Friday, June 24, 2011

Rabbi David Aaaron de Sola (1796-1860)

David Aaron de Sola (1796 - 1860) was a rabbi and author, born in Amsterdam. When but eleven years of age he entered as a student the bet-hamidrash of his native city, and after a course of nine years received his rabbinical diploma. In 1818 he was elected one of the ministers of the Bevis Marks Congregation, London. De Sola's addresses before the Society for the Cultivation of Hebrew Literature led the mahamad (board of directors of the congregation) to appoint him to deliver discourses in the vernacular, and on March 26, 1831, he preached the first sermon in English ever heard within the walls of Bevis Marks Synagogue. His discourses were subsequently published by the mahamad. In 1829 he issued his first work, The Blessings, and in 1836 he published his Translation of the Forms of Prayer According to the Custom of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, in six volumes, of which a second edition was issued in 1852. This translation formed the basis for several subsequent ones.
In 1837 de Sola published The Proper Names in Scripture. In 1839, he translated eighteen treatises of the Mishna to English. In 1840 de Sola, conjointly with Raphall, began the publication of an English translation of the Scriptures together with a commentary. Only the first volume, Genesis, was published, in 1844.
Besides his works in English, de Sola wrote in Hebrew, German, and Dutch. He contributed frequently between 1836 and 1845 to the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums and to Der Orient, and published in German A Biography of Epharim Luzzato and a Biography of Distinguished Israelites in England. His chief work in Dutch was his Biography of Rabbi Isaac Shemuel Reggio published in 1855 and afterward translated into English.

You can get some books (reprints) of Rabbi David Aaron de Sola online. Check HERE.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

THE JEWISH WEDDING: Minhaguim of Sheba Berakhot

Today is the 21 of Sivan, 5771

As we have explained last week (see HERE), part of the celebration of the seven days of celebration after the wedding is the recitation of the Sheba Berakhot (seven blessings).

These blessings are recited only when a few conditions are met:

According to the Sephardic custom in Israel (Rabbi O. Yosef)

1.There must be ten adult males present (the chatan is considered one of them)

2.The meal has to take place in the residence of the bride and groom (bet chatanim)

3. There must be at least two new guest (panim chadashot).

When one of these conditions is not met, then if at least three adult male are partaking of the formal meal, they recite just the last berakha (ashe bara...)

The custom in the Mashadi community is the same except that the sheba berakhot are recited, regardless of where the meal is taking place (Rabbi Ben Hayim).

The Ashkenazi custom also allows to recite the sheba berakhot even if the meal does not take place in the residence of the new couple, and even if just one new guest, not two is present (Rabbi Knohl).

When the Sheba Berakhot are recited, the custom is to have two cups of wine: with the first cup, one says Birkat haMazon and at the end of the Sheba Berakhot, he himself says "bore peri hagefen". With the second cup, they say the other six berakhot. After bore peri hagefen, the wine of the two cups is mixed and given to the bride and the groom (R. O. Yosef)

When only the berakha Asher Bara is recited, the custom is to say first bore peri hagefen and then asher bara.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The 19th Blessing: SIM SHALOM

Today is the 19th of Sivan, 5771

The last berakha of the Amida, Sim Shalom, is the blessing in which we ask haShem for Shalom/peace.

Grant peace, goodness, and blessing,
grace and kindness and mercy,
on us and on all Israel Your people.
And bless us, our Father, all of us, as one,
with the light of Your Presence...

Shalom is considered the highest blessing and the ultimate aspiration of the Jewish people, from the beginning of our history until our own days. Peace was never considered the "normal" situation of the Jews. For the Jewish people, Shalom is a God given blessing. Furthermore, we assert in this blessing that our peace with the rest of the world, depends on our peace with God

The text of this berakha is modeled after the most important blessing to be found in the Torah: birkat kohanim. In both blessings we ask God Almighty to protect us, shine His countenance on us, and radiate the light of His countenance (=His presence) to us.

We don't ask here for any specific request, rather, we express our desire to build a close relationship with God. To be known by Him (isa haShem panav elekha), to find grace in His eyes (veichuneka) and to be illuminated by His light, (=a relationship based in mutual love). We want God to look at us, and not to ignore us.

Maimonides explains that hashgachat haShem, "God's providence", is not the same for every human being. Rather, God would be involved in my life, as much as I would involve Him in my life, and vice versa.


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Monday, June 20, 2011

BERIT MILA: Should the father himself perfom the circumcision?

18 of Sivan, 5771

In the Torah says that Abraham circumcised his son Isaac. Accordingly, the performance of the circumcision is incumbent directly upon the father.

The Sephardic tradition is that when the father performs the circumcision by himself, a different berakha is said. Normally the Mohel (circumcision surgeon) says: 'al hamila "...that You commanded us the performance of the circumcision...". But when the father himself circumcises his son he should say: "that You commanded us to circumcise one's son".

The question is: since it is a greater merit for the father to perform the Berit, should the father himself be encouraged to circumcise his son?

Some modern Rabbis discourage the father from doing the circumcision (see Penine Halakha, Mishpacha, 3, pg. 166) especially since there have been some cases where, God forbids, tragedies have occurred because of that. Rabbi Melamed also says that "rob gedole Israel", most prominent rabbis had always preferred to let the Mohel to perform the Berit. After all, the Berit Mila is a delicate procedure, for which one should not take risks (chashash sakana).

"The task of the mohel is not taken lightly. The mohel is required to study Jewish law, be familiar with the ancient traditions included in the circumcision ceremony, and must have expertise in the surgical process. For that, he undergoes intense training, learning the latest hygienic and medical techniques needed for the circumcision. He also receives instruction for evaluating the infant's health prior to the circumcision, and for providing post-procedural care".

The general custom, then, is that the father formally appoints an expert Mohel to circumcise his son.

The exception, of course, is when the father himself is a Mohel or a doctor.

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Click HERE to read: "A Jewish approach to risk evaluation", by Daniel Eisenberg, M.D.