Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving to God, by George Washington.

"WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God; to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and,  
"WHEREAS both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness: ...a day devoted by The people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be...
"Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be, that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country .. for the great degree of tranquility, union and plenty, which we have since enjoyed; ... for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

"And, also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually...
"To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us, and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
"Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year 1789.

George Washington"

American Rabbis have discussed the celebration of Thanksgiving.

The following lines by Rabbi Broyde summarize his conclusion:

"Thus, halacha law permits one to have a private Thanksgiving celebration with one's ... friends and family. For reasons related to citizenship and the gratitude we feel towards the United States government, I would even suggest that such conduct is wise and proper".

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

SEPHARDIC RABBIS: Rabbi Hayim Nahum (1872-1960)

Rabbi ayim Naum was born in 1872 in Izmir, Turkey. He was an extraordinarily intelligent person with an exceptionally diverse education. He received his formal Jewish education in Tiberias and his secondary education at a French Lycee. He held a degree in Islamic Law from Constantinople. He attended the Sorbonne's School of Oriental Languages in France while at the same time attending the Rabbinical Academy of Paris. He then returned to Constantinople and taught at the Turkish Military Academy.

Rabbi Naum's unusual background and eclectic interests earned him great respect. From 1909 until 1923, he served as akham Bashi (Chief Rabbi) of the Ottoman Empire and was granted the title of "Effendi" (Lord) by the Turkish government. Rabbi Naum successfully intervened in favor of Jews in various localities of the Empire, especially in assuring government protection for them during World War I (it seems that it was due to him that the project of expelling the Jews from Jerusalem was averted).

In 1923, Rabbi Naum agreed to become the head of the Jewish community in Cairo, and thus the Chief Rabbi of Egypt. Here, too, Rabbi Naum became a man of noted success within the greater gentile society. From 1930 to 1934 he was a member of the Egyptian Parliament. He helped found the Royal Academy of the Arabic Language, and was instrumental in making possible the reconvening the Society for the Historical Study of the Jews of Egypt. 

With the rise in Arab nationalism in the late 1940s, life for Egyptian Jews became increasingly difficult. There was an abundance of political intimidation and economic oppression. Although he gave into government pressure to denounce Zionism (using vague, meaningless phrases), he held firm in his refusal to have synagogues recite prayers for an Egyptian victory in the 1948 war. Ignoring his own failing health (and blindness), Rabbi Naum spent his final years in service to the greatly diminished Egyptian Jewish community. He was 88 years old when he died.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TEFILA: Understanding The Blessing Asher Yasar

...אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה, וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים, חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים. גָּלוּי וְיָדֽוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶֽךָ, שֶׁאִם יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אוֹ אִם יִפָּתֵֽחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אַחַת. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה ,רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֹת

In Masekhet Berakhot, (60 b) the Rabbis mentioned the blessings to be said every morning when we wake up (birkot hashaḥar). One of them is asher yaṣar. This berakha praises God's wisdom in the creation of our body and its functions, particularly the digestive system. It refers to the sophisticated processes by which our bodies absorb the nutrients from the food we eat and drink, identifying the good and discarding the waste. Following the words of Yiob (19:26,  "from my body I will see God") the Rabbis considered our bodily functions as a perpetual testimony of God's wisdom. 
God designed a self-sufficient and autonomous body--with organs and numberless orifices and valves--which heals itself without our voluntary intervention. 
This berakha also hints that most of us only realize the full extent of God's wisdom in the fashioning of our body when our bodies, God forbid, stop working properly.  It indicates that if any element of its sophisticated mechanisms would not work properly--an organ will open up, a body vessel will clog up, or a valve will not unlock--we will not be able to survive.  This berakha opens our eyes and hearts to the wonders of our body, inviting us to recognize the wisdom (and compassion) of its Creator.  

After we leave the bathroom, we wash our hands and recite this blessing of gratitude to the Creator of the awesome human body.
"Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who formed man with wisdom and created within him many orifices and organs. It is revealed and known before Your Throne of Glory that if one of them ruptures, or one of them clogs up, it would be impossible to survive even for a short moment. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who heals all bodies and acts wondrously."

READ HERE Dr Daniel Gordis "When Balance becomes Betryal" 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Understanding the Ketuba: Jewish Marriage Law.

Last week we explained that the ketuba states the obligations of the husband towards his wife. The groom declares to his bride that he is taking her legally as his wife (i.e., according to the law of Moses and Israel) implying among other things, that he accepts all the responsibilities of a Jewish husband. 

The ketuba then describes some of those duties and responsibilities.

The husband says: "I will work... feed and support you" . 

The first responsibility of the husband mentioned in the ketuba is the husband's obligation to work  in order to maintain his wife and his family.  By means of his work he will "feed and support her". This is the first duty stated in the Tora  (Exodus 21:10) which in Hebrew is known as she-era and in the language of the rabbismezonot (food or basic sustenance) . 

A few illustrations of this law from Maimonides (MT, ishut, 12). 

√  (12:10-11) The husband is obligated to supply food for his wife and children according to his material means. A person who is poor should provide two meals a day and a wealthy person should make provisions, if necessary, for several nutritious meals (meat, fish, or whatever is the local custom) every day. 

√ (12:16-17) If a husband leaves for a business trip overseas (in ancient days people would travel overseas for months or years with virtually no possibility of communication) and the wife is left with no means to obtain food, the rabbinical court will confiscate and sell the husband's properties or goods to provide food for his wife and children. This is the case, provided that three months or more have passed since the  husband left. It was assumed that decent traveling husbands would procure sustenance for their families for at least 90 days. 

READ HERE "US Senate unanimous commitment to Israel"