Friday, May 6, 2011

YOM HAZIKARON/YOM HAATZMAUT: the impossible (but reasonable!) transition.

Today is the 2nd day of Iyar, 5771/ 17 days of Omer (2 weeks, 3 days)

This coming Sunday night we will commemorate Yom haZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day. The day in which the citizens of Israel and the Jews all over the world remember the fallen soldiers, those who sacrificed their lives so we can have a Jewish State: Medinat Israel.

The day is dedicated to honor the memories of more than 22,000 young soldiers who died since the Independence war in 1948 until today. They were our heroes, and as Nathan Alterman called them: "The silver platter on which the State of Israel was given to us"

Read his beautiful poem here:

In Israel, thousands of people, attend cemeteries to mourn their children, grandchildren, parents, and grandparents who fell on the wars. Har Hertzl, in Yerushalaim, the most important military cemetery, is where most of the official ceremonies take place.

Most Israelis would spend the rest of the day at home watching on Israeli TV the short movies prepared especially for the occasion in which they show the lives, the bravery and heroism of the fallen soldiers, especially those who perished this year. We present here one short movie about Roi Klein, z'l.

Yom haZikaron ends Monday evening, and that same night we start the celebrations of Yom haAtzmaut, Israel independence day. To me it has always been an emotionally impossible transition: from the deepest pain to the highest happiness. But I think that this transition captures the essence of our times: honoring our fallen soldiers with sadness and respect, but honoring them, mainly, celebrating the triumph of their ultimate cause.

Shabbat Shalom!!!!

Candle lighting in NYC: 7:37 PM

DON'T MISS the commemoration of Yom haZikaron in our community.

This Sunday night, May 8th, at 7:30 PM in YMJC (130 Steamboat Road).

We will have a VERY SPECIAL and famous guest Speaker:

Dr. Mordechai Kedar.

Watch Mordechai Kedar's famous remarks in Aljazeera TV, a very rare interview (the
only one I know so far!) Aljazeera had with a Pro-Israel Israeli scholar.

Watch what happens when someone with bravery and enough knowledge about Koran, Islam
and our rights to Israel, FINALLY says the truth!!!

Enjoy this amazing video!!!

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

Thursday, May 5, 2011

YOM HA'ATZMAUT: Israel Independence Day

Today is the 1st day of Iyar, 5771/ ROSH CHODESH IYAR/ 16 days of Omer (2 weeks, 2 days)

Israel Independence Day, Yom ha'Atzmaut, is celebrated annually on the 5th of Iyar, the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel (May 14, 1948). This year the 5th of Iyar is Monday May 9th at night. So the celebration of Yom ha'Atzamut will extend from Monday night until Tuesday May 10th evening.

During Yom ha'Atzmaut we say Halel, thanking God Almighty for the miracles He performed for us in our own days with our own fathers, brothers and sisters. A miracle, that unlike other miracles, is part of our visual memory: The establishment of Medinat Israel and its existence, against all odds, from 1948 until today. The gathering of exiles, and the possibility that we all have today to visit, or even better, to establish ourselves in the homeland of Abraham, Yitzhaq and Yaa'qob.

The day preceding this celebration, from Sunday night, May 8th until Monday evening is Yom haZikaron, a day devoted to honor the memory of the soldiers and fighters who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence.

It was 3400 years ago. Moshe addresses the new generation of Am Israel, as they happily and eagerly prepare themselves to inherit the Promised Land, the land of honey and milk. In the midst of their enthusiasm Moshe Rabbenu has some serious words of warning from God Almighty:

This land is a divine gift that might be taken away from you. If you abandon My covenant [the Torah]... I will turn my face -My protection- away from you ... then, your land will be captured by your enemies and you will be taken captives and exiled to the four corners of the planet... However, your fate will not be like the fate of other people, civilizations and empires: because of my covenant and my promise to Abraham, Yitzhaq and Ya'aqob, I will never allow the Jewish people to disappear.

That is My promise to you. The people of Israel will exist forever...

One day, if you return to Me: (Debarim 30, 4)"even if you might be scattered to the end of heavens -the farthest countries on earth- your God Almighty will bring you back from there and He will rescue you form there. And the Lord your God will bring you to the land that had belonged to your ancestors and make you even more successful and numerous than they were".

63 years ago this amazing prophecy took place with the establishment of Medinat Israel. A prophecy that during centuries our ancestors could only dream about. We have the incredible merit to be living their dream.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ROSH CHODESH IYAR: We and the moon

Today is the 30th day of Nisan, 5771 ROSH CHODESH IYAR 15 days of Omer (2 weeks, 1 day)

The Jewish year and the Jewish day follow the sun. But the Jewish month follows the moon's cycle of 29 days and a half. This is why sometimes we have one day of Rosh Chodesh and sometimes two. Our rabbis mentioned a long time ago that there is a remarkable resemblance between the cycle of the moon and the cycle of renewal, furthermore, the cycle of renewal of the Jewish people.

"Whereas the sun is the symbol of unchanging nature, rising in the east, setting in the west, day in and day out every day of the year, the moon changes and it seems to be telling us something: You can be small and you can diminish until you almost disappear, but then, when things look their darkest, hope springs eternal. You can start looking up again. You can change a situation and yourself for the better, no matter how bad it seems. Nothing is static or set in stone. Human beings have free will and therein is their power of renewal -- an ever-present struggle against the steady, cyclical, repetitive and predictable march of time and nature.

The solar system determines the year, in Hebrew "shana," which comes from the same root as "to repeat, to go over," whereas the moon sets the months, "Chodesh" from the Hebrew root "chadash," -- new, change, different.

The Jewish people are compared to the moon. Though they are small, and suffering has been an integral part of their history among the nations, the Jew knows never to give up. As an individual and as a nation, he will rise up again and light up the night".

Adapted from "Rosh Chodesh", an article by Dina Coopersmith

To see the whole article click here:

Mazal Tov to Jacob Bitton and Rivka Souleimani!

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

SEFIRAT HAOMER: More on the Mitzva of Counting the Omer

Today is the 29th day of Nisan, 5771, 14 days of Omer (2 weeks)

The days of the Omer need to be counted at night. As you already probably know, for us the new day starts at night. Like Shabbat which starts Friday night.

At what precise time the new day starts is a controversial complicated technical Halakhic matter. But very briefly: there are two possible astronomic indicators for the new day:
1. Sunset. 2. The appearance of stars in the dark sky. All Rabbis agree that before sunset it is still considered day # 1 and after the stars are visible it is considered day #2. The time in between sunset and the stars (twilight zone or ben hashemashot) fluctuates between 15 min (13 ½ to be precise!) to 30 minutes or more depending on many variables (geographic location, year's season, etc.). Regarding Shabbat, for example, we take the stringiest stand: we receive Shabbat before sunset and we end Shabbat the next day, after the stars are visible.

Regarding the counting of the Omer, according to Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Hayim the starting time to count the Omer will be 13 ½ minutes after sunset. For a Minyan one could be more lenient but never before sunset.

Children, although formally exempt from the Mitzvah of counting the days of the Omer until Bar or Bat Mitzva, should be encouraged to count every night including the recitation of the berakha, because the rules of berakha lebatala (saying a formal blessing unnecessarily) does not apply for children.

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

Monday, May 2, 2011

YOM HASHOAH: Of witnesses and memory

Today is the 28th day of Nisan, 5771, 13 days of Omer (1 week, 6 days)

My parents were not born in Europe. Neither were my grandparents. In our family, from my mother side (Syria) and from my father side (Morocco) no one was sent to a concentration camp. I was born in the peaceful Argentina.

Every year in Yom haShoah, in the Jewish school I attended in Buenos Aires (Bet-Sefer Talpiot) we watched with my classmates the horrific documentaries which showed the trains of death, the corpses, the crematoriums, the gas chambers... and I cried, we all cried, for our brothers and sisters, elders and infants, brutally murdered by the Nazis, yemach shemam.....

In 1977, when I was in High School, we had a different kind a Yom haShoah. Our principal invited a Holocaust survivor to speak to us, which at that time was not the standard way of commemorating Yom haShoa.

After telling us his personal shocking story, and how he survived Auschwitz, he told us:
"I know that you have not seen the Shoah for yourselves. I know that for you the Shoah is History. Well documented history. Modern Jewish history.But just history at the end of the day. But now, that you have heard my story, and you have seen me, now you bear on your young shoulders a tremendous new responsibility. Now you have become witnesses of the Shoah. How so? Because MY EYES saw the horrors of the Shoah, not in the aseptic black and white documentaries, where you don't see the red of blood. MY EYES saw it all, in the most intense and hideous colors. I want you now to look at MY EYES, so one day you will be able to tell your children: I haven't seen the Shoah myself, but I have seen THE EYES that saw the Shoah. I'm
a witness, my son".

This is when the Shoah ceased to be part of my History as a Jew. This is when the Shoah became part of my Memory. My personal memory as a witness.

Yom haShoah in Jerusalem:

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