Friday, May 28, 2010

How do we do the Kiddush?

Today is the 15th of Sivan, 5770

When the Shabbat table is ready and all family members and guests are around the table, the Sephardic custom is to sing Shalom Alekhem which is a poem by which we welcome the “angels of peace” that would accompany us during Shabbat. This poem reminds us the importance of keeping Shalom Bayit (peace at home) especially on our Shabbat table, when all the family is together.

Then we sing Eshet Chayil a Biblical poem composed by King Salomon in Mishle where he praises the virtuous wife. This is a small homage that the family pays to the mother / wife acknowledging her efforts in preparing the food, setting the table, cleaning the house, etc, etc, which she has diligently done in honor of Shabbat.

Then the baal habayit (lit. master of the house: the father, grandfather, etc) takes the cup of wine which should be clean from outside and inside. Some people have the custom to fill up the cup until it spills a little. But Halakhically it is enough to fill it in the amount of reviit (approximately 3 oz.) even if the cup is not full to the top.

Then he holds the cup with his right hand and while standing says: Yom hashishi… etc. and when he finishes: Barukh Ata haShem mekaddesh haShabbat he sits down and drinks from the cup.

Shabbat Shalom!!!!

Candle lighting: 7:59 PM

To learn Shalom Alekhem see :

Clarification from last week: "very light snack".Some examples: a yogurt, orange juice, fruits, coffee with milk, tea,, etc.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

LASHON HARA: Lashon haRa in business

Fair competition is permitted in Jewish law and practice. Jews basically believe in the advantages of free market, where regulations would be applied mainly to basic-needs products like food. If an item which is considered to be a basic need was overpriced above certain amount (15% - 20%) the courts (bet-din) might force the seller to reimburse a customer the extra money he has paid. Other than that, competition is allowed because lower prices and better quality will ultimately benefit the consumer.

But, is anything permitted in the name of competition?

In the business world, Lashon haRa is often spoken as a "marketing tool".

You may have observed this technique when asking a salesman for his opinion about a product and receiving, instead, a thorough denunciation of his competitor's merchandise. "Well, that's business," is often-heard as an after-the-facts rationalization.

Such reasoning is not an excuse for speaking Lashon haRa.

Maligning competitors' merchandise is an all ­too-common practice. The obvious motivation behind this is a desire to increase one's sales by minimizing competition.

Sometimes there is a second motivation at work: jealousy. Someone with a product to sell finds it difficult to accept the fact that a competitor has better merchandise­ or better prices. Speaking Lashon haRa is his attempt at convincing others of what he would like to believe — that his item is superior.

Adapted from: “Chofetz Chaim, a daily companion".

*Note: this statement should not be considered exhaustive regarding all the intricacies of Jewish law in monetary and commercial issues. It should serve only as an introduction to the concept of Lashon haRa in business.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"OK" Kosher Certification(

13th of Sivan, 5770

In the coming weeks -we’ve announced- on the Wednesdays’ Kashrut section I would like to present the readers the world of “Kosher supervisions”.

My goal is to promote a better understanding and observance of Kashrut. However, I’m not endorsing or sponsoring any specific Orthodox Kashrut certification over the other. Today I would like to introduce the readers to the probably second largest Kashrut organization in America. The OK.

Let me quote from their web site:OK Kosher Certification is one of the world’s most respected symbols of kosher approval...

Under the leadership of Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, the OK provides certification for food giants and products such as IFF, Kraft, ConAgra and Tropicana. Operating on six continents and supported by more than 350 of the world’s leading kosher experts, the OK certifies more than 300,000 products, produced by over 1,500 companies.

One of the most difficult problems in Kashrut certification today is the use of additives in the food industry. For a nice article about this and other challenges in the Kashrut world read the following text from OK:

…Hundreds of foods labeled “kosher” dot our supermarket shelves, but many factors that we cannot see complicate the process of guaranteeing a product as kosher. Over 2,800 additives not known fifty years ago are legally present in our foods, including colorings, flavorings, and preservatives. Huge factories manufacture enormous quantities of many types of food using processing techniques of which we know little or nothing…

Read the complete article here:

Read a credible story about the fascinating world of Kosher supervision: "">

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

ELOKE ABRAHAM “The God of Abraham” (Part 3)

Today is the 12th of Sivan 5770

In the previous weeks we analyzed the words Eloke Abraham, the God of Abraham. We explained that we are praying to the God Abraham “discovered” and taught us about.
First, we said, Abraham found out that God is invisible, second that He is one (see last week’s HOTD) but probably the most important thing we’ve learned from Abraham about God is that God ”cares” about us.
In all ancient civilization the gods had their own concerns and problems. Normally they would spend their time fighting against each other to impose their supremacy. If they ever did something good for a human it wasn’t out of love or altruism: it was payback for or in anticipation of some human favor (human sacrifices, human gifts or human help in fighting a competitor god).
Abraham Abinu taught us that God Almighty is our Creator, and as such He loves us and cares about us, the same way a parent loves and cares about his children. While the idols or mythological gods “behave” like the tyrants who invented them, and acted upon selfishness and mutual interests Abraham taught the world that the true God listens to our prayers, protects us or delivers us without expecting anything in return.
It was probably the most revolutionary discovery of our father Abraham.

So important is this concept that the rest of this berakha does not elaborate on God’s unity or God’s invisibility. It focuses on the ways the God of Abraham cares about Abraham’s descendants, the people of Israel.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The eight levels of Tsedaka

Today is the 11th of Sivan 5770

Tsedaka is usually translated as “charity” but in its Hebrew original Tsedaka means “justice” or “the practice of social justice”. Tsedaka is one of the foundations of Judaism and a Mitzvah practiced by all.
When a Jew attends a Minyan every day, he has the opportunity to do Tsedaka by giving a small amount of money during vaibarekh David in the Tefila of Shacharit, when we mention veata moshel bakol, that “You, God, are the one that rules over everything”. Including whatever money I will have at the end of the day. We believe that despite our efforts, it is God who is ultimately in charge of the final balance of our banks accounts, because He is the one that can bring upon so many variables, beyond our predictions, to increase or decrease our final balance.
But, is giving a dollar bill or 3 quarters the only form of perfomring the Mitzvah of Tsedaka?
There many ways of doing Tsedaka. In his Laws of Tsedaka Matanot Aniyim Maimonides enumerates eight levels of Tsedaka.
The first level -the highest- is when one offers someone a job or a loan. By giving a job we are avoiding from a person to depend on charity and he is able to earn money by his own means. Giving a job is doing Tsedaka without causing embarrassment. Tsedaka with dignity for both!

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime