GOOD MORNING! Did you ever want to meet the President of the United States? Unless you are a foreign dignitary or a very generous contributor, the chances of getting an appointment are small. However, there is one time when it is relatively easier to meet the President - when he is on the campaign trail. Then he seeks out to meet as many people as he can to impact them and communicate his message. In spiritual terms, the upcoming month of Elul is the spiritual equivalent of the campaign trail - it is the time when the Almighty's presence can most easily be felt.
Tuesday, August 10th, and Wednesday, August 11th, are the two days of Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Elul. This is a very special month in the Jewish year as it is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah (which begins Wednesday evening, September 8th). Jewish cosmology teaches us that each season of the year has a special spiritual opportunity for success. For instance, Passover is the time to work on freedom and Sukkot is the time to work on joy. Elul is the time to work on personal growth.
Elul, when spelled in Hebrew letters, is the acronym for the words, "I am to my beloved, my beloved is to me" (ani l'dodi v'dodi li -oftentimes it will be inscribed on the inside of an engagement ring). The month of Elul is a time of heightened spirituality where the Almighty is, as it were, closer and more approachable. It is a time of introspection and preparation for Rosh Hashanah. It is a time to do a spiritual audit and to fix up your life.
To help you prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, I present questions for you to ask yourself and discuss with family and friends. They are an excerpt from a fabulous and indispensable book, The Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit, written by Aish HaTorah alumnus Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf.
If you find the High Holidays boring, can't follow the prayer service and don't understand it; if the services lack meaning and aren't spiritual experiences, then to have a meaningful experience and to have something meaningful to share with your children and family -you might want to get a copy of the Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit ... especially if your kids think a shofar is someone who drives a limousine. Unless you prepare in advance, then you are relying on a miracle to have any kind of positive experience at all. Available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242. Also, see http://www.Aish.com/holidays !
For more on "Rosh Hashana" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
This week is a jam-packed portion. It begins with a choice: "I set before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing: if you obey the commandments of God...; the curse if you do not ... and you follow other gods."
The portion continues with rules and laws for the land of Israel primarily oriented towards staying away from idol worship and the other religions in the land. In verses 13:1-12 you will find the section that caused a missionary's face to blanch and silenced him from continuing to proselytize a renowned rabbi.
One of the indications of the existence and necessity of the Oral Torah - an explanation and clarification (later redacted as the Talmud) of the written Torah (The Five Books of Moses) - comes from verse 12:21 "You will slaughter animals ... according to the manner I (God) have prescribed." Nowhere in the Torah are we instructed in the manner of shechita, ritual slaughter. One might conclude that there was a very sloppy editor. Or - one might conclude that there are additional teachings (the Oral Law/Talmud) clarifying and amplifying the written Word.
The source of the Chosen People concept is brought this week: "You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord. God has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation ... (Deut. 14:1-2)." We are chosen for responsibility, not privilege - to act morally and to be a "light unto the nations."
The portion then gives instructions regarding: permitted and forbidden foods, the Second Tithe, remissions of loans every 7 years, treatment of those in need (to be warm-hearted and open-handed), a Jewish bondsman, the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot).
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"After the Almighty, your God, shall you walk, and Him shall you fear, and His commandments you shall observe and to His voice shall you hearken, and Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave" (Deuteronomy 13:5).
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, notes that the Hebrew word for "after" is "acharei" which denotes a far distance. He asks, "Since this verse tells us to follow the Almighty, why didn't the Torah use a term denoting closeness since we should be as close as possible to the Almighty?
Rabbi Kagan explains that the Torah uses a term denoting distance to tell us that regardless of how far a person feels he is from the Almighty, he should never give up hope. With all of his power he should strive to come closer to the Almighty and he will find Him. Never despair and never allow any faults or transgressions to prevent you from coming closer to the Almighty!
CANDLE LIGHTING - August 6
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 6:11 - Hong Kong 6:44 - Honolulu 6:49
J'Burg 5:24 - London 8:22 - Los Angeles 7:32
Melbourne 5:18 - Mexico City 7:52 - Miami 7:46
New York 7:49 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 8:17
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
There will come a time when you believe
everything is finished.
That will be the beginning.
-- Louis L'Amour
With Deep Appreciation to
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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