GOOD MORNING! There are 613 Commandments in the Torah (not just the 10 Commandments given at Mt. Sinai). The Hebrew word "mitzvah" means "commandment" and not "good deed." Though, in the larger sense, if you are doing the Almighty's will you are definitely doing a good deed!
The Almighty is infinite. Being infinite, He has no needs. There is nothing that you can do for the Almighty; he can't be bribed. In ancient times pagans would bring sacrifices to appease or find favor with their gods. They viewed their gods like they viewed men who require things. So, why did the Almighty command us in the Torah to do the mitzvot?
The Almighty gave us his commandments to help us perfect ourselves, make ourselves more spiritual, to connect with and emulate the Almighty. There are mitzvot that we can readily understand - give charity, don't steal; there are mitzvot that take Torah learning to understand - like the commandment not to wear a mixture of linen and wool. And there are mitzvot that even King Solomon, the wisest of all people, failed to understand - the mitzvah of the Red Heifer. Yet, all of the commandments are there for us to do and to understand to the best of our abilities - and to benefit our souls, our lives and our societies by doing them.
In addition to the commandments of the Torah, the Sages have added other commandments to help us develop our spiritual selves and to keep from transgressing the commandments of the Torah.
Some mitzvot one does once in a life time - like Brit Mila (entering into the Covenant with the Almighty through circumcision); some mitzvot are hopefully done once in a lifetime - like marriage. Others are done several times a day - like saying blessings or praying. There are even mitzvot that we are obligated to fulfill every moment of the day - the Six Constant Mitzvot: (1) Know There is a God, (2) Don't Believe in Any Other God, (3) Know that He is One, (4) Love Him, (5) Fear Him, (6) Don't Follow After Your Desires.
This coming week on April 8th starting shortly after sunrise (and completed anytime before mid-day) is a mitzvah that is performed once every 28 years! Most people, if they are fortunate to have a long life, will be able to fulfill this mitzvah only 3 times in their life. The mitzvah is Birchat HaChama - the blessing on the sun.
The Talmud (Brachot 59b) teaches: "He who sees the sun at its season, the moon at its strength, the stars in their paths, and the constellations in their order, recites 'Blessed is the One Who performs the act of creation.' And when does this happen? Abaye says: Every 28 years, when the cycle returns and the season of Nissan falls in Saturn, on the fourth day of the week."
How is this mitzvah performed? Many communities will have large communal gatherings to pray the Shacharis (morning) service at the earliest possible time. Since one must see the sun in its entirety, the whole ball, the congregation will first pray and then together exit the synagogue to perform this mitzvah.
The order of the Blessing on the Sun service: (1) Psalm 148. (2) The blessing of "Oseh Ma'aseh Breishis" - "Baruch Atah Adonoy Eloheinu Melech ha'olom oseh ma'aseh ve'rayshis" (Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who performs the act of creation). (3) "Kel Adone..." until "Chayot Hakodesh" (part of the first blessing of Shema on Shabbat morning). (4) Psalm 19. 5. Aleynu prayer. 6. Kaddish (only with a minyan).
Why do we get up early to make this blessing recognizing that the Almighty created the world? When the world was created, the sun was created in the first hour of the fourth day of Creation (Genesis 1:16). Every 28 years in the first hour of the fourth day of the week, the sun is in essence in the same position in relationship to the earth as it was at the time of creation.
How do we maximize our benefit from this mitzvah? We focus on the love of the Almighty Who created us and created the whole world for our benefit - and continues His act of creation each and every day keeping all that exists vital and extant. With great wisdom the Almighty created the sun the exact distance from the earth to allow life to exist, to energize our planet, to provide for photosynthesis and the food chain. The complexity that went into the creation of the world is awesome. And that is our focus - the Almighty is awesome in His love for us and is the awesome Creator. (for more information and insights, see Aish.com http://www.aish.com/literacy/mitzvahs/Here_Comes_the_Sun.asp)
For more on "Mitzvos" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's Torah portion includes the laws of: the Burnt Offering, Meal Offering, High Priest's Offering, Sin Offerings, Guilt Offerings and Peace Offerings. It concludes with the portions of the Peace Offerings which are allotted to the Priests and the installation ceremony of the Priest for serving in the Sanctuary.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"Then (the Kohen/the priest) shall take off his garments and put on other garments and carry forth the ashes out of the camp unto a pure place" (Leviticus 6:4).
What lesson to we learn from the ceremonious taking out the ashes from the altar each morning?
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch comments that the taking out of the ashes that remained on the altar from the previous day expresses the thought that with each new day, the Torah mission must be accomplished afresh, as if nothing had yet been accomplished. Every new day calls us to our mission with new devotion and sacrifice. The thought of what has already been accomplished can be the death of that which is still to be accomplished. Woe unto him who with smug self-complacency thinks he can rest on his laurels, on what he has already achieved, and who does not meet the task of every fresh day with full devotion as if it were the first day of his life's work!
"Carry forth the ashes out of the camp." Every trace of yesterday's sacrifice is to be removed from the hearth on the Altar, so that the service of the new day can be started on completely fresh ground. Given these considerations, we can understand the law that prescribes the wearing of worn-out garments when one is occupied with the achievements of the previous day. The past is not to be forgotten. However, it is to be retired to the background, and is not to invest us with pride before the fresh task to which each new day calls us. (Rabbi Hirsch's commentary)
Rabbi Hirsch lived in the 1800's. In today's vernacular, we might say, "Yesterday is a canceled check, tomorrow is a promissory note, today is cash. Spend it wisely!"
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 3
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 5:57 - Hong Kong 6:16 - Honolulu 6:21
J'Burg 5:45 - London 7:18 - Los Angeles 6:57
Melbourne 6:53 - Mexico City 6:33 - Miami 7:20
New York 7:04 - Singapore 6:54 - Toronto 7:28
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Life can only be understood backwards,
but it must be lived forwards.
-- Soren Kierkegaard
With Special Thanks to
Jeff & Minna Heilpern
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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