Friday, January 21, 2011

SHABBAT and plowing (Choresh)

Today is the 16th day of Shebat , 5771

Choresh, or plowing, is one of the thirty-nine melachot --works or activities-- prohibited on Shabbat.

Plowing is the hardest work of farming. When you want to plant seeds, like wheat seeds for example, and harvest them, you need to plow the soil first. Loosening up the ground around those seeds so that water will get to them, and so that they will be able to grow. You can plow even with a strong stick: you stick it in the ground and wiggle it around, and then drop a seed in, covering it loosely with dirt.

But when you want to plow an entire field it's faster to use a real plow, pulled by horses, donkeys or an ox. As the animals push it along through the dirt, the soil gets ready to host the seeds.

On Shabbat it is prohibited to plow the ground --to level it off or make holes in it, like the holes used for planting seeds or for planting trees. Included in this prohibition is any preparation or improvement of land for agricultural use.

Involuntary plowing should be prevented as well. This includes for example carrying a heavy object -a very heavy chair for example- in soft ground, unintentionally making furrows. Making holes or furrows in the ground and making mere compressions in the ground is different. The latter, which is what wheels of a wheelchair or a baby carriage might do to the ground, is permissible on Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Candle lighting in NYC: 4:41 PM
Shabbat ends in NYC: 5:50 PM

Click here to see real Plowing:

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trees and men

Today is the 15th day of Shebat , 5771

The tree goes through cycles in its life. The heavy-laden tree of summer empties itself of fruit in the autumn, and then slowly loses its leaves, one by one. By winter time, the tree stands shorn of its previous glory. For all purposes, it appears to have died.

But then comes Tu B'Shvat. In the midst of the cold winter days, when all vegetation seems frozen or dead, the sap of the tree starts to flow beneath the surface bark. Rising slowly from roots buried in the hardened soil, the sap pushes its way up, pumping new life into outstretched branches that reach towards the heavens.

In life, we too often go through cycles of growth. Periods of renewal and growth may alternate with times of stagnation or dormancy. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe cites that this cycle is part of man's nature. He adds that a person must not become disillusioned when spiritual growth seems halted; the "low" period will usually be followed by a "high" period that will yield new opportunities for growth.

That is the message of Tu B'Shvat: Even when we feel lethargic, and seem to have lost the drive to achieve, we must not despair. Just as winter is an annual pause in the life-cycle of trees, so periods of lethargy and unproductivity are necessary phases in the human cycle. Just as with the coming of spring, life-giving sap moves imperceptibly through the trees to branches stretching to the sky, so we too will have renewed energy from deep within our spiritual reservoirs, so long as we set our goal heavenward.

Planting trees in Israel is one of the best ways to celebrate the 15th of Shebat!
This year 5 million trees were burned in the Carmel Forest. To plant a tree in Israel is more meaningful than ever!

Click here for more information

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tu biShbat: ILANOT

Today is the 14th day of Shebat , 5771

Tonight B'H will be the fifteenth day (in Hebrew= Tu) of the month of Shebat, the New Year - Rosh haShana- of the trees. In our community this festival is known as "ILANOT" (trees). Tu biShbat is considered the new year of the trees in the sense that on this day the trees (or more specifically, their fruits) are considered one year older, independently of when they were planted (See link for details). This in an important fact for many Mitzvot connected to agriculture like 'orla', etc. for which one needs to know the age of the tree.

How do we celebrate the 15th of Shebat today?

The custom in our community is to eat tonight from the seven fruits or species for which the Land of Israel is praised: "...a land of wheat and barley and grape and fig and pomegranate, a land of olives and honey (=dates)" (Deut. 8:8).

It is a special Zekhut to eat fruits which actually come from the Land of Israel and say Berakha for them.

In Iran our community used to say one berakha for each one of the seven fruits, uncovering one at a time. Mr Nassim Bassalian told me that here the standard custom is to say just one berakha for the fruits of the tree (haetz) and the correspondent berakha for whatever is eaten made of wheat and barley (normally, mezonot).

No special prayers are added to the regular services and Tachanun is not said.

For more information about Tu-biShbat click here:

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The 14th Berakha: Jerusalem.

Today is the 13th day of Shebat , 5771

tishkon betokh Yerushalayim irekha...
In this blessing we ask God Almighty
1. To restore His presence in Yerushalayim.
2. To reestablish the Kingdom of David in Yerushalayim.
3. To rebuild Yerushalayim, soon in our days.
2. Like Washington D.C for America, Jerusalem was -and B'H 'is'- the political capital of the Jewish Nation. It consisted of the area of the King's palace (the White house), the residing place of the Bet Din haGadol (the Supreme Court of Justice) and the Sanhedrin (the Senate). When we mention the 'destruction of Jerusalem' we imply the destruction of the Jewish Nation, through the eradication of its national infrastructure of political and legal governance.
1. But Yerushalayim -Jerusalem- is not merely a city. Yerushalayim is, above all, the city of the Bet haMikdash, the Holy Temple, where the presence of God (shekhina) used to reside. The Bet haMikdash makes Yerushalayim the holiest city on this planet. When you visit the Western Wall -a reminiscence of the Bet haMikdash- you can experience a tiny echo of the incomparable feeling of being in the Presence of God. A feeling that inspires thousands of Jews to pray, rejoice, and cry.
3. The Bet haMikdash is the 'soul' of Yerushalayim. This is why we still pray to God to rebuild Yerushalayim, although today Yerushalayim is already the capital of the State of Israel, and to many -me included- the most beautiful city in the world! And if this amazing Yerushalayim that we have today, is Yerushalayim without its soul, can you imagine Yerushalayim 'with its soul'?!
We long and pray for the full connection with the Almighty that a rebuilt Yerushalayim
will allow.

Must see: From Jerusalem to the world, by Aish

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

Monday, January 17, 2011

HONORING PARENTS and other relatives.

Today is the 12th day of Shebat , 5771

The Mitzva of honoring parents extends to other relatives. The main difference between our parents and any other relatives is that toward our parents we have two obligations:
1. Honor and 2. Obedience/respect of their authority (mora). While toward other relatives is limited to honoring.
1. One should honor his older siblings. For example, it is customary that a younger brother or sister will stand up when the older brother goes ('ole) to the Torah, etc.
2. In our community grandchildren stand up for their grandparents when they go to the Torah. They would also kiss their grandparents hands when they come down from an 'alia, as a sign of love and honor, and after Friday night's Kiddush. Grandparents are also honored in special occasions, like being the Sandak in a Berit Mila, etc.
3. Honoring also applies to one's in-Laws. We learn this from David haMelekh who called King Shaul : 'My father' (Shmuel I, 24, 11. David was married to Shaul's daughter, Mikhal) that one should honor his father and mother in-Law as one honors his own parents. This rules applies even if one's father or mother in-Law are of a young age. The son/daughter in law should stand up for them, etc. In Sephardic communities it is also customary not calling in-Laws by their first name, but addressing them with the honor one addresses an important person. Or calling them 'father' / 'mother' as one does with his own parents.
(Yalkut Yosef, Kibbud Ab vaEm, bet. 496-515)

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024