Friday, October 8, 2010

Mar Cheshvan and the flood

30th of Tishri, 5771

Today is the 30th day of Tishri, and the first day of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan.

This month is also called 'Mar' Cheshvan, which seems to have originated at the time that Jews came back to Israel after the Babylonian Exile (500 BCE). The prefix Mar (which means bitter) is a reference to this month having no festivals or rejoicing. A fact which becomes more noticeable in light of the full holidays' month, the previous Tishri.

Also during this month, as we will read in the Torah tomorrow, God brought down the flood and drowned the world.

'Mar' also means drop and refers to the first rains (theYoreh), which fall in Cheshvan.

The flood (mabbul) began on the 17 of Cheshvan, Hebrew year 1656, and ended on the 27 of Cheshvan.

On the 27th of Cheshvan of the Hebrew year 1657 "the earth dried" (Bereshit 8:14), which finished the 365-day duration of the great flood which wiped out all life on earth except for the
eight human beings and the animals that were on Noach's ark. On this day, God commanded Noach to "Come out of the ark" and repopulate, settle and civilize the earth

Rashi explains that the discrepancy between the 17 and the 27 of Cheshvan, 11 days, reflects the difference of days between the solar (365) and the lunar (354) calendar.

Chodesh Tob and Shabbat shalom!

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024

Thursday, October 7, 2010

MASHIB HARUACH, asking God for rain

29th of Tishri, 5771

As we explained yesterday, after Sukkot we begin to recite mashib haruach umorid hageshem,praising God Almighty and acknowledging Him as the source of our material resources. Although we mention 'rain', we mean that God is the ultimate source of all our natural resources and of the entire economy of our planet.

The prayer in which we request rain is called 'barekh alenu..or .veten tal umatar librakha'- "And
grant dew and rain as a blessing". And it's the 9th berakha of the Amida.

In Israel we say this blessing from the 7th of Cheshvan, two weeks after Sukkot ends.

Why don't we ask for rain immediately afterSukkot ends, when the rain season actually begins?

In Biblical and Bet Hamikdash (Temple) times, it would take up to two weeks for the ole regalim-the Jews who came from every corner of Israel to Yerushalaim to celebrate Sukkot in the Bet haMikdash- to return home. Rain will obviously make it very difficult for them to travel in those days. Jews believed in their own prayers, and therefore they delayed the request
for rain until everyone got home safely.

In the Diaspora, however, specifically in Babylonia, rain was not required that early. So the Rabbis differentiated between Israel and the diaspora and established that, though they should begin the praise haShem concerning rain after Sukkot, the prayer requesting rain in the diaspora should begin sixty days after the autumn equinox(Tekufa).

This date is calculated according to the solar calendar. That is why we have to refer to 'December' rather than to a Hebrew date when it comes to the recitation of this berakha.
On a regular year, with a 28 days February, the sixtieth day after the autumn equinox is December 4th.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

MASHIB HARUACH, praising God for rain

28th of Tishri, 5771

The Mishna explains that in Rosh haShana God Almighty examines our deeds and determines, based on our merits, if we deserve another year of life. We have a window of opportunity from Rosh haShana to Yom Kippur to admit our mistakes and appeal an eventual negative decree, confessing, asking for forgiveness, etc. At the time of the Neila, the decree is sealed and our fate in that specific area, determined.

In Sukkot, our rabbis explain, nidonim al hamaim, our livelihood is determined. In other words, assuming we were granted good health to make it to the next year (notice that we ask God to live: 'one year at a time') the question remains:will we be granted the means to maintain a life of dignity?

The KEY word used to request a dignified livelihood is 'rain'.

Man can work the land, saw the seeds and watch his field, but ultimately ,it is the rain what will determine the successof the harvest. Rain is the most elemental requirement for nutrition and Parnasa livelihood.

At the end of Sukkot, from the Musaf prayer of Shemini Atzeret we change the words Morid haTal ((You) make the dew descend) for "Mashib haRuach uMorid haGeshem,"

" You make the wind blow, and the rain descend."

It is important to notice that at this specific point we are not actually askingfor rain yet. As we explained yesterday, during the first three blessing of the Amida we don't ask God for our needs, we praise Him for His power and kindness. When saying Mashib haRuach we are acknowledging (not asking to!) God as the source of rain, and by extension, the ultimate source of our Parnasa.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The 1st Berakha: You are the protector of Israel

27th of Tishri, 5771

The first berakha of the Amida is known as 'abot' (ancestors) and it refers to God's protection of the Jewish people. In this berakha we don't ask for protection: we praise God stating that our miraculous survival as Jews, is due to His eternal divine protection.

We mention that haShem Almighty protected Abraham, Ytzchak and Yaakov (E-lohe Abraham, etc). We also describe with a few words what we can 'humanly' grasp of God's protective power (hagadol, hagibbor, etc.), a power that God uses to bestow kindness (gomel chasadim tobim).

We state that because of the merit of our ancestors (zokher chasde abot), God grants us His present and future salvation (umebi go'el).

God protects us because He so promised (lema'an shemo) our ancestors, and because He loves us (beahaba). To understand these two last concepts you must read the Pasuk Debarim 7, 7.

Finally we state that God is our King (melekh), but a special kind of king: not the king that demands for his own sake, but a King ready to help when we ask (ozer) and to rescueus when we are in trouble (moshi'a) and a king who covers us with His invisible shield (magen) against harms and hazards we are not aware of.

Magen is indeed the highest level of divine protection.

The protection responsible for the survival of the Jewish people since the time of Abraham Abinu (baruckh ata hasem magen Abraham).

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024