Friday, August 12, 2011

What is the Ketuba? (Part 1)

The Ketubah is the document that states the obligations of the husband toward his wife. These obligations are divided into two categories.

1. The duties of the husband while married to his wife and

2. The financial rights of the wife in case, chas veshalom, they get divorced or the husband dies first. The Ketubah stipulates the compensation the wife will receive in either case.

This compensation 'package' comprises three elements:

'iqar ketubah: The minimum amount that every husband will leave to his wife in those cases (in this sense, the Ketubah should be seen as a "marriage insurance"). In the times of the Talmud that amount of money was established as 200 silver coins (zuzim) which was the equivalent of a year's salary. This is still the minimal amount written in every Ketubah.

nedunia: This point includes the assets and gifts that the wife brings into the new capital of the groom. In case of divorce or death of the husband those assets or their monetary value, would be restituted to the wife.

tosefet ketubah: The husband, according to his financial situation, adds from his own will over the mandatory amount of 200 silver coins whatever he wishes to leave for this wife (this part of the Ketubah is similar to a "Life insurance" or a 'unilateral' prenup).

The sum of these three elements ifs the total amount of the Ketubah, which would be given to the wife in the above mentioned cases.

In the next HOTD on this subject we will explain the duties of the husband, written in the Ketubah.

Click HERE to listen:
"The Art of Being Happy"
by Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, an OU presentation.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The blessing Shehecheyanu

We Jews pray three times a day. Establishing a daily personal connection with our Creator. The rabbis of the Talmud established also a series of blessings, aiming at reminding us of HaShem's presence constantly. Every time we eat, drink, sense a good smell or experience a happy occasion, etc. we recite a blessing to God. We convey in this way that God is not far away hidden in heavens, absent from our lives. On the contrary, His presence is overwhelming. And our major spiritual challenge in life is not to be distracted from His omnipresence.

Emuna (popularly translated as 'faith') does not consist just in our believe in God's existence. Emuna consists mainly in our awareness of God's presence. In a sense, Emuna could be measured by measuring our attention span: The less we are distracted from God's existence, the higher our Emuna, and vice versa.

The blessings were established by the Rabbis, with this purpose in mind. To keep us aware, or to bring our minds back to remember God's presence, virtually every hour of our lives.

The berakha we are learning today, Shehecheyanu, was established by the Rabbis to be said when something unusually joyous happen to us. By pronouncing this beautiful berakha we express our gratitude to God, declaring that He is the true source of our happiness.

Before we get into the details of the appropriate occasions to recite Shehecheyanu, let us understand what this berakha means.

"Blessed are You haShem our God, King of the universe,

Shehecheyanu: that You grant us the merit to be still alive

Vekiyemanu: that You have sustained us, giving us food, health, etc.

Vehigiyanu: allowing us to arrive...

Lazeman haze: to this moment [of happiness and joy]

May we always have the opportunity to thank haShem for happy occasions!

Click here to watch an inspiring clip on "Life Priorities"

Monday, August 8, 2011

The eve of Tish'a beAb

Tish'a beAb, our national day of mourning, begins tonight, Monday August 8th. We begin the fast at 7:55 PM.

This evening, around 7:00PM we do the Seuda Mafseket, the last meal before the day-long fast.

This is, virtually, 'a mourners meal' and consists generally of bread, eggs, lentils and water. In our community many families serve rice with lentils (adas polo). There are many other variations, according to each family's traditions.

What make this meal special is:

1. We abstain from eating two different 'dishes', to show a mood of austerity, consuming only what is needed to endure the fast.

2. The ancient custom is that everyone eats in solitude, with no zimun, sitting on the floor or on a low chair, like mourners do.

For Arbit, we chant the prayers with a sad tune, starting with 'al neharot babel, the Psalm of the mourners for the Bet haMikdash. In many Sephardic communities the Shema Israel is said with a sad intonation, instead of using the regular ta'amim.

Then, we read Megilat Ekha, the book of Lamentations written by the Prophet Yrmiyahu in the aftermath of the destruction of the first Temple.

Then, we recite the Kinot. The Kinot are poems which describe the different tragedies that we endured on Tish'a beAb throughout our history.

At the end of the Kinot, sitting on the floor, with all lights dimmed, we declare with sadness: "Listen, oh our brothers of the house of we count ... 1943 years from the destruction of our Bet haMikdash...."

The fast ends tomorrow, Tuesday August 9th at 8:42 PM (some end it at 8:35PM).
May we all have an easy and meaningful fast.
May this year be the last year of mourning for our Bet haMikdash!

See HERE all our community Minyanim, services and activities for Tisha beAb.

Read HERE "What happened on Tish'a beAb?"

Read HERE "Restrictions on Tish'a beAb" (part 1)

Read HERE "Restrictions on Tish'a beAb" (part 2)

Read HERE "Rules for the day of Fasting"