Friday, January 18, 2013

SHABBAT: At what time does Shabbat begin?

The new day, in the Hebrew calendar, begins at some point between sunset and nightfall. Nightfall is defined as the time when is so dark that three medium size stars are visible in a clear sky. The length between sunset and nightfall is relative to the geographical location and the season of the year (for a great technical discussion about this issue see minhat cohen, by Rabbi Abraham haCohen Pimentel, Amsterdam 1668). In Israel, for example, this time is calculated at approximately 15 minutes. In New York, approximately 30 minutes. The window between sunset and nightfall is known as twilight or ben haShemashot.

Again, the new Hebrew day, any day, begins at some point between sunset and nightfall. This exact point cannot be established Halakhically. But we know that (i) the previous day does not end before nightfall and (ii) the next day does not begin before sunset.    

The rabbis, therefore, established that Shabbat begins at sunset and ends at nightfall, i.e., the strictest possible consideration. 

There is another element to bear in mind in order to understand the standard time Shabbat begins and Shabbat ends: our tradition (based on TB, Yoma 81b) is to add time to Shabbat, at the beginning and at the end of it. In other words, although Shabbat officially begins at sunset, we receive Shabbat before sunset. And although Shabbat ends at nightfall, we delay the end of Shabbat for a few minutes after nightfall. 

In New York, for example, sunset is today at 4:57p.m.. The "conventional" custom is to receive Shabbat 18 minutes before sunset, i.e., 4:39 p.m. However, if we did not receive Shabbat at 4:39 p.m. we can still receive Shabbat a few minutes later (if, for instance we need to drive, cook, etc)  as long as (i) we add a few minutes to Shabbat and (ii) we don't cross the sunset line. 

(To be continued...)

Shabbat Shalom 

Candle lighting in NYC:    4:39 p.m.

Shabbat ends in NYC:        5:37 p.m. *

* Calculating the end of Shabbat at 40 minutes after sunset. In many communities the end of Shabbat is determined at 50 minutes or more after sunset. 

by Itzik Eshel

Thursday, January 17, 2013

THE 13 Principles: # 12: Messianic times.

Previously, we explained that according to Jewish tradition in the times of the Mashiaḥ the Jewish people will live in Israel in an independent state,  ruled by the Mashiaḥ, a descendant of King David.  

Maimonides (in his Pirush haMishnayot and MT) writes;

"Our sages did not long for the Messianic age in order that the Jews might rule the world and dominate the gentiles.  They did not desire that the nations should honor them, etc. They only hope for one thing: to be free to involve themselves in the Tora and its wisdom. They wanted nothing to disturb them or distract them, so that they should be able to strive to become worthy of the life in World to Come ('olam habba)".

"Do not think that the ways of the world or the laws of nature will change in the Messianic times. This is not true. The world will continue as it is. It is true that the Prophet Isaiah predicted 'The wolf will live with the sheep...', this, however, is merely an allegory that the Jews [the sheep] will live safely, even with the nations that are like wolves [who wish to devour Israel]. War will no longer exist, as the prophet (Isaiah 2:4) says 'Nation shall no longer lift up sword against nation'."

"They will no be changes in nature. People will live longer lives but they will eventually get sick and die. The Mashiaḥ's kingdom will last for a very long time, This is because mans lifetime will be vastly extended. Worries and troubles will no longer exist, and therefore people will live much longer. The Mashiaḥ, obviously, will also die (Isaiah 42:4), and his son will rule in his place."
"It will be a time when the number of wise men will increase. 'All the world will be filled with knowledge' (Isaiah 11:9). The main occupation of humanity will only be to know God. The Jews will therefore become great sages, know many hidden things, and achieve the greatest understanding of God possible for a mortal human being." 

                                Arab Youths Harassing Two Hasidic Jews in Jerusalem

For me, this video clip was hard to watch because it brought vivid memories of times we all believe will never come back. The hardest part is that this happened in 2013, in the hearth of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the Jewish State. No mainstream media has paid (and probably will no pay) any attention to this.  As of today, this clip was watched by less than 200 people in Youtube. Just imagine the worldwide indignation, the UN condemnations, college campus demonstrations etc. if a bunch of Jewish teens would have done the same to two innocent Palestinians... 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rabbi Refael Aharon ben Shimon: Sephardim and Ashkenazim

Cairo was also home to an Ashkenazi community, which was founded in the aftermath of the progroms that hit Europe in the latter part of the 19th century.  The Ashkenazi community had its own Synagogue where they would hold services according to their customs and traditions.  Still the basic community services (cemetery, sheḥita, education) were provided by the  Sephardic community for both. In 1893 the lay leaders of the Ashkenazi community decided to have their own services. Rabbi ben Shimon (1847-1928) did not refuse and the Sephardic community gave the Ashkenazi community a parcel in the cemetery for free.  They also appointed their own Rabbi, Rabbi Rafael Ginzburg, who passed away three years after his appointment. At the end of the 19th century he was succeeded by Rabbi Aharon Mendel haCohen, a great rabbinical scholar from Tiberia. Rabbi ben Shimon and rabbi Mendel worked together for the benefit of the Jewish community. Rabbi Ben Shimon brought Rabbi Mendel as part of his Bet Din (rabbinical court). Even though Rabbi Ben Shimon in his position as the Chief rabbi of Egypt, appointed in 1893 by the Turkish Sultan, was technically the single authority of the entire Jewish community, before he issued a new rule, he would consult with rabbi Mendel and seek his approval.  The relationship and camaraderie between the two Rabbis was known as an example of team-work and mutual respect between a Sephardic and an Ashkenazi rabbi. 

Even when they would disagree on certain issues, they would still respect each other greatly. In 1903, rabbi Mendel together with rabbi Zvi Makowsky (va-ashiba shofetaikh) planned to reestablish the Sanhedrin (ḥiddush hasemikha), i.e., a universal Rabbinical Supreme Court that, among other things, would (i) resolve all the disagreements between Rabbis and arrive at one final Halakhic decision, mandatory for all (ii) appoint community rabbis who will act on behalf of this Sanhedrin. Rabbi Ben Shimon was very enthusiastic about the idea in general, but he was skeptic about its realization.  In a  beautiful letter addressed to rabbi Mendel (which could be found in nehar miṣrayim B, pp. 583-587) he tried to dissuade him. Rabbi ben Shimon's opposition to this idea was based purely on pragmatic grounds: In present times --he said-- with so many divisions among the Jews, it will be impossible to persuade all the Rabbinical and lay leaders to surrender their local authority and empower one single entity above them.   Unfortunately, Rabbi ben Shimon was right and the project never came to fruition.  

 Read more  HERE about past and present attempts to renew the Sanhedrin 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

TEFILA: noten laya'ef koah. Renewal of our strength.

"Blessed are You haShem. our God, King of the universe,  Who gives strength to those who are exhausted. "

Following the same idea of birkot hashaḥar, this blessing too describes what we do or experience when we wake up in the morning. In this case, the feeling that last night we were exhausted and, thanks God, in the morning we feel reenergized and ready to start a new day. 

Our rabbis were very conscious of the positive effects of sleep for the renewal of our energy. Analyzing the verse "And God saw all He had made and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31) R. Shimon bar Yoḥai said: "very good" refers to sleep. As explained by R. Menashe ben Israel in The Conciliator: "Sleep is good for although it suspends the operation of the nobler faculties of the soul, yet the repose obtained by it gives fresh vigor and strength for study and the exercise of the arts and virtues."

There is a technical issue with this particular blessing: unlike all other blessings we recite today in birkot hashaḥar, this blessing was not mentioned in the Talmud or Maimonides. The bet yosef actually questions its recitation and in some Sephardic Siddurim this berakha is not found.  

In his book Keter Shem Tob (p.19) , Rabbi Shem Tob Gaguin (see here) says that in his opinion this berakha must have been formulated "in times of religious persecution, when the Jews were mistreated and tortured to renounce to their faith and convert to a different religion." The Jews still persisted because God renewed their courage and gave them the strength to endure such suffering. An additional proof for this idea seems to be the context in which the words noten laya'ef koaḥ  appear in the Scripture (Isaiah 40: 29 and 31):  "HaShem gives power to the faint...they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run [escaping from the enemy] and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" 

Le'iluy nishmat Tzibia bat Biniamyn, Mrs. Geyran Hakimi, z"l. 

WATCH Adam Carolla, change your life from Prager University  

Monday, January 14, 2013

KETUBA: The financial obligations of the husband

As we have explained in previous weeks, the Ketuba is the document which establishes the compensation that the wife would eventually collect in case of divorce or death of the husband. 

After the final amount of the compensation is calculated the Ketuba mentions a long list of clauses indicating that all properties (real estate, qarqa') and possessions (portable goods ormetaltelim) are mortgaged to this Ketuba. The groom pledges to pay for the Ketuba even "from the shirt on my shoulders".  The groom also pledges that the the Keuba is binding on his heirs (who might not necessarily be the children of his wife), during his lifetime and after it. 

One of the elements that assures that this Ketuba is a legal document is a procedure of acquisition called qinyan. This qinyanis performed as a barter (qinyan sudar or ḥalifin), i.e.,a system of exchange by which goods or services are exchanged for other goods or services.   The Rabbi who presides the wedding gives to the groom an item, normally a handkerchief --sudar-- or a pen or any item except food or coinage. The groom declares: "qibbalti 'alay beqinyan", which means, "I formally accept upon myself... all the obligations of the Ketuba" . By lifting that item, the groom acquires that item and in exchange submits the Ketuba to his wife.

After the qinyan is done, the Ketuba --which as we have explained is written from the point of view of the witnesses-- says: "And we have acquired  (i.e., witnessed the procedure of acquisition ) from the groom.... to the bride... and we attest that all is valid and confirmed (sharir veqayam)". These last words are rabbinical formula to indicate that the document has ended, so that nothing else can be added to it except the signature of the two witnesses. 

READ  "Destined for Divorce?" It's in our power to transform our marriage. by Emuna Braverman, from Aish