Categories
Uncategorized

Shema, Hear O Israel the Lord your God is One

Shema Yisrael are the first two words of a section of the Hebrew Bible that is used as a centerpiece of all Jewish prayer services and closely echoes the monotheistic message of Judaism. The message of the Sh’ma is applicable to every Jew at all times, at every conscious moment. Indeed, embodied in the Sh’ma is one of the most profound and mystical concepts known to man: Yichud Hashem — the Oneness of God.

History
Originally, the Shema consisted only of the one verse: Deuteronomy 6:4 (see Talmud Sukkot 42a and Berachot 13b). The recitation of the Shema in the liturgy, however, consists of three portions: Deut. 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers
15:37-41. These three portions relate to central issues in Jewish belief.

Additionally, the Jerusalem Talmud points out that subtle references to the Ten Commandments can be found in the three portions. As the Ten Commandments were removed from daily prayer in the Mishnaic period, the Shema is seen as an opportunity to commemorate the Ten Commandments.

 ” Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.”

The first portion relates to the issue of the kingship of God. The first verse, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord,” has ever been regarded as the confession of belief in the One God.

The following verses contain the commands to love God with heart, soul, and might; to remember all commandments and instruct the children therein; to recite the words of God when retiring or rising; to bind those words “on the arm and the head” (a reference to tefillin), and to inscribe them on the door-posts and on the city gates (a reference to Mezuzah).

The second portion relates to the issue of reward and punishment. It contains the promise of reward for the fulfillment of the laws, and the threat of punishment for their transgression, with a repetition of the contents of the first portion.

The third portion relates to the issue of redemption. Specifically, it contains the law concerning the tzitzit as a reminder that all the laws of God are to be obeyed, as a warning against following the evil inclinations of the heart, and, finally, in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. For the prophets and Rabbis, the exodus from Egypt is paradigmatic of Jewish faith that God will redeem them from all forms of foreign domination.

The commandment to recite the

Shema , twice daily is ascribed by Josephus to Moses (“Antiquities” 6:8), and it has always been regarded as a divine commandment (see, however, Sifre, Deut. 31.)

The reading of the

Shema morning, and evening is spoken of in the Mishnah as a matter of course, and rests upon the interpretation of (“when thou liest down, and when thou risest up”; Deut. 6:7, see Talmud tractate Berachot 2a).

Accompanying benedictions

The Benedictions preceding and following the Shema are traditionally credited to the members of the Great Assembly. They were first instituted in the Temple liturgy.

According to the Talmud, the reading of the Shema morning and evening fulfils the commandment “You shall meditate therein day and night”. As soon as a child begins to speak his father is directed to teach him the verse “Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob” (Deut. 33:4), and teach him to read the “Shema'” (Talmud, Sukkot 42a). The reciting of the first verse of the Shema is called the acceptance of the yoke of the kingship of God” (Mishnah Berachot 2:5). Judah ha-Nasi, being preoccupied with his studies, put his hand over his eyes and repeated the first verse in silence (Talmud Berachot 13a).

The first verse of the Shema is recited aloud, simultaneously by the hazzan and the congregation, which responds with the rabbinically instituted “Baruch Shem” in silence before continuing the rest of Shema. Only on Yom Kippur is this response said aloud. The remainder of the Shema is read in silence. Sephardim recite the whole of the Shema aloud, except the “Baruch Shem”.

Nighttime Shema
Before bedtime, the first paragraph of Shema is recited. This is not a Biblically instituted mitzvah, but is derived from the verse “Commune with your own heart upon your bed” (Psalms 4:4).

Other instances

The Shema was the battle-cry of the priest in calling Israel to arms against an enemy (Deuteronomy 20:3; Talmud Sotah 42a). It is the last word of the dying in his confession of faith. It was on the lips of those who suffered and were tortured for the sake of the Law.
 

Jewish law requires a greater measure of concentration on the first verse of the Shema than on the rest of the prayer. People commonly close their eyes or cover them with the palm of their hand while reciting it to eliminate every distraction and help them concentrate on the meaning of the words. The final word, echad, should be prolonged and emphasized. Often, the last letter of the first and last words of the Shema verse are written in larger print in the siddur. This is because these letters form the word “ed,” witness, and remind Jews of their duty to serve as witnesses to God’s sovereignty by leading exemplary lives.

Rabbi Akiva patiently endured while his flesh was being torn with iron combs, and died reciting the Shema. He pronounced the last word of the sentence, “Echad” (one) with his last breath (Talmud Berachot 61b). The Talmud says that when Jacob was about to reveal the end of days to his children, he was concerned that one of them might be a non-believer. His sons reassured him immediately and cried out, “Shema Yisrael.”

Categories
Uncategorized

Basic Laws of Tefillin – Basic Judaism

The Bible tells us: And you shall bind them as a sign on your arm, and they shall be as frontlets on your head between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:8.) Though of course the details are much more complex than this…. The Torah tells us in four places that we should bind the Tefillin.

The four place this is mentioned is

Deut.6:4-9 Deut. 11:13-21 Exodus 13:1-10 and Exodus 13:11-16

Each of these places is a separate chapter in the Torah

Basic Tefillin laws:
Consult a reliable Rabbi

1. If for some reason you have only one half of the set, whether it be only the one for the head, or only the one for the arm, put that one on and recite only the blessing for that one. 2 . When putting on tefillin it is very important to have a clean body. In addition to general cleanliness, one must be especially careful to be clean after going to the bathroom.

3 . Someone who has no control over what comes out of his body is forbidden to wear tefillin. Anyone in that situation should discuss it with his Rabbi to find out when and how he may

wear tefillin. 4. One should go to the bathroom before putting on the tefillin, or at least be absolutely sure he will not have to go while wearing the tefillin. If while wearing tefillin you feel the need to go, you must remove the tefillin and go. 5. If you feel the need to pass gas while wearing tefillin, you must first remove your tefillin. 6 . Never take tefillin or any holy item into a bathroom. While wearing tefillin, one should only think about clean things.. As well as speaking out loud. 7. We may not wear tefillin at night. 8 . We do not put on tefillin on the Sabbath. 9 . While putting on Tefillin, one may not talk from the first blessing through the Statement. [Until Step C, see below]

10 . One who is a righty

binds the Tefillin on his left arm; one who is a lefty binds the Tefillin on his right arm. (Same style just opposite sides.) 11. Tefillin should be put on your weaker hand. If you are right-handed, use your right hand to put your tefillin on your left hand. If you are left-handed, use your left hand to put tefillin on your right hand. If you are ambidextrous, ask your Rabbi, because each case is different. If you are unable to contact a Rabbi for some reason, assume in the interim that the hand with which you write is your stronger hand (for this purpose, at least). Always treat your tefillin with the greatest of respect and reverence. Do not remove them from the bag by shaking them out of the bag, for example. Always take them out carefully, and put them back carefully. To show our love for one of the greatest deeds, we use our stronger hand to put the tefillin onto our weaker hand. We also use our stronger hand to put the tefillin on our head. When taking off the tefillin, we use our weaker hand, to show our reluctance to take off the Mitzvah.

Tefillin are made of leather. That means that you must keep them safe from things that hurt leather, like moisture and extreme temperatures.

Categories
Uncategorized

Kabbalah – Define

Kabbalah

(קבלה “Reception”, Standard Hebrew Qabbala, Tiberian Hebrew Qabbālāh; also written variously as Cabala, Cabalah, Cabbala, Cabbalah, Kabala, Kabalah, Kabbala, Qabala, Qabalah) is a religious philosophical system claiming an insight into divine nature.

“Kabbalah” is a doctrine of esoteric knowledge concerning God and the universe, asserted to have come down as a revelation to the Sages from a remote past, and preserved only by a privileged few. Kabbalah is considered part of the Jewish Oral Law. It is the traditional mystical understanding of the Torah. Kabbalah stresses the reasons and understanding of the commandments, and the cause of events described in the Torah. Kabbalah includes the understanding of the spiritual spheres in creation, and the rules and ways by which God administers the existence of the universe.

Origin of Jewish mysticism

Early forms of Jewish mysticism at first consisted only of empirical lore. Much later, under the influence of Neoplatonic and Neopythagorean philosophy, it assumed a speculative character. In the medieval era it greatly developed with the appearance of the mystical text, the Sefer Yetzirah. Jewish sources attribute the book to Abraham. It became the object of the systematic study of the elect, called “baale ha-kabbalah” (בעלי הקבלה “possessors or masters of the Kabbalah”). From the thirteenth century onward Kabbalah branched out into an extensive literature, alongside of and often in opposition to the Talmud.

Most forms of Kabbalah teach that every letter, word, number, and accent of scripture contains a hidden sense; and it teaches the methods of interpretation for ascertaining these occult meanings.

Some historians of religion hold that we should limit the use of the term Kabbalah only to the mystical religious systems which appeared after the twelfth century; they use other terms to refer to esoteric Jewish mystical systems before the 12th century. Other historians of religion view this distinction as arbitrary. In this view, post 12th-century Kabbalah is seen as the next phase in a continuous line of development from the same mystical roots and elements. As such, these scholars feel that it is appropriate to use the term “Kabbalah” to refer to Jewish mysticism as early as the first century of the common era. Orthodox Jews typically disagree with both schools of thought, as they reject the idea that Kabbalah underwent significant historical development and change.

Since the late 19th century, with the emergence of the “Jewish Studies” approach, the Kabbalah has also been studied as a highly rational system of understanding the world, rather than a mystical one. A pioneer of this approach was Lazar Gulkowitsch.

Some groups have claimed authorship of the Kabbalah. For instance, Nasorean Essenes claim that Qabalta is the original Kaballah.

One of the first books on Kabbalah is the Sefer Yetzirah, Book of Creation. The first commentaries on this small book were written in the 10th century, and the text itself is quoted as early as the sixth century. Its historical origins are unclear. It exists today in a number of recensions, up to 2500 words long. Like many Jewish mystical texts, it was written in such a way as to be meaningless to those who read it without an extensive background in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Midrash.

Categories
Uncategorized

Chai – Basic Judaism

Judaism as a religion is very focused on life.  The word chai has great significance, and the typical Jewish toast is l’chayim (to life).

Chai comes from the letter Chet [ה] and Yod [י].  Combining the two letters forms the Hebrew word Chai – הי.  This symbol, commonly seen on necklaces and other jewelry and ornaments.   The meaning of the Hebrew word Chai is “living”. Some say it refers to the Living God.  Hebrew reads right to left, while English reads left to right.

The numeric value of Chai is 18 and monetary gifts are generally given in multiples of 18.

The name of the internet site called MileChai is formed from the English word Mile and the Hebrew letter Chai.  Making a play on the phrase “Mile High” City of Denver. [Mile Chai ® – pronounced   as in Mile High – silent C – long I]

Shalom from the MileChai City of Denver … wishing you a long and happy life….

Aharon and Chavah
Am Yisrael Chai – עם ישראל חי

Enter MileChai Jewish and Judiaca

About MileChai

MileChai is a Register Trade Mark of Aharon’s Jewish Books and Judaica 560 South Holly Suite 14 Denver, Colorado 80246

303-322-7345 – 800-830-8660

Denver is a mile high. There’s a spot on the steps of the State Capitol building that is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Cantonists The Jewish Children’s Army of The Tsar by Larry Domnitch

A Cantonist Prayer On Yom Kippur
by Larry Domnitch

The concluding Neilah prayer on Yom Kippur, represents the final chance through fervent and impassioned prayer to appeal to the mercy of the Almighty. One short prayer at one particular moment on one Yom Kippur at Neilah encapsulated a tragic era in Jewish History, and moved an entire congregation to tears. Abraham Lewin, the author of a book in Yiddish entitled, Kantonisten, (Cantonists) related an incident on Yom Kippur involving a Cantonist in a synagogue in an unnamed Russian city.

The Cantonists were child-recruits in the Russian military. The Russian Tzar, Peter the Great, devised the system in which young men were drafted to serve in the military for prolonged terms. Tzar Nicholas Pavolovich (1827-1855) used this system as a vehicle to force Jewish children to accept Baptism. The children were literally stolen from their homes in the shtetles and forced to serve long extended terms as trainees and then as soldiers when they reached the age of eighteen. They faced severe pressure by all means including torture to accept baptism. Prior Russian Tzars may have repeatedly failed to induce the Jews of the Pale Settlement to abandon their faith, but Nicholas was determined to enforce his will upon the children.

The fact that this particular Cantonist entered a shul on Yom Kippur indicates that he most probably had never succumbed to the enormous pressure to accept Baptism. Had he undergone Baptism, he would have been officially listed as a Christian and prohibited from ever entering a synagogue during the reign of Nicholas.

Levin relates that the congregation appointed the Cantonist to lead the Neilah (concluding) prayers — the most hallowed moment of the year. This was a great honor, especially for a guest. The gesture clearly demonstrated one of great admiration for the man who tenaciously held on to his faith at all costs.

The soldier of Tzar Nicholas made his way to the front of the shul. Having forgotten almost all the religious training he had received as a child including the ability to read Hebrew, he could not recite, nor lead the Neilah prayers. However, before the congregation, he expressed a powerful prayer from the heart, which shook the entire congregation. He proclaimed, “Father in Heaven, what shall I pray for? I can not pray for children for I never got married and have no hope to raise a family, I am too old to start anew. I can’t pray for life, for what value is such a life? It would be better for me if I died. I can not pray to be able to make a living since Nicholas provides for my daily food. The only thing I can pray for is, “Yisgadal VeYoiskadash Shmei Rabah” meaning “May your name be blessed forever” (from the Kaddish).

When hearing these words, the entire congregation wept. They wept over the plight of the poor individual and his difficult life of travail. They also wept for the tens of thousands of other Cantonists who were forced to endure the same hardships, as well as their families, and communities who were forced to endure the losses of so many of their sons and brothers. Many Cantonists had died from the rigors, or had accepted Baptism, others were simply lost in Siberia hundreds of miles away from their homes. All Jewish communities of Russia were faced with the Tzars’ quotas of providing recruits.

The Tzar issued the orders, the leaders of each town’s Kahal (Jewish communal organization) which for the most part perceived non-compliance as not an option, provided the recruits, and the Chappers (kidnappers) did the dirty work of the Kahal for a fee. Many Kahal leaders could not simply argue that they had no choice. It was the poor, who were the recruits, and many Kahal officials profited from payments from the wealthy for their sons’ exemptions. How demoralizing and traumatizing that era was for the Jews of Russia! That too was no doubt part of Nicholas’ strategy. All Jews who lived under the Tzar’s rule were no doubt effected by the horrors of this era.

On Yom Kippur, at the moment of Neilah, a congregation was confronted with the horrors of that era by the heartfelt words of a true hero. A hero who was one of thousands who stood against Nicholas and displayed a type of heroism unusual for adults, let alone children. In his own words, he added untold significance to that moment of Neilah. He reminded the congregation of the sinners, and the many heroes of that era. On that Yom Kippur day, the moment of Neilah was truly one of reckoning and regret for all those present.

also see: An Unforgettable Passover by Larry Domnitch

Categories
Uncategorized

Bnai Noach – The 7 Laws of Noah – Children Noah

Judaism –> Bnai Noach – Children of Noah

Bnai Noach
The righteous of all nations and peoples have a share in the World To Come.

According to Judaism, the Noahide laws apply to all humanity through their descent from Noah after The Flood. In Judaism, B’nai Noach (Hebrew, “Descendants of Noah”, “The Children of Noah”), and Noahide, are non-Jews who live in accord with the seven Noahide Laws (below). A non-Jewish person of any ethnic/religion is referred to as a bat (daughter) / ben (son) of Noah. Any organization of B’nai Noach is composed of gentiles who follow these rules. All denominations of Judaism hold that gentiles (non-Jews) are not obligated to follow halakha (Jewish law and custom); only Jews are obligated to do so. Judaism has no tradition of active conversion, and modern-day Judaism discourages proselytization. Rather, for non-Jews, the Noahide Laws are considered the way to have a meaningful relationship with God.

Maimonides states in his work Mishneh Torah (The laws of kings and their ruler ship 8:11) that a non-Jew who is precise in the observance of these Seven Noahide commandments is considered to be a Righteous Gentile and has earned the afterlife. This follows a similar statement in the Talmud (tractate Sanhedrin 105b). However, according to Maimonides, a share in the World to Come is only earned if a person follows the Noahide laws specifically because they consider them to be of divine origin (through the Torah) and not if they simply consider them a good way to live (in which case they would simply be a wise person). Other authorities do not make this distinction.

The seven laws

The seven laws are first mentioned in Tosefta Sanhedrin 9:4 and Talmud Sanhedrin 56a/b:

  • Do not murder.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not worship false gods.
  • Do not be sexually immoral (forbidden sexual acts are traditionally interpreted to include incest, sodomy, male homosexual sex acts and adultery)
  • Do not eat anything of the body of an unslaughtered animal (This is a humanitarian command; in many regions the practice was to cut meat from animals still alive, despite the suffering caused. See Kosher).
  • Do not blaspheme.
  • Set up righteous and honest courts and apply fair justice in judging offenders.
    The Talmud says: “Righteous people of all nations have a share in the world to come” (Sanhedrin 105a). Any person who lives according to these laws is known as “the righteous among the gentiles”. Maimonides states that this refers to those who have acquired knowledge of God and act in accordance with the Noahide laws.

Various rabbinic sources have different positions on the way the seven laws are to be subdivided in categories. Maimonides (Melakhim 10:6) lists one additional Noahide commandment forbidding the coupling of different kinds of animals and the mixing of trees. Radbaz expressed surprise that he left out castration and sorcery which were listed in Baraita (Sanhedrin 56B). The tenth century R. Saadia Gaon added tithes and levirate marriage. The eleventh century R. Nissim Gaon included listening to God’s Voice, knowing God and serving God besides going on to say that all religious acts which can be understood through human reasoning are obligatory upon Jew and Gentile alike. The fourteenth century R. Nissim ben Reuben Gerondi added the commandment of charity.

The sixteenth century Asarah Maamarot of R. Menahem Azariah of Fano enumerates thirty commandments, listing the latter twenty-three as extensions of the original seven. Another commentator (Kol Hiddnshei Maharitz Chayess I, end Ch. 10) suggests these are not related to the first seven, nor based on Scripture, but were passed down by tradition. The number thirty derives from the statement of Ulla in Hullin 92A though this third century C.E. Talmudic sage lists only three other rules in addition to the original seven, consisting of the prohibitions against homosexuality and cannibalism, as well as the imperative to honor the Torah. Rashi then remarks that he does not know the other Commandments referred to. Though the authorities seem to take it for granted that Ulla’s thirty Commandments included the original seven, an additional thirty laws is also possible from the reading.

The tenth century R. Samuel ben Hophni Gaon’s list of thirty Noahide Commandments is based on Ulla’s Talmudic statement though the text is problematic. He includes the prohibitions against suicide and false oaths, as well as the imperatives related to prayer, sacrifices and honoring one’s parents. The commandments, according to Rav Shmuel ben Hophni Gaon (early Middle Ages), cover:

  • Idolatry
    • No idolatry
    • To pray
    • To offer ritual sacrifices only to God
  • Blasphemy
    • To believe in the singularity of God
    • No blasphemy
    • No witchcraft
    • No soothsayers
    • No conjurers
    • No sorcerers
    • No mediums
    • No demonology
    • No wizardry
    • No necromancy
    • To respect father & mother
  • Murder
    • No murder
    • No suicide
    • No Molech worship (infant sacrifice)
  • Property
  • Sexual Immorality
    • No adultery
    • Formal marriages via bride price & marriage gifts
    • No incest with a sister
    • No homosexuality
    • No bestiality
    • Not to crossbreed animals
    • No castration
  • Food Laws
    • Not to eat a limb of a living creature
    • Not to eat or drink blood
    • Not to eat carrion (for those recognized by a Beth Din)
  • Justice
    • To establish courts and a system of justice
    • No false oaths

The contemporary Rabbi Dr. Aaron Lichtenstein counts 66 instructions but Rabbi Harvey Falk has suggested that much work remains to be done in order to properly identify all of the Noahide Commandments, their divisions and subdivisions.

Theft, robbery, and stealing covers the appropriate understanding of other persons, their property, and their rights. The establishment of courts of justice promotes the value of the responsibility of a corporate society of people to enforce these laws, and define these terms. The refusal to engage in unnecessary lust or cruelty demonstrates respect for the Creation itself, as renewed after the Flood. To not do murder would include human sacrifice as being forbidden.

Categories
Uncategorized
The Brit Milah (Hebrew), also Bris (Yiddish) is a ceremony traditionally practiced in Judaism which welcomes baby boys into the covenant. This is a ritual circumcision performed in the presence of family and friends in a ceremonial manner, followed by a celebratory meal. Baby girls were traditionally welcomed with a smaller and more private naming ceremony.

The purpose of the Brit Milah

Jews believe that the commandment to circumcise one’s male children was to formalize a covenant between Jews and God. Most Jews claim that circumcision is religiously necessary because of its biblical prescription. According to the Bible, circumcision was enjoined upon the biblical patriarch Abraham and his descendants as “a token of the covenant” concluded with him by God for all generations. The penalty of non-observance was karet, excision from the people (Gen. 17:10-14, 21:4; Lev. 12:3).

Non-Israelites had to undergo circumcision before they could be allowed to partake of the feast of Passover (Ex. 12:48), or marry into a Jewish family (Gen. 34:14-16).

also see: Mohel

According to the Bible, it was “a reproach” for an Israelite to be uncircumcised (Josh. 5:9.) The name arelim (uncircumcised) became an opprobrious term, denoting the Philistines and other non-Israelites (I Sam. 14:6, 31:4; II Sam. i. 20) and used synonymously with tame (unclean) for heathen (Isa. 52:1). The word ‘arel’ (uncircumcised) is also employed for “unclean” (Lev. xxvi. 41, “their uncircumcised hearts”; compare Jer. ix. 25; Ezek. xliv. 7, 9); it is even applied to the first three years’ fruit of a tree, which is forbidden (Lev. xix. 23).

However, the Israelites born in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt reportedly did not practice circumcision. As recorded in Josh. 5:2-9, “all the people that came out” of Egypt were circumcised, but those “born in the wilderness” were not. Therefore Joshua, before the celebration of the Passover, had them circumcised at Gilgal.

Deut. x. 16 (compare ib. xxx. 6 and Jer. iv. 4) says, “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart,” thus giving the rite a spiritual meaning; circumcision as a physical act being enjoined nowhere in the whole book. Jer. ix. 25, 26 says that circumcised and uncircumcised will be punished alike by the Lord; for “all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”

Evolution of Brit Milah

The original form of circumcision practiced by Jews was more minimal than the form performed today. This rite, milah, initially consisted of cutting off only the tip of the foreskin, the floppy part that extends past the glans in the normal male infant. Two thousand years ago, Jewish hellenists, wanting to assimilate into Greek society, obliterated the sign of their “tip” circumcisions. Most of their foreskins were still intact, so they found ways to lengthen them, to make it look as if they had not been circumcised at all. This practice was unacceptable to the Jewish community at large; the community responded by changing the circumcision rite to remove all of the foreskin. Babies circumcised in this manner could not later hide the fact that they were Jewish.

Control of Sexuality

Some evidence suggests that control of sexuality was one reason for and perhaps the original motivation behind circumcision. The 1st century Jewish philosopher Philo stated that circumcision “represents the excision of the pleasure of sex, which bewitches the mind”. The 12th century Jewish scholar Maimonides once argued that the purpose of the Brit milah was to reduce sexual behavior and to weaken the sexual bond between man and woman:

Similarly with regard to circumcision, one of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible. (…) In fact this commandment has not been prescribed with a view to perfecting what is defective congenitally, but to perfecting what is defective morally. The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened. The Sages, may their memory be blessed, have explicitly stated: It is hard for a woman with whom an uncircumcised man has had sexual intercourse to separate from him. In my opinion this is the strongest of the reasons for circumcision. [1]

Similar reasoning can be found in some modern writings, including the Encyclopedia Judaica, which states that circumcision “sanctified the human body and aided in its fight against erotic indulgence”.

New ceremonies for welcoming baby girls

In recent years many Jews have developed a parallel ceremony for girls which is now known as the Simchat Bat (Celebration for the daughter) or Brit Bat (loosely, welcoming the new daughter into the covenant.) While still evolving, this ceremony has gained acceptance in Jewish communities of all denominations. Different forms of this ceremony exist in Modern Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism. This newer ceremony is rejected by Ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

The celebration typically consists of a communal welcoming, a naming done over a cup of wine with the quotation of appropriate biblical verses, and traditional blessings. Jews do not perform female circumcision, but the ritual that takes place is considered to have an equivalent meaning. “Moreh Derekh”, the Rabbi’s manual of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, presents a ceremony based on traditional Jewish forms, with a number of options that parents may choose to perform: (A) Lighting seven candles (symbolizing the seven days of creation) and holding the baby towards them, (B) Wrapping the baby in the four corners of a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl), or (C) Lifting the baby and touching her hands to a Torah scroll.

Categories
Uncategorized

Chassidus – Torah Teachings

Selection from Torah Teachings

Ha·sid or Has·sid also Chas·sid (KHä’sĭd, KHô’-, hä’-)
n., pl. Ha·si·dim or Has·si·dim also Chas·si·dim (KHä-sē’dĭm, KHô-, hä-).

A member of a Jewish mystic movement founded in the 18th century in eastern Europe by Baal Shem Tov that reacted against Talmudic learning and maintained that God’s presence was in all of one’s surroundings and that one should serve God in one’s every deed and word.

Sefer Bereishis (Book of Genesis)

Parshas Bereishis
Parshas Noach
Parshas Lech Lecha
Parshas Vayeira
Parshas Chaya Sarah
Parshas Toldos
Parshas Vayeitzei
Parshas Vayishlach
Parshas Vayeishev
Parshas Meketz
Parshas Vayigash
Parshas Vayechi

Sefer Shemos (Book of Exodus)

Parshas Shemos
Parshas Ve’era
Parshas Bo
Parshas Beshalach
Parshas Yisro
Parshas Mishpatim
Parshas Terumah
Parshas T’Tzavei
Parshas Ki Sisa
Parshas Vayachal Pekudei – Parshas Porah
Parshas Vayachal

Sefer Vayikra (Book of Leviticus)

Parshas Vayikra
Parshas Tzav
Parshas Shemini
Parshas Tezriah Parshas Metzora

Parshas Acherei Mos

Parshas Kedoshim
Parshas Emor
Parshas Behar
Parshas Bechukosai

Sefer Bamidbar (Book of Numbers)

Parshas Bamidbar
Parshas Nasso
Parshas BeHaAloscha
Parshas Shlach
Parshas Korach
Parshas Chukas
Parshas Balak
Parshas Pinchas Parshas Mattos

Parshas Masei

Sefer Devorim (Book of Deuteronomy)

Parshas Devorim
Parshas V’eschanan
Parshas Ekev
Parshas Reah
Parshas Shoftim
Parshas Ki Seitzei
Parshas Ki Savo
Parshas Nitzavim
Parshas Vayeilech
Parshas H’Azinu
Parshas Vezos Haberachah

Categories
Uncategorized

Star of David – Basic Judaism

The Star of David (Magen David or Mogen David in Hebrew, Shield of David, Solomon’s Seal, or Seal of Solomon) is a generally recognized symbol of Judaism and Jewish identity. It is also known as the Jewish Star. With the establishment of the State of Israel the Jewish Star on the Flag of Israel has also become a symbol of Israel.

Origin

The shield of David is not mentioned in rabbinic literature. Notably, not a single archeological proof exists as yet concerning the use of this symbol in the Holy Land in ancient times, even after King David. A David’s shield has recently been noted on a Jewish tombstone at Tarentum, in southern Italy, which may date as early as the third century of the common era. The earliest Jewish literary source which mentions it, the Eshkol ha-Kofer of the Karaite Judah Hadassi (middle of the 12th cent.), says, in ch. 242: “Seven names of angels precede the mezuzah: Michael, Gabriel, etc…. Tetragrammaton protect thee! And likewise the sign called ‘David’s shield’ is placed beside the name of each angel.” It was, therefore, at this time a sign on amulets.

Jewish Jewelry

Star of David

In magic papyri of antiquity, pentagrams, together with stars and other signs, are frequently found on amulets bearing the Jewish names of God, and used to guard against fever and other diseases. Curiously enough, only the pentacle appears, not the hexagram. In the great magic papyrus at Paris and London there are twenty-two signs side by side, and a circle with twelve signs, but neither a pentacle nor a hexagram. The syncretism of Hellenistic, Jewish, and Coptic influences probably did not, therefore, originate the symbol. It is possible that it was the Kabbalah that derived the symbol from the Templars. Kabbalah makes use of this sign, arranging the Ten Sephiroth, or spheres, in it, and placing it on amulets.

A manuscript Tanakh dated 1307 and belonging to Rabbi Yosef bar Yehuda ben Marvas from Toledo, Spain, was decorated with a Shield of David. In the synagogues, perhaps, it took the place of the mezuzah, and the name “shield of David” may have been given it in virtue of its presumed protective powers. The hexagram may have been employed originally also as an architectural ornament on synagogues, as it is, for example, on the cathedrals of Brandenburg and Stendal, and on the Marktkirche at Hanover. A pentacle in this form is found on the ancient synagogue at Tell Hum.

In 1354, King of Bohemia Charles IV prescribed for the Jews of Prague a red flag with both David’s shield and Solomon’s seal, while the red flag with which the Jews met King Matthias of Hungary in the 15th century showed two pentacles with two golden stars (Schwandtner, Scriptores Rerum Hungaricarum, ii. 148). The pentacle, therefore, may also have been used among the Jews. It occurs in a manuscript as early as the year 1073 (facsimile in M. Friedmann, Seder Eliyahu Rabbah ve-Seder Eliyahu Ztka, Vienna, 1901).

In 1460, the Jews of Ofen (Budapest, Hungary) received King Mathios Kuruvenus with a red flag on which were two Shields of David and two stars. In the first Hebrew prayer book, printed in Prague in 1512, a large Shield of David appears on the cover. In the colophon is written: “Each man beneath his flag according to the house of their fathers… and he will merit to bestow a bountiful gift on anyone who grasps the Shield of David.” In 1592, Mordechai Maizel was allowed to affix “a flag of King David, similar to that located on the Main Synagogue” to his synagogue in Prague. In 1648, the Jews of Prague were again allowed a flag, in acknowledgment of their part in defending the city against the Swedes. On a red background was a yellow Shield of David, in the centre of which was a Swedish star.

Categories
Uncategorized

Eishes Chayil – Woman of Valor – Judaism

This may be a reason why Hashem seems to withhold from some people their finding of the “right one” for a long time. They should contemplate the need for a spouse and sincerely request Hashem’s assistance in their quest.

As Mishlei sums up this matter in an earlier chapter (18:22): “He who finds a wife finds good, and he obtains favor from Hashem!”

Her Value Is Far Greater than Pearls

The connection to the first part of the verse is now obvious. After a search, one realizes that a wife is far more valuable than all of the possible wealth in the world.

People tend to misjudge the value of the marriage relationship. A person may feel if he had made enough money, he could buy most of the services that he would need and manage without marriage. But Hashem knows better. “It is not good for man to be alone!” A wife is the “good” helpmate that is that is the greatest find he will ever discover. Let him make the best of it and utilize the opportunity fully by appreciating Hashem’s gift to him in fulfillment of the verse: ‘Rejoice with the wife of your youth” (Mishlei 5:18). If you have the right attitude and you work on understanding and appreciating Hashem’s ways, you will have cause to rejoice endlessly. However, one who rejects a pious and wise woman fails the test and loses the greatest wealth.

Practical Applications

First, this verse obligates us to continuously pray to Hashem for assistance in “finding.” Tehillim (32:6) teaches: ‘Let every pious person pray to You at a time of finding.” The Gemara (Berachos 8a) explains: “At the time of finding a wife.” Thus, we must pray first to find the right partner and then continue to pray all of our lives that we should appreciate the fantastic find that Hashem has provided for us.
Second, Berachos (8a) teaches that the Sages would ask everyone, soon after they were married, whether they had “found” a wife or whether they were “finding” a wife. This is explained as referring to either of these verses:

“One who found a wife has found goodness” (Mishlei 18:22)
“I find more bitter than death a woman” (Koheles 7:26)

This is puzzling. What is the purpose of the question? The Vilna Gaon explains that the difference lies in the tense of the word “found” or “finding.” The verse in Mishlei is worded in the past tense, whereas the verse in Koheles is worded in the present tense. This teaches us that our happiness is in our hands! If we decide to appreciate the great find that Hashem has bestowed on us, we are fortunate. However, one who is still seeking will find trouble. We must open our eyes and rejoice!

He Trusts

Her husband trusts her wholeheartedly, and (as a result) he does not lack any treasure. (31:11)

The word for trust (bitachon) is usually used in connection with trusting in Hashem. Thus, we may wonder why this verse considers it appropriate for a husband to put his trust in his wife?
This issue becomes even more surprising when we study the initial instruction Hashem gives man in regard to his relationship with his wife: “Therefore a man should forsake his father and his mother, and should cling (davak) to his wife, and they should become [as] one flesh” (Bereshis 2:24). The word “cling” is the same as that used in reference to “cling” to Hashem (Devarim 10:20). A man is instructed to form a bond with his wife to the degree that they become as inseparable as if they were one person.

Thus, man’s reliance on his wife is a directive (mitzvah) of the Torah, which teaches them to form a union. Together, as one unit, they trust solely in Hashem Who created them both and made them for each other.

Whole Heartedly

The emphasis that he trusts her with his heart indicates that it is not mere logical trust, but one that is deeply rooted in his emotions as well.

The Torah’s emphasis “They shall be as one flesh” and the Gemara’s expression “His wife is as his body” (Berachos 24a) indicate that a husband should consider his wife as actually apart of himself. Thus, his feelings towards her supersede, in a certain sense, even his relationship with his parents.
Why does the Torah describe marriage as “forsaking one’s parents” (Bereishis 2:24), when the Torah itself teaches as one of the Ten Commandments the obligation to always honor one’s parents? The answer is that your spouse is like you, and your care for yourself in a fulfillment of honoring your parents, who desire your completion and achievements in perfecting yourself.

No Lack of Treasure

Hashem’s gift of a mate is designed to provide countless benefits. We are expected to consider the many benefits and to be as appreciative and excited as one who finds infinite treasure!
The word shalal (treasure) usually refers to spoils that are gained by a victor in battle or an unexpected gain. She fulfills his expectations and then much more than he was able to imagine.

Good and Not Bad

She provides him with good and not bad, all the days of her life. (31:12)

How do we imagine a person so virtuous as to never cause someone harm? Is she an angel?
This refers us to the unique capacity inherent in a wife. The Torah reveals Hashem’s miracle of a woman serving as a “helpmate opposite him” (eizer k’negdo)(Bereishis 2:18). Only the Great Designer could fashion a help that serves also as an opposite. A man and his wife perfect each other through their differences. They were not made alike: “Women are a people to themselves” (Shabbos 62a). Each has his/her own ways and attributes, and each is intended by Hashem to serve as a test to the other. Each complements the other, so that each one can harmonize and develop his/her potential to the fullest in the service of Hashem. Thus, even a contentious wife is a precious gift from Heaven, meant as a test in the service of Hashem (as the Gemara illustrates in Yevamos 63).

When we understand the benefits intended by Hashem even from the seeming bad that occurs in this world, we realize that it is not bad at all. A challenge is good, for it helps elevate and perfect a person when he approaches life with the attitudes taught by the Torah.

In Summary

The first three verses are a general introduction to the subject.

A wife is:

1. the greatest treasure one can find, 2. reliable and trustworthy,

3. all good.

We continue now by itemizing some of her specific attributes in detail.

She seeks [to buy] Wool and Linen

She seeks [to buy] wool and linen, and she manufactures [does] them with willing hands. (31:13)

The word used here for seek (doreish) is generally used for seeking Hashem. We understand that a virtuous woman’s efforts, even in her daily tasks, are performed with the pure intentions of doing Hashem’s will. She is always serving Hashem by building a loyal home of service for Hashem. Thus, working with wool and linen is not an interruption from the service of Hashem, but rather an intrinsic part of the service. It is a form of seeking Hashem because it is done for His sake.

The phrase “and she does” (va’ta;as) is reminiscent of the expression “to do” (la’asos) in Bereishis (2:3), where Hashem ceased from the work He had created “to do.” The addition of “to do” includes the lesson that Hashem prepared the world for man to take over and do. He is responsible to develop the world and use it for the service of Hashem.

She Seeks Out Wool and Linen

This reference includes her concern to fulfill the prohibition against using materials that are combined of wool and linen – shatnes (VaYikra 19:19, Devarim 22:11). A person looking for a suitable garment will check the fabric, style, size, and many other considerations. But the Torah instructs us to consider the separation of wool and linen as a primary consideration. A Jew places this issue at the top of his list.

With Willing Hands

This Torah attitude is taught in the Talmud (Nedarim 19b): “How great is work!” The Mishnah (Avos, ch. 1) also inspires us to “love work!”

Practical Applications

We may ask why we begin with her efforts for clothing before that of food? There is an underlying explanation for the prohibition of shatnes (mixed wool and linen) that teaches a perspective for everything else that we do in life. Pirkei D’ Rebbe Eliezer (ch. 20) teaches that the offering of Cain contained flax (Bereishis 4:3), whereas the offering from Abel was from sheep, which included their wool. Cain’s offering was not accepted by Hashem, and he subsequently became the first to shed human blood. Thus, the prohibition against wearing shatnes includes the symbolic lesson that the offerings of Cain and Abel must not even mingle in the weave of a garment. In order to succeed in life, we must keep in mind the principle that one should not mingle with those of lesser virtue.

The way we dress and clothing we wear remind us of the need to stay apart, so that even when we go out to earn our daily bread, we follow the Torah’s guidance for all of our endeavors.

As a Merchant’s Ship

She was a merchant’s ship, bringing her bread even from a distance. (31:14)

What is the meaning of this metaphor? A ship may need to travel from place to place, even to great distances, to accumulate its load. It may also need to search for appropriate sources in order to secure adequate profits. The virtuous wife is also committed to her tasks in a determined way, to do whatever is required of her and more.

Bringing Her Bread

The process of obtaining bread is demanding: “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread” (Bereishis 3:19). One of the reasons for this requirement is that it helps protect one from sin (Avos 2:2). Thus, it is an ideal that she is actively involved in positive causes to avoid “idleness which leads to immorality” (Kesubos 39b). Toiling for a livelihood is referred to as the yoke of derech eretz (worldly responsibilities) (Avos 3:5), which also means decent behavior.

While It Was Still Night

And she arose while it was still night, to give food to her household and a portion to her servants.
(31:15)

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) relates this verse to “And Avraham arose early in the morning” (Bereishis 22:3). The righteous are energetic to rise as soon as possible to serve Hashem with alacrity. She rose at an early hour to supervise her household personally in accordance with the principle of “The energetic hasten early to do mitzvos” (Pesachim), and “It is more of a mitzvah to do it personally rather than through an agent” (Kiddushin 41a).

And She Gave Food

The words for food here, teref and chok, are a reference to Mishlei 30:8 where Shlomo HaMelech prays to Hashem for his basic needs. He pleads that Hashem should not make him too poor or too rich. He then concludes with the phrase hatrifeini lechem chuki0 provide me with the proper amount for my daily needs. A righteous woman stays in control of the situation to distribute her food supplies in a rational manner.
In addition, the word teref implies procured in a sudden manner (see Bereishis 8:11 and Yoma 39a, the first word of the Mishnah.) This indicates that one should always acknowledge that his food is a direct gift from Hashem, as if it had just appeared on your table through Hashem’s unlimited kindness.

Her Plans

She planned to obtain a field and she bought it; from the fruit of her hands, she planted a vineyard.
(31:16)

This verse seems strange to us. When we see a virtuous woman involved in producing clothing in verse 4 or food in verse 5, we understand it as appropriate activities. However, here she seems to embark on money-making ventures that seem out of place for a righteous woman. Yet, we must realize that her approach is to serve Hashem sincerely in every possible manner. When she can make investments that will help in the long run, she is involved with the same alacrity and single-minded devotion that she invests in her daily tasks.

She Planned

The word zamemah implies that she planned and maintained a savings program though constant thrift in order to accumulate sufficient savings to purchase a field.

She Planted a Vineyard

A vineyard has a prominent place in her program because its product, wine, is useful in promoting good deeds. When wine is used properly, as for Kiddush, Havdalah, wedding celebrations, Bris Milah, etc., it encourages the service to Hashem. “ Wine is called tirosh because if one uses it meritoriously, it assists in elevating him to a leadership position (rosh); but if it is misused, he becomes a pauper (raish)” (Sanhedrin 70a).

After the Great Flood, Noach began his agricultural rebuilding of the world by planting a vineyard. His intentions were surely virtuous, but he is still criticized for not beginning first with another plant, due to the potential risk with wine (Rashi, Bereishis 9:20). Thus, the virtuous woman, who has learned the Torah’s lessons from Noach, begins with another field and then plants a vineyard.

Vigorous Energy

She girds her loins with strength, and her arms with power. (31:17)

Although she has many children and many servants (as noted in v.15), she utilizes her own self in the service of Hashem. Her valor invigorates her entire body to join personally in the privilege of using her limbs energetically for Hashem’s sake.

As she continues to amass assets, she finds it necessary to gird herself in order to maintain her balance and to protect against the potential temptations that emerge with success. The Talmud uses the expression of this verse in regard to clinging to Torah scholars (Shabbos 63a). It indicates the fortification necessary to combat negative influences and to further one’s advancement in positive causes. Rashi says: “Cling to a Torah scholar, for eventually you will benefit from his teachings.”

We also learn that initially a person must struggle to accomplish a good deed. Mitzvos, as a matter of course, do not come easily. It is only when one perseveres and does his best that Hashem assists the person and helps him succeed.

Ongoing

She tasted the goodness of her efforts; she did not extinguish her light at night. (31:18)

Previously in verse 6, we spoke of her rising early, while still dark, to begin her program. Now we proceed to explain that when she sees success in her efforts, she continues to advance full speed ahead. This is the principle of mitzvah gorgers mitzvah (Avos 4:2) – one good deed leads to another.
Furthermore, the Moiré explains that the taste of success tends to throw people off the proper track. Thus, this verse emphasizes that although she was successful and grew wealthy, she did not become lazy and relax from her efforts. Her lights are still shining at night as she continues to produce.

Domestic Arts

She stretches out her hands to her spinning (visitor), and her palms support her spindle (palace).
(31:19)

Although she is involved in commerce and in business endeavors, she does not neglect domestic arts (spinning, weaving, sewing).

The word visitor also means “with kashrus” Vilna Gaon). She stretches out her hands with attention to all the laws of keeping kosher that pertain to all of one’s actions. Her efforts are in accordance with all of the laws of the Torah.

The word palace is used in Yoma (66b): “A woman’s wisdom is at her palace.” Her unique skills are typified be the ability to build from scratch. She is able to manufacture threads and develop garments. This capacity carries into all aspects of life. She is the expert at building her family, society, and the entire Jewish nation.

Her Palm
Her palm she spreads to a poor person, and her hands are extended to the very poor. (31:20)

Pariah

The word literally means to “break off.” She even shares from her own portion of bread by breaking off a piece for others.

Her Hands She Sends to the Very Needy

Why does is say she “sends” (sheltie) her hands? Pirkei Avos (5:13) teaches that the highest level of giving is to say: “Mine is yours and yours is yours.” We can explain “She sends her hands to the poor” as to say “They are yours.”

Snow-Wise

She does not fear the snow for her household, for her entire household is clothed in wool. (31:21)

Her Garments
She prepares fine bedspreads for herself, linen and purple wool for her garments. (31:22)

Her Husband
Her husband is famous in gatherings, as he sits with the elders of the land. (31:23)

Home Business
Garments she would make to sell, and belts she would give to merchants. (31:24)

She Rejoices
Strength and glory are her garments, and she rejoices in expectancy of her last day. (31:25)

Mouth Movements
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teachings of kindliness are on her tongue. (31:26)

Practical Applications
There is a requirement here for a person to utilize the skills of an actor. Even if a person does not feel up to it internally, it is essential to always speak only that which is wise and kind.

She Watches
She watches the ways of her house, and she does not eat the bread of idleness. (31:27)

To the Ways of Her House

Countless issues are included in “the ways” that she supervises. Safety is one of the prime requirements of a Jewish home and way of life. “Do not put blood upon your home” (Devarim 22:8), which refers to a failure to put up adequate safety railings. Parents must be on guard against many similar situations in order to prevent and mishap from occurring.

She Does Not Eat the Bread of Idleness

Her supervision extends to all aspects of her household. As an example, we refer to the preparation of bread, which is the staff of life. Specifically, we are taught, “If there is no flour, there is no Torah” (Avos 3:21). Thus, she is energetic in preparing bread with realization that it is not merely a material meal but that it supplies the greatest spiritual benefits.

Praising
Her children arose and praised her, her husband [also arose] and praised her enthusiastically. (31:28)

It is a mitzvah to rise in honor of our parents. It is also certainly a mitzvah to praise them. Clayey Adam (call 67) explains that there are three parts to obligation of honoring parents: action, word, and thought. The Talmud relates that when Rebbe Josef would hear his mother’s footsteps, he would say: “I shall rise in honor of the Shoeshine (Divine Presence).” Thus, he would combine aspects of action (rising), speaking, and thinking. The more we consider greatness and importance in our parents, the more we will be fulfilling our obligation in this matter.

The husband’s moral obligation to pay his unlimited debt of gratitude to his wife is fulfilled in a small way be singing her praises all the time. Studying her praises and voicing them enthusiastically is a minimal form of hakaras hatov (gratitude).

Mosaic of Praise

Many daughters have achieved valor, but you (v’at) have surpassed them all. (31:29)

There are people who excel in one or more of the above qualities. But we are referring to one who excels in all of them. This is one of the purposes of alef-beis sequence of these verses. The virtuous wife is compared to the Torah; thus, she is praised with all twenty-two letters on the Hebrew alphabet, which forms all the words of the Torah.

The twenty-two praises compose a mosaic of perfection. She is lauded with all the praises possible. In order to be sure that we do not omit any commendations, we must use every letter, for God initially created the Torah composed of the letters of the alef-beis and subsequently utilized the Torah as the blueprint for the creation of the universe.

Exclusive Praise

Charm is false, and beauty is vain, a woman who fears Hashem is to be praised. (31:30)

Why did Hashem provide exceptional physical to Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Yoseif (see Bereishis 12:14, 24:16, 29:17, 39:6) if it is not considered praiseworthy? We realize that these were people who achieved perfection in their fear of Hashem. Hashem granted them external beauty in order to advertise their unique virtue, as one who puts jewels into an expensive box to highlight the value of the contents. Give her from the fruit of her hands, and praise her at public gatherings for her deeds.

(31:31)

Her actions speak for themselves. We do not have to fabricate material with which to praise her. This verse underscores one of the primary themes of these twenty-two verses.
“Say little and do much” (Avos 1:15). She is not even depicted as talking until verse 26. She is constant motion, in the performance of good deeds. She is energetic and active.

Although her speech in verse 26 only consists of wisdom and kindness, we still wait until now before mentioning it. The priorities of the Torah are paramount in her life, and we learn from her how to gauge our efforts.

“Say little and do much.” This is her motto!

May each of us merit to appreciate and emulate the infinite attributes of the true eishes chayil – the woman of valor in our lives.

In Conclusion

Rabbeinu Bachya, in his introduction to the last Parasha of the Torah (VeZos HaBerachah), elaborates on the lessons from Eishes Chayil.

We learn mussar and derech eretz to search for a good wife, who will serve as the foundation of one’s home and to build a proper edifice.

A good wife, who has all of the good character traits, encompasses the entire Torah, for she is his assistant for success in Torah and Mitzvos, just as the body assists the soul to serve Hashem.
May we all aspire to these qualities of energy to serve Hashem in every possible way, as we find with all of the great personalities of Tanach, Talmud, and throughout our glorious history.

– Exert from: Gems from Mishlei