Friday, May 27, 2011

PIRQE ABOT: What's on its name?

Today is the 23 of Iyar/ 38 days of Omer (5 weeks,3 days)

Pirqe Abot o Massechet Abot is the ninth treatise of The Order of "Damages" (Seder Nezikin), the section of the Mishna which deals with civil law (damages, torts, compensation, etc.). In English is know as the "Chapters of the Fathers", and has also been termed Mishnat ha-Chasidim, "Instruction for the Pious", because of the Rabbinic saying (Baba Kamma, 30a.) "He who wishes to be pious, let him practice the teachings of Abot".

On account of the nature of its content, it is generally designated in English as the "Ethics of the Fathers".

The use of the word Abot (=fathers), in the title, is of very ancient date. There are various explanations for it. Samuel de Uceda, in his collective commentary Midrash Shemuel, says that as this tractate of the Mishnah contains advice and good counsel, which, for the most part, come from a parent, the Rabbis mentioned in it adopt the role of "fathers," and are therefore so designated. Additionally, this treatise is the basis of all subsequent ethical and moral teachings and doctrines, and the Rabbis are, in consequence, the "fathers" or prototypes of all ethical teachers and moralists that will come after them.

The Rabbis of Abot are also the "fathers" or "ancestors of Rabbinic Judaism" also known as CHAZAL. "Abot" is used here as it is used in the Hebrew expression abot ha-olam the "fathers of the world," which designate the most distinguished teachers, which is a true characterization of the Rabbis of Abot


Candle lighting in NYC: 7.58 PM

Shabbat Ends in NYC: 9.07 PM


The more I learned about Israel and Middle East politics, the more I appreciate this 5 minutes presentation

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rabbi Gershom Mendes Seixas: The First Native-Born U.S. Rabbi

Today is the 22nd of Iyar/ 37 days (5 weeks and 2 days)
Gershom Mendes Seixas: The First Native-Born U.S. Rabbi
Gershom Mendes Seixas was the first native-born rabbi in the United States. He was one of seven children of Rachel and Isaac Seixas. He was born in New York City on January 15, 1746. His father had emigrated from Lisbon, Portugal, to New York in 1730, where he went into the mercantile business.
Gershom Seixas studied with Rabbi Joseph Pinto. He was appointed to be the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel, a Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in New York City, in 1768. Seixas was the father of fifteen children from his first wife, Elkay Cohen, who died in 1785, and eleven by his second wife Hannah Manuel, whom he married on November 1, 1789.
Seixas also served the religious needs of other Jews in the outlying areas of New York. He was the teacher of Hebrew, literature and law for the community.
He and most of his congregation left New York City in 1776, when the British were approaching during the American Revolutionary War. He went to Stamford, Connecticut, while most of the congregation went to Philadelphia. Four years later, he joined the others in Philadelphia where he helped found a new synagogue, Mikveh Israel. He was its rabbi for two years.
He was the first rabbi in America to give his sermons in English. He gave sermons which dealt with Jewish participation in the life of the state and made appeals for support of the American Revolution and against the British-Indian raids in the Northwest Territory. When the council members of Philadelphia made eligibility for an assembly seat dependent on professing the divine origin of the New Testament, he and other Jews fought against this unconstitutional religious test.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Intellectual development and spiritual development

Today is the 21st day of Iyar, 5771/ 36 days of Omer (5 weeks, 1 day)

Maimonides tells us that we should care for the intellectual development of our children, instructing them in the principles of our faith. For Maimonides, intellectual development, is a prerequisite and the key for the right spiritual development.
"We must teach our children that God is One, which means among other things, that we must not serve or consider the existence of any other supernatural power. God Almighty is the only one to Whom we should direct our prayers...."
"Then, we teach them that God Almighty does not posses a body, and that there is no resemblance whatsoever between Him and His creatures."
"We should expect our children to challenge this last assumption, because in the Torah and Prophets there are verses which seemingly imply that God has a body (=the Torah mentions: "the Hand of God; and God saw; and God appeared, etc."). We must clarify to them that certain words in the Torah should be understood in a metaphorical way. And certain terms should be understood as mere homonyms (=words that are written the same way, but have a different meaning)..."
"Our children should learn to follow the teachings of the Oral Law, found among other books in the "Targum Onkelos" (=the official Jewish translation of the Torah--to Aramaic-- written almost 2000 years ago, which Maimonides considered an integral part of the Jewish Oral Law or Torah shebe'alpe)"

Adapted from MORE NEBUKHIM, Section 1, Chapter 35 -36.

Click HERE to watch Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing the US Congress (May 24th, 2011)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The 18th Berakha: MODIM ANACHNU LAKH

Today is the 20 of Iyar, 5771/ 35 days of Omer (5 weeks)

The eighteenth berakha, Modim, is the longest one of the Amida. This blessing is at the center of the section called: hoda-a or gratitude.

It consists of a list of facts, for which we acknowledge God as the real or ultimate source of what we are, we have, and all the good things that happen to us. We express as Jews, that we feel privileged --and perhaps unworthy-- to be the recipients of so many blessings.

The list is long, but, of course, does not pretend to be exhaustive. The Rabbis realizing that we could only enumerate 'some' of the favors we want to thank God for, composed what is known as Modim deRabanan, a supplementary prayer of gratitude, that the public recite in the repetition of the Amida.

We feel (or we need to train ourselves to feel) a sense of endless gratitude toward God. Imagine you want to thank your parents for "all they have done for you". Except, perhaps, in your Bar Mitzvah speech... you would not say just: "Thanks for all, Mom and Dad". If you really mean to thank your parents, you will have to elaborate a very long list of deeds, favors, actions for which you feel you owe gratitude to your parents. You would probably begin by thanking them for giving you your life.

Similarly, we begin by thanking haShem for being our God. In other words, for having chosen us among the nations. The second aspect we feel so grateful about is that haShem was, is and will be the Protector (Rock) of our lives, our eternal shield (magen) and savior.

"We are thankful to You, that You HaShem are our God,

and the God of our fathers. (You are our God) for ever.

You are the Rock of our lives, and our Protector and Savior.

You are!"

(to be continued...)

Mastering the gratitude attitude

Monday, May 23, 2011

BERIT MILA: Circumcision on the Eighth Day (Part 2)

Today is the 19th of Iyar, 5771/ 34 days of Omer (3 weeks, 6 days)

Last week we explained the importance of Berit Mila, the signal of Jewish identity of a Jewish male, in its reproductive organ. (The Jewish female, says rabbi Melamed, is herself --or her womb-- the symbol of Jewish identity. Because Jewishness is transmitted/"reproduced" exclusively via the mother :only when the mother is Jewish, the baby is Jewish as well).

The Berit Mila is performed eight days after the baby is born. It is critical to know at what time exactly the baby was born. Illustration: Sunset (sheqia) in NYC is today at 8.13PM. If a baby is born before 8.13 PM the brit Mila will be done next Monday. But if is born after 8.42PM--(nighttime, 3 stars in NYC, for most opinions) the Berit Mila will be next Tuesday. Now, if the baby was born in between sunset and nightfall (twilight, ben hashemashot), a Rabbi or an expert Mohel should be consulted to establish if the Berit Mila should be performed Monday or Tuesday.

The Berit Mila ceremony should take place only during daytime, since the Torah specifically indicated bayom hashemini,.. "on the eighth day" (=daytime). Even when the Berit Mila is postponed, and not done on the eighth day, it should be done during daytime.

Ideally, the ceremony should be scheduled early in the morning, after Shacharit service. Jewish tradition says that one should be eager to perform a Mitzvah (zerizim makdimim laMitzvot). This is the standard Sephardic Minhag. Other Rabbis would say that the Berit Mila could be done in the afternoon, anytime before sundown, if more people -especially close relatives- will be able to attend the ceremony.