Wednesday, September 4, 2013

ROSH HASHANA 5774: Are you a profitable investment?

You are a scientist. Your mission is to find the cure to a terrible disease. A powerful and wealthy INVESTOR is ready to spend yearly one million dollars in you. He trusts you. He believes that you can find the cure and He gives you the money for one year. In twelve months He will meet with you again to examine your progress together with you. He will not expect you to find the cure in one year. And He is willing to keep investing in you. To reinvest, however, He wants to make sure that you are advancing and that you did the best you could to find the cure. And if you have made mistakes (you probably did!) He wants to know that you are capable to admit those mistakes.  

At the time of the annual meeting you should identify your mistakes and articulate them in front of Him. Then, He knows that you will probably not repeat them next year. He also knows that precisely those mistakes, when recognized by you, have the potential to get you closer to find the cure. However,  if you deny your mistakes and refuse to look back and detect where you've failed, you will probably make those mistakes again. And if you do so, then you become a questionable investment. He might withdraw His money and fund a better investment.  

God is the INVESTOR. He invested in us. He gave us our lives. And He expects us to make good use of the numerous resources He generously granted us (health, wisdom, food, etc.). He has high expectations from us. Because every one of us has the potential to make a great positive impact in His world, improve our own lives and the lives of others. 

Each year, in Rosh haShana, we meet with our INVESTOR. We should hear in the sounds of the Shofar the voice of our INVESTOR asking us what have we done with "the money" (=life, and everything we need to live) He invested in us.  We should realize that  the resources for the next term are not automatically granted. Rather, they are in theory contingent to our achievements in this term. We have to show that we have not wasted His "money" doing nothing. And that we are capable of identifying our mistakes and learning from them.

In Rosh haShana we have to persuade God that we are a profitable investment for Him. Or at least that we can become one. 

Candle lighting in NYC today at 7:04 pm

Click here to DOWNLOAD and PRINT the 5774 SEPHARDIC 
Click here to read about 'erub tabshilin

שנה טובה ומתוקה            

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

ROSH HASHANA: Men, women and the Shofar (Also, 'erub tabshilin)

Do women have the same obligation as men regarding the Mitzvah of Shofar?

Men are obligated to listen to the Shofar following a Biblical commandment (yom teru'a yihie lakhem). And although women are formally exempted from every time-bounded positive Mitzvah, in practical terms when it comes to the Shofar there is virtually no difference between the two genders.  Why? Because in most communities women are very careful to attend Synagogue and listening to the Shofar in Rosh haShana. Let's remember that besides the formal fulfillment of this important commandment, the voice of the Shofar "wakes us up from our spiritual lethargy" and help us to repent and improve our actions. And that is a message that both, men and women, need to hear in these days of Teshuba. It is therefore highly meritorious for women to attend Synagogue, listen to the Shofar, be inspired by its voice, repent and do Teshuba.

The only practical difference between men and women relates to the recitation of the Berakha in a case that a person cannot attend the Synagogue service in Rosh haShana.  In the Synagogue the Toke'a (=the person who blows the Shofar) recites the BerakhaASHER QIDDESHANU BEMITZVOTAV VETZIVANU LISHMOA' QOL SHOFAR on behalf of the entire community. And all those who listen to this berakha and say AMEN are included in this blessing. However, if a woman was not able to attend Synagogue, when a Toke'a blows the Shofar for her no berakha should be recited. While in the case of a man who listens to the Shofar outside the formal Synagogue service, that man himself or the Toke'a should say the Berakha.

'erub tabshilin (Cooking from Yom Tob to Shabbat)
This year 5774 Rosh haShana falls on a Thursday (beginning Wednesday Sept 4th at night) and Friday, followed by Shabbat. And although most of the cooking for these three festive days will be done before Rosh haShana begins, some of the cooking might be done also during Friday Sept 6th in preparation for Shabbat (Sept 7th).  
As we know cooking is allowed on Jewish Holidays (Yom Tob) as we learn from Shemot 12:16 "...You shall not do any work on these days [=Yom Tob], except preparing food for everyone to eat, this is the only thing you may do". However, our rabbis explained that it is only allowed to cook during Yom Tob whatever will be consumed during Yom Tob, but we cannot prepare or cook on Yom Tob food that will be consumed after that particular day.  Thus, when a Holiday occurs on Friday we cannot cook from Yom Tob to Shabbat.   Unless an 'erub tabshilin is prepared. 
'erub tabshilin consists in 1.preparing prior to Yom Tob some cooked and baked food, 2. stating that we are preparing this food for Shabbat (there is a special blessing and text to say when we put together the 'erub. See below ); 3. storing that food for Shabbat and 4. eating that food during Shabbat. Thus, when we begin cooking for Shabbat before the Holiday begins, our rabbis authorized to continue the preparation of food from Yom Tob to Shabbat.

In practical terms:  Wednesday September 4th, before 7.00 PM (NYT) we should put aside a plate with some cooked and baked foods and keep this food for Sabbath. This plate is what we call the 'erub. Since some food is already prepared for Shabbat before the Holiday, the cooking that will take place during the Holiday will be considered an addition or in more accurate terms an extension (the word 'erub in this context means "extension") to the food that has already been prepared before the Holiday began.

 The following Berakha is recited while holding the plate with the foods (='erub) in one's hands:  
"Baruch Ata A- donay E- lohenu Melekh ha'Olam Asher Qiddeshanu beMitzvotav veTzivanu AL MITZVAT ERUB"
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל מִצְוַת עֵרוּב
Then we read the following text which asserts that by preparing this 'erub we are allowed to do all necessary work and cooking from Yom Tob to Shabbat.
בַּדֵין עֵרוּבָא יְהֵא שָׁרֵא לָֽנָא לַאֲפוּיֵי וּלְבַשּׁוּלֵי וּלְאַטְמוּנֵי וּלְאַדְלוּקֵי שְׁרָגָא וּלְתַקָּנָא וּלְמֶעְבַּד כָּל צָרְכָּֽנָא, מִיּוֹמָא טָבָא לְשַׁבְּתָא
Then we place the 'erub in the refrigerator and we keep it until Shabbat. For the concept of 'erub to make sense we must eat that food at some point during Shabbat (September 6th at night and September  7th).
The general practice is to prepare the 'erub with a cooked egg and one loaf of bread. Many people will also add meat, rice and other types of cooked foods. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

ROSH HASHANA: Antelope’s, bull’s and ram’s Shofar. Which one is Kosher?

The typical Shofar used for Rosh haShana is the ram's Shofar (qeren hakebasim). Lately, however, the antelope shofar (also known as the 'greater kudu' or 'Yemenite' Shofar, see here) which is 3 to 4 times longer than a ram's Shofar became very popular. Probably because it is easier to blow than the ram's Shofar, looks impressive and has a beautiful deeper sound.

Can we use the antelope Shofar for Rosh haShana? 

An antelope Shofar is perfectly fine to be used for the Selihot of the month of Elul, for those who blow the Shofar during Elul, and for the end of Yom Kippur.

For Rosh haShana, however, using an antelope Shofar is a matter of controversy.

The Rabbis discussed the usage of horns of other bovid-animals for the Mitzva of Shofar. And they explicitly forbade using a bull's-horn (keren shel para) for a Shofar. That Shofar will bring memories of the sin of the golden calf, precisely on the day we hope our sins to be erased. A ram's Shofar, on the contrary, brings a positive memory to mind: 'aqedat Yitzhaq, the binding of Yitzhaq abinu. Why? Because after our forefather Abraham passed succesfully the ultimate test of love of God, he found a ram 'caught in the thicket by its horns', which he then offered to haShem as a sacrifice in place of Yitzhaq.

Now, if the bull's Shofar, is excluded and the ram's Shofar is the preferred one, can we still use the antelope Shofar or any other non-bovid Shofar in Rosh haShana? Or, are we obligated to use exclusively a ram's Shofar? 
The Rabbis debated on this issue. In the  opinion of the Shulhan 'arukh (OH 586:1) it is preferable to use a ram's Shofar in Rosh haShana. Which means, for instance, that if a ram's Shofar cannot be found, the antelope Shofar could be used (=bedi'abad). In the opinion of Maimonides (MT Shofar 1:1), however,  the only Shofar that can be blown in Rosh haShana is a ram's Shofar. All other Shofarot are invalid.


Sample Reel for 'Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force' - Playmount Productions
 The Birth of the Israeli Air Force