Thursday, July 1, 2010

Prayers from Yerushalaim

19th of Tamuz, 5770

BARUCH HASHEM I'm now in Erets Israel for the next three weeks. I'm staying in a small apartment in Yeshivat haKotel, a two minutes walk- literately- from the Western Wall. It is also thirty seconds away from Beth-El Synagogue, where I go to pray.

Beth-El synagogue is one of the ancient Synagogues in the Old City and one of the most special in the world. When you pray there you really feel transported to a different planet. In that Synagogue the lachash (silent Amida) lasts at least 40 minutes. Which gives you the unique opportunity -and forces you- to take very seriously every word of the Amida.

Stopping to think for a few seconds when you say ATA ('You'), for example, being conscious that you are addressing God in the second person and feeling that you're really in front of God Almighty, is probably one of the most important goals of our spiritual journey. Every word of the Amida guides you to follow a path that leads to His presence. And when you think about Him, the focus shifts from asking things from God to a mental effort to get closer to Him, as you would do to be closer to someone you deeply love.

You've to concentrate and focus in every word without letting any other thoughts -even thoughts about your basic needs- invade your mind. At those precious minutes you're trying to find in your soul the right way to think about God.

It is indeed a very challenging exercise of concentration but extremely rewarding. I tell you why, BH tomorrow.

Note: It is really difficult to find an accessible Wi-Fi in the vicinity . So, BH I'm not sure at what time of the day you will get the HOTD for the following 3 weeks…..

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Between 17 of tamuz and 9 of Ab

Today is the 18th of Tamuz, 5770

Ben haMetzarim is a period of 3 weeks, from the 17th of Tammuz until the 9th of Av (July 19th/20th). As we have explained, it took the Babylonians three weeks from the time the Babylonian army breached the walls of Yerushalaim until they finally burned and destroyed the Bet haMikdash. During this time, besides the massive destruction and pillaging of the Holy city, thousands of people were tortured and killed.

That is why during these 21 day period we observe certain traditions of mourning that build up as we get closer to Tisha BeAv.

SHEHECHEYANU for NEW FRUITS: Eating a new fruit that will require us to say the blessing Shehecheyanu during the three weeks should be done only on Shabbat.

WEDDINGS: No weddings take place during the three weeks.

ENGAGEMENTS: Saying Shir Lamaalot with no music is allowed until Rosh Chodesh Av (July 11th /12th).

MUSIC: We refrain from listening to music during the three weeks. Religious music is allowed, if it is not live music.

CLOTHING: It is not permitted to buy new clothing, except: 1. For a bride or groom that will get married after Tisha BeAv. 2. If the article is on sale and it will be substantially more expensive after Tisha BeAv. Our tradition is also to not buy gold and/or Jewelry from Rosh Chodesh Av.

HAIRCUT: It is permitted to get a haircut only until Rosh Chodesh Av. Our Minhag is that men do not shave from the Shabbat before Tisha BeAv until after Tisha BeAv.

NEW HOUSE: it is permitted to close or move into a new house until Rosh Chodesh Av.

EATING MEAT: Our tradition is to refrain from meat after Rosh Chodesh Av until the day after Tisha BeAv. A person who is sick or weak or a woman during the first 30 days after giving birth, are allowed to eat meat. Although chicken would be preferable to meat. Fish is allowed during the three weeks.

The above mentioned are some examples of the basic traditions that we follow on these days of mourning (for more information ask one of our community Rabbis).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The fast of 17th of Tamuz

17th of Tamuz, 5770

Five tragedies happened to the Jewish people on the 17thof Tammuz:

1. In Biblical times, Moses descended from Mount Sinaion this day and upon seeing the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf, he broke the first set of Tablets that carried the Ten Commandments.

2. King Menashe, one of the worst kings of the Kingdomof Yehuda, placed on that day an idol in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple, around the year 700 BCE.

3. In the time of the First Temple, on the 17thof Tammuz in the year 587 BCE, the Kohanim (priests) stopped offering the daily sacrifices due to the shortage of sheep during the siege of the city by the Babylonian army.

4. One year later, 586 BCE the walls of Yerushalaim were breached after many months of siege by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces. Three weeks after the breach of the wall the Bet haMikdash was destroyed on the 9thof Av.

5. Around the year 50 of the Common Era, Apostomus, a Roman captain, seized a Torah scroll and burned it in public.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The fast of 17th of Tamuz

Today is the 16th of Tamuz, 5770

Tomorrow Tuesday June 29th is a fast day, Shiva Asar beTamuz. The fast begins at dawn and ends at 8.59 PM.

On the 17th of Tamuz there are only two prohibitions: eating and drinking. NO additional limitations apply, such as the prohibition of washing the body, wearing leather shoes, working, driving, etc.

Who is exempted from fasting?
Minors: boys under 13 and girls under 12 years old are completely exempted from fasting.
Nursing women: According to the Sephardic Minhag, after giving birth women are exempted from fasting for 24 months, even if they are not actually nursing their baby.
Pregnant women, especially after the first 3 months, are exempted from fasting.
A person who is sick, for example, flu or fever or one who has a chronic disease, for example, diabetes, is exempt from fasting.
Elders should consult with their physicians if the fast will not affect their health. If it will, they are exempted (and in some cases, prohibited) from fasting.

All other healthy people should fast and remember the tragedies that fell onto the Jewish people in this period.

Our custom is to authorize to wash one's mouth or brush the teeth in this Taanit, provided one will be very careful to lower his head as to avoid swallowing water unintentionally.

Tomorrow, B'H, I'll explain why we fast on this day.