Friday, May 18, 2012

YOM YERUSHALAYIM: Jerusalem's Day, 28th Iyar 1967

This coming Sunday, May 20th (28th of Iyar, beginning Saturday night), we will celebrate Yom Yerushalayim.

In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan with the help of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Kuwait, Pakistan, the PLO and Sudan decided to go to war to destroy the State of Israel.  Led by Egypt's president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt mobilized its troops into the Sinai desert, expelled the UN peace keeping forces, and initiated other actions, like closing the Suez canal, which were considered acts of war. They were so confident in 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 beginning what is known as the Six Days War. 

Against all odds, Israel not only survived the attacks of a much more numerous and stronger army--with no American help--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 Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).

That was probably on of the happiest days 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 (see for example this) and very especially in the battles for Yerushalayim. We shouldn't be surprised: The Tora already promised Am Israel that when we follow HaShem's will, even if we are outnumbered, God will intervene in our behalf ( Vayikra 26: 7-8) "five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand...".

HaShem, our God,  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 HaShem your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with You... HaShem your God is going with you, and will fight with you against your enemies -- to deliver you..."

We were blessed to see that all of God's promises were fulfilled in the miracles that took place during the Six Days war. 

This is why we celebrate Yom Yerushalaim with Hallel and prayers of gratitude to haShem Yitbarakh.

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Candle lighting in NYC: 7:57 PM 
Shabbat ends in NYC: 9.00 PM

 Preparing ourselves for Yom Yerushalayim (Sunday May 20, 28 of Iyar)

√READ More about the Six Days war here

√ WATCH and LISTEN:  YERUSHALAYIM SHEL ZAHAB "Celebrating Jerusalem united"

√ READ Echoes of '67  Israelis today face the greatest threat to their existence since 1967.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

THE 13 PRINCIPLES. # 7. Moshe reached the highest level of Prophecy

Previously, we explained that we Jews believe that Moshe attained the highest level of prophecy (see here). 

One of the differences between Moshe and all other prophets was that Moshe could receive Prophecy whenever he wished.  He did not need to bring himself to a state of prophetic concentration since he was in a permanent state of prophetic concentration (See, Rambam, Yesode haTora 7:6). 

I will explain this concept with an example. 

Prophecy is a phone-call from God.    Now, you can only get a phone call, any phone call, if you have a functioning phone.  To be a prophet, one had to reach the highest level of huan perfection (remember: "wealth, wisdom and strength"?  See here).  In this sense, "to have a phone" means to have reached this high level of human perfection.   Many people mightimagine that they receive (or deserve to receive) a message from God. Which in light of what I just explained, it might be considered a bit arrogant, unless one feels that he or she have actually achieved that level of human perfection. Without that "phone" you can not receive God's message! 

Now, once an individual possesses 'an active phone', he will not necessarily get a call from HaShem!  Being a prophet means "achieving a level which deserves prophecy", not necessarily the actual reception of a prophetic message. Calling or not calling the prophet is God's prerogative: "All prophets (except Moshe) could not receive prophecy whenever they desired. It all depended on God's will. A prophet might wait days and years, and still not receive prophecy" (Rambam, commentary to the Mishna).

Moshe Rabbenu, however, could receive a call from God at will. "Whenever he wished, he could be enveloped by divine inspiration, and prophecy will descend upon him" (Yesode haTora 7:6) enabling him to be in constant contact with God. 

 Preparing ourselves for Yom Yerushalaim  (Sunday May 20, 28 of Iyar)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

SEPHARDIC RABBIS: Rabbi David Pardo (1718-1790)

Rabbi David Pardo, (1718-1790) was a famous Sephardic Rabbi, a prolific author and a poet. He was born in Venice, Italy. At a young age he went to Sarajevo where he studied under Rabbi Abraham David Papo. Eventually R. Pardo was appointed rabbi of Sarajevo. In 1776 he traveled to Eretz Israel, settling in Jerusalem, where he served as head of the Yeshiba Chesed leAbraham uBinyan Shelomo. Rabbi Pardo was regarded in his time as Jerusalem's greatest Rabbi. 
Many of his works deal mainly with Tannaitic Rabbinic literature, and are an original commentary--not necessarily dependent on the Amoraitic interpretations. 

His first famous work was Shoshannim le-David , an independent commentary on the Mishna.  

He also wrote Chasde David a commentary on the Tosefta, which is considered one of the most important commentary on the Tosefta. 

And Sifre deBeRab  which he commenced in 1786 and was published by his son Abraham after his death. This work is considered the most important commentary on the Sifre. 

He also wrote Mikhtam le-David a book where he records his numerous halakhic decisions and responsa. 

Maskil le-David a commentary on Rashi's Biblical commentary. 

LaMnatzeach leDavid, a book on those Talmudic passages where alternative explanations are given.  

Mizmor le-David notes on the Perot Ginnosar of Rabbi Chizekiyah da Silva. 

Rabbi Pardo's liturgical poems and prayers are included in the Sephardic daily and festival prayer books.   

He died in Yerushalaim.
Of his sons, R. Jacob Pardo became chief Rabbi of Ragusa.  A second son, Isaac, was the Rabbi of Sarajevo, while a third, Abraham, who married Lebana, the daughter of Rabbi Chayim Yosef David Azulai (Chida), became head of the Yeshiba Chesed leAbraham uBinyan Shelomo after his father-in-law's death. 

Rabbi Pardo's disciples included Shabbetai ben Abraham Ventura, Rabbi David Pinto, and Rabbi Abraham Penso.

For a comprehensive biography of Rabbi David Pardo (which still needs to be written in Wikipedia) see  this article   by Eliezer Papo   

Click  here  to   download LaMnatzeach leDavid (Pardo), a commentary on the alternative arguments of the Talmud (-i ba'et ema)     

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

RELIGIOUS INTEGRITY: Three Kosher Lies (Part 2 of 2)

Last week we examined two of three cases in which the Rabbis said that one can deviate from the truth.  The first one was masekhta, when out of humbleness, one can pretend that he does not know some material so well, even though, one knows it very well. The second case, has to do with tzeni'ut: discretion. In some circumstances, particularly in the field of intimacy, one is authorized (or expected) to hide the whole truth, since talking or discussing openly certain intimate subjects with the wrong people is not viewed as appropriate (see here)
3. USHPIZA: This third category literally means 'guest'.

Most people think when they hear this exception, that when I'm a guest in someone's house I'm authorized to lie to my host and praise her food and hospitality, even though it was not that great. However, and without judging the merits of this last interpretation, the case the Talmud was referring to, was explained by Ba'ale haTosafot in a different way.   

In the past, people did not have so much food and comfort as we all have today.  There were no hotels, and travelers would often look for generous hosts for bed, breakfast and more. Our case means that if I were a guest in someone's house, and they treated me exceptionally well, if I suspect that by my public praise of their hospitality other travelers--some of whom might not be honest or might behave in an abusive manner--would now try to be hosted in that house, I'm allowed to deviate from the truth and hide the praise for their exceptional treatment, because otherwise everyone will want to come to that house. And I might cause involuntarily a financial damage to them or generate a possible situation of abuse to my generous host. In this and similar circumstances, I'm allowed to hide the identity of my benefactors or belittle their generosity.  
As we see, although the truth is a very high and esteemed value in Judaism and the Tora warned us to stay away from lies, sometimes, for humbleness, morality or in order to avoid damage or to save generous people from abuse, the Rabbis permitted us to deviate from the truth.  

Our Soldiers Speak

Click here to hear Sgt. Benjamin Anthony 's interview in WABC Radio

Monday, May 14, 2012

CHUPA: Understanding the wedding ceremony (Part 3)

Previously (see here) we explained that the Jewish wedding consists of two steps: Kiddushin and Chupa, which today are integrated into one single ceremony. 

Now, we will begin to describing the Kiddushin.

There could be many Rabbis invited to participate of the wedding, but the bride and groom must appoint one Rabbi to be the mesadder kiddushin, which means, the Rabbi who presides the ceremony. This Rabbi will be the ultimate responsible for all the legal aspects of the wedding. Among other things:  1. Verifying previous to the marriage the Jewishness of the bride and the groom. 2. Preparing and writing the Ketubah. 3. Appointing or approving the witnesses (this will be explained later on).  4. Filling out the State marriage license, etc. 
The Rabbi Mesadder Kiddushin normally recites the first two blessings, known as "birkat irusin". 


Holding a cup of wine in his hand he would say first: Bore Peri haGefen (Blessed are You, HaShem, the creator of the product of the vineyard). It is important to remember that the main Mitzva of the wedding ceremony is "happiness", i.e., to make the groom and his bride happy. Wine represents happiness, as it says in Tehilim (Psalms 104) "and wine (a little bit!) will make man's heart happy" (see video below for another original explanation).
The second berakha says: meqadesh amo Israel al yede chupa vekiddushin. Blessed are You HaShem, our God, Who consecrate us with His commandments ... and allowed us to be married by Chupa and Kiddushin. Which is a praise to HaShem that He established the institution of marriage, for the sake of preserving our morality and the sanctity of the family. 
In our community the tradition is that after reciting these two blessings the Rabbi (who does not necessarily drink from the wine) gives the cup of wine to the groom, and after he tastes the wine, the cup is given to the bride's mother and she gives it to her daughter.  One of the reasons that the mother, and not the groom, brings the cup to the bride is that at this moment (betrothal) the bride is still the daughter of her parents, and not yet the wife of her husband. 
(To be continued....)