Friday, July 6, 2012

The fast of Seventeenth of Tamuz (4:19 AM-8:58 PM)

This coming Sunday July 8th we commemorate the Seventeenth of Tamuz. A day in which five tragedies happened to the Jewish people (see here

√ The fast begins at dawn, which in Great Neck NY is at 4:19 AM.  The starting time of the fast is only relevant if before you went to sleep you were planning to wake up early -- before the fast begins-- to eat or drink. However, if at the time you went to sleep you planned to wake up after dawn, in fact you have already accepted and started the fast from the night.   So, if you randomly wake up earlier than 4:19AM, you cannot eat or drink. The Ashkenazi custom, however, is to allow drinking in this case because drinking water, for example, is not like a planned meal or a snack.  

√ If during the fast you forgot about the fast and you ate or drunk something, you still have to continue with the fast when you realize it is a fasting-day. You should not cancel the fast altogether because of that mistake. In this involuntary case, also, you don't need to make up for this fasting day by fasting another day. 

√ If you forgot it is a fast day and you said a berakha (blessing), for example, on a glass of water, according to the Sephardic tradition you should take a little sip of water because a berakhain vain is considered a Biblical transgression, i.e., a violation of the Third Commandment "You shall not pronounce the name of HaShem your God in vain".  Ashkenazi rabbis, however, considered that saying a blessing in vain is not a Biblical but a Rabbinical violation, and therefore one should still abstain from eating or drinking upon realizing his mistake.    
The fast ends at 8:58 PM

Shabbat Shalom!

Candle lighting in NYC 8:11 PM
Shabbat ends in NYC  9:19 PM. 

Click here to see who is exempted from fasting

Due to the current hot weather situation in NY, people should take extra precautions to avoid dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration are: vomiting, feeling very nauseated or very weak or light headed, despite lying down.  If you have any symptoms of dehydration you must break the fast and drink water immediately. 


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The fast of seventeenth of Tamuz (Part 2)

This coming Sunday we commemorate the Seventeenth of Tamuz. A day in which five tragedies happened to the Jewish people (see here)

We fast and elevate our prayers and supplications (tachanunim) to haShem, which inspire us to introspect and do Teshuba.

On the 17th of Tamuz there are only two prohibitions: eating and drinking. 

No additional restrictions apply, such as the prohibition of washing the body, wearing leather shoes, working, driving, etc.

Who is exempted from fasting?

Minors: boys under 13 and girls under 12 years old are completely exempted from fasting.

Nursing women: According to the Sephardic Minhag, after giving birth, a woman is exempted from fasting for 24 months, even if they are not actually nursing their baby.

Pregnant women, especially after the first 3 months, are exempted from fasting.

A person who is sick, with flu or fever or a chronic disease, for example, diabetes, is excused from fasting.

Elders should consult with their physicians if the fast might affect their health. If it will, they are exempted (and in some cases, prohibited) from fasting.

A healthy person who is affected from a temporary headache or other discomfort, is allowed to swallow a pill--like a tylenol, ibuprofen, or any other non-chewable pill-- without water.  However, if a person suffers from a more serious illness, he should take his or her medication with water or in any way the doctor indicates.   

All other healthy people should fast and remember the tragedies that fell onto the Jewish people in this day.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012


This coming Sunday, July 8th, we will commemorate the Fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz. (The fast is moved from Shabbat Tamuz 17th to  Sunday Tamuz 18th) 
Why is the 17th of Tamuz a day of fasting?  
Five tragedies happened to the Jewish people on the 17th of Tammuz:

1. In Biblical times, Moses descended from Mount Sinai and upon seeing the Jews worshipping the golden calf, he broke the first set of tablets that carried the Ten Commandments.

2. King Menashe, a Jewish King, and the worst sovereign of the Kingdom of Yehuda, placed on that day an idol in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple, around the year 700 BCE.

3. In the time of the First Temple, on the 17th of Tamuz, 587 BCE, the Kohanim (priests) stopped offering the daily sacrifices due to the shortage of sheep during the siege of the city by the Babylonian army.

4. Around the year 50 of the Common Era, Apostomus, a Roman captain, seized a Tora scroll and with abusive and mocking language, burned it in public. (According to Maimonides, it was Apostomus who placed an idol in the Holy Temple, as well).

5. In the year 68 ACE the walls of Yerushalaim were breached after many months of siege by the Roman army. Three weeks after the breach of the wall, the Bet haMikdash was destroyed on the 9th of Ab.

Because of these five tragedies we fast and say special prayers that inspire us to mourn and to repent for our transgressions and those of our ancestors. 

The fast begins at dawn and ends with the appearance of the three stars.

More details about the fast, B'H tomorrow. 

From "July 4th, history and the Jews"by Joseph Michelson, in Jweekly. 
"John Adams, second president of the United States, in an 1808 letter criticizing the depiction of Jews by the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire: 'How is it possible [that he] should represent the Hebrews in such a contemptible light? They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a Bauble in comparison of the Jews. They have given religion to three quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily, than any other Nation, ancient or modern'."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

RELIGIOUS INTEGRITY: Fictitious invitations

Last week we explained the prohibition of genebat da'at, to steal people's mind. Which means among other things, to make someone feel that we care about him, when we really don't (seehere).   
For example: we should not invite to our party someone that we had no intention to invite since now we found out that he is not going to be in town that day. That is genebat da'at

But what if I really wanted to invite that person to my party, and now I find out that he is going to be out of town. Could I still insist to him to come to my party anyways, knowing that he will not be able to come? Is that also considered genebat da'at because I know he will not be coming. Rabbi Melamed (penine halakha 3:71) indicates that in this last case, although it is a fictitious invitation, since I had the intention to invite him, there is no harm in inviting him anyways. On the contrary, it is possible that if I don't invite him he might get offended. In this case there is nogenebat da'at because the host really loves that person and he had sincerely wished for him to be in his party.   

But when I had no intentions to invite someone and then, when I know that she is going to be out of town I pretend as if I'm sorry that she cannot come to my party, that is genebat da'at.  Because all the purpose of my fictitious invitation is just a big act to gain some points to my favor from this relationship, and my invitation is based on false pretenses, i.e., an insincere demonstration of interest and love for that person. 

The German ban on Circumcision 

√ Click here to read and excellent article by Spangler

 Click here to read a view from a non-Jewish

Monday, July 2, 2012

JEWISH WEDDING: The bridal gown

The Talmud describes how two thousand years ago brides were made up and perfumed as to enhance their beauty.  The Midrash speaks of twenty-four different adornments with which the bride was beautified. These are the twenty-four bridal adornments mentioned in Isaiah (3:18-24). Everything was done to make the bride look as lovely as possible. 

There are no special requirements as to the the style of the wedding gown, except modesty. Today the custom is that the color of the wedding gown is white, which represents purity.  Although in some Chasidic circles the brides would marry in light pastel shades. 

What should a bride do with her gown after the wedding? 
Some brides rent a gown and others, who can afford it, buy the dress. In this last case it is a very fine custom to make the gown available to brides who cannot afford it. In many communities there is a registry of such bridal gowns, along with their sizes, so that girls who wish to borrow a gown will have ready access to those available. 

In our community and in many other communities many brides choose to donate their gowns to institutions in Israel who make them available to poor brides there. Doing this, is a holy deed on the part of the bride. When such plans are made before the wedding, the merit of this action enhances the merit of the wedding itself.  

This form of Tzedaqa, considered a category by itself, is known as hakhnasat kalla: helping a needy bride to get married. It is a very special merit for individuals and for a community to assist a bride  (or a groom) with insufficient means, to get married. According to the shulchan 'arukh (yore de'a 249:15) hakhnasat kalla, takes precedence over all other types of Tzedaqa. 

Click  here to watch "Inoculations" , love comes in many guises 
a Charlie Harary film