Friday, January 15, 2010

Lighting Shabbat Candles

29th of Tebet, 5770

The Mitzvah of lighting the Shabbat candles is one of the special Mitzvot of a Jewish woman. Our Rabbis instituted this Mitzvah to honor the Shabbat and promote Shalom Bayit, peace at home. The traditional custom is to light two candles, one represents ”Shamor” and the other one represents “Zakhor”.

“Shamor” and “Zakhor” are the two versions of the first word of the fourth commandment. “Shamor” means, to keep Shabbat, in the sense of keeping ourselves from transgressing the Shabbat by working or doing any forbidden Melakha (creative task). “Zakhor” means “remember” in the sense of honoring Shabbat using festive clothing , having special food and mainly welcoming it with the Kiddush and honoring its departure by the Habdalah ceremony, same as one would do with an important guest: welcoming when he comes and honoring him as he leaves.

Although the woman of the house has priority to light Shabbat candles, if she is away from home the husband or one of the adult members of the family could light the candles as well.

Single girls or boys, when away from home, if for example they have to spend Shabbat in the dorms, or a husband that spends Shabbat in a Hotel room overseas, should light the candles and say the blessing for it.
Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Preparing ourselves to pray

26th of Tebet, 5770
The Amida is the most important prayer. It is said every day, three times a day, morning, afternoon, and evening.
In preparation for the Amida we have to visualize that we are in front of the King of Kings. This is one of the reasons we say the Amida facing Jerusalem. Because it is in Yerushalaim where the divine presence dwells.
The name of this prayer Amida means “standing” because in the Jewish the protocol a servant stands in front of his King, hisfeet firmly together and bowing down his head a little. (For the same reason, some people would also place their hands on the middle of the chest, the right hand holding the left closed fist). Strictly speaking, Amida means: standing at Your service/waiting for Your command.
Normally, you should hold a Siddur in your hands and read the Amida, word by word from it. However, if you know the Amida by heart, you should close your eyes to better concentrate in the words that you're saying.
The Amida is said quietly, so low no one else could hear your words, so loud you could hear your own whispering.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lending money and paying back (Part 1)

25th of Tebet, 5770

One of the 613 Mitzvot is lending money, without interest, to a fellow Jew who needs it. Helping a needy person through a free loan is the highest form of Tzedaka. However, harassing a needy person into paying back the loan when one knows he/she lacks the money at the moment is a very grave transgression.

ILLUSTRATION: David, knowing that Josh’s business is in the verge of insolvency, offers to lend him the $10k needed to keep afloat. “You’ll pay me when things get better again” said David to Josh.

David has just fulfilled a great Mitzva. Not only did David help a fellow Jew financially, but he did this without affecting Josh’s dignity. In fact, he prevented Josh from getting to the point that he would need to ask for financial help.
As long as David knows that Josh cannot yet repay the loan, he is forbidden from harassing Josh. The Halakha is that David cannot even “inadvertently” pass by Josh’s place in order to remind him of the loan, if David knows that Josh doesn’t yet have the money.
On the other hand, Josh is forbidden from withholding payment longer than necessary. In other words, if Josh does have the money, it is forbidden for him to unduly delay paying back David.