Tag Archive: pesach

Thoughts on the 7th & Final Day of Pesach

The Midrash (Mechilta, Beshalach 4) relates that the sea did not simply split in one place for the Jewish people as they exited Egypt. Rather, there were twelve tunnels and each shevet, tribe, went through their own tunnel. This is perplexing given that the Torah tells us that the Jews left Egypt as one nation. In fact, we are praised for arriving at Mount Sinai as a unified nation! The answer that has always settled best with me is that each tribe entered and left Egypt as both individuals with their own personalities and yet unified brothers as well. In contemporary times, our nation at large struggles to find our Jewish identity. Indeed, aside for who is a Kohen or who is a Levi, a large portion of Jews do not know their individual tribal identity. And so, when we call out to Hashem and pray we daven in the Nusach we have received, and hope that this is sufficient.

Today, Erev Yom Tov, I went to the Western Wall and witnessed that now thousands of years later, while we look, dress, and pray differently, we can come together in unison through our prayer and thanks to Hashem. This point really struck a cord with me not when I saw the throngs of different yarmulkes, hats, or shtremels. Rather, it was when I went to grab a Siddur and saw all of the various prayer books laying there unified in one cause: waiting to be used by Ashkenazim, Chassidim, Sephardim, who will read the holy words and communicate their love, awe, and thanks for allowing us to be FREE!

Pesach & The Civil War

The American Civil War (1861–1865) began on April 12, 1861. Hence, Pesach 2011 comes within the secular calendar month in which, 150 years ago, this country began “a great civil war.” Moreover, that war’s causes and results fit with the holiday’s themes—the end of slavery and, as President Abraham Lincoln put it in his great Gettysburg Address, the creation of “a new birth of freedom.” Speaking of Lincoln, I’m pleased to have in my possession a rare book published in 1909 titled, Abraham Lincoln and the Jews. In this work one can read of the great affinity and dare I say respect that President Lincoln displayed towards our people. This was in stark contrast however to the way in which General Ulysses S. Grant acted towards Jews.

In fact, Grant issued Order No. 11 on December 17, 1862 that expelled ALL Jews from those portions of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi where his forces had taken the field (see here for more on this). This edict was never followed because Lincoln had General Henry Halleck write to General Grant and tell him that, “as it in terms proscribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deems it necessary to revoke it.” Who knows…perhaps it was Lincoln’s respect for the Jewish people that allowed his side of the battle to ultimately be victorious…only Hashem knows for certain!

Interestingly, it is documented that there were Jews who fought on both the Confederate and Union side. That said, thanks to the recent Mifgashim email that I received I learned that:

Bertram W. Korn recounts in his 1961 book “American Jewry and the
Civil War” the story of two Jews, one northerner and one southerner,
who encounter each other on Pesach.

“One day during a Passover, Union soldier Myer Levy of Philadelphia
was walking through a captured Virginia town, when he saw a boy
sitting on the steps of his house and eating matzah. When Levy asked
for some, the boy leaped up and ran into the house shouting, ‘Mother,
there’s a damn-Yankee Jew outside!’ The boy’s mother came out and
invited Levy to return that evening for a Passover meal.”

What I enjoyed most from Korn’s citation was reading that this Jewish mother was showing her impressionable son that at the Seder we are not simply performing lip service! Rather, we don’t let politics get in the way of our brethren. After all we recite in the Ha Lachma Anya section:

This is the bread of affliction, the poor bread,
which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.
Let all who are hungry come and eat.
Let all who are in want, share the hope of Passover.
As we celebrate here, we join with our people everywhere.

May we merit to see the days in which there is no longer a divide amongst our people and come to serve Hashem in Jerusalem as a unified nation!

Happy Passover and let Freedom ring at your Seder!

p.s. If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy this article: http://www.jewishchronicle.org/article.php?article_id=12729

picture courtesy of: http://www.jewishdayton.org/display_image.aspx?id=323316

All About the Special Blessing for a Blossoming Tree!

As a child I did not know about the special blessing for a blossoming tree. Our Sages relate that it should ideally be recited strictly in the Jewish month of Nissan.[i] And so, I’d like to present a brief overview on this special blessing so that many Jews around the world can recite this unique blessing.

Indeed, Jewish law states that any man or woman[ii] who sees fruit trees that are in the beginning stages of blooming, recites the following blessing:

Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech  HaOlam Shelo Chisar B’Olamo Klum U’Vara Vo Beriyos Tovos V’Ilanos Tovos[iii] Lehanos Bahem Bnei Adam.

Blessed are You Hashem, Our G-d, Master of the Universe, who ensured that nothing is lacking in His world and Created in it good creations and good trees in order to pleasure mankind with them.

Ideally, this blessing should be said on two or more trees.  That said, if one lives in a city or is not able to go to an orchard or a field, a person may still recite this blessing on one tree. Some people have the custom after reciting the blessing to recite Tehillim and other texts praising Hashem for the trees. Others try to say this blessing with a group. It follows that others even have the custom to give Tzedakah prior to this blessing.[iv]

Once one has said this blessing—that’s it—you are done for the year! Additionally, our Sages are of the opinion that the preferred time to recite this blessing is during the daytime.[v]

What’s more, the special blessing on seeing a blossoming tree should not be recited on Shabbos, as our Sages were worried that it may lead one to touch the tree and/or pluck a branch. However, if Shabbos happens to be the final opportunity to recite the blessing, many Rabbis are of the opinion that one may nevertheless recite the blessing.[vi]

Please note, the blessing on seeing a blossoming tree is only recited on a) fruit tree, and b) only when the bud/flower can be seen in the early stages of blooming, and c) not on a tree where strictly leaves are seen and d) not on a tree where the fruit has already completely developed.[vii]

From a mystical perspective, one should realize that by reciting this blessing, a person is able to achieve a tikkun, a spiritual rectification, for the souls that are hovering between Heaven and Earth. Indeed, there may in fact be reincarnated souls that are stuck in the bark of tree! Hence, when saying this blessing one should have in mind that Hashem evoke mercy upon hovering souls, and by extension allow them to fully blossom by returning to Heaven.[viii]

The pictures in this post are of the sign that both my wife and I used this year to recite this blessing on: Rosh Chodesh Nissan 2011. I’m pleased that my son will learn of this blessing at his school. In fact, they are going on a field trip to recite this blessing for the blossoming tree!

If you’d like to make this special blessing a family affair, there is even a great kids book available called:  Growing with the Tree.

All things considered, if you have not said this special blessing for a blossoming tree yet, I encourage you to try and do so sooner rather than later.

Why?

This year, was a leap year and we find ourselves well into the blooming season of the trees! Take your family out and say thanks to Hashem in this most unique fashion!


[i] See Shulchan Aruch 226:1 and Mishna Berura S”K 1. See also Aishel Avraham Butshatsh who is of the opinion that only in the month of Nissan may the blessing be recited with the complete recital of Hashem’s name. However, the prevalent custom is to recite the blessing, as long as the tree is still in the blooming stage—even if this is past Nissan. See Chayei Adam Klal 63:2 and Aruch HaShulchan 226:1 who discuss scenarios in which one finds themselves in a climate where the blooming season is not in Nissan (i.e. Australia or South Africa).

[ii] See Shu”t Har Tzvi Orach Chaim 1:118 and Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 12:25 for the reason as to why this blessing isn’t considered a Mitzvah She’Hazman Grama, as it is seemingly a time-bound Mitzvah.

[iii] See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 60:1 who mentions that the word should be “Tovim.”

[iv] See Kaf HaChaim 226:7 and 8. See also Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak 10:16.

[v] Mishnah Berura 226:3.  See also Shu”t Har Tzvi ibid and Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 12:20:6.

[vi] See Kaf HaChaim 226:4, Shu”t B’Tzel HaChachma 6:37, Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchaso 26:72 and Shu”t Yechaveh Daas  1:2.

[vii] Mishna Berurah 226:2 and 4.

[viii] See Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos  1:191 and Kaf HaChaim 226:8. Also see Kaf HaChaim 226:4 who relates that the reason this blessing should not be recited on Shabbos, is because one cannot perform, “Borer.” After all, by reciting this blessing one would be separating the sparks of holiness in the form of the Souls that are stuck within the trees.

Pesach and The Octomom

The Sefat Emet (see Naso 5651 and Vaeira 56) reveals that one of the underlying reasons for the Egyptian exile was to rectify the sin of eating from the forbidden fruit, and by extension, return the world to its original state.

Consequently,we find the midwives described the Hebrew women to Pharaoh saying, “Ki chayot heinah.” The simple meaning of this expression is that the women were like chayot, animals, because according to the Talmud (Berachot 63b), they were all miraculously giving birth to six children at a time!

However, Tiferet Shlomo, explaining this verse from an esoteric perspective, reveals that they had now reached the level of “Chayah,” the level of Chavah (Eve) prior to the sin, and so the curse or difficulty in childbirth no longer existed for them. Accordingly, Tiferet Shlomo (Ki Sisa, p. 71a) says, if not for the sin of the Golden Calf, the world would have reached a perfect state of rectification(also see Shnei Luchot HaBrit 74a and Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, Chap. 45, 107a for further analysis on this topic).

In light of the above, when you think of the leaders of the Exodus, the first names that probably come to your mind are that of Moses and his brother Aaron. And yet, The Talmud (Sotah 11b) relates: “In the merit of the righteous women of that generation, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt!” In other words , the driving force towards God performing the plethora of miracles and splitting the Red Sea were none other than the Jewish women and the feminine leadership of the time.

To that end, I found it appropriate that on the Shabbat that proceeds Pesach,the weekly Torah Tidbits had an entire article dedicated to discussing the halachic ramifications of a women who recently birthed many children at one time: The Octomom.

Check out the entire article from The Puah Institute, titled: The Octomom and Halacha here (scroll down to the highlighted section).

Pesach and Music

While we have been cleaning for Pesach for about several weeks now, these past couple of days, there’s been one artist that has arguably gotten a lot of “air time” in our house as of late: Eitan Katz. Not only am I priviliged to call him both a friend and former classmate, but his niggunim reflect a certain tone of kedusha that permeats from the simplicity of the music. As such, I wanted to share with you his Dvar Torah Email that he sent out. If you are in the mood for some great Jewish music to listen to while cleaning for Passover, I’d recommend that you download any of his albums. You will feel relaxed and spiritually uplifted as you scrub, clean, and prepare for Pesach!

Dear Friends,

As Pesach is approaching, I wanted to share with you a beautiful idea which connects Yetzias Mitzrayim to the power of music.  In Likutey Torah on Pesach, the Ba’al Hatanya writes that the Yetzias Mitzrayim which took place thousands of years ago still takes place every day within the heart of every Jew.  Mitzrayim comes from the word Meitzar, narrow, rigid, boundaries.  When Klal Yisroel left Mitzrayim they did not only leave the physical boundaries of the land of Egypt but also broke through the mental and spiritual boundaries which Mitzrayim so tightly kept around them.

Every day, The Ba’al Hatanya writes, a Jew has the power to leave his own boundaries.  I know for myself, and for sure many people can relate to this, that in this crazy world, we feel like we are in our own spiritual jail, not being able to serve Hashem the way we want to.  Pesach is a reminder for us that just like there was a Yetzias Mitzrayim a long time ago, the same Yetzias Mitzrayim- the leap out of one’s boundaries, can be done today.  And here is where the connection to music comes.  The Ba’al Hatanya writes that because the first Yetzias Mitzrayim was eternal, we can look at the way they had acted then during the process of leaving, and apply it to our life right now.

The first act which Klal Yisroel did as a “free” nation was……SING!!!  After they crossed the sea, looked back and saw that the nightmare was over and that Hashem had taken them out completely form mitzrayim, they sang Shiras Hayam.  This wasn’t a coincidence, the Ba’al Hatanya writes.  The natural expression of someone that has just reached beyond their natural boundaries is singing.

Why?

Because when one sings, that is also an expression of leaving one’s boundaries.  How many times have we sat around the shabbos table, or at an uplifting concert or kumzitz, where we felt that singing just takes us to places where we never have been before.  When we sing emmesdik nigunim, the feeling should be that we are reaching beyond the places where we thought we couldn’t reach.  This, my friends, is the way how to tell if a nigun is “kosher” or not.  Not by how many instruments is being played, not by the arrangements, not by any of the superficial garbage we have come in contact with.  The only way to identify a kosher nigun is if it makes you feel bigger and greater  than what you felt before.

With this Torah, I released my latest album last month.  I felt that each of the nigunim (whether mine or not) had the ability in them to bring the listener to a deeper and more meaningful connection to Hashem.  I felt that the nigunim would allow a person to see how deep their neshama really is.   And I tell everyone who buys the CD that this is what I felt, but if you don’t feel that way about the nigunim, if you feel they are just commercial and not uplifting, please do me favor- don’t listen to them!

If you haven’t purchased the CD yet, you can listen to clips and purchase it here.

I wish everyone a Chag Kasher V’sameach!

Eitan

Pre-Pesach Ora Rachel bas Tziporah Bracha Update

We remain everlastingly thankful to Hashem for allowing us to celebrate Ora’s kiddush just a couple weeks ago. It was a special event that seemingly the entire community made sure to attend. Much thanks to Ora’s great-grandparents, Rabbi and Mrs. Salomon Jacobovits from Washington Heights for joining us on this joyous occasion. Likewise, much thanks to Shira Beleck for the hundreds of pieces of sushi that she prepared on Erev Shabbos!

In short, without going into every nitty gritty detail, Ora is continuing to progress nicely and is steadily making improvements.

We know that her progress is part and parcel to all of the Physical Therapy that she has been receiving as well as the Spiritual Therapy in the form of your Tefillos, Torah learning and so on and so forth.

Truth be told, she still has a steep mountain in front of her, as this makkah, this virus, is still something that can potentially strike upon her from head to toe. Likewise, she is still small and a bit fragile.

That said, she continues to show signs of being a stubborn little fighter who also has a warm and bubbly personality!

Accordingly, any Torah learning, Tehillim that you can say or charity that you can give in her merit we would continue to appreciate. At the end of the day, she has only come this far in her overall growth and development due to a steady dosage of both physical and spiritual treatments.

As such, as we head towards the holiday of Pesach, my bracha to you all, is that we merit to experience the ultimate sensation of freedom and healing that will be revealed to the world with the coming of Mashiach ben Dovid!

Anyways, enough from me…on to some recent pictures:

The Top 3 Passover Videos of 2009!

Here in Jerusalem, Pesach is tangible. You can feel the excitement as we edge closer and closer to retelling the miraculous events at our Pesach Seder.

Others however, seem to express their excitement towards the upcoming holiday by emailing me and I’m certain many other friends and family as well, the latest links to inspirational videos that relate to Pesach.

Accordingly, I wanted to share with you what I believe to be The Top 3 Passover Videos of 2009!

Please note: When I was selected the three videos to feature in this post, I did so by only choosing clips that have been produced THIS YEAR.

It is my hope that you find them meaningful, and by extension help you  increase you feel the freedom of Passover.

The Holiness of The Wicked Son!

Passover and the Economy: A MUST WATCH

Egypt: Exile to Redemption by Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff

(Thanks to DixieYid for pointing this class out!)

New Online Grocery in Ramat Eshkol

I remember when Pink Dot first appeared in Los Angeles.

I remember when the first Online Kosher Grocery Store arrived in L.A. It even featured timely home delivery.

I never thought I’d live to see the day that this concept arrived in Jerusalem.

Let alone right in my backyard!

Then again in the past couple of years, Ramat Eshkol seems to offer an ever growing amount of American amenities. Just a couple days ago I received the following via email:

New in Ramat Eshkol! Internet shopping from Eshkolet and Peirot Hatzomet on Bar Ilan. Prices are the same as in the store and the service is even better! American customer service, hassle free.

Check us out at MyMakolet.com.

The site is still being perfected, but we wanted to enable our community to benefit from this service before Pesach as we all know shopping gets quite hectic around Yom Yov time.

Frankly, while I don’t assume every family has 20NIS to throw around on a daily basis, I do think that the concept is certainly a good idea that will take off on this area. Let’s be honest. The average person living in Jerusalem does not own a car. To that end, I can see MyMakolet.com being a great asset to a pregnant mother who simply can’t walk around in the summer heat, or to another mother who would prefer to shop without kids pulling items off of shelves, and so on and so forth.

I wish MyMakolet.com much success and who knows maybe we’ll end up giving their service a test drive one of these days!

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