Monday, October 31, 2011

Torah Lishma!

"Because of troubles, rise up early in the morning to go to the Hall of Study, as also at night, and a woman's worries will dissipate by themselves."
    ~ Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 7a ~

"There are six Mitzvoh, the fruit of which Woman eats in this World, while the full reward remains for the World to Come .... Hospitality to Wayfarers, Visiting the sick, Helping the needy Bride, Devotion in Davening, Early attendance at the Beth Ha'Midrash, rearing one's sons to the study of the Torah ...... There are Mitzvoh that Woman performs and enjoys their fruits in this World, while the reward remains for the world to come .... Honouring one's parents, the practice of Chesed and making peace between man and his fellow, But the Study of Torah Surpasses them All."
~ Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 127a ~

Rabbi Meir said ~ "Anyone who engages in Torah Lishma merits many things. Not only that, but the entire World is Worthwhile for her alone. She is called 'friend' and 'beloved,' ... She loves Ha'Shem, She loves man, She brings joy to Ha'Shem, She brings joy to man."
~ Pirkei Avot, Mishna 1a ~

According to Rabbi Yehudah, Ha'Shem Himself studiesTorah for the first three hours of every day.
~ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Avodah Zarah 3b ~

Blessed are You, Ha'Shem, Ruler of the Universe who distinguishes between the sacred and the profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and other people of the world .....

Blessed are You, Ha'Shem our G*d, King of the universe, Who chose us from all the nations, and granted us Torah. Blessed are You, Ha'Shem, Giver of Torah!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

He Moveth Mountains ....

I will lift up mine eyes unto the Harim,   from whence cometh my help?
My help cometh from Ha'Shem, Oseh Shomayim v'Aretz,  maker of Heaven,  maker of Earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to slip,  He that is shomer over thee will not slumber.
Behold, He that is shomer over Yisroel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

Ha'Shem is the One shomer over thee,  Ha'Shem is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The shemesh shall not strike thee by day, nor the yarei'ach by night.
Ha'Shem shall preserve thee from kol rah.   He shall preserve thy Neshama.
Ha'Shem shall be shomer over thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, 

V'ad olam .... for  evermore!

Ha'Shem, if it accords with Thee ... Please Move Mountains for Me!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shabbat Simcha!

Every Friday evening at Sundown, a transformation occurs in Jewish households across the world.  Every time we light our candles and welcome Shabbat,  we create a Fortress ... strengthening you, your family, & All the Jewish people in the world. As the sky becomes darker, our hearts become lighter.  The darkness of the day's problems recedes, exiled by the peaceful glow of the Shabbat candles. It is truly a gift from Ha'Shem & Heaven.  All that is good, all that is holy is symbolized ~ indeed even realized ~ in the flickering light of the Shabbat candles. Two millennia ago, the Zohar declared that a woman kindling her Shabbat candles with Simcha in her heart brings peace on earth,  long life to her loved ones, and is blessed with children who illuminate our world with Torah.

Even though today I am a tangle of yearnings, on this evening everything shall be perfect ....  All is prepared & I will be in the presence of my King.  For in welcoming Shabbat I welcome Ha'Shem to my home.  It is Ha'Shems Will, that I be privileged to receive this Shabbat with happiness and joy in his precious homeland, Eretz Yisrael.

O Ha'Shem, Hear & Protect me so that no sadness or depression, no anguish or worry will mar my Shabbat. May I be happy with all my Soul, with all my Heart and with all my Strength. Let this happiness without limit encompass your people Israel, me, mine and any who should visit my household this Shabbat.  Soon the Skies here in Eretz Yisrael will Illuminate as the Daughters of Zion Observe & Remember Ha'Shem.
Refreshed and renewed,
Attired in festive garments,
With candles nodding dreamily to
Unutterable expectations,
To intuitions of eternity,
Overcome with a feeling
As if almost shrouded by a veil.
There is not enough grandeur in our Neshamot
To be able to unravel in words
The knot of time and eternity.

There is a song in the wind
And simcha in the trees.
Shabbat arrives in the world,
Scattering a song in the silence of the night ....
Eternity utters a day. Where are the words
That could compete with such might??
Shabbat Shalom!!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Synagogue Simcha!!

It's almost Sundown in Israel. SIMCHAT TORAH begins tonight with the reading of the concluding Torah portion & the commencement of a new year of Torah readings.  Simchat Torah,  literally means "rejoicing in the Torah," & celebrates the completion and beginning of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings. The final Parashah  of Torah(known as V'zot Habrachah in the Book of Devarim) is read from the Torah and is immediately followed by the reading of the first portion of the Book of Bereishit. Beginnings!!

The Torah-reading ritual on Simchat Torah is characterized by the ha'kafot service. Jews dance with Torah scrolls in hakafot (literally, "circles") in the Synagogue and on the streets outside.   The Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and given to members of the congregation to hold, then they march around the Synagogue and everyone kisses the Torah Scrolls as they pass. This ceremony is known as hakafot, which means "to march around" in Hebrew. Once the Torah holders return to the ark everyone forms a circle around them and dances with them.    Simchat Torah is considered a kid-friendly Jewish holiday, and it is not uncommon to find children with flags and banners perched on parents' shoulders throughout the festivities. Dancing while holding the Torah is considered a great honour on this holiday. In congregations with multiple sets of scrolls, Torahs are passed from one person to the next during the dancing. 

Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) have a thing for the number Seven. Among other things, there are Seven days of Sukkot, the holiday that precedes Simchat Torah. Ha'kafot dancing occurs Seven times during Simchat Torah services. A set of 17 verses is read ~ in some congregations it is repeated three times in each of the seven hakafot -- and then the dancing begins anew. Each of the seven dances is associated with the seven divine emanations (known as Sephirot in Kabbalah) in the physical world ....  kindness, judgment, harmony, victory, splendor, foundation and kingship. While each day of Sukkot has a similar association, on Simchat Torah all of these aspects are united on one day. Jews dance in circles on Simchat Torah to acknowledge this unity.
Because Simchat Torah is such a happy day, services are not as formal as at other times. Some will drink liquor during the service, others will make a game out of singing so loud that they drown out the cantor's voice. Overall the holiday is a unique and joyful experience, Baruch Ha'Shem!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Dream to Deliverance ....

A Maschil .....

Ha'Shem Elohei Yeshuati, G*d of my deliverance,  what times I cry in the night before Thee ...
Let my Tefillah come before Thee,  Incline Thine ear unto my cry.
For my soul is sated with troubles,  and my life draweth nigh unto Sheol.
I am counted with them that go down into the pit, 
I am become as a girl that hath no help,
Forsaken among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom Thou rememberest no more,
And they are cut off from Thy care.

Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in dark places, in the deeps, in the depths,
Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and all Thy waves Thou pressest down hard,
Thou hast estranged mine acquaintances far from me,
Thou hast made me an abomination unto them, I am shut up, and I cannot escape or come forth,
Mine eye languisheth by reason of affliction, Ha'Shem, I have called daily upon Thee, 
I have stretched up my hands unto Thee.

Wilt Thou work wonders for the dead? ....  Shall the lifeless arise and praise Thee?
Shall Thy mercy be declared in the grave?  Or Thy emunah in the Place of Perdition?
Shall Thy wonders be known in the dark?  And Thy tzedakah in the Eretz Neshiyyah .... the land of forgetfulness?

But unto Thee have I cried, Ha'Shem .... and in the morning doth my tefillah come before Thee.
Ha'Shem, why castest Thou off my nefesh?  Why hidest Thou Thy face from me?
I am afflicted and at the point of death from my youth,  I suffer Thy terrors,  I am distraught!
Thy fierce wrath surrounded me, Thy terrors have cut me off.
They swirl about me like water all the day, like the Mayim, they close in, engulfing me.

Lover and companion hast Thou estranged from me, and mine acquaintances into darkness.

Where art Thou, Ha'Shem .... My G*d???

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shabbat Sukkot!

After two days of Rosh Ha-Shanah and a day of fasting on Yom Kippur, you would think that Jews would be exhausted.  Enough Judaism, already!
Yet at precisely that time, the calendar of Judaism presents a dazzling array of festivals ~ Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabbah, Sh'mini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.  For more than a week, we continue to celebrate one holiday after another, each with its own set of rituals, songs, and customs.
Of all the festivals, none has as many mitzvot (commandments) and customs associated with it than does Sukkot, the Festival of Booths.  We build special  sukkah, carry the four types of plants (the lulav ~ palm frond, etrog ~ citron or lemon, aravah ~ willow, and hadas ~ myrtle) and eat festive meals in our Sukkot.  Some Jews even sleep in their Sukkot & peruse the Stars.
Exhausted by the holy days already behind us, and living in a culture that distrusts ritual in the first place, what can this frenetic activity mean to us?
Traditional commentators have explained the lulav and etrog in several ways ....

According to the Midrash Va-Yikra Rabbah, the etrog, hadas, and aravah symbolize the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The single Lulav symbolizes Ha'Shem.  By holding the three against the Lulav, we act out our hope that the sacred deeds of our ancestors, the lessons learned throughout our lengthy history, will serve us well before Ha'Shem .  Thus, lulav and etrog demonstrate our link to Jewish history throughout time.
According to Pesikta De-Rav Kahana, each of the plants symbolizes a different type of Jew .... one who is learned in Torah and rich in good deeds, one who is learned but has performed no good deeds, one who is uneducated but active in demonstrating Chesed, and one who is uneducated and has not performed loving deeds.  By binding all four plants together, we pray that Ha'Shem will also consider the entire Jewish people as a single unit, each responsible for the other, each Jew compensating for the shortcomings of the others.  Thus, lulav and etrog demonstrate our unity as a people and celebrate our diversity as individuals and as various strands within the umbrella of Judaism.
Finally, the medieval compilation Kad ha-Kemah asserts that each of the four species corresponds to a different human organ .... the heart, the spine, the eyes, and the lips.  Just as all these organs can lead a person to error and to pain, so too they can become the means for self improvement and for elevating others.  Thus, lulav and etrog demonstrate our determination to use our bodies to help other people and ourselves, to serve Ha'Shem, thus making the world more holy.
In Midrash Va-Yikra Rabbah,   Rabbi Avin compares the lulav and the etrog to a sceptre awarded to a victorious combatant.  After returning to our synagogues in massive numbers on Rosh HaShanah, after spending Ten Days of Awe considering who we are and who we want to be, after fasting and praying on Yom Kippur, the entire Jewish people emerge energized, enriched, and motivated.

Sukkot is a Joyous Festival filled with Simcha.  Carry your lulav and etrog with joy!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach as Shabbat Sukkot approaches!!!!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Atonement Abounds!!

We shall ascribe holiness to this day.
For it is awesome and terrible.
Your kingship is exalted upon it.
Your throne is established in mercy.
You are enthroned upon it in truth.
In truth You are the judge,
The exhorter, the all ~ knowing,  the witness,
He who inscribes and seals,
Remembering all that is forgotten.
You open the book of remembrance
Which proclaims itself,
And the seal of each person is there.
The great shofar is sounded,
A still small voice is heard.
The angels are dismayed,
They are seized by fear and trembling
As they proclaim ...  Behold the Day of Judgment!

For all the hosts of heaven are brought for judgment.
They shall not be guiltless in Your eyes
And all creatures shall parade before You as a troop.
As a shepherd herds his flock,
Causing his sheep to pass beneath his staff,
So do You cause to pass, count, and record,
Visiting the souls of all living,
Decreeing the length of their days,
Inscribing their judgment.
On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.

How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die,
Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire,
Who by sword and who by wild beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst,
Who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning,
Who shall have rest and who shall wander,
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low,
Who shall become rich and who shall be impoverished.
But Teshuva, Tefillos and Tzedakah avert the severe decree.

May Ha'Shem Heed our Tefillos & our Tears.  May our Fast be Purposeful & Pass Swiftly.  May we be inscribed in the Book of Life for a Sweet Year to come & May 2772 overflow with Bracha, Simcha, Health & Prosperity in Parnassa.  G'mar Hatima tov & Shabbat Shalom!!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rain Pearls ....

With my voice I cry aloud unto Hashem ;  I appeal to Ha'Shem loudly for Rachamim,
With my voice unto Hashem did I make my techinnah,
I pour out my complaint before Him,  I declare before Him my trouble,
When my spirit fainteth within me .....

Then Thou had da'as of my path,
In the way wherein I walk have they have hidden a Snare for me.

Look on my right, and see,   for I have no friend;  
There is nowhere I can flee,
Refuge failed me; 
No one careth for my Nefesh.

So I cry unto Thee, Hashem;  I say, Thou art my refuge and my chelek in the
Eretz Ha'Chayyim.
All I have in the land of the living,

Attend unto my Cry;  for I am brought very low;

Deliver me from my persecutors;  for they are stronger than I,
Release my Neshama from this prison,  that I may give thanks unto Thee,
And Praise Thy Shemecha.

The Tzaddikim shall gather about me for Thou wilt deal bountifully with me.

Baruch Ha'Shem!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Sound of the Shofar!!

Ha'Shem, rebuke me not in Thine Anger,  
Neither Chasten me in Thy hot Displeasure,
Have Mercy upon me, Ha'Shem,  for I languish,

Ha'Shem,  Heal me for my bones are Affrighted.
My Nefesh also is Sore Affrighted,  and Thou,  Ha'Shem,  how much longer?
Return,  Ha'Shem,  Rescue me,  Deliver me for the sake of Thy Chesed.

For in Death there is no Remembrance of Thee, in Sheol who shall Acclaim Thee?
I am weary with my groaning,  every night make I my bed to Swim,  
I Melt away my couch with my tears.
Mine eye is dimmed by Vexation,  it Waxeth old because of all mine Adversaries.
Depart from me, all ye workers of Iniquity for Hashem hath heard the voice of my weeping.
Hashem heeds my techinnah.  Hashem receiveth my tefillah,
All mine enemies shall be Ashamed and sore Affrighted,  
They shall turn back frustrated,  Suddenly!