Tuesday, June 7, 2011

SHABUOT: The Five customs

Tonight we will celebrate Shabuot, when we stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai to be appointed as God's chosen people and receive the Torah.

There are 5 Minhaguim (customs) that most Jews follow on Shabuot. To remember them, keep in mind the Hebrew word A /CHA/ R/ I/ T.

A:Akdamot or Azharot. Poems describing the 613 Mitzvot we received in the Torah.

CHA: Chalab (milk), the custom to eat dairy food on Shabuot (click HERE to read: Why dairy in Shabuot?).

R: Ruth. During Shabuot we study Megilat Ruth. Among the many reasons for reading Rut is that Ruth converted to Judaism. And in a sense, by receiving the Torah we also became converts to Judaism. Another given reason is that from Ruth we learn the dependency of the written Torah on the Oral Torah, because by the "letter" of the Torah, a Moabite, could not been accepted as a convert. Read more about Rut HERE

I: Yerek (Green). Many communities have the custom to decorate their Synagogues with plants, flowers and tree branches to remember Mt Sinai. When the Torah was given --we still treasure this image in our genetic collective memory--Mt. Sinai was green, blossoming with grass and flowers. For this reason, in the Persian tradition Shabuot is known as moed gol (the festival of flowers).

T: Tikun (Reparation). We stay awake during the night of Shabuot (Tuesday night until Wednesday morning) studying Torah, to "repair" for our ancestors who went to sleep the night of the sixth of Sivan instead of waiting vigilantly for the giving of the Torah, which was taking place the following morning.

For times of candle lighting, activities, and prayers for Shabuot in the Mashadi community, see HERE

Click HERE to read THE LAWS OF YOM TOB from Rabbi Obadia Yosef

Monday, June 6, 2011

SHABUOT: Becoming the chosen People (Part 2)

Today is the 4 of Sivan, 5771. 48 days of Omer (6 weeks, 6 days)

As we saw last week (Click Here), to be the chosen people is not about having more rights but more obligations. After all, we are the sole witnesses of God's existence. The case of God existence does not rest on evidences but on our testimony.

Maimonides in one of his letters (Igeret Teman) explains that the first thing a Jewish parent should teach his child is what happened in Shabuot. When we witnessed God's revelation, when we stood at the feet of Mt. Sinai. This is how our children become witnesses of God themselves.

The worst offense in Judaism is Chilul haShem, desecration of God. Which happens when a Jew--one of God's witnesses--misbehaves in a public context. If one makes a personal mistake in judgment, then it is a private matter to be resolved (and absolved) between a Jew and God. But when a member of the Jewish people acts inappropriately in public or when his misbehavior becomes public knowledge, then his act is considered Chilul haShem, a desecration of the name of God.


In a court of law a witness could be disqualified for a questionable immoral conduct. Some unethical acts will affect the credibility of the witness and his or her testimony will be inadmissible.

If a Jew acts with dishonesty, cheats, misbehaves, offends, then his character as a witness is affected and his testimony is rejected.

It is a desecration of the name of God because one disqualified witness for the case of God, definitely weakens the case for God.

Being a Jew is a huge responsibility. It implies the permanent awareness to live as a credible witness.

(I would like to thanks my friend, Mr R.A. for inspiring me these ideas).


Click HERE to read a refreshing and surprising article about Israel, the Palestinians and the Arabs neighbors.

Written by Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian writer and academic from Jordan, who now resides in the UK as a political refugee.