Friday, July 29, 2011

Remembering the Bet haMikdash

Immediately after the Temple was destroyed the rabbis established a number of traditions that should be kept year round to remember that our Temple is still in ruins. (See HERE)

On of those customs is that when we physically see one of the ruins of the Biblical Jerusalem, we should say a special Psalm (Tehilim 79), which talks about destruction and desolation, recite a blessing that is usually said when a close relative passes away: Barukh...Dayan haEmet, and tear our shirt apart, again, as a mourner would do, when mourning for a close relative.

Contemporary rabbis discussed the application in our days of this last tradition--tearing one's clothes apart.

Rabbi Kook z"l said that once we have the State of Israel and we govern ourselves, this tradition should not be mandatory anymore. Why? Because our ruins are not considered a reason for mourning, since it is now up to us to rebuild them! Furthermore, he says, it might be considered an expression of ungratefulness to God, that gave us back our Medinat Israel.

Rabbi Obadia Yosef and many other rabbis said that one still should tear his garments when seeing the Kotel haMa'arabi, in sign of mourning for the Bet-haMikdash, until the day B'H the Bet-haMikdash will be physically rebuilt.

There is a way -also suggested by Rabbi Yosef-- to avoid this debatable instance. By visiting the Western Wall, the first time, during Shabbat or Rosh Chodesh. The holiness of Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh overrides any display of mourning. So, even for the stricter opinion, we don't have to tear our garments when we see the ruins of the Bet haMikdash on Shabbat or rosh Chodesh. (For a full disucssion of this issue see Penine Halakha, ha'am veharetz, 195-199)

May we all see Yerushalaim and our Holy Temple rebuilt in our days!


Candle Lighting in NYC: 7:56 PM

Shabbat Ends in NYC: 9:03 PM

Click HERE to watch:

"Charlie Harary and the origin of Tisha BeAb"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tish'a beAb: Eating meat during the Nine Days

mishenikhnas ab, mema'atim besimcha... "Once the month of Ab begins (August 1st.), we minimize our happiness". Those are days to remember and mourn for the destruction of our Bet haMikdash.

One of the ways we display our sorrow is by refraining ourselves from eating meat. There are communities in which people do not consume meat and don't drink wine during the entire three weeks. Others, restrict themselves only during the week of Tish'a beAb. In the Mashadi community, we do not eat meat during the 'Nine days', except Rosh Chodesh Ab.

A person who is sick or weak or a woman during the first 30 days after giving birth, are allowed to eat meat (Although, it would be preferable if possible if they eat chicken instead of red meat). Fish is allowed during the three weeks.

During Shabbat, as we know, we are exempted from mourning and sorrow, so we should meat normally.

In some communities, when there is a Se'udat Mitzva, like a Berit Mila, they serve meat, because is a Se'udat Mitzva. In our community, while in Iran, meat was not served at a Se'udat Mitzva because it wasn't available (there was no Shechita!). In our community, additionally, the Berit Mila is performed in the morning, so meat is not served anyway.

In our community the custom to refrain from eating meat persists during the night after Tisha beAb (August 9th), because according to our tradition the Bet haMikdash was still burning during that day.

So, the restriction to eat meat applies from August 1st at night, until Wednesday Aug. 10th, midday, except Shabbat.

Click HERE to learn the HAFTARA for Shabbat Chazon, (the Shabbat previous to 9 BeAb) with Sepharadic Ta'amim.

Click HERE to learn Megilat Ekha (Sephardic Ta'amim)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Remembering the destruction of the Temple

The upcoming month of Ab (begins August 1st) is known as a time of mourning, because of the events that took place on the first days of the month. Specifically, the destruction of the first Bet haMikdash, the Holy Temple of Jerusalem in the year 586 BCE and of the second Bet-haMikdash in the year 68 ACE. Both Temples were destroyed on the dame date: the 9th of Ab.

Even thought we concentrate our mourning for the Bet haMikdash on the 9th of Ab and a few days before that, our rabbis mentioned a few traditions to be kept year-round to remember the destruction of our Temple (zekher lachurban).

The best known of these customs is that the groom breaks a glass at the end of the wedding ceremony and says: Im eshkakhech Yerushalaim ... "If I ever forget you Yerushalaim, may my right hand wither... If I won't remember Yerushalaim in the happiest moment of my life". The rabbis also mentioned the custom that on the day of his wedding, the groom places ashes in his head, in the place where he usually wears his Tefillin.

Another tradition which is widely observed is that at the entrance of a Jewish home, close to the main door, we leave an unfinished unpainted square on the wall. Symbolically, it is as if we were saying: ...How would I dare to have a complete beautiful house, while the House of God is still in ruins...

For the other traditions zekher lachurban see HERE (Maimonides, Ta'aniot, 5, 12-15).

Click HERE to learn the HAFTARA for Shabbat Chazon, (the Shabbat previous to 9 BeAb).

See HERE BIBLICAL ARCHEOLOGY: "The city of David on Capitol Hill".

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ELOHAY NETZOR: Praying for our own good behavior?

The Amida, technically, ends with the nineteenth and last blessing: Sim Shalom (see our explanation here). But before we finish, there is another prayer "Elohay, netzor..." which is a late addition to the Amida: A private prayer composed by Mor bar Rabina (approx. 500 ACE).
In this prayer, he asked God: "save my tongue from evil, and my lips from falsehood". speaking evil (lashon hara) and deception, are considered by the rabbis the source of most conflicts between man and man.
Then it says: "May I behave with humbleness and patience" and "May I keep my composure and calm",  for example, if someone would offend or aggravate him.

What is so unique about this prayer? In the Amida, we ask God to grant us things we want or need: health, wisdom, livelihood. In this prayer, however, we ask God for something we have not asked in the Amida. We ask God's help with our character and behavior. We request God to help us and inspire us to do good and, and assist us, preventing us from doing evil.

Perhaps, because of this fine line between what is up to us to do and what is up to God's help, this prayer is not part of the official Amida. Because, formally our behavior depends on us. We are endowed with freedom of choice to make moral choices.

When saying this prayer, therefore, remember, that we are not asking God to control our lives. That is our responsibility! We ask for His help and inspiration, to reach the best of our potential and behave with integrity.

Monday, July 25, 2011

BERIT MILA: Choosing the right Mohel

Today is the 23 of Tamuz, 5771

In the following lines, I present some guidelines to help the parents realize what is important to check at the time they are choosing the Mohel ('circumcision surgeon').

The two basic elements to bear in mind when choosing a Mohel are: A. The expertise of the Mohel. B. 

The personality and religious character of the Mohel ("adam tob vetzadiq")

The Mohel should be experienced and trained in the performance of the Berit Mila. The Mohel is required to study Jewish law, and be sensitive to the traditions of the community where he performs the Berit Milah.

He should also be trained in the medical aspects of circumcisions.

1. Together with the family doctor, he has to evaluate the infant's health to decide if it is safe to perform the Berit Mila.

2. He needs to know the basic of sterilization and hygiene required at the time of the circumcision. (I will have B'H a special section on Metziza)

3. He needs to be an expert not only in removing the foreskin but also the tissue around it (peri'a). This procedure is not done with instruments but by hand.

4. He needs to know how to disinfect and cover the wound, so it heals fast and well.

5. The Mohel is expected to provide post-procedural care, which is often done in conjunction with the family doctor.
6. The Mohel is supposed to have basic training in first aid, in case, God forbid, anything goes wrong.

Most Mohalim today are affiliated with local hospitals and/or certified by Berit Mila Boards, where they have got the basic training in circumcision performance, surgery and first aid. Many Mohalim will post this information in their web sites or cards.