GOOD MORNING! Tuesday evening, May 18th, begins the two day holiday of Shavuot (or Shavuos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation). (Yizkor is on Thursday, May 20th.) It is the anniversary and celebration of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people 3,322 years ago. It is a time of rededication and commitment to learning Torah. (It'll be worthwhile to go to http://www.aish.com/holidays and click on Shavuos).
Here is a wonderful opportunity for a FREE TORAH! "Partners in Torah" is offering an Artscroll Stone Chumash (Five Books of Moses) for anyone Jewish wishing to study Torah with an individually picked study partner (your own personal Torah trainer!) by phone for one hour a week for a minimum of 4 weeks. It's all free of charge and they even provide calling cards! The first 40 readers of the Shabbat Shalom to contact them will receive a copy of the Artscroll Stone Torah, so respond ASAP! If you have received a free Torah in the past, they would love to have your feedback. To learn more and to sign up, go to: PartnersInTorah.org. Click on "Sign Up" (upper right corner of the webpage). Be sure to put "Shabbat Shalom Free Torah" in the "Additional Notes".
Q & A: WHAT IS SHAVUOT AND
HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
The Torah calls Shavuot the "Festival of Weeks" (Numbers 28:26). The very word "Shavuot" is Hebrew for "weeks"; it refers to the seven weeks that one counts from the second day of Passover (when the Omer [barley] offering is brought) until the holiday of Shavuot. It is one of the three Regalim, holidays, (Pesach and Succot are the other two) where every man in the land of Israel was commanded to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival when the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, stood in Jerusalem.
Torah is the life blood of the Jewish people. Our enemies have always known that when we Jews stop learning Torah, our assimilation is inevitable. Without knowledge there is no commitment. One cannot love what he does not know. A person cannot do or understand what he has never learned.
A Jew is commanded to learn Torah day and night and to teach it to his children. If a Jew wants his family to be Jewish and his children to marry other Jews, then he must integrate a Torah study program into his life and implement the teachings into his home and his being. One can tell his children anything, but only if they see their parents learning and doing mitzvot, will they inherit the love for being Jewish. Remember: a parent only owes his child three things - example, example, example.
How can we utilize this opportunity to grow and strengthen our self-identity as Jews? Just as a baby crawls, then toddles and then walks, likewise with the mitzvot (commandments). A person should undertake one more mitzvah, do it well and then build on it. For some mitzvot that you might enjoy taking on...
A FEW SUGGESTIONS
1. Read the Torah! The Almighty gave it to you as a gift. It is the instruction book for living - how to be happy, choose the right spouse, make your marriage work, raise your children with values, get more joy out of life. I highly recommend the Artscroll Stone Chumash (Five Books of Moses).
2. Attend a Torah class - or if you wish to listen to recorded classes, try 613.org or AishAudio.com to download over 2,000 classes for your mp3 player! Buy a copy of Pirkei Avot, (Ethics of the Fathers), and read one page a day. It contains concentrated wisdom about life.
3. Make sure you have a Kosher mezuzah on at least your front door. (A Jewish home should have mezuzot on all doorposts except for the bathroom). Learn the deep, inner-meaning of mezuzah and reflect on it when you look at the mezuzah. To Be a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Donin nicely explains a lot of things.
4. Pick one non-kosher food item that you won't eat - just because you're Jewish.
5. Say the Shema and the three following paragraphs at least once a day. Learn what the words mean and the ideas included. It will change your outlook and attitudes. Artscroll publishes a book on the Shema - or look at the commentary in the Artscroll Siddur. Lisa Aiken's book, Hidden Beauty of the Shema, is spectacular!
6. Do something to make Shabbat special - light two candles with the blessing before sundown, have a Shabbat Friday night family dinner and make Kiddush and HaMotzi (the prayer before eating the Challahs - the special loaves of bread). You might want to buy Friday Night and Beyond by Lori Palatnik which is a hands-on guide for the novice wanting to enjoy Shabbat.
The Talmud says, "All beginnings are difficult." If you need help or have questions, please feel free to call me at (305) 535-2474 or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For the books or mezuzot, try your local Jewish book store, call toll-free 877-758-3242 or JudaicaEnterprises.com.
On Shavuot there is a custom to stay up all night learning Torah. Virtually every synagogue and yeshiva have scheduled learning throughout the night ending with the praying of Shacharit, the morning service. The reason: the morning the Jewish people were to receive the Torah on Mt. Sinai, they overslept. We now can rectify the tendency to give in to our desires by demonstrating our resolve through learning the whole night. It is a meaningful experience to share with your children. It would be wonderful if you could find a synagogue, JCC or yeshiva with a program that night; at very minimum, how about reading the story of the giving of the Torah to your family (Exodus 19:10 -20:23). For more on Shavuos, go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com !
For more on "Shavuot" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Behar begins with the laws of Shemitah, the Sabbatical year, where the Jewish people are commanded not to 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 do not plant one-seventh of the land each year. To command an agrarian society to completely stop cultivating every 7th year one has to be either God or a meshugenah (crazy).
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.
The second portion for this week, Bechukosai, begins with the multitude of blessings you will receive for keeping the commandments of the Torah. (Truly worth reading!) It also contains 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 or annul His covenant with us. He wants us to know that there are consequences for our every action; He also wants to get our attention so that we do not stray so far away that we assimilate and disappear as a nation. I highly recommend reading Lev. 26:14 - 45 and Deut. 28.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And when you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not cheat one another" (Leviticus 25:14).
The Sforno (to verse 17) comments that the Almighty is God of the buyer and God of the seller and He does not want anyone to cheat a buyer or a seller.
When selling something to another person or when buying from someone, if you keep in mind that the Creator is his God you will be very careful not to deceive him in any manner. If the son of an emperor or of a president of a powerful nation would purchase something from you or sell you something, you would be extremely careful not to cheat him. Either you would have respect for his father and out of that respect you would be honest with him or you would fear retribution if you would deceive him - and his father found out!
This should be our attitude in our monetary dealings with other people. The Almighty is their Heavenly Father and He commands you to be honest with them. Either out of respect for the Almighty or out of fear of Him, you should be meticulously careful not to cheat another person in any way.
CANDLE LIGHTING - May 7
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 6:02 - Hong Kong 6:34 - Honolulu 6:41
J'Burg 5:15 - London 8:15 - Los Angeles 7:23
Melbourne 5:09 - Mexico City 7:43 - Miami 7:36
New York 7:40 - Singapore 6:49 - Toronto 8:08
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Do every act of your life
as if it were your last.
-- Marcus Aurelius
With Deep Appreciation to
Jerry & Georgianna Harrison
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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