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October 26, 2016 / 24 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘conclusion’

Q & A: Elul – A Time To Repent (Conclusion)

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Question: Where does the name Elul come from? Also, how can Elul be both the last month of the year and the prequel to the holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) that occur in the following month, Tishrei, the first month of the new year? Finally, can you please discuss the religious practices of Elul?

M. Goldman
Miami Beach, FL


Answer: The month of Elul as a special period of repentance is marked by the recitation of special supplication prayers, Selichot (lit. the plural of “forgiveness”). To better understand these prayers, we quote Rabbi Nosson Scherman, general editor of Mesorah Publications, in his insightful introduction to the ArtScroll Selichot:

“Within the Siddur and synagogue service, the mood of repentance is expressed in the selichos, prayers of supplication. They are of ancient origin; some of them are even mentioned in the Mishnah (Taanis ch. 2) where special prayers for rain are discussed, but almost all of them were composed between the eighth and sixteenth centuries. The composers of these selichos include some of the outstanding figures of ancient times, among them Geonim (7th-10th century Torah authorities) and Rishonim (11th-15th century authorities). Consequently, it should be clear that their compositions are not merely inspired poetry.

“The central theme of all selichos, as well as of the Yom Kippur Maariv and Neilah services, is the Shelosh Esreh Middot Harachamim, the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. This passage appears in the Torah (Exodus 34:6-7) at the time when G-d proclaimed His readiness to do away with the Jewish people after the sin of the Golden Calf. According to R. Yochanan’s interpretation (Rosh Hashanah 17b), Moses felt that Israel’s sin was so grievous that there was no possibility of his intercession on their behalf. Thereupon, G-d appeared to him in the form of a chazzan wrapped in a tallis and taught him the Thirteen Attributes, saying, ‘Whenever Israel sins, let them recite this in its proper order and I will forgive them.’ Thus, this appeal to G-d’s mercy reassures us both that repentance is always possible and that G-d always awaits our return to Him. The implication is also plain that if we emulate G-d’s merciful ways, He will treat us mercifully in return.

“When it appears in the Selichos service, the Thirteen Attributes is introduced by one of two prayers: The first time during each Selichos service, it is introduced by ‘Kel Erech Appayim – O G-d, [You are] slow to anger…’ All other times, the introduction is ‘Kel Melech Yoshev – O G-d, King who sits …’ After the Thirteen Attributes there is always a direct prayer for forgiveness, following the example of Moses, who, after being taught the Thirteen Attributes, pleaded that G-d forgive Israel (Exodus 34:8-9).

“It is illustrative to see what that repentance brought. Prior to the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses had received the Tablets of the Law from Sinai. When he saw the painful spectacle of the nation of G-d prancing around a false god, he smashed the Tablets – something he had to do because the people no longer deserved them. Then came a long period of prayer, highlighted by the vision of G-d showing Moses how to pray and what to say, and the promise that if Israel would perform this prayer – by making themselves agents of mercy to others – then they could rely on His help in the worst situations. The result was that Moses came back from Mount Sinai on Yom Kippur with the Second Tablets.

“This was a lesson for all time. Jews can lose the Torah and get it back. They can lose G-d’s mercy and win it back. G-d loves us and wants us so much that He shows us how to pray and promises that His ear is always cocked, as it were, waiting for us to call Him, to repent, to evoke His mercy, and to come back to where we were before we fell.”

As to when we commence saying Selichot, we find the following in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 581:1): “It is our custom to arise at the ashmoret (the [last] night watch, while it is still dark) to say Selichot and Tachanunim from Rosh Chodesh Elul and onward until Yom Kippur.”

This view of the Mechaber (Rabbi Yosef Caro), as we shall soon see, reflects the custom of the Sephardic and Oriental communities.

The Rema in his glosses (ad loc.) notes, “And the custom of the Ashkenazi communities [most of European Jewry] is different … to rise at the ashmoret starting on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah – if Rosh Hashanah does not fall on Monday or Tuesday, for in that instance they start on the Sunday a full week earlier.”

The source of this dispute can be found in the Tur (Orach Chayim 581). Ritz Ge’ut (see Bach, ad loc.) is of the view that we should commence saying Selichot from Rosh Chodesh Elul, while R. Hai Gaon is of the opinion that we should start saying them on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah and continue through Aseret Yemei Teshuvah.

Consistent with the first view, we read in Sefer HaManhig (25): “There are places in Sepharad [Spain and Mediterranean and Oriental areas] that start saying Selichot from Rosh Chodesh Elul. And I have a support for their custom, since Moses went up on high [Mt. Sinai] on Rosh Chodesh Elul to receive the second Luchot and he came down with them on Yom Kippur.”

Therefore, the custom spread among Spanish and Oriental communities to rise at the ashmoret during the entire month of Elul as well as during the Ten Days of Repentance. So states the Mechaber.

However, we find in Machzor Vitri, a reliable and early source (p. 345), that we say Selichot the week before Rosh Hashana. This is the view of Rema.

A basis for the Rema’s view is the Ran (Rosh Hashana 16a), who explains that according to the view of R. Eliezer (Rosh Hashana 11a), the world was created in Tishrei, and man on Friday. This view maintains that creation really started on the 25th of Elul. From that day there were an intervening four days before the creation of man (“techilat ma’aseicha”) on the 1st of Tishrei. Rosh Hashanah is therefore the Day of Judgment of man.

Thus, it is proper to commence Selichot a minimum of four days before Rosh Hashanah, according to the view of Rema.

It is interesting to note the Ran’s statement that in Barcelona the custom is to say Selichot from the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah. Since Barcelona is in Spain, we can conclude that in some places in Spain and other Sephardic lands, the custom wasn’t to start saying Selichot on Rosh Chodesh Elul.

Let us hope that because of our recitation of Selichot and blowing the shofar, along with heartfelt repentance, the Heavenly Creator will hasten to answer our prayers for a happy and healthy New Year, one that is marked by our speedy redemption.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Guard Your Influence (Conclusion)

Friday, May 6th, 2016

The third suggestion to alter behavior and put oneself in the driver’s seat – no matter how detrimental the surrounding influences – is to, as Stephen Covey liked to call it, “Begin with the End in Mind.” It is quite a mind-shift to look at your life from the future. This entails thinking about your greatest legacy, how will one be remembered?

The plan is based on the principle that all things are created twice: there is the mental, or first creation; and then there is the actual, or second creation in reality. A simple analogy would be the construction of a home, whereby detailed plans are drawn up before earth is broken. If the plumbing, electricity and engineering are not finely-tuned in the blue prints, there will be expensive rectifications during the actual construction.

Likewise a business venture. Beginning with “the end in mind” will largely determine if the enterprise is successful. If there isn’t a thought-out, properly-researched and reality-synced business plan, failure is almost guaranteed. As the aphorism goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

The same is often true with parenting. I stress “often” for we all know parents who do everything possible to mess up their children who ultimately come out great. While some parents try so hard and are not successful. There are many factors in raising a child, not the least of which is siyaata d’shmaya (Heavenly assistance). We have already detailed the impact of environment and influences.

But undeniably, if you wish to raise responsible, self-disciplined yorei Shomayim (God-fearing offspring), the end must constantly be kept in mind. A parent who erodes a child’s self-esteem or self-discipline has, among other things, not borne the end in mind. And this becomes even more complicated when children turn into teenagers and parents must quickly shift out of “management” and move into “sales.”

I once bought a book (that I wish I would not have lent out…) from a Pulitzer winning author describing his writing technique. He proposed that a successful author should write the ending of the story first, this way you always know in which direction you are heading. Based on this technique (and other incentives, like a negative bank balance) we managed to write three books bs”D in 11 months.

This is a discipline that works, what the Mishna calls, hefsed mitzva k’negged s’chara (contemplating what one forfeits by not fulfilling a mitzvah as opposed to the reward that could be earned) and being ro’eh es hanolad (foreseeing the consequences). We know that if a person could properly stay focused on the consequences of their actions and plan the first creation so that the second one is congruent, they have used their bechira properly and will conduct an enviably, honorable life.

The reason that Alfred Nobel, the father of dynamite, created the Nobel Peace Prize is well known. His brother died while visiting France and a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred’s obituary. It condemned him for his invention of dynamite and even said, “Le marchand de la mort est mort – The merchant of death is dead.” The obituary also did not fail to mention, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”

This was about all Alfred Nobel had to read to decide to improve his ultimate legacy.

When rumors of the death of the famous rabbinic giant, The Ohr Somyach (Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk 1843-1926), reached Jerusalem, the city was engulfed in sorrow. Pubic eulogies were conducted and tributes were printed in religious newspapers. When a copy was delivered to the live-and-well Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, Latvia, he said that for the rest of his life he would no longer need to open a Messilas Yesharim.

Other than such exceptional circumstances, it is unusual for one to look at life from the future. Think again. Yom Kippur, as Joseph Telushkin points out, is Judaism’s annual confrontation with death. During this 24-hour period, Jews are expected to lead a largely aphysical existence, regarding food, drink and pleasure. Many wear a kittel which is a burial shroud. The goal of this confrontation is to make us all feel those “deathbed regrets” while there is still time to do something about them, and act with the end in mind.

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Defense Minister Ya’alon: Assad Has Lost Control

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Against the background of the gas attack in Syria and the reports about hundreds of victims, perhaps more than a thousand, Israeli Defense Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon said on Wednesday that “the Syrian regime has lost control over the country, is present only in about 40 percent of its territory and is finding it difficult to subdue to opposition forces.”

Speaking at a ceremony welcoming the new Jewish year at the defense ministry compound in downtown Tel Aviv, Ya’alon said that “for some time now this has not been an internal Syrian conflict. We decided not to intervene in this conflict, but we drew red lines to make sure our interests are not harmed.

The defense minister expressed skepticism about the ending of the war in Syria. “We don’t envision the end of this situation, since even the toppling of Assad won’t bring about a conclusion. There are many open, bloody accounts yet to be settled by the various elements.”

“It’s a conflict that has turned global, with one axis receiving support from Russia and the other bein helped by the U.S. and Europe. Lebanon is connected to the massive Iranian support and therefore the war has been dripping into its territory as well. Inside Lebanon there are focal points of confrontation as well. But, generally speaking, the borders are peaceful and we are watching to make sure the cannons are not trained on us,” Ya’alon said.

According to rebel sources in Syria, the number of dead as a result of the chemical gas attack on a suburb of Damascus has topped 1,300, including women and children. The rebels are claiming this was a massacre of innocent civilians, who were hurt by poison gas in the area of the Guta camp, a rebel held spot outside Damascus.

A Syrian government spokesperson has said in response that those claims are unfounded, and are intended to sabotage the work of the UN inspectors who have just arrived in Syria to investigate earlier reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army.

Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, head of the 20-member inspection team, told news agency TT that he finds the reports of such a high number of casualties suspicious.

“It sounds like something that should be looked into,” he told TT over the phone from Damascus. “It will depend on whether any UN member state goes to the secretary general and says we should look at this event. We are in place.”

Minister Ya’alon referred to situation in Egypt as well, saying there has been relative quiet on the Israeli border with Egypt, but noted that extremist elements like the World Jihad will attempt to destabilize the border.

He warned against the recent developments in the Sinai, such as the execution by Islamist terrorists of 25 Egyptian policemen, spilling over into Israel.

“Over the past week, the Sinai border has been the hottest, and it obliges us to realign for it.”

Yori Yanover

Sen. Leahy: Obama Secretly Suspended Egypt Military Aid

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

The office of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), head of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, told The Daily Beast that military aid to Egypt has been temporarily cut off.

“[Senator Leahy’s] understanding is that aid to the Egyptian military has been halted, as required by law,” said David Carle, a spokesman for Leahy.

If it’s done as required by law, why is the U.S. government keeping it a secret that it believes the regime change in Egypt was a military coup? If it is, indeed, temporarily suspending most of the military aid to Egypt, where is the public announcement that we don’t send money to governments that were installed by a coup?

After skewering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hard—through the good services of the NY Times—for his attempts to preserve stability in Egypt and the integrity of the peace treaty, now the administration is attempting to punish the naughty Egyptian generals, but without making a big deal out of it.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked on Monday about the suspended aid, and told reporters the aid is not officially suspended.

I suppose the Egyptians can use the officially unsuspended aid money the same way Israelis can live in the officially unfrozen homes in East Jerusalem…

“After sequestration withholding, approximately $585 million remains unobligated. So, that is the amount that is unobligated,” Psaki said.

I looked up “unobligated” and means funds that have been appropriated but remain uncommitted by contract at the end of a fiscal period. In other words, an I keep, you don’t get kind of relationship.

“But it would be inaccurate to say that a policy decision has been made with respect to the remaining assistance funding,” Psaki clarified.

In other words, I keep, you don’t get, but it’s not forever.

The Daily Beast quotes two Administration officials who explain it was the government lawyers who decided it would be more prudent to observe the law restricting military aid in case of a coup, while not making a public statement that a coup had taken place.

Bret Stephens, a deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, wrote on Monday (A Policy on Egypt—Support Al Sisi):

“What’s realistic and desirable is for the military to succeed in its confrontation with the Brotherhood as quickly and convincingly as possible. Victory permits magnanimity. It gives ordinary Egyptians the opportunity to return to normal life. It deters potential political and military challenges. It allows the appointed civilian government to assume a prominent political role. It settles the diplomatic landscape. It lets the neighbors know what’s what.”

By taking the opposite approach, making it harder for the new Egyptian government to bring the internal conflict to a conclusion, the Obama Administration is promoting and prolonging chaos in yet another country. Which is why, I suspect, Senator Leahy has spoken to the Daily Beast in the first place, to stop this blind march over the cliff.

Middle East analyst Brian Katulis from the Center for American Progress, told the Beast he thought the Administration was “trying to maintain maximum flexibility,” but he suggested that this horse is long out of the barn. “Egypt’s struggle has become so intense, polarized, and violent, and I worry that no matter what move the United States makes now, the competing power centers in Egypt might continue down the dangerous course they’ve headed.”

Unless, of course, the U.S. is making clear, with loud noises and a light show, that it supports stability in Egypt, and in order to hasten new elections, it will not suspend military aid to Egypt. In fact, with its financial and military might, the U.S. will do everything it can to restore stability and democracy in Egypt.

But that would require President Obama to get over the insult of the Egyptian nation ignoring his wishes and dethroning his favorite Muslim Brother president.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/sen-leahy-obama-secretly-suspended-egypt-military-aid/2013/08/20/

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