Friday, June 3, 2011

SHABUOT: Becoming the chosen People

Today is 1 of Sivan (ROSH CHODESH SIVAN) 5771/ 45 days of Omer (6 weeks, 3 days)

In six days, BH, we will celebrate Shabuot, one of the major Holidays of the Jewish calendar. Shabuot is known as Chag Matan Torah, the day in which we received the Torah. The giving of the Torah was actually the conclusion of a larger process: the choosing of the Jewish People as the Nation of God. We arrived at the Sinai dessert on the first day of Sivan (today!). HaShem Almighty ordered us to camp and to get ourselves ready for the greatest event. For the following days people had to purify themselves, and prepare themselves physically and spiritually.

Then HaShem made us His offer: ve'ata im shamo'a tishme'u bekoli... and now, if you accept my commandments, keeping a covenant with Me, you will be for Me a Kingdom of Priests and a Special Nation (goy kadosh).

To be the "chosen people" means basically these two things.

1. Kingdom of priests: The priests are those dedicated to the service of God. The Jewish People was offered to dedicate their lives to serving God. Same as the Kohanim (Jewish priests) for the privilege to serve God, they will be imposed more limitations and responsibilities than those who are not priests.

2. Goy Kadosh: To be a special people (or a 'separated' people) means that HaShem Almighty will supervise us directly, so to speak, guarantying that, as a people, we will never disappear from the face of the earth. This direct supervision also implies that He expects from us an exemplary behavior. God will be examining our conduct closer than the rest of the nations. See Amos 3:2. Rak etchem yadati mikol mishpechot ha'adamah "You alone did I chose from among all the families of the earth; therefore I will hold you to account for all your iniquities..."

(to be continued...)

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Candle lighting in NYC: 8:04

Shabbat ends in NYC: 9:12


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rabbi Raphael Karigal (1732-1777)

Today is the 29 of Iyar, 5771/ 44 days of Omer, 5771

One of the first rabbinic luminaries to arrive to America in colonial times was Rabbi Raphael Chaim Yitzchak Karigal. Rabbi Karigal was born in 1732 in the ancient Sephardi kehillah of Hebron in Eretz Israel.

In 1772 Rabbi Karigal arrived to Newport, Rhode Island, a major Jewish community in the colonial era. The Newport kehillah - "Kahal Kadosh Yeshuat Yisrael" - had been founded in 1658, the second Jewish community to be established in North America. (New York had been the first, in 1654.) Like all colonial kehillot, it followed Sephardic practices in both minhag and organizational structure. The beautiful Touro Synagogue, which was constructed by the kehillah in the 1800's, is still standing. It is a National Historical Site and the oldest synagogue extant in the United States. The outstanding beauty of its architectural lines is still impressive today.

In Newport, Rabbi Karigal was received with great honor, as the most outstanding talmid hakham to have visited the town until then. While in Newport, Rabbi Karigal came into contact with one of the leading non-Jewish intellectuals of colonial life, Rev. Ezra Stiles. Stiles was president of Yale College (click HERE to read "How Hebrew came to Yale") and a famous Protestant minister. He was very impressed with the demeanor and bearing of Rabbi Karigal and left detailed descriptions of Rabbi Karigal and his actions in his letters and diary. The character and learning of a true talmid chacham were so unusual in eighteenth century America that Stiles became one of Rabbi Karigal's greatest admirers. He asked him many questions concerning the Jewish religion and the Hebrew language and carefully recorded the answers he received.

Click HERE to read the complete article about the fascinating life of rabbi Karigal and part of the memoirs of Ezra Stiles on rabbi Karigal

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yom Yerushalaim

Today is the 28 day of Iyar, 5771/ 43 days of Omer (6 weeks, 1 day)

In 1967 Egypt, Syria and Jordan with the help of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Pakistan and Sudan decided to go to war and destroy the State of Israel. Led by Egypt's President Nasser, Egypt mobilized its troops into the Sinai desert, expelled the UN peace keeping forces, and initiated other actions which were considered acts of war. They were so confident on their military superiority that the Arab states celebrated victory and rejoiced in the destruction of the Jewish State, even before they started the war.

On June 5th 1967 Israel launched a preemptive strike and started what is known as the Six Days War. Read about the Six Days War HERE

Against all odds, Israel not only survived the attacks of a more numerous and stronger army--with no American help, by the way--but also conquered the Sinai Peninsula, Judea and Samaria and the Golan heights.

Probably the most important aspect of the Israeli victory was that more than 1900 years after its destruction by the Romans, on the 28th of Iyar 1967 Israel regained control over Yerushalaim.

That was probably the happiest day in the history of the Jewish people, a culmination of our Independence that started in Yom haAtzmaut, 1948.

Many miracles took place in the six days war and very especially in the battles for Yerushalaim. We shouldn't be surprised: The Torah already promised Am Israel that if we follow haShem's will, even if we were outnumbered, God will intervene in our behalf ( Vaikra 26, 7-8) You will pursue your enemies...Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand....

God Almighty encouraged us not to be afraid of a more powerful enemy, because He will be fighting with our troops, protecting us and delivering us from destruction (Debarim 20, 1-4): When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you... haShem your God is He who is going with you, to fight for you with your enemies -to save you

All of God's promises were fulfilled in Yom Yerushalaim!

This is why we celebrate this day with Halel and prayers of gratitude to haShem Almighty.

May haShem Almighty find in us and in our fathers enough merit to deserve His constant Protection against those who relentlessly pursue our destruction.

May we see the Temple of Yerushalaim rebuilt in our days and its inhabitants living in peace.

VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION to read and share with your friends

Enjoy this video and its music

Yom Yerushalaim Sameach!!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

BERIT MILA: Sephardic Ceremony

Today is the 26 of Iyar, 5771/ 41 days of Omer (5 weeks, 6 days)

The ceremony begins when the child is brought into the room where the circumcision will take place and is handed to the father. As the baby is brought into the room, it is customary for guests to greet him singing different songs in Hebrew. The most popular song in Sephardic communities is perhaps: berukhim atem kehal emunai....

The father holds the baby and pronounces a few prayers (see link). Then the baby is handed to an honoree (usually the grandfather who is not acting as the Sandak!) who places the baby in the special chair of Eliyahu haNabih.

Then the father holds again the baby and formally appoints the Mohel as his "agent" to perform the Berit Milah. "You be my agent to circumcise my son". This is done because, technically the father is directly commanded to perform the circumcision, so, in case he does not perform the circumcision himself, he must appoint the Mohel as his agent (shaliach).

There are three blessings that have to be pronounced at the ceremony of the Berit Milah, two by the father and one by the Mohel. In our community we have the custom that the father recites the first blessing (lehakhniso )before the circumcision takes place.

After the father pronounces the third blessing (shehecheyanu) one of the honorees, usually the Mohel or one of the rabbis present at the Berit, says the Kiddush (bore peri hagefen) and the berakha asher kiddesh yedid mibeten....

Then, a special prayer (misheberakh) for the baby is recited, where his Hebrew name is loudly announced for the first time.

Click HERE to see the ceremony, step by step, as it is done in the Mashadi community.