one another and are happy for their good fortunes.

The only way you will be able to enjoy what you have is to master the attitude of feeling good for the good fortune of others. Envy prevents you from living life to its fullest. The move joy you feel for others, the better your own quality of life.


CANDLE LIGHTING - May 16
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)

Jerusalem 6:53
Guatemala 6:07 - Hong Kong 6:40 - Honolulu 6:47
J'Burg 5:07 - London 8:38 - Los Angeles 7:46
Melbourne 4:57 - Mexico City 7:49 - Miami 7:46
New York 7:56 - Singapore 6:49 - Toronto 8:26



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

You were born an original.
Don't die a copy.
-- Bill Copeland



 
In Honor of
Herman & Miriam Tauber
with deep appreciation for their good hearts



Published: May 17, 2008

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