Friday, February 4, 2011

Candle Lighting

Today is the 30th day of Shebat (Rosh Chodesh Adar), 5771

The Mitzvah of lighting the Shabbat candles is one of the special Mitzvot for 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 representing Shamor and the other one representing Zakhor.

Shamor and Zakhor are the two versions (like: the 'two sides' of the coin) of the first word of the fourth commandment. Shamor means, 'keeping Shabbat', in the sense of refraining ourselves from transgressing the Shabbat working or doing any forbidden Melakha (creative tasks, as defined by the Halakha). And Zakhor includes the performance of all positive things we do to honor the Shabbat.

1. Using festive clothing and having special food for Shabbat.

2. Welcoming Shabbat with the Kiddush.

3. Honoring Shabbat when it finishes, 'accompanying' its departure by the Habdalah ceremony, same as one would do with an important guest: welcoming him when he comes to our house and accompanying him as he leaves our house.

Although the woman of the house has priority to light Shabbat candles, if she is no home or if she is not able to light the candles, the husband or one adult member of the family could light the candles, and recite the corresponding blessing.

When single girls or boys are away from home, for example, if they have to spend Shabbat in their dorms, or when a husband is in a business trip and spends Shabbat in a hotel room out of town, they should light the candles in their room and say the blessing for it.

Shabbat Shalom!

Candle lighting in NYC: 4:58 PM

Shabbat Ends in NYC: 6:07 PM

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

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Meat and milk, the basics

Today is the 28th day of Shebat , 5771

The Torah forbids consuming meat with milk.

In the Book of Shemot (23, 19) the Torah says: "You shall not cook the calf in its mother milk".

The Rabbis explained that the prohibition to mix milk with meat does not refer exclusively to the cow's milk with her calf's meat, but to any meat of a mammal (cows, goats, sheep) with milk from any other Kosher mammal.

The Torah, explains Maimonides, brought the case of the calf and its mother's milk because that was the most common "meal" (a palatial meal, actually) done with milk and meat in Biblical times. The Torah presented that case as an illustration of the general rule, not as a specification.

The Rabbis extended the prohibition of milk and meat to any other 'meat', including bird's meat (chicken, turkey, duck) but they excluded fish (fish and meat belongs to a different category) and bird's eggs.

Why meat and milk is forbidden? There are some Mitzvoth (a.k.a. Chukim) for which the Torah does not bring any explicit reason. However, a Jew is not prevented from researching and finding numerous benefits behind the Mtizvot. For example, much has been said and written about the harms for digestion at the level of enzymes, if meat and milk are eaten together. A second more mystical approach indicates that meat and milk actually represent two different opposite states which should be kept apart: Milk represents life. Is taken from a living animal and gives life to the calf. While meat is part of a dead animal's body.

More about meat and milk, from

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lending money and paying back

Today is the 26th day of Shebat , 5771

As we have explained last week, one of the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah is lending money, without interest, to a fellow Jew who needs it (Shemot 22, 24). 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 which is explicitly forbidden in the Torah.

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.

MUST MUST SEE (and forward to all your friends!):

The painful --but simplest- explanation to understand the conflicts in the Middle

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