Thursday, December 31, 2009

Birkat haMezuza

14th of Tebet 5770

Before reciting the blessing, the case with the Mezuzah enclosed should be held against the doorpost -- ready to turn the first screw or tap in the first nail. If using glue or foam tape, be prepared to firmly affix the case on the doorpost immediately upon completing the blessing. (Tape that would easily fall off if bumped into is regarded as too temporary to be considered "affixed")
Once the Mezuzah is in position, but before affixing it to the doorpost, the following blessing is recited:
Baruch Ata Ado-nay, Elo-henu Melekh Ha'olam, asher kid'shanu bi'misvo-tav, ve'sivanu leek-bo-a Mezuzah.
(Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His Mitzvot, and commanded us to affix a Mezuzah).
If you are hanging many Mezuzot at the same time, you would say one blessing on the first Mezuzah -usually the front door- and include in that blessing the remaining Mezuzot. In the Mashadi community, however, families have different Minhaguim on this issue. (Ask a rabbi).
A woman can place the Mezuzah and say the blessing by herself. But when other people are present is not customary, for reasons of modesty.
Recommended reading on various subjects:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Mezuzah in each room?

13th of Tebet, 5770

The custom today is to put a Mezuzah on virtually every door of the house. Therefore, a Jewish home has Mezuzot on the front and side doors, porch, bedrooms, living room, kitchen, playroom, etc. The exceptions are: Bathrooms and rooms with an area smaller than 36 square feet. If a room has more than one door, one Mezuzah is required for every door.

On an entrance without a door we should put a Mezuzah but without saying a berakha for that specific Mezuzah, because this is a case of a Halakhic controversy (Machloket between HaRambam and the Rosh). Alternatively, when affixing another Mezuzah in the house and saying the berakha for it, have in mind the entrance Mezuzah and affix it afterwards.

In addition to private places of residence, a Mezuzah should also be affixed in businesses, offices and stores, when they belong to a Jewish owner.

Read: “Mezuzah and surveillance”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kosher Mezuzah

12th of Tebet, 5770
The Mezuzah is a handwritten scroll, written on genuine parchment, prepared from the skin of a kosher animal, that contains the first two parts of the Shema Israel. A Mezuah written on paper; a printed Mezuzah or a Xeroxed Mezuzah are not Kosher. The Mezuzah should be written by a Sofer. This scribe carefully writes the words using special black ink and a quill pen. The letters must be written according to strict Halakhic rules and any mistakes or missing letters invalidates the entire parchment.

It is not possible to know if a Mezuzah is kosher just by looking at it, since part of its being kosher has to do with the scribe who wrote it, his knowledge and his thoughts at the time of writing the Mezuzah. Mezuzah requires a human hand and a clean Jewish mind. (Mezuzah is one of those few things that cannot be made by machines or be mass produced in China!). It is for this reason that one should buy a Mezuzah exclusively from a trustful God-fearing person.
A professional scribe is usually certified by “Vaad Mishmeret Stam”.

FYI see this interesting article:

Friday, December 25, 2009

What do we commemorate on the 10th of Tebet?(2)

8th of Tebet, 5770

This coming Sunday, Dec 27, is Asara beTebet (10th of Tebet) a fast day, which commemorates several tragedies that happened to the Jewish people.
Yesterday we mentioned 1. The translation of the Torah. 2. The death of Ezra haSofer.
The main tragedy that happened in this day was the onset of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylonia, and the beginning of the battle that ultimately destroyed Jerusalem and the Bet haMikdash in the year 586 BCE, and sent the Jews into the 70-year Babylonian Exile. The date of the Tenth of Tebet is recorded for us by the prophet Yechezkel, who himself was already in Babylonia as part of the first group of Jews exiled there by Nebuchadnezzar, 11 years earlier than the actual destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem itself.

In modern day Israel, the 10th of Tebet has been designated as Yom haKaddish Haklali - the day on which we mourn those whose date or place of death is unknown, including mainly victims of the Shoa .

In N.Y. the fast starts Sunday at 6:05 AM and ends Sunday at 5:05 PM. Besides the fast, no other restrictions apply.

For more information see:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What do we commemorate on the 10th of Tebet?(1)

7th of Tebet, 5770

Approximately in the year 300 BCE, on the 8th of TebetKing Ptolemy of Egypt forced 70 Jewish scholars to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The Talmud relates that this project was blessed with a miracle, the 70 scholars were all placed in separate cubicles and yet they all came up with the same translation. Still, the rabbis of the time considered this project negative. The Talmud records that when this translation became public "darkness descended on the world”.
Why? Because the Greek Bible –known as the Septuagint- aided the advance of the agenda of the Hellenist Jews to bring Greek culture into Jewish life and was strategically used by other religions to, eventually, create a new religion. In fact, as the Talmud tells us, the translation of the Bible would allow the nations of the world to claim, “Anu Israel!” “We are the NEW Israel!”

The 9th day of Tebetcommemorates the death of Ezra the Scribe (5thCentury BCE). Ezra led the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile. It was under his direction and inspiration, together with the help of the court Jew, Nechemiah, that the Second Temple was built. (adapted from rabbi Berel Wein)
This coming Sunday 12/27 is the 10th of Tebet, a fast day, and these two events are among the tragedies that we commemorate then.

More on the impact of the Septuagint:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

When should you place your home's Mezuzah?

6th of Tebet, 5770

When you are renting a house or an apartment, you have 30 days to put your Mezuzot. Why? Because of an ancient Halakhic principle that only after 30 days of living there you’re considered a permanent resident on somebody else’s house.

However, when you buy a house, you are considered a resident immediately, and your obligation to place the Mezuzot starts from the first day you come to live into your house, or from the time when you have your furniture or other valuables inside your house.

If you live in the land of Israel, even if you rent a house, you need to have your Mezuzot right away. Because of the Mitzva to live in Erets Israel, all Jews are considered permanent residents in any house they might live.

When moving out of a home -and the next occupant is also Jewish- we should leave the Mezuzot.

When one moves to a new house or apartment which does not have Mezuzot, it is the obligation of the tenant to get and put the Mezuzot, even if the landlord is Jewish.

Watch this SPECTACULAR video (4:35)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Inside your Mezuza

Tuesday Tebet 5, 5770

Let me share with you what the Book chobot halebabot says about the first Pasuk of the Shema Israel. SHEMA ISRAEL HASHEM ELOKENU HASHEM ECHAD. “Listen Oh Israel, HaShem is our God, HaShem is one”.

Most people believe that this verse refers only about the unity of God (ECHAD God is one). However, that is only one of the 3 principles of the Pasuk Shema Israel. We also learn two more things:

One, ELOKENU, Hashem is our God: we assert our condition of chosen people, which implies a special relationship with God. Not a relationship of favoritism and more rights for us but mainly, chosen for greater responsibilities. We have 613 obligations toward God, while the rest of the world only 7.

The next lesson is kind of hiding in the original Hebrew and then it appears in English or vernacular: “HASHEM is our God…” HASHEM is… means, HASHEM exists.
So Chobot haLebabot says that when we say the first Pasuk of the Shema Israel, and every time we see or kiss the Mezuzah which contains the Shema Israel, we should think about these 3 principles of our Jewish faith:

1. God exists.
2. We are His chosen people.
3. God is ONE

Mezuzah joke:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Inside/Outside the Mezuzah

4th of Tebet, 5770

Most people think that the Mezuzah cover is really the Mezuzah and the inside, just a parchment. Well, actually, the inside IS the Mezuzah and the outside is just a decorative/protective case also known as: BAYIT, or “house of the Mezuzah”.

If you really want to know what’s “inside a Mezuzah”, you’re actually asking: what is written in the Mezuzah?
The Mezuzah then, is a small handwritten scroll which contains the first two paragraphs of the Shema Israel.

Why it contains exclusively these two paragraphs? Because in both of them appears the Mitzvah of Mezuzah ukhtabatam al mezuzot betekha ubisharekha.

Similar to the Tefilin which contains 4 paragraphs (two of the Shema and two of Kadesh li) because in those 4 paragraphs the Mitzvah of Tefilin is mentioned.

Going back to the Mezuzah, the Shema Israel contains the basic principles of our faith, and by placing the Mezuza in our entrance doors we are asserting and remembering our beliefs every time we come in and go out.

For more Information watch this 30 seconds video: “Inside” a Mezuzah?

Friday, December 18, 2009

One Chanukkiah per family

1st of Tebet, 5770
Rosh Chodesh Tebet

Unlike most Mitzvot, Chanukah is not an individual Mitzva like Tefila or Tzedaka but a family Mitzva. In some ways, similar (but not identical) to the Mitzva of lighting Shabbat candles. So, as we have already explained, according to our Sepharadic Mashadi tradition we light one Menorah per family, not per individual.

For example, if one’s son or daughter lives overseas, and still depends financially on his or her family he/she does not need to light his own candles. In both cases, if those who are away from home still want to light the candles away from home, they could do it but without saying a Berakha. To this effect, a son or daughter is considered part of the immediate family while they are financially dependent on their parents (somekh al shulchan abiv). However, if they live on their own home and file their own Tax return, they should light their own candles.

If you are spending Shabbat in your parents or in-laws’ home, your immediate family (husband, wife, children) is considered part of the extended family of your parents, since you also partake the same food, house, etc. So, when you go to your parent’s house for Shabbat they should light the candles and your family is included in their Mitzvah without further requirements. However, if you and your family are going to arrive at your parent’s house after Shabbat has begun, then you should light Chanukah candles at your own house. In case the Chanukkiah is left lit at your house, you have to take extreme precautions to avoid any fire hazard!

DON’T FORGET to light Chanukkah candles before Shabbat candles!

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chanuka & Rosh Chodesh

30 Kislev 5770
(Rosh Chodesh – 6th Day of Chanukah, at night we light 7 candles)

Besides Chanukah, today we also celebrate Rosh Chodesh Tebet.

The month of Tebet is the tenth Hebrew month counting from Nisan. The name Tebet was coined in Babylonia, as is the case with the names of the other Hebrew months.

Rosh Chodesh Tebet is sometimes observed as one day and sometimes –for example, this year- as two days because Kislev, the preceding month, is sometimes "full" (consisting of 30 days) and sometimes not (consisting of only 29 days).

The first day of Rosh Chodesh is the 30th day of the preceding month, and the second day is the 1st day of the new month. The month of Tevet itself always consists of precisely 29 days; because of this lack of variation in the length of Tevet, Rosh Chodesh of Shevat, the month which follows, always consists of only one day, namely, the 1st of Shevat (from

Today and tomorrow morning we say in the Amida (Lachash) Yaale veYabo and al haNisism and we read the full Halel. Then we take out two Sifre Torah . On the first one we read the Rosh Chodesh portion, but instead of dividing it into 4 parts (4 Alliot) as we do every Rosh Chodesh, we divide the reading into 3 Alliot. In the second Sefer Torah we read the part corresponding to the 6th day of Chanukah. Tomorrow we will do the same thing except that in the second Sefer Torah we will read the text for the 7th day of Chanukah.

Recommended link: A contemporary Chanukah:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chanuka candles: when , where, how?

Wednesday Dec 16, 09 – 29 Kislev 5770
(5th Day of Chanukah, at night we light 6 candles)

1. Technically speaking, it is enough to light one single candle every night. As we say in the Berakha: lehadlik NER Chanukah (to light the candle, not candles, of Chanukah). As we all know, today our custom is to add one more candle for each night. However, in extreme cases where you cannot light all the candles, for example, if one is on a trip or in a Hotel room, etc., lighting one candle any night will be enough.

2. The candles could be made of wax, paraffin, regular oil, etc., but ideally one should use olive oil, because the miracle we are celebrating was about olive oil. Another advantage of olive oil is that normally the oil candles will last for more time, while some small wax candles will last less than the required time (half hour).

3. In the past, people used to place the Chanukkiah outside the door, on opposite side to the Mezuzah, which technically speaking is the best place for it (some families still do it!). But nowadays, the Chanukkiah is normally lit inside the house, close to a window, in a way that could be visible from outside.

Recommended link to visit - On the prayer Al haNisim:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Electrical Chanukkiah

28th of Kislev, 5770

The Mitzva of Chanukah cannot be performed with electrical candles, even when real candles are not available. An electrical Hanukkiah, however, can be used in addition to the regular Hanukkiah especially during day time.

A few days ago, on Perashat VAYISHLACH, I explained why we are called AM ISRAEL. We read then that Yaakov fought with an angel and the angel blessed him and Yaakov's name was changed to Israel. Israel is the alternative name of Yaakov. But is that fair that we ?the Jewish people- are named exclusively after Yaakov? Why aren?t we called the people of Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people? How about Itzchack? The middle generation is always the most challenging! Wait a minute: a person?s Jewish status goes after the mother. Whatever religion the mother is, that is also the child?s. So why aren?t we called the people of Sarah or Rivkah or Rachel or Lea? Why are we named AM ISRAEL exclusively after Yaakov? Take a closer look at the spelling of the word ?Israel? and you will magically find the names of our three patriarchs and our four matriarchs: ?Yod? for Itzchack and Yaakov, ?Shin? for Sarah. ?Resh? for Rivkah and Rachel. ?Alef? for Abraham and ?Lamed? for Lea. They are all there?. Isn?t it beautiful? Isn?t Israel the perfect name for us?

Recommended link on electrical Chanukkiah:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chanuka & Shabbat candles - Lighting Chanuka candles on Friday

Every night we should light the candles at nightfall (after 5.10 PM), but today, Friday, December 11th - the first day of Chanukah- is an exception: today we light Chanukah candles approximately 20-25 minutes BEFORE sunset, ideally at 4:05. Why? Because at 4:10 we need to light Shabbat candles, and Chanukah candles must be lit before them.

Another exception for Friday’s Chanukah candle lighting: while every night the candles should last for at least half an hour, during Friday, the candles should last for more time.
So, make sure your candle is long enough, or has enough oil to burn for approximately an hour and a half.

When Shabbat is over, at home we should first recite the Habdalah and then light the Chanukah candles. (approx. 5.25 PM).

Before lighting the Chanukah candles we recite the following blessings:

Blessing #1: Baruch ata Ado-nai Elo-henu melech ha-olam, Asher kide-shanu bi-mitzvo-tav, Vi-tzee-vanu le-had-leek Ner Chanukah.

Blessing #2: Baruch ata Ado-nai Elo-henu melech ha-olam, She-asa nee-seem la-avo-tenu, Baya-meem ha-haem baz-e-man ha-zeh.
This blessing is said on the first night only.

Blessing #3: Baruch ata Ado-nai Elo-henu melech ha-olam, Sheh-he-che-yanu ve-kee-yihemanu Ve-hee-gee-yanu laze-man ha-zeh.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach!

Watch the animated video on lighting the Chanukah candles at:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What is Chanuka? The meaning of the word Chanuka

Kislev 23, 5770

The word Chanukah means “dedication” and it is also used in this sense in phrases like “Chanukat haBayit” or dedication of one’s home.

So, to what “dedication” are we referring to in the Festival of Chanukah?

During the Second century BCE the Jews were subjugated by the Syrian-Greek army of Antiochus Epiphanies. The Jews were not permitted to practice their religion (observance of Shabbat, Holydays, Brit Mila, etc were punishable by death). Moreover, the Bet haMikdash, the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, was captured and defiled by the Greeks with the help of some collaborationist Jews (mityavnim). They introduced an image of Zeus Olympus, and dedicated the Holy Temple to him, offering sacrifices of impure animals like pigs.

In the years 165 BCE the Jews lead by Yehuda Maccabi rebelled against the powerful armies of Antiochus and miraculously defeated them. Their first mission was to recover the Bet haMikdash. They purified the Holy Temple but in order to dedicate it back to God Almighty they needed to light the Menorah, which indicated that the Bet haMikdash was functioning. They found one small jar, with an amount of oil which normally would last only for one night. They lighted the Menorah and happily rededicated the Bet haMikdash back to God. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, giving them exactly the time needed to produce new pure olive oil.

Chanukah means the “dedication of the Bet haMikdash” – after years of being defiled to serve idols – to God Almighty.

The festival is observed by the kindling of candles on a Chanukiah – eight branch Menorah – one candle on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night, in remembrance of the miracle of the oil.

During the eight days of Chanukah we also recite the Hallel and we include in the Amidah and bircat haMazon the prayer al hanisim. In these prayers we remember the miracle of our victory over an enemy more numerous and powerful than us. Every day we also read a portion of the Torah related to the dedication of the Holy Temple in the desert (Mishkan).

Chanukah is celebrated on the 25th of the month of Kislev.

This year, 2009, Chanukah starts Friday, December 11.

For more information see: