Friday, May 25, 2012

SHABU'OT, the basics

Shabu'ot is the festival in which we celebrate the giving of our Tora and our appointment as the people of God.  

It is celebrated for one day in Israel and for two days in the Diaspora.  This year Shabu'ot starts after Shabbat ends.  Outside Israel then, we have a continuum of three holy days (qodesh): 1 shabbat, and 2 days of Yom Tob.

Yom Tob is very similar to Shabbat. We don't work and we refrain from doing all the activities we don't do on Shabbat, with basically one exception: okhel nefesh, i.e., those activities that were deem necessary for preparing food.  Therefore, in Yom Tob we are allowed to cook and even to light a fire, but from an already lit fire, not from a match or from an electrical lighter.  That is why it is customary to leave a lit candle at home, in case we need to light a fire for cooking or warming food.   Another difference between Shabbat and Yom Tob is that on Yom Tob we can carry permitted (=non-Muktze) objects (foods, a Siddur, keys, etc.) in public areas  even when there is no Erub in that area.  

Since Shabbat ends as Shabu'ot begins, what do we do with the Habdala when Shabbat is over?
On the first night of Shabu'ot, Saturday night, we perform a special Habdala. We recite bore me-ore ha-esh, while looking at a lit candle, for the enjoyment of light and then, beforeShehecheyanu, we recite  hamabdil, i.e., that haShem instructed us to distinguish between holy times and common times. But in this case, because Shabu'ot is also a holy time, we add and conclude this blessing saying hamabdil ben qodesh leqodesh, that HaShem made also a distinction between the holiness of Shabbat and the holiness of Yom Tob.  Monday night we do a second Habdala as usual.  

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!!! 

Click  here to see Kanissa News 
for times of hadalakat nerot Shabbat and Yom Tob, end of Yom Tob, times of prayers, the Tikun of Shabuot night and the Las Vegas Mashadi Minyanim for those who travel to the Jewelry show, etc, etc. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

SHABU'OT: Five customs of this Holiday

This coming Saturday night May 26th 2012 until Monday night May 28th, we will celebrate Shabu'ot, when we stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai and were appointed as God's chosen people by receiving the Tora.
There are 5 Minhaguim (customs) that most Jews follow on Shabu'ot. 
To remember them, keep in mind the Hebrew word A / CHA / R / I / T.
A: Akdamot or Azharot, are poems describing the 613 Mitzvot of the Tora. During Shabu'ot we recite these poems to remember all the Mitzvot. 
CHA: Chalab (milk), the custom to eat dairy foods on Shabu'ot (click here to read: Why dairy on Shabu'ot?).
R: Ruth. In Shabu'ot we study Megilat Ruth. Among the many reasons for reading Ruth is that Ruth, from whom King David descends, converted to Judaism. And in a sense, by receiving the Tora we also became converts to Judaism. Another given reason is that from Ruth we learn the dependency of the written Tora on the Oral Tora, because by the "letter" of the Tora a Moabite could not been accepted as a convert. (Read more about Rut here)
I: Yerek (Green). Many communities have the custom to decorate their Synagogues with plants, flowers and tree branches to remember Mt Sinai. When the Tora was given--we still treasure this image in our genetic collective memory--Mt. Sinai was green, blossoming with grass and flowers. For this reason, in the Persian tradition Shabu'ot is known as mo'ed gol(the festival of flowers).
T: Tikun (Reparation). We stay awake during the night of Shabu'ot (Saturday night until Sunday morning) studying Tora to repair for our ancestors who went to sleep the night of the sixth of Sivan, instead of waiting diligently for the giving of the Tora, which took place the following morning.

Click here to watch: 
Inspiration, why did God 
wait 49 days before 
giving the Tora? 
by Aish. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SHABU'OT: On being God's witnesses

As we saw yesterday (see here) to be God's chosen people is not about having more rights, but more obligations. After all we, the Jewish people, are the single witnesses of God's existence (see Yesha'ayahu  43:10). In Shabu'ot God revealed His existence to us, at the time He pronounced the Ten Commandments. The case for God's existence does not rest upon evidences--scientific or philosophical--but upon our testimony.

In one of his letters (Igeret Teman) Maimonides explains that the first thing a Jewish parent should teach his child is what happened in Shabu'ot. When we witnessed God's revelation standing at the feet of Mt. Sinai. And by our testimony we turn our children themselves into new witnesses of God's existence.

A Jew is a living testimony of God's existence. The worst offense in Judaism is Chilul HaShem, desecration of God. It happens when a Jew--one of God's witnesses--misbehaves in a public context. When a Jew makes a personal religious mistake it is a private matter to be resolved (and hopefully absolved) between him and God. But when a member of the Jewish people acts inappropriately in public or when his moral misbehavior becomes public knowledge, then his act is considered Chilul HaShem, a desecration of the name of God.


In a court of law a witness could be disqualified for a questionable immoral conduct. Some unethical acts will affect the credibility of the witness and his or her testimony will be inadmissible.

If a Jew acts with dishonesty, cheats, misbehaves, etc. then his character as a witness is affected and his testimony is invalid. It is a desecration of the name of God because a disqualified witness for the case of God, weakens the case for God. 

Being a Jew is a tremendous responsibility. It implies to know that we have to live and act as credible witness of HaShem.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SHABUOT: On becoming the chosen people.

In a few days, this coming Saturday May 26th at night, we will celebrate Shabu'ot, one of the major Holidays of the Jewish calendar. Shabu'ot is known as Chag Matan Tora, the day in which we, the Jewish people, received the Tora. The giving of the Tora was actually the conclusion of a larger process: the choosing of the Jewish People as the Nation of God. 

We arrived at the Sinai desert on the first day of Sivan (today!). HaShem Almighty ordered us to camp in the desert, facing Mt. Sinai, and get ourselves ready for the greatest event. 

Then HaShem made us His offer: ve'ata im shamo'a tishme'u beqoli...  and now, if you accept listening to My voice--God's commandments--and keeping a covenant with Me, you will become for Me a Kingdom of Priests and a Special Nation (goy kadosh).

In this sense, to be the "chosen people" means that we have more obligations and more accountability than the rest of the world.

1. Kingdom of priests: The priests--Kohanim--are those Jews dedicated exclusively to the service of God. The Kohanim  have more limitations and responsibilities than those who are not priests, for the privilege to serve God. The Jews are the "Kohanim of the world". We were offered to become the people who will dedicate our lives to serving God. In Shabu'ot, we accepted upon ourselves 613 Mitzvot (God's commandments), 606 more than any other nation.

2. Goy Kadosh: To be a special people (or a 'separated' people) means that HaShem Almighty will supervise and collectively protect us, guarantying that as a people we will never disappear from the face of the earth. This direct supervision also implies that God expects from us an exemplary behavior. God will be examining our conduct closer than the rest of the nations. See Amos 3:2. raq etkhem yad'ati mikol mishpechot ha-adama "You alone did I chose from among all the families of the earth; therefore I will hold you to account for all your iniquities..."
(to be continued...)

Click here to read "Was Columbus secretly a Jew?" By Charles Garcia,  Special to CNN

Monday, May 21, 2012

CHUPA: The wedding ring

Once the Rabbi who presides the wedding (Mesadder Kiddushin) pronounces the first two blessings (see here), the ceremony of Kiddushin (=consecration) takes place.  The consecration of the bride is done by the means of a qinyan (a legal process) by which the bride and the groom are officially engaged. 

This qinyan could be done in a different ways. For example, by the groom giving the bride a document (shetar) that states his intention to betroth her in accordance to Jewish Law. Alternatively, it could be done by the groom giving to the bride anything of a minimal value, not necessarily a ring. However, the custom in our days is that the qinyan Kiddushin is performed by giving a ring--the wedding band--to the bride.    

There are different traditions regarding the metal used for the band. In some communities they would require to use only a band made of gold, or silver, etc.  In our community we allow any metal. The ring, however, should be plain without any stones or accessories. This is why grooms would refrain from having any inscriptions on the back of the ring, so its value is clear and visible.

If the ring is lost and could not be found, technically, any other ring or anything of a minimal value could be used by the groom to formalize the act of Kiddushin. Provided the object by which the Kiddushin is performed belongs formally to the groom. This is the reason the Rabbi would make sure that the ring belongs to the groom and, for example, he has not yet given it to the bride, etc.     

It is only the groom that gives a ring to the bride. In our community we ask the groom to wear his own ring (if he wishes to do so) before the Chupa begins. 

Click here to read: "Mayim Bialik, 'mikve connoisseur'"

The 'Big Bang Theory' star speaks frankly about her frumkeit 

From Times of Israel