Category Archives: Literature

Parashat Shemot

Parashat Shemot

Exodus 1 – 6

א וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַבָּאִ֖ים מִצְרָ֑יְמָה אֵ֣ת יַעֲקֹ֔ב אִ֥ישׁ וּבֵית֖וֹ בָּֽאוּ׃

ברְאוּבֵ֣ן שִׁמְע֔וֹן לֵוִ֖י וִיהוּדָֽה׃

ג יִשָּׂשכָ֥ר זְבוּלֻ֖ן וּבְנְיָמִֽן׃

ד דָּ֥ן וְנַפְתָּלִ֖י גָּ֥ד וְאָשֵֽׁר׃

 

My thoughts this week in the Torah Portion comes from a lecture I heard from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks where he states ”

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” said Moshe to God. “And how can I possibly get the Israelites out of Egypt?” On the surface the meaning is clear. Moshe is asking two things. The first: who am I, to be worthy of so great a mission? The second: how can I possibly succeed?

God never answered the first question. Perhaps in a strange way, Moshe answered himself. In Tanakh as a whole, the people who turn out to be the most worthy are the ones who deny they are worthy at all. Through a close examination of the text, we can understand Moshe’s question leading to a deeper exploration of worthiness and identity. ”

Who am I?

Seventeen years ago, I began a journey, and I still do not know where it will take me. As Rabbi Sacks spoke in his lecture on the question Moshe had, concerning, who was He/Moshe? I could identify with the book of Shemot, and I gathered a greater insight into my own question of, who am I? People often ask me, why do you care so much about where you come from? Why does it matter so much about your heritage? You were not born Jewish and you have lived as an Egyptian and a Midianite, in a place, so far away from Judaism.

Moses to was raised as a prince in Egypt, and removed from the Jewish people. Moshe was known as an Egyptian raised by an Egyptian princess in the palace of Pharoah. Moshe was also known as a Midianite, who was married to a Midianite priest’s daughter. Shemot 2:21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man; and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. 22 And she bore a son, and he called’ his name Gershom; for he said: ‘I have been as a stranger in a strange land.’

Moshe was never raised with the Jewish people. He never suffered or understood their thoughts and ways. Moshe did not even know if they would accept him as a Jew. I have the same question and experience.

Rabbi Sacks spoke of the similarities between Moshe and Ruth.  Just like Moshe and Ruth, I felt as a stranger in a place not my own. Just like Moshe, I was born a Jew, but I did not belong to the Jewish people. I looked like an Egyptian and acted like an Egyptian. I did not grow up Jewish, therefore, I did not belong to the Jewish people. Ruth was not Jewish by birth and therefore she did not belong to the Jewish people but both knew when they identified with the suffering and the hardship they saw and they could not walk away from the suffering of the Jewish people.

I constantly hear in Christian and Messianic chatter, that, the Jews are lacking what Christian and Messianics have. That, they have some insight given to them because of Yeshua or Jesus and the so-called New Testament. That the Jews are going to be fooled in the end and follow a false Messiah because of their lack of seeing what they see. That the Temple is a Synagogue of Satan or the Jews have the Temple mount in the wrong place. That the oral law is made up and can not be trusted.  Many of these people are Jewish or identify as Jews.  Yet, they still have this idea that because of their knowledge and belief in the Nazarean they have a superior knowledge over the Jewish sages and rabbis.

In last weeks Torah portion Parashat Va’yehi, one would be lost without the oral tradition. Genesis Chapter 49 Verse 1
(1) And Jacob called unto his sons and said: ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the end of days. (2) Assemble yourselves, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; And hearken unto Israel your father. Just a straightforward reading of these two passages do not make sense without the irrevocable connection between the written and oral tradition. Ya’acov says nothing about what is going to happen to them and then gives them some obscure blessings, that really are not blessings at all if you look at them.

With that in mind, the oral traditions, and the plight of the Jewish people, the future redemption, the suffering and birth pangs to come. The Redeemer, the land of Israel, the proper understanding of the Tanach. Who is the Messiah? With all that said, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.’ Like Moshe, I could have been content living the life of an Egyptian/Midianite. Shemot 2:21  “And Moses was content to dwell with the man”.  Moshe could have lived the life of a prince in Egypt in the palace of Pharoah. Or stayed in the land of Midian. As Rabbi Sacks said, “that was where he was at, but that is not who he was”. But Moshe could not stay in either place after seeing the suffering of his people. I can no longer stay in the same place either after seeing such hatred for Jewish people.

But who was Moshe? He was not Jewish because he was not raised Jewish. He did not know the suffering of the Jew. He could not identify with their history. He was raised as an Egyptian Prince and lived forty years as an Egyptian.  Moshe spent forty years as a Midianite Shepherd and was content to live there. Moshe spent eighty years as someone other than a Jew. But, had he not been moved because of who he was who knows what his destiny might have been.

He asked Hashem “who am I”.

I too have been troubled by my own place in the Jewish world. Who am I? My grandfather is a Cohen from Mexico and I am the great-grandson of Moshe and Aaron. My mother told me, that her parents told her, not to tell anyone that they were Jewish. I am hated by my own family because I identify myself as Jewish. Moshe and Aaron, they are my grandfather’s, yet I do not know the slightest thing about the Jewish way of life and plight and suffering because I have not lived with them.

I just know that when Christians and Messianics find out, that I am Jewish, and do not believe the way they do. I can see the suffering of my people in their eyes. I can see the disdain, and pity, and feeling of sorrow they have toward the Jewish people.They believe that we are cut off from Hashem and His promises and that we are, as my cousin Messianic Rabbi Dr. Dennis Otero, says ” John 15;16  If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned “.  (see Jeremiah 11:16-17) He says that we are not part of the so-called new covenant. That we have no authority, what so ever, in Jewish law, and that, the “believers” took the place of Rabbis.

It was at the fire of the burning bush, that Moshe found his answer to, “who am I”? The burning bush is connected to Mount Sinai and there the Jewish people also found Hashem in the fire of the mountain. Hashem told Moshe, “they will know who sent you because “I will be with you”. (Not, I am, that I am” The Christian Bible misquotes the Hebrew every time in this passage)

Who I am, is where you will find, me. Shemot 2:11 “And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown up, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren”.

In last weeks portion, Ya’acov told the sons of Israel to gather themselves as one man. As, in the Sephardi way, no reform, no Conservative, no Orthodox, just Jews. That is who I am.

I too am asking Hashem, “who am I to go”

Hashem has sent me to tell the Jewish people, to tell them,  stop the baseless hatred and the indifference for each other. I will not be around you because you are not Jewish enough. I am happy where I am and I don’t need anyone else outside those who think like me.

Hear what Ya’acov our forefather said, Ezekiel 37 : (18) And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying: Wilt thou not tell us what thou meanest by these? (19) say into them: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them unto him together with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand. (20) And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thy hand before their eyes. (21) And say unto them: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; (22) and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; (23) neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them; so shall they be My people, and I will be their God. (24) And My servant David shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in Mine ordinances, and observe My statutes, and do them. (25) And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever; and David My servant shall be their prince for ever. (26) Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them—it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will establish them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for ever. (27) My dwelling-place also shall be over them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (28) And the nations shall know that I am the LORD that sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever.’

I will not stand with a people who claim, the Jews are blind, and they do not know the Messiah, and they are harlots, and teach an oral and written law that is man-made, and leads to destruction. The Torah is over and done. The New Testament is better. The Rabbi’s have no authority and we don’t follow men.

Yosef never spoke one word to his father about what his brothers did to him. Who is Messiah? 

Parashat Miketz Genesis 41 – 44 א 

Parashat Miketz

Genesis 41 – 44

א וַיְהִ֕י מִקֵּ֖ץ שְׁנָתַ֣יִם יָמִ֑ים וּפַרְעֹ֣ה חֹלֵ֔ם וְהִנֵּ֖ה עֹמֵ֥ד עַל־הַיְאֹֽר׃

ב וְהִנֵּ֣ה מִן־הַיְאֹ֗ר עֹלֹת֙ שֶׁ֣בַע פָּר֔וֹת יְפ֥וֹת מַרְאֶ֖ה וּבְרִיאֹ֣ת בָּשָׂ֑ר וַתִּרְעֶ֖ינָה בָּאָֽחוּ׃

 

וַיְהִ֕י מִקֵּ֖ץ  And it was in the end”.
Have you ever questioned, why you had to endure such challenges in your life?
Why has my life been lived in such a way, that it has brought about all the things that has to lead me to this place? A place of uncertainty and unrest. A place of questions and lost in space.
What is life truly about?
משלי
Proverbs 14:23 “In all labour there is profit, But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury”. Midrash Rabbah Mikketz 2

And it was in the end that I knew the journey.  

A Second Thought About Giving Charity

A Second Thought About Giving Charity

A homeless person begging

The Talmud tells the amazing story of Mar Ukva who would go everyday to the home of a poor man and slip cash into his door post. The poor man really wished to know who was doing this and decided one day to find out. On that day Mar Ukva and his wife made the trip to the poor man’s house together but just as they were opening the door post the poor man came running towards them. The two of them fled because they did not want to embarrass the poor man by him finding out that one of the greatest rabbis of the generation was coming personally to his home everyday to secretly help him. The Talmud says that the only way they could escape him was to jump into a hot oven where the coals had already been raked. Mar Ukva’s feet began to burn and his wife told him to put his feet on top of hers because her’s were not burning. The Talmud explains that her merit of charity was greater than his because, being in the home, she could offer the poor instant care with ready made food while her husband’s care was only in the form of money. What makes the story even more incredible is that the Talmud says that when Mar Ukva was about to die he had a ledger where every coin he ever gave to charity had been recorded. And even though the amount was amazing he said, “the road is long and my supplies are few” referring to his upcoming trip to the Next World. He then gave away fifty percent of all his holdings which was considered ten times what the Talmud normally considered to be exceptionally wealthy. From this story you see an outstanding Torah scholar, a leading rabbi and perhaps one of the wealthiest men of his generation who not only took time and money to personally care for the poor but dreaded the thought of being discovered and honored for his donations. Something for us to all think about next time we pledge donations for honor or we feel particularly holy because we slipped a small coin into a desperate person’s hand. Talmud Kesubos 67b

https://www.facebook.com/thepeoplestalmud/

Rosh HaShana “Seder” and symbolic actions.

Rosh Hashana Seder and Simanim

Esonga Bet Hashoavah services :

Wed Sep 20th              Erev Rosh HaShana

6:50    PM                  Candle Lighting

6:30    PM                  Minha / Arvit

Thu Sep 21st      1st Day of Rosh Hashana

9:00    AM                  Shaharit

11:00  AM~                Shofar

5:00    PM                 Minha

5:30    PM                Tashlich

6:00    PM                  Arvit

7:45    PM                  Candle lighting

Fri Sep 22nd        2nd Day of Rosh Hashana

8:00    AM                  Shaharit

11:00  AM                  Shofar

6:30    PM                 Minha/Arvit

6:46    PM                  Candle lighting

Sep 23rd         Shabbat Shuva

4:00    PM                  Class

5:20    PM                 Minha

6:20    PM                Arvit

7:42    PM                 Havdala

Sun Sep 24th             Fast of Gedalya

6:00    AM                  Fast Begins

7:30    PM                  Fast Ends

Erev Yom Kippurim and Yom Kippurim

 

Fri Sep 29th   Erev Yom Kippur

6:35    PM                  Candle lighting

6:35    PM                Fast Begins

6:40    PM                  Kol Nidre / Arvit

Shabbat 30th              Yom Kippur

4:00    PM                 Minha

6:00    PM                  Neilah

7:28    PM                 End of Fast Shofar

Blowing/Havdala

7:30    PM                Arvit and Bircat Halevanah

Come and join us in our Prayers services and proclaim Hashem as King.

Rosh HaShana “Seder” and symbolic actions by Rabbi Haim Ovadia

Medjool dates, apple in honey, black-eyed peas, sesame seeds, spinach, squash, and pomegranate seeds may be on our menu this coming Monday, as we sit for the first meal of the Hebrew New Year.

As exciting and wonderful as the Rosh HaShana Seder, as some call it, is, there are some questions and dilemmas surrounding it:

  • What is the exact order of the Simanim (signs)?
  • Do we eat the Simanim before or after the meal?
  • What if some people (read: the children) do not want to eat the spinach?
  • Should vegans, who would not eat the head of a lamb or a fish, eat a head of garlic cloves instead?
  • Which Simanim are included in the list?
  • And most importantly: doesn’t the whole obsession with signs on Rosh HaShana border on paganism or superstitions?

 

Let us dwell on this last one. Because of the belief that eating sweet things will lead to a sweet year, there are those who avoid eating spicy, sour, bitter, or dark-colored foods. Some foods are excluded from one community’s list, but are mandatory for another (almonds, for example). How can we understand a practice which ties the events of the year with the foods eaten at the beginning of the year? And what if a person is bed-ridden and only had liquids and medicine on Rosh HaShana? Will his year be liquidy? Advily?bed-ridden and only had liquids and medicine on Rosh HaShana? Will his year be liquidy? Advily?

To answer all these questions, and to get a better understanding of the term Siman, which many translate as omen, let us turn to the source of the practice in the Talmud.[1] It appears after several perplexing suggestions for predicting the future. The first experiment informs a person whether he will survive or not until the following Rosh HaShana. In order to discover this terrifying piece of information, one should light a candle in a house where there is not even the slightest draft. If the candle flame is unwavering, he can rest assured, but if it flickers, he’d better call the funeral home.omen, let us turn to the source of the practice in the Talmud.[1] It appears after several perplexing suggestions for predicting the future. The first experiment informs a person whether he will survive or not until the following Rosh HaShana. In order to discover this terrifying piece of information, one should light a candle in a house where there is not even the slightest draft. If the candle flame is unwavering, he can rest assured, but if it flickers, he’d better call the funeral home.

The next one deals with one who wants to start a business and would like to know if he will be successful. He is advised to buy a rooster and feed it. If the rooster becomes fatter, the novice farmer is guaranteed stellar success in his financial endeavors. If, however, the rooster remains slim waisted, our budding entrepreneur should consider visiting the employment agency. There is one more suggestion which the Talmud rejects, and then we hear the following statement from the Talmudic sage Abayye (הוריות, יב:א): Now that you say that Siman has significance, one should try to see on Rosh HaShana squash, black-eyed peas, leeks, spinach, and dates.rooster remains slim waisted, our budding entrepreneur should consider visiting the employment agency. There is one more suggestion which the Talmud rejects, and then we hear the following statement from the Talmudic sage Abayye (הוריות, יב:א): Now that you say that Siman has significance, one should try to see on Rosh HaShana squash, black-eyed peas, leeks, spinach, and dates.

I understand this Talmudic paragraph as a response to the widespread phenomenon of reliance on astrology and incantations in Babylonia. The rabbis wanted to teach people that the most accurate indicator of one’s future is his own behavior. Accordingly, in the first case we deal with someone who wants to know whether or not he will survive the year. He is told to light a candle in a draft-less home and make sure that the flame does not flicker. Oh, but it does. The terrified man scurries from wall to wall, from crevice to crevice, with plaster and a spatula but alas, for every hole he discovers, breeze comes in from ten others. If our man is somewhat wise he will stop after a while, realizing that the experiment was a sign for him. You can never cover all holes and you never know what incredible things will happen this coming year, for good or bad. At that point one starts directing his efforts during the year towards responsibility and awareness, visualizing gaps he must bridge in order to protect his flame, thus (hopefully) prolonging his life.spatula but alas, for every hole he discovers, breeze comes in from ten others. If our man is somewhat wise he will stop after a while, realizing that the experiment was a sign for him. You can never cover all holes and you never know what incredible things will happen this coming year, for good or bad. At that point one starts directing his efforts during the year towards responsibility and awareness, visualizing gaps he must bridge in order to protect his flame, thus (hopefully) prolonging his life.

In the second experiment, one is required to fatten a rooster in order to predict whether he will have success in business. Once he brings the rooster home, he understands that in order to grow it fat he has to pay constant attention. He must protect the bird from diseases and predators, provide food, water and shelter, clean after it, and rise at dawn (or at midnight) with its call. He now also understands how to succeed in business. He must work hard, pay attention to details, and be willing to accept difficulties and small failures before emerging victorious.it fat he has to pay constant attention. He must protect the bird from diseases and predators, provide food, water and shelter, clean after it, and rise at dawn (or at midnight) with its call. He now also understands how to succeed in business. He must work hard, pay attention to details, and be willing to accept difficulties and small failures before emerging victorious.

In reaction to these two very practical thought experiments, Abayye says that now we know that associating our aspirations and hopes with a visual image or object is a helpful technique. He therefore says that one should see on Rosh HaShana certain species, so the image will help him focus his thoughts during prayers. In other words, it is not seeing or eating the honeyed apple or the dates which guarantees a sweet year, but the constant image of these fruits which drives a person in the prayers and throughout the year. It is very similar to soldiers carrying the pictures of their loved ones in a locket so they will be inspired to survive at all costs.

Conclusion:

The practice of Simanim should be translated not as omens but rather as suggestive visual meditation. In the original phrasing of the practice the idea was to see, not eat, the fruits. One can therefore choose to eat or not eat any of the Simanim. The order is insignificant but it is best for all participants to follow one version to avoid conflicts. It is also a good idea to add some foods which could be easily associated with the spoken language, since the Simanim have meaning only in Hebrew.omens but rather as suggestive visual meditation. In the original phrasing of the practice the idea was to see, not eat, the fruits. One can therefore choose to eat or not eat any of the Simanim. The order is insignificant but it is best for all participants to follow one version to avoid conflicts. It is also a good idea to add some foods which could be easily associated with the spoken language, since the Simanim have meaning only in Hebrew.

If you are not eating meat you could have some candies (actually, even if you eat meat you could just look at the wrappers) which could have positive associations for English speakers such as: 5th Avenue, Skor, PayDay, Life Savers. Top it off with a Brach’s candy (for Bracha), and most importantly, make sure that everyone feels happy, relaxed, and welcomed at this Rosh HaShana Seder.PayDay, Life Savers. Top it off with a Brach’s candy (for Bracha), and most importantly, make sure that everyone feels happy, relaxed, and welcomed at this Rosh HaShana Seder.

Festive Meal
  • The festive meal of Rosh HaShana is mentioned in the book of Nehemiah (8:10). As on Shabbat and other holidays, it is what you consider to be festive. It could be fish, dairy, or vegetarian
Shofar
  • The minimal number of sounds one must hear, according to Shulhan Arukh, is nine (or ten, depends how you count Shevarim and Teruah). The set is the basic one, TSRT, TST, TRT, or: Teqiah-Shevarim-Teruah-Teqiah, Teqiah-Shevarim-Teqiah, Teqiah-Teruah-Teqiah.
  • There is therefore no need to feel stressed if one or more of the sounds of the shofar was missed, or if it sounded unclear. Also, if one is visiting bedridden people, or mothers with babies who could not make it to the synagogue, and has several visits to make, it suffices to use this set.shofar was missed, or if it sounded unclear. Also, if one is visiting bedridden people, or mothers with babies who could not make it to the synagogue, and has several visits to make, it suffices to use this set.
  • When blowing shofar for someone who did not hear shofar yet, the blessings can be recited by either the shofar-blower or the listener, whether man or woman.shofar for someone who did not hear shofar yet, the blessings can be recited by either the shofar-blower or the listener, whether man or woman.
  • It is better to recite less prayers, but have time to reflect on them and take them to heart, then keeping at pace with the community. It is told about R. Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook that on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur he would only recite the Shema and the Amidah. We are uplifted and inspired by the familiar tunes and the communal singing, and we should also take time to study the prayers and find those which most resonate with us.have time to reflect on them and take them to heart, then keeping at pace with the community. It is told about R. Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook that on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur he would only recite the Shema and the Amidah. We are uplifted and inspired by the familiar tunes and the communal singing, and we should also take time to study the prayers and find those which most resonate with us.

 

Dangers in the synagogue
  • We must pay special attention to potential dangers in the synagogue, such as security, health concerns, and hurting others’ feelings.
  • Synagogue’s administration should take the necessary steps to provide security during the holidays, and to prepare congregants to respond in case of a terror attack.
  • There should be medical kits available and first responders appointed.
  • In case of an emergency in the synagogue or at home, do not hesitate to call 911 immediately.
  • We should pay attention to those around us, especially the elderly, to make sure they are feeling well. This is especially important on Yom Kippur. It is better to prevent an emergency then attend to someone who has fainted, for example.then attend to someone who has fainted, for example.
  • It is also very important to make sure that no one is offended, and that fights do not break over seats, honors, or practices.fights do not break over seats, honors, or practices.

 

Tashlikh
  • Another famous and beloved symbolic act of Rosh Hashana is Tashlikh, in which people go to a river or to any water source to shake their sins away. This is a relatively late custom, first mentioned by Polish rabbis of the 16th century. The original custom was to stop by the river (probably the Wisla or Vistula), and recite the verse: ותשליך במצולות ים כל חטאתם- Please cast our sins into the abyss. With time, the practice expanded to more verses, personal prayers, readings from the Zohar, shaking the corners of one’s clothes, requiring fish in the water, and bringing breadcrumbs to feed the fish.breadcrumbs to feed the fish.
  • We can each follow our customs regarding Tashlikh, but we should keep in mind that it is a symbolic act, meant to prompt us to take the necessary steps to change our life, through repentance, reflection, and asking for forgiveness.

 

Electricity on Yom Tov
  • There is no prohibition in sing electricity on Yom Tov. To the contrary, one who does not use electricity at all, despite the solid arguments in its favor and the long tradition among most Sephardic communities, might be at fault for diminishing the joy of the holiday.sing electricity on Yom Tov. To the contrary, one who does not use electricity at all, despite the solid arguments in its favor and the long tradition among most Sephardic communities, might be at fault for diminishing the joy of the holiday.

Shana Tova uMetukauMetuka

Rabbi Haim Ovadia

 

 

Why Rambam Rarely Mentions Customs

The Rambam was looking forward to the future when we would no longer be in exile and living in Eretz Israel, (may it be soon and in our day) and we would no longer need the local minhagim of our Hakhamim and bet din to keep us unified in the exile as a family unit (Klal Israel), but as a nation gathered together, with Shoftim as in the days of old. Bound by the minhagim of Eretz Israel and the great Sanhedrin.

This is the reason the Rambam did not focus on customs in his approach to his Halachah and writings.   The Rambam was both living in the future and anticipating our Kibbutz Galiot.