The Three weeks and the Nine Days

This is a period time where we are in active mourning for the loss of the two Temples (Batei Mikdash). Therefore, the restrictions that apply when a person is mourning for a loved one apply here as well. Just as they do during the Sefira period between Pesach and Shavous where we are mourning the loss of Rabbi Akiva’s talmidim.

The first temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, the second temple was destroyed because we weren’t learning for the sake of heaven but, instead we were learning for the sake of intellectual stimulation.

The 17th of Tammuz commemorates the breaching of the walls around Jerusalem.

9th of Av through midday of the 10th is the commemoration of the destruction of the Two Temples

  • Halachos
    • Haircuts if you are Ashkenazi (European descent) you may not cut your hair from the 17th of Tammuz until midday on the 10th of Av. Sefardim just do this from the week of the 9th of av.
    • Music and dancing- one should not listen to music of any kind, unless its background music which you are not listening to for the music.
    • Swimming – You are not allowed to swim during the nine days.
    • No meat or wine unless it is for a seudas mitzvah
  • Showering- One is not allowed to shower during the nine days except for Shabbos. One should wash one body part at a time with lukewarm water.  Sefardim keep this only the actual week of Tisha B Av.
  • Laundry – Ashkenazim do not do laundry during the nine days, sefardim keep this only the week of Tisha B Av.
  • Clean Clothes- One is not allowed to wear freshly laundered clothes except for underclothes during the nine days.
  •  One should not make the bracha of Shechiyanu at all during this time, except for shabbos. If one must make the bracha, it should be done on shabbos.

We have a strong tradition that the third temple will be rebuilt on Tisha B’av. One should always believe that Mashiach should come at any moment, but one must live their lives normally at the same time.

Shavout

Shavout- Is the holiday when the Jewish people accepted the Torah and Received it.

In Israel those who live in Israel year around Shavout is only one day, outside of Israel it is two days.

One must light candles in honor of the holiday just like they would light before Shabbos. The bracha ends in Hadlik ner shel yom tov. One should also recite the blessing of Shechiyanu (women  only) men say it in kiddush.

There is a custom that one should stay up the whole first night of Shavout to learn. Especially among the men, the idea behind it is, that you are preparing yourself for receiving the Torah. Also it says that during the time of the Torah giving in the desert, the Jewish people overslept, so we stay up the whole night as an atonement for this.

If one has stayed up all night, and has not slept he must hear the morning blessings from someone who has slept. He is allowed to recite the blessing after washing his hands, and having gone to the bathroom.

* For a man who has been awake all night, he must not recite the blessing over the donning of the tzizit.

* In order to be obligated to recite the morning blessings one must have slept at least 30 minutes in the night.

One should stand from the beginning of the Aliyah (portion) that contains the 10 commandments.

Customs of Shavout:

It is the anniversary of David Hamelech’s death- therefore there is a special merit to say the whole book of Tehillim during the day of Shavout.

The Torah is compared to Milk and Honey- therefore on Shavout many people have the custom of eating diary as a physical manifestations of this idea.

One is allowed to decorate their houses, and houses of worship with greenery to commemorate Mt. Sinai which was surrounded by greenery at the time of the giving of the Torah.

 

4’s and 5’s and Pesach

What do the number’s 4 and 5 have to do with Passover, you must be wondering?

Well lets start with the Hagadah there are five main parts to the Hagadah. They are the Kiddush through Karpas, then you have  Maggid which is the story, then you have the meal, then you have Hallel – song’s of praise. After Hallel are more songs. Then there are the four/ five cups. And the five times that a vav is missing from Eliyahu Hanavi’s name in the tanach. There are the 4 questions and the  4 sons. There are 5 exiles There are 4 phrases of redemption. So how do we tie all these ideas together?

The four cups, the four questions,the four sons, and the  phrases of redemption, come together because they are all about being free to question, to understand, to live as a nation. The four cups becomes 5 cups when we add in Eliyhau hanavi’s cup at the end of the meal. While no one but Eliyahu drinks from his cup, it does have to be poured. Eliyahu is supposed to come to announce the final redemption and that Mashiach has come. In this past’s week haftara we read the last portion of the book of Michah who was one of the last prophets. The last sentence mentions Eliyahu’s coming to announce the redemption which is how it is connected to Pesach.  Yet Eliyahu’s name is missing a vav, so when we look to the commentators, such as Rashi, it tell us that Yaackov Avinu took the vav as a promise that his descendants would be redeemed. So why not just one vav, why did he take the vav five different times and add it to his name? I believe that the answer to this question is that the Jewish people are destined to go through 5 different exiles. So Yaakov took a vav for each exile. We start with Egyptian exile which was caused in part by  a lack of unity among the 12 tribes, this trait of jealousy and insecurity which comes from Lavan the Armenian who was the grandfather of the 12 tribes had to be corrected in order that the Jewish people could become one with G-d. We also have the exiles of Greek, Persia, Babylon, and now the Roman exile. Through each exile we carry with us the promise that G-d will redeem us, when we do teshuva for the main reason that we were exiled, each exile has a different reason. The point of Pesach is not to be exhausted from cleaning, but really to clean our souls of all the junk that has accumulated and focus on the idea that G-d has given us the amazing gift of being his people, and that we are free!

Chag Kasher Samech!

Pesach Halachas overview

Pesach, is about making yourself free. It is the time of year when we were freed from being slaves in Egypt, it is also the time when we got engaged to G-d, we became the chosen nation.  There are three main commandments that are central to the theme of Pesach.

 

They are ridding ourselves of Chametz, eating of matzoah and marror, as well as the recounting of the story of Pesach.

 

Let us start with the idea of ridding ourselves of Chametz- again we have this idea of becoming more spiritual through a physical idea, here are we are ridding ourselves of chametz, is really getting rid of our materialistic and unclean physical side, throwing the yetzer hara out.

Chametz is defined as  products or derivatives of the five kinds of grain -wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye  that have been in contact with water for more then 18 minutes. Some examples are pasta, bread, crackers, whiskey, oatmeal. For the duration of Pesach holiday it is forbidden to eat, drink or derive monetary or other benefit from chametz. Pesach in Israel is celebrated for seven days, everywhere outside of Israel is 8 days.

Bedikat Chametz, is performed the night before the holiday starts, where you go through your house and check for any last bits of chametz that you where supposed to have cleaned and sold before hand. You search through your house with  candle, sweeps them up with a feather into a wooden spoon, then you put everything into a paper bag and you burn it in the morning.

Mechiras Chametz- if there is a major loss of money involved one is allowed to sell there chametz to a non-Jew.

 

Matzah- matzah is an unleavned bread that is made out of flour and water and baked for 18 minutes or less. Shemurah matzah is a matzah where the grain was supervised from the time it was cut in the fields until it was made into matzah. Machine matzah is also okay.

 

There is a custom of not to eat “gebrokts” which  means any matzah products that where combined with liquid

Before trying to kasher anything it should not have been used 24 hours before

One should have a separate set of dishes , pots and pans for Pesach..

In order to kasher your kitchen, even if your counters are not able to be kashered they must be covered. You must pour boiling hot water over the clean counters over the entire surface.

Any item that was used on a fire without any liqued can be kashered through the heating of the vessel until its  burning, and cannot be touched.

Anything that was used for hot liquids must be kashered through being fully immersed into boiling hot water.

Stove grates, should be heated up until they are red then cooled down and covered with  foil.

Ovens should  be cleaned thoroughly get all crumbs out, then leave unused for 24 hours and then turn on the highest setting  and burned for about 2 hours.

Taken from Halachic highlights by  Rabbi Avraham Goldstein

 

A quick d’var torah. The Jewish people were on the 49th level of impurity when they were brought out of Egypt if they had reached the 50th level they would not have been redeemed. How did we merit redemption, we were suffering so much, yet the Egyptians could not be punished for listening to there King who threatened to kill them, yet when the Egyptians decided on there own to kill Jewish babies by stuffing them in between the bricks to be used as cement, they where able to be punished with those babies cries which is how Hash-m redeemed us before our time was up. G-d came down to Egypt to personally escort us out, the seder that we have in our times instead of the korban pesach is how we show him our hakoras hatov by going through the story of the Exdous as if we were there living it and relating it to ourselves and our lives today with feeling. When the seders are rushed through, and not told over properly G-d does not want to be married to us, and we have not properly fulfilled the commandments of showing thanksgiving, and seder.

 

As heard from Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein on Torahanytime.com

Parsha Zachor

What is Parsha’s Zachor? What is our obligation regarding this parsha. Parsha Zachor is fulfilling our obligation to remember Amalek and their actions. Every male and female over bar and bat mitzvah age is obligated to at least read it is preferable to hear it read in a minyan. What are we remembering, we are remembering how Amalek attacked us when we were weak and tired, but even more so there lack of fear for G-d. When a nation has no fear of G-d they do not care for themselves or the rest of humanity. Which is why Amalek is the only nation in the world that the Jewish people have been commanded to destroy. Parsha Zachor this year is read on the Shabbos of March 15th.

Purim

This year is a leap year according to the Jewish calendar. Why do we need leap years? We need leap years because Pesach (passover) is not allowed to be celebrated at any other time of the year except in the spring. And if we did not have a leap year with the extra month of Adar added in then Pesach would not be celebrated in the spring and would continually get earlier and earlier according to the Solar calendar.

 

Rav Zev Leff in his book Festivals of Life- talks about the significance of two Adars and their meanings. I am going to summarize what I read and put it in my own words but the ideas are his.

The two Adars are representatives of the spiritual and physical worlds. The first Adar is a completely spiritual one that is likened to Olam Habah ( the next world). It is also likened to the  moon the hidden one. In Adar alef while we are aware that Purim and all the miracles are coming, we aren’t immersed in the physical aspects of them. Which allows us to focus on the tremendous spiritual feeling that is in the air. Adar Bet where we celebrate the holiday of Purim which is bringing to life the saving of the Jews in the Persian Empire, and recognizing G-d even though he is hidden, reminding us that G-d is always with us. It is about elevating the physical to the spiritual. What is drinking really about on Purim, its not about getting drunk and being silly. It is also not just about not being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman. Its about allowing our souls to shine through, to remind us of who we really are on the inside in order to remind us that we are special people, and not just a chunk of meat. That we have a purpose in this world and we have an obligation to strengthen G-ds presence in this world by doing things that bring his light into this world. It is two fold not only are we elevating the physical to the spiritual, but we are combing the two by bringing G-d into this world in a more concrete form. Purim is a holiday of intense Joy but that joy should not be physical it should be a spiritual connection to our creator, in that we find him in every aspect of our lives.

Vaykira

Sefer Vaykira focuses on bringing G-ds presence down into this world, while at the same time elevating our neshomas  It also teaches us the proper way to atone for our sins. Which is not only to express regret but also to truly believe and behave like we are never going to do it again. The sin offering is basically saying I am offering up this animal in place of myself, especially in the cases where we deserve the death penalty.  For a further explantion of Korbanos please read below the information that I got from Torah.org on Korbanos.  The other interesting aspect on Sefer Vaykira is the little Alef that is present in the word Vaykira- the most common explanation on this is that it is referring to Moshe’s humility. The word Vaykir means to call in bibical hebrew- this how G-d called to the non-jewish prophet Biliam. Now Moshe did not want to be seen as greater than anyone else, and wanted to use the same word to describe how G-d called to him, this was not the right response, because even though we all need to be aware of how small we are in G-d’s eyes, we also have to recognize the greatness of our leaders. Therefore Moshe followed G-ds instructions to include the Alef but wrote it small, because he was uncomfortable. This teaches us another lesson which is that G-d’s word comes before our personal feelings.

 

The word Korban is traditionally translated as “sacrifice”. Regardless of what the original meaning of sacrifice was (it probably comes from a combination of Latin words – meaning “to make holy”), its common usage bears little – if any – resemblance to the ideology -or etymology – of a Korban. In conventional English, a sacrifice is something given up in exchange for nothing – but on behalf of a noble cause (e.g. defense of country, raising children etc.) The word Korban, on the other hand, comes from the Hebrew root “K*R*B” – meaning “to come close. A Korban is a vehicle for Man to come close to God. For purposes of this shiur, we will either refer to these offerings as Korbanot (plural of Korban) or as “offerings”.

There are, generally speaking, two types of Korbanot: Zevachim (lit. “slaughtered”) and Menachot (grain offerings). Although we will focus on the Korban Minchah, a brief overview of Zevachim is in order – and it will help us understand the phenomenology of the Korban Minchah with greater insight.

 

There are four basic types of Zevachim. (My thanks to the Judaic Seminar list, from whose archives I copies this synopsis)

1. OLAH: “ascend”, seems to refer to this sacrifice’s distinctive feature, that the offering is completely burnt on the altar (except for the hide, which is given to the participating priest), thus it totally “ascends” to God. Only male animals or doves or pigeons (male or female) are acceptable.

2. SH’LAMIM: from “shalem” or “shalom”, presents many possible interpretations. It may express a sense of “well-being”; “wholeheartedness” with God; a gift of “greeting” to God; or perhaps “completeness” (altar, donor and priest all sharing in it). Male or female animals are acceptable but not birds. Certain fat and internal organs are placed on the altar by the kohanim. The remainder, almost the whole animal, is permitted to be eaten. In Vayyikra Chapter 7, the Torah ordains that any pure person is permitted to partake of the Sh’lamim, thus allowing the donor to share it with family and invitees. Eating the Sh’lamim is permitted during the day and night of the offering and the day following and was not restricted to the sanctuary precincts. The “todah” (thanksgiving offering) – a Sh’lamim subdivision – is an exception in that it is only allowed to be eaten the day of its offering and the night following. Priests receive the breast and the right thigh.

An individual’s olah and Sh’lamim are voluntary offerings. Although their names may connote certain purposes, and expiation was mentioned in connection with the olah, the reasons why one may bring an olah are not provided.

3. HATTAT: “sin-offering”, refers only to unintentional sins, generally those that had they been done intentionally are culpable of “karet”. Carelessness and inadvertence indicate laxness as concerns one’s responsibilities; such transgressions defile the sanctuary. The hattat, bringing purification and expiation to the sanctuary, is a mandatory part of the unintentional sinner’s repentance process. With the exception of the Ashem brought for withholding testimony, intentional sins can not be expiated by means of a sacrifice.

Four classes of hattat, varying according to the offender’s status and without reference to the particular transgression, are itemized – those of:

a) the high priest;

b) the whole community of Israel (explained by the sages as based on a high court directive);

c) the chieftain (including the king);

d) any individual.

From the sanctuary perspective the first two classes reflect a graver transgression, impacting the spiritual welfare of the nation, and require an elaborate ritual involving a young bull, a blood- sprinkling ritual on the parokhet veil in the Ohel Moed and upon the incense altar as well as upon the bronze altar, and burning the complete bull on the ash heap outside the camp. The latter two classes of hattat lack these stringencies. After all, the chieftain is not an official religious leader. He brings a male goat while the private individual brings a female goat or ewe. Male priests eat from these latter sacrifices within sanctuary precincts.

Three particular transgressions of omission that require a hattat offering for expiation are also listed:

a) one who withheld testimony despite having heard an adjuration to testify – a type of negligence;

b) various cases of being impure in a span of forgetfulness (and entering the sanctuary or eating sacred items); and

c) inadvertently violating an oath.

Depending on financial ability, one either brings a female sheep or goat, two birds or a measure of flour. In the latter case, oil and frankincense are not added, reflecting the somber nature of the offering.

4. ASHAM: “guilt-offering” of a ram, referring to three specific classes of violations:

a) asham me`ila – an unintentional misappropriation for personal use of sanctuary property. The violator makes full restitution and pays a penalty of one fifth in addition to the sacrifice

b) asham taluy – the contingency asham – when one has a doubt if he committed an unintentional transgression that had be been certain he did transgress unintentionally would require a hattat and br> c) asham g’zelot – a trespass against God in that one lied under oath, defrauding his fellow man concerning a deposit, loan, stolen article, found article, etc.

When the defrauder chooses to repent, he restores the lost capital to the owner, adds a fifth as penalty and brings an asham sacrifice. Although the sin was intentional, when the violator came forth himself to repent by making restitution and paying a penalty, he is allowed the expiation sacrifice. Bamidbar 5:5-10 contains a supplement to this asham legislation.

Before addressing the fifth type of Korban – the Minchah – we will look at two approaches among the Rishonim as to the meaning behind Korbanot (specifically Zevachim).

 

A Minchah, meaning “tributary gift” to God, is the fifth type of Korban. Although in other parts of Tanakh the term minchah is applied to offerings of both agricultural produce and animals (B’resheet 4:3-4; Sh’muel I 2:15-17), in Korbanic legislation it strictly refers to grain offerings. Generally, it is comprised of semolina wheat (solet) and olive oil with some frankincense spice (levonah) added. It could be offered in several varieties: raw, oven-baked in either a thick or thin preparation, or fried either on a griddle or deep-fried in a pan. A fistful is burnt on the altar and the remainder eaten by male priests within sanctuary precincts.

The laws of the Minchah are delineated in Vayyikra, Chapter 2 – and later, from the Kohanic perspective, in 6:7-11. [It is recommended that you read these sections before continuing].

There are several textual anomalies in this section:

1) Unlike the first chapter, which describes the Korban Olah (and later sections describing the other Zevachim), the section on the Korban Minchah is introduced with the phrase v’Nefesh ki Takriv. A Nefesh (which means soul in Rabbinic Hebrew) means a person in Biblical Hebrew. The specific orientation of the word is “life-force”, as we see in Vayyikra 17:11, “The Nefesh of all flesh is in the blood”. Why is the Minchah uniquely described as being brought by a Nefesh?

2) The “Kometz” (fistful) of the Minchah which is burned on the altar is called an Azkarah – commemoration. What is this commemoration and what is being remembered?

3) In 2:11, the Torah prohibits a leavened Minchah – or the use of any leavening or sweetening agent on the altar. Why is Hametz to be distanced from the Mikdash?

4) Within the context of the Korban Minchah, the Torah commands us to salt every Minchah – with the Melach B’rit Elohekha (The salt of the covenant of your God – 2:13). What is the significance of salt – specifically within the context of the Korban Minchah?

There are two other questions, both related to the issue of Hametz:

5) Although the Torah forbade the use of leavening in preparing a Minchah, we are commanded to offer a communal Minchah on Shavuot composed of two loaves (known as Minchat Sh’tei haLechem – specifically made of Hametz (Vayyikra 23:17). Why the exception?

6) There is one other exception to the Hametzless-Minchah rule: the loaves which accompany the Korban Todah (a subset of Sh’lamim). In Vayyikra 7:12-13, the Torah commands us to bring (40) loaves as an accompaniment to the Korban Todah (thanksgiving offering) – and ten of them must be Hametz! Again – why the exception? (See M. Menachot 5:1, where these two are presented as the only two exceptions.)