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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

“Why Should I Live in Israel? America Has Everything I Need”

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

I seem to remember the lyrics of an old Bob Dylan song, “Something is going on Mr. Jones, but you don’t know what it is.” That’s exactly what it’s like for a Jew today if he hasn’t studied the book Orot, by Rabbi Kook. Something is going on with the Jewish People and he doesn’t know what it is. Why? Because for the first time in nearly 2000 years, Jews have risen up with great courage, taken up weapons, and fought for the right to live in our own Jewish Land. There’s another thing equally as startling to many devoutly religious Jews – the fact that the pioneers who risked their lives and largely led the way in rebuilding the Land of our forefathers were often far from Torah observance. Obviously, something very big was taking place. But because they didn’t understand it, or couldn’t accept that God had chosen to bring about the beginnings of Redemption in this seemingly traif manner, many Ultra-Orthodox Jews rejected it. It was Rabbi Kook, with his towering Torah vision, who taught us to recognize that, indeed, the long-awaited Redemption was unfolding before our eyes, even if Hashem decided to bring it about through our secular brothers.

What causes many Jews in the Diaspora, as well as communities of Haredi Jews in Israel, to have a negative to modern Zionism and the Land Israel? Rabbi Kook informs us the reason – it stems from an alienation from the secrets of Torah. Here are excerpts from Chapter Two of the book, Lights on Orot – Eretz Yisrael,   a commentary by Rabbi David Samson and yours truly, on Rabbi’s Kook’s classic work Orot. Take your time reading it. Print it out. Study it thoughtfully on Shavuot night when you have the time. Surely, it will help you to understand what is going on, Mr. Jones. (And for readers, like me, who prefer shorter, more bloggier blogs, we will be getting back to them soon, Bezrat Hashem, after our pre-Shavuot mini course in Orot.)

In the first essay of Orot, we learned that Eretz Yisrael is not a secondary, external acquisition of the Nation, but rather an essential, life-giving foundation of Clal Yisrael. Rabbi Kook emphasized that the future of the Jewish People depends not on strengthening the Diaspora, but rather on strengthening our connection to Eretz Yisrael. In this second essay, Rabbi Kook explains in greater depth how an alienation from the secrets of Torah causes a distortion in our comprehension of Judaism and a crisis in Jewish life. He writes:

“By being alienated from the recognition of the secrets of Torah, the Kedusha (holiness) of Eretz Yisrael is understood in a foggy, unfocused fashion.”

The secrets of Torah which Rabbi Kook refers to are the deep Kabbalistic understandings which chart the inner spiritual blueprint of the Jewish Nation. We are not speaking here about the Tree of Kabbalah which can be found illustrated in popular books on the subject. While this metaphor for the Sefirot, or differing levels of God’s manifestation in the world, is a central understanding of Kabbalah, many other secrets of Torah appear throughout the Aggadah, and the Midrashim of our Sages. Works of wisdom such as the Zohar are the esoteric understandings of these writings. Rabbi Kook’s great genius was in applying this tradition of knowledge toward understanding the development of the Jewish People in our times. His writings illuminate the inner workings of the National Israeli Soul as it awakens to Redemption and physical expression in the rebuilding of the Nation in Eretz Yisrael. The book, Orot, is in effect a deep esoteric study of these themes.

Surfing the Asifah, Now That’s a Roundup

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Every opening to the outside world is a calculated risk. Every time we open a window we chance being shocked by something vile. Every time we ride in our cars, take the subway, even go to shul – something terrible can offend our senses and even influence our very being.

Opening a book – are you kidding me?

Answering the phone – who can it be?

Turning on a radio? Forget it.

Don’t want to bring up television.

As I understand my own religion, my job in this world is to sanctify that which is mundane with my actions. The entire world is open before me, a Jewish woman or man, to set an example of how it should be used righteously. All of it, every last part of it.

We can’t all do it, some of us don’t have the emotional or psychological mettle. That’s fine. I’m happy and proud to belong to a segment of religious Judaism which simply does not fear new things. And I understand and support those who aren’t available for that experiment.

More power to them and to us.

CAN WE HAVE DAILY CULTURE SHOCK OR DOES IT GO AWAY?

It was heartening to see how many folks were seriously trying to come to terms with the Asifa’s main message. And what they thought the message really was.

Internet: A Plea for Common Sense Dad pointed out a few things. However much we all enjoy and use the internet, using the internet can become an addiction. If you don’t believe me, look up the studies. I haven’t seen anything good come out of an addiction to anything. Even Torah. An internet addiction, though, isn’t like being an alcoholic. Alcoholics might be “dry drunks” as long as they don’t drink, but as long as they don’t drink, they’re ok. Not great, but ok. This is more like gluttony. You might be hugely overweight, but you still have to eat. It’s a lot harder to control yourself and give yourself a tiny portion of something you really want then to avoid it completely. (Dad’s analogy)
Sparrow’s Musings

Internet Asifa a Great Kiddush Hashem In the final remarks, the rabbis pledged to move forward with the continuous forging of new ideas. Future gatherings will probably be at a lower cost and scale but focused on actual changes and improvements the community will need to make. Future agendas will include problems and questions such as attitudes towards education and employment, proper allocation of charity funds, funding Jewish education as a community, today’s shidduchim system, agunos, extremism and intolerance, segregation of Ashkenazim and Sefaradim, participation in the Israeli workforce and armed forces, the system of Halachic rulings in Israel and America, reliance on subsidies, and integrity and honesty.

Many of the attendees left the event feeling invigorated about their future and that of their children and grandchildren, echoing the sentiment that through justice and kindness we may merit the coming of the Messiah.
Yosef Drimmel, Rationalist Judaism

Ignorance is Sacred …. To Whom The Internet is terrifying to the rabbanim perhaps because of porn, perhaps because it exposes youth to foreign ideas, but even more importantly, because it enables open dialogue and an honesty they cannot afford if they are to survive as a community, the community they insist they are; pure, innocent, and above their own frailties. And if a few children must be sacrificed for this wholesome lie, then so be it. It is better than any broken truth.
Judy Brown, Rare View

Satmar and the Asifa – Achdus or Isolation? The organizers of the Asifa are desperate to make this about Achdus even more than they are about fighting internet. They therefore felt it was more important to have Satmar involved than to have women attend.

This despite the fact that it is the mother who is in the trenches. Mothers are the guardians of the home. Their husbands are all in the Beis HaMedrash. Morning, noon, and night. Unless they have fallen so low spiritually that they now work for a living. Either way it is the woman that is on the front lines. Not the man.
Emes Ve-Emunah

Sefiras Ha’Omer – Why We Count, What We Count

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the rest day, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving – seven weeks, they shall be complete.” – Vayikra 23:15

Sefer HaChinuch: The Torah commands us to count the Omer so we can relive the Exodus from Mitzrayim. Just as the Jews back then anxiously anticipated the great day when they were to receive the Torah, so too we count the days till Shavuos, the Yom Tov that commemorates the giving of the Torah. To the Jews then, accepting the Torah on Har Sinai was even greater than their redemption from slavery. So we count each day to bring ourselves to that sense of great enthusiasm, as if to say, “When will that day come?”

With these words the Sefer HaChinuch defines the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer. The difficulty with this is the statement that “to the Jews then, receiving of the Torah was even greater than being freed from slavery.” It seems hard to imagine that anything would be greater to a slave than being freed. This concept is even more perplexing when we envision what it was like to be a slave in Mitzrayim.

The lives of Jews in Mitzrayim were defined by misery and suffering. They had no rights. They had no life. They couldn’t own property, choose their own destiny, or protect their own children. They didn’t even have the right to their own time. A Mitzri could at any moment demand a Jew’s utter and complete compliance to do his bidding. If a Jew walked in the streets, it was every Mitzri’s right to whisk him away, without question and without recourse, and force him into slave labor for whatever he saw fit.

Waking in the early morning to the crack of the Mitzri’s whip, the Jews were pushed to the limit of human endurance until late at night when they fell asleep in the fields. Without rest, without breaks, the Jews lugged heavy loads and lifted huge rocks. Sweat, tears, and bloodshed were their lot. In the heat of the sweltering sun and in the cold of the desert night, at the risk of life and limb, the Jew was oppressed with a demon-like fury. A beast of burden is treated wisely to ensure its well-being, but not the Jew. He was pushed beyond all limits. Finally, when Pharaoh was asked to let the Jewish people go, he increased their load, taking it from the impossible to the unimaginable.

How could anything in the world be more desirable to the Jews than freedom? How could it be that anything, even something as great as receiving the Torah, could mean more to them than being redeemed from slavery?

The answer to this question lies in understanding the great level of clarity that the Jews reached by living through the makkos and the splitting of the sea.

For ten months, each Jew saw with ever-increasing clarity that Hashem created, maintains, and orchestrates this world. With absolute certainty, they experienced Hashem’s presence in their lives. This understanding brought to them to recognize certain core cognitions.

Every human has inborn understandings. Often they are masked and subdued. Whether by environment or by desire, the human spends much of his life running from the truths that he deeply knows. When the Jews in Mitzrayim experienced Hashem’s power and goodness, they understood the purpose of Creation. They knew we are creations, put on this planet for a reason. We were given a great opportunity to grow, to accomplish, to mold ourselves into who we will be for eternity. We have a few short, precious years here, and then forever we will enjoy that which we have accomplished. Because they so clearly experienced Hashem, their view of existence was changed. They “got it.”

Because of this, the currency with which they measured all good changed. They recognized that the greatest good ever bestowed upon man is the ability to change, to mold himself into something different so that he will merit to cling to Hashem. They recognized that everything we humans value as important pales in comparison to the opportunity to grow close to Hashem. Because they understood this point so vividly, to them the greatest good possible was the receiving of the Torah – Hashem’s word, the ultimate spiritual experience.

And so, while they anxiously anticipated the redemption from slavery as a great good that would free them from physical oppression, they valued the reason they were being freed even more. They were to receive the Torah.

This concept has great relevance in our lives, as we have the ability to tap into this instinctive knowledge of the importance of learning. When a person gets caught up in the temporal nature of this world, the currency with which he rates things changes. The value system now becomes honor, power, career, or creature comforts. That is what he views as good, and that is what he desires. The more a person involves himself in these, the more important they become, and the less precious the Torah becomes. Our natural appreciation of Torah becomes clouded over by other desires and an ever-changing value system.

Five Terms Of Endearment – So Why Only Four Cups Of Wine?

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The number four seems to play a major role in the Pesach Seder. We have four questions, four sons, four terms of endearment and, of course, one of the major features we soon will be enjoying – the drinking of four cups of wine.

The Mishnah is very specific about those four cups, requiring the community to see to it that even the poor have them, even if it comes from public charity (Pesachim 10:1).

Since the Torah says nothing about wine in describing the Pesach ritual, the question arises as to the origin and meaning of this practice. Why wine at all and why four cups?

To begin with, wine does appear in the Torah in ritual contexts. It was used as libations on the altar (Exodus 29:40) and was considered a special drink that caused people to rejoice.

As we read in Psalm 104:15, “And wine makes the heart of man joyful…” This is why it was taken from the Temple rite into the synagogue and the home, so that Kiddush is recited over it, as are Havdalah and the Birkat Hamazon. Weddings are also solemnized with wine and it is used in the ceremony of the brit milah.

It would only have been natural, then, for the festive Pesach meal, like any holiday feast, to begin with wine and conclude with it. Two cups.

However, at the Seder the third cup is associated with maggid – the telling of the story. The fourth cup is recited over Hallel and is a special addition unique to the Seder.

Different explanations were offered in the writings of the sages, the gaonim, and the later rabbis as to the significance of the number four. Among them are: four expressions of redemption, four empires that oppressed Israel, four cups of punishment of those empires, four cups mentioned in connection with Pharaoh, four cups of fury, four cups of salvation, four decrees of Pharaoh against Israel, four exiles.

The most popular and most generally accepted explanation was that the four cups stand for the four promises of redemption that God uttered: I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements, and I will take you to be My people (Exodus 6:6-7). The Hebrew words are vehotzeiti, vehitzalti, vegoalti and velakahti.

Once these four promises had been accepted as the reason for the four cups, the question arose about the fact that there was a fifth expression of redemption in Exodus 6, verse 8 – “And I shall bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” – veheiveiti.

And so Rabbi Tarfon taught, “On the fifth cup one finishes the Hallel and says the Great Hallel (Psalm 136).” This is found in the Talmud Yerushalmi, Pesachim 10:1, and also in the manuscript reading of Pesachim 118a.

This is also probably the origin of the Cup of Elijah. Since not all were agreed that we should drink a fifth cup, it was set aside until Elijah would come and decide that issue and all other halachic issues. It may be that the majority of the sages demurred because that promise was painfully unfulfilled after the exile of the year 70 CE. That may also explain why in the verses elucidated in the Haggadah, the verse “He brought us to this place and gave us this land” (Deuteronomy 26:9) is absent.

Both Rav Amram Gaon and the Rambam mention using the fifth cup, though they see it as optional but not required.

Rabbi Menachem Kasher, in his edition of the Haggadah, strongly advocates the drinking of the fifth cup. The Cup of Elijah can be passed to all the participants as the fifth cup.

Rabbi Kasher believes we have been privileged to live in a time when the fifth expression of redemption has actually come to pass, as the Jewish people have returned to their own land and established the state of Israel. Therefore, it is right and proper that we drink a fifth cup to recognize that reality and express our gratitude and thanksgiving to God for it.

Considering that so great a sage as Rabbi Tarfon advocated the fifth cup and that such great authorities as the Rambam and Rav Amram Gaon permitted it, it would seem that not to drink the fifth cup would be an act of ingratitude to God for the partial redemption represented by the state of Israel.

How many cups does it take to express our gratitude to God at the Seder? I believe the answer is five.

By Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher is dean of students at the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Closing Our Eyes To The New Haman (Part I)

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

There is a new Haman on the world scene – Iran’s Ahmadinejad, who unabashedly proclaims his determination to annihilate Israel, and he is preparing to do so. Some say he is a few months away from nuclear capability, others say it will be a year or so, and still others say he already has it in his hands.

And what are we doing about it? Shockingly, nothing; we go on with business as usual.

And should you be among those who take this threat to heart, you will quickly be assured that Ahmadinejad is a madman, not to be taken seriously.

Yes, I agree, he is a madman, and that is precisely why he should be taken seriously. Madmen are mad enough to carry out their satanic plots. Trust me. I saw Hitler in action and I also saw a cruel world accept and participate in the barbaric extermination of our people.

Prior to Hitler’s conflagration, Hashem sounded the alarm. He sent us many wakeup calls, but we went back to sleep until the inferno consumed six million of our people. One would have imagined we learned our lesson and would not allow this tragedy to be repeated. But Hashem’s wakeup calls have once again been sounded, and once again we have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye. I have been speaking about this for some time, and there are those who advise me to focus on “happier subjects” – subjects that are “entertaining” and “light.”

But I dare not remain silent. I dare not ignore the wake-up calls and the catastrophe they portend. So I ask you to read my ensuing columns on the subject with open minds and receptive hearts. I will limit myself to the wake-up calls we have witnessed over the past couple of years, though they began considerably earlier.

The number of catastrophes has multiplied to such an extent that we have all but become immune to them. Natural disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes (even in New York City), global warming, dead birds falling from the skies, dead fish washing up on the shores; the world economic crisis, accompanied by crippling unemployment and high oil prices; hitherto unknown diseases; barbaric acts of terror; nuclear spill in Japan and today’s nuclear threat from Iran – all threaten the very survival of our civilization.

And we take it all in stride. “It is what it is,” we tell ourselves with resignation and go on with our lives as usual.

But can all this be attributed to mere coincidence? Shouldn’t these afflictions give us pause? Shouldn’t we stop and take stock of our lives?

There is a story about a chassidic rebbe who was walking with his disciples when he noticed a little boy behind a tree, crying bitterly.

“Why are you crying?” he asked.

“Because I’m hiding, and no one is looking for me.”

The words of the child were like a sharp knife in the heart of the rebbe. “Woe is us,” he said to his students. “G-d is waiting for us to find Him, but we have failed to search for Him. Woe is us!”

Maimonides taught that when suffering is visited upon us, we are commanded to cry out and awaken our people with the sound of the shofar. Everyone must be alerted to examine his or her life, and commit to greater adherence to Torah and mitzvos. Maimonides warned that if we regard the tragedies that befall us simply as “the way of the world” or “natural occurrences” we will be guilty of achzarius – cruelty.

At first glance, it is difficult to understand why Maimonides would choose the term “cruelty” to describe those who view trials and tribulations as “natural occurrences.” Such people may be unthinking, apathetic, foolish, blind or obtuse, but why accuse them of cruelty?

The answer is simple. If we regard our pain and suffering as mere coincidence, we will feel no motivation to examine our lives, abandon our old ways and change. So, yes, such an attitude is cruel, for it invites additional misfortune upon ourselves and others.

It would be the height of cruelty to dismiss that which is occurring in the world today as mere happenstance. Great Torah luminaries of past generations such as the Chofetz Chaim and Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman told us we were entering the final stages of history – a period of time called Ikvesa DiMeshicha, footsteps of the Messiah.

Our Torah foretells four exiles through which our people would suffer: Egypt, Babylonia, Greece and Rome. (The latter exile is the one in which we presently find ourselves, for it was the Romans who exiled us when they destroyed the Second Temple.)

In Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, an early midrashic work, it is written that before the coming of Messiah we will have to contend with a fifth source of tribulation that will come from Yishmael – the Arabs – who will inflict terrible suffering on the world and on our people. This teaching is reaffirmed by Rabbi Chaim Vital, the illustrious disciple of the Arizal, who wrote that before the final curtain falls upon the stage of history, Yishmael will inflict torture on our people in ways the world had never seen.

Pidyon Ha’ben (Bechorot 46)

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

A son who is not himself a kohen or a Levi, firstborn to a Jewish mother who is not the daughter of a kohen or a Levi, has the status of a bechor and must be redeemed through a ceremony known as pidyon ha’ben.

The performance of the pidyon ha’ben ceremony, which should take place on the 31st day following the date of the birth of the child, is primarily the responsibility of the father. It is one of the caretaking duties a father owes his son, in addition to the responsibility to see to it that he is circumcised, to assist him in finding a spouse, and to teach him Torah and a profession. If the father has been derelict in this duty, it devolves upon the son to redeem himself as soon as he is old enough to do so.

If one considers that prior to the institution of the kehunah, the priesthood, the firstborn was charged with the responsibility of offering up sacrifices to God on the people’s behalf, it is understood that the kehunah should be compensated for redeeming the child from the bechor status and depleting, as it were, the ranks of the kehunah.

Accordingly, the pidyon ha’ben ceremony involves paying the kohen 5 shekalim (or sela’im) or chattels of equivalent value in exchange for the redemption.

The pidyon ha’ben ceremony is conducted between the father and the kohen either with or without the presence of the child to be redeemed.

After the father declares to the kohen that he has a firstborn son that requires redemption in accordance with the laws of the Torah, the kohen then asks the father the following question. “What would you prefer to give me your firstborn or to redeem him for 5 sela’im as permitted by the Torah?”

The father responds, of course, that he would prefer to redeem the child. Still holding the money in his hand, the father then articulates to himself that he is now performing the requirement of pidyon ha’ben and he then recites two blessings.

First, he recites the blessing of pidyon ha’ben and then he recites the Shehecheyanu blessing in which he thanks God for giving him this moment in his life. Immediately following the recital of these two blessings, the father hands over the redemption money to the kohen. The kohen holds the money over the head of the child and recites the following: “With this money, this child is redeemed and he should now enter into life, live it in accordance with the laws of the Torah, guided by the fear of God. Even as he has entered into the ceremony of pidyon haben, he should enter into the world of Torah, into marriage and should help create a universe of kindness.”

The kohen then places his hands over the child’s head and recited the Birchat Kohanim, the priestly blessing, and then returns the child to his father.

It is the custom to celebrate the pidyon ha’ben with a festive meal and to perform the ceremony during the course of the meal. This festive meal is considered a seudat mitzvah, with all the halachic ramifications attached to this concept.

Even though the Temple is no longer in existence and the kohanim no longer practice their priestly profession, pidyon ha’ben is a requirement for all Jewish firstborn males any place, anytime.

Although the ownership in the redemption money must be legally conveyed by the father to the kohen for the pidyon ha’ben to be effective, the kohen may, if he wishes, and generally does, return the money to the father.

As with the arba minim on Sukkot, the money can also be given as a gift with the stipulation that the gift be returned, since such a gift has the power, under Jewish property law, to convey temporary ownership.

In view of the fact that only a son who first opens his mother’s womb has the status of a bechor, neither a boy born through a C-section nor a son born in a natural way following the birth of his brother through a C-section, is a bechor and both are exempt from the requirement of pidyon ha’ben.

Unlike milah, which must take place on the 8th day of birth even if that means performing the circumcision on a Shabbat, if the 31st day following the birth is a Shabbat, the pidyon ha’ben is postponed to a Sunday.

Perhaps the rhetorical question “what would you prefer, to give me your son or to buy him back,” has a hidden message. When it comes to the lives of our children, money is no object.

Raphael Grunfeld’s book “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Judaica bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly. Comments to the writer are welcome at rafegrunfeld@gmail.com.

The Tragic Vacuum (Part Three)

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Several weeks ago I published a letter from an elderly Holocaust survivor who expressed her fear regarding the world situation, specifically the hatred of Israel and escalation of anti-Semitism that is reminiscent of pre-Holocaust Europe. Her letter provoked a torrent of e-mails from young and old readers, several of which I published, but I had not responded to her directly. B’ezrat Hashem, I will do so now.

My Dear Friend:

First, allow me to apologize for the delay in responding to your specific questions, but since you are familiar with my columns you are aware I always allow my readers to respond to the challenges under discussion.

I wish I could tell you that your fears are unfounded, that your imagination is running away with you, that reality proves you wrong. Sadly, however, you are right on target and those who make light of your worries are sleeping, even as our people slept in pre-Holocaust Europe.

What we are witnessing today was predicted by our prophets and sages but, alas, we are no longer familiar with their teachings. Ours is a generation of which the prophet Amos said: “And days shall come saith the L-rd, and I shall send a hunger into the land – not a hunger for bread, nor a thirst for water, but a hunger for the Word of G-d.”

This is the spiritual famine we are witnessing today. We simply do not comprehend and we continue on our merry way with business as usual.

Maimonides taught that when suffering is visited upon us, we are commanded to cry out and awaken our people with the sound of the shofar. Everyone must be alerted to examine his or her life and commit to greater adherence to Torah and mitzvos.

Maimonides warned that if we regard the tragedies that befall us simply as “the way of the world” – natural happenings – we will be guilty of achzarius, cruelty.

At first glance, it is difficult to understand why Maimonides would choose the term “cruelty” to describe those who view trials and tribulations as natural happenings. Such people may be unthinking, apathetic, foolish, blind or obtuse, but why accuse them of cruelty?

The answer is simple. If we regard our pain and suffering as mere coincidence, we will feel no motivation to examine our lives, abandon our old ways, and change. So, yes, such an attitude is cruel, for it invites additional misfortune upon ourselves and others.

It would be the height of cruelty to dismiss what is occurring in the world today as mere happenstance. Great Torah luminaries of past generations, such as the Chofetz Chaim and Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, told us we are entering the final stages of history – a period called “Ikvesa D’Meshicha” – Footsteps of the Messiah.

Our Torah foretells four exiles through which our people would suffer: that of Egypt, of Babylonia, of the Persian-Mede empires and of the Greek and Roman empires – the exile in which we presently find ourselves, for it was the Romans who exiled us when they destroyed the Second Temple.

In Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, an early midrashic work, it is written that before the coming of Messiah we will have to contend with a fifth source of tribulation that will come from Yishmael – the Arabs – who will cause terrible suffering to the world and to our people. This teaching is reaffirmed by Rabbi Chaim Vital, the illustrious disciple of the Arizal, who wrote that before the final curtain falls on the stage of history, Yishmael will inflict torture on our people in ways the world had never before seen.

One need not have great powers of discernment to recognize the painful veracity of these predictions. Just consider the constant, senseless, brutal acts of terror – the suicide bombers, decapitations, hijackings, missiles, etc.

We are the generation that has been destined to witness the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Hagar (Genesis 16:11-13): “Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall name him Ishmael…. and he shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him .”

The long arm of Ishmael’s terror has indeed reached every part of the world.

There is yet another amazing prophecy in the Yalkut Shimoni – a medieval/midrashic compilation that eerily foretells the events of today and should give us all pause. Rabbi Yitzchok said, “The year in which Melech HaMashiach will be revealed, all the nations of the world will be provoking each other. The king of Persia [Iran] will provoke the king of Arabia. The king of Arabia will go to Edom [the leader of the Christian nations] to take counsel and the King of Persia [Ahmadinejad] will threaten to destroy the entire world.

“The nations of the world will be outraged and panic. They will fall on their faces and will experience pains like birth pangs. Israel too, will be outraged, and in a state of panic ask, ‘Where do we go?’

“But say unto them, ‘My children, do not fear. The time of your redemption has come. And this last redemption shall be different from the first that was followed by further bondage and pain. After this last redemption, you shall not experience any further pain or subjugation’ ” (Yalkut Shimoni, Isaiah 59).

Referring to this teaching, the Klausenberger Rebbe, zt”l, said, “Remember these words. They are perhaps not understood now, but in time they will be, and will be a source of strength to our people.”

Had you heard these prophecies centuries ago, when they were written, you might have laughed and scoffed. Even if you read them as recently as 1970, you would have been hard put to believe it, for of all Muslim countries, the Shah’s Iran was probably the friendliest. But today, the impossible has become possible and events are unfolding so rapidly we have difficulty absorbing their impact. So how are we to understand it all?

The Yalkut compares our suffering to birth pangs. But birth pangs are deceptive – when the contractions begin, it’s easy to ignore them since they are mild and occur between long intervals. As birth becomes imminent, however, the contractions intensify and the pain becomes more intense. And just when it appears the woman can no longer endure the pain, the baby is born and new life enters the world. It is these labor pains to which we are witness today.

How long will the labor last? It’s anyone’s guess, but one thing is certain. Please G-d, the birth is sure to take place. In the interim however, we may very well ask, “Is it possible to ease the suffering? Is it possible to protect ourselves from these painful contractions?”

The answer to that is a most emphatic “Yes!”

(To be continued)

Q & A: Two Adars (Part II)

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

   QUESTION: I have a few questions regarding the Jewish leap year. Why do we always add a second Adar as opposed to adding a second Tevet or Iyar for example? Why do we call it Adar Alef? Why is Purim celebrated in the second Adar? And which Adar is the real Adar?

Shea Aronovitch

(Via E-Mail)

 

ANSWER: Adar, the name for the 12th month, was adopted by the Jews from the Babylonian exile. While Jews add a month periodically to the lunar calendar after the twelfth month as per the beraita in Rosh Hashanah (7a) (see also Pesachim 6a), the Babylonians did not. The second of the two Adars is considered the “leap” – or extra – month, which we refer to as Adar Sheni (or Adar Bet).
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   As we see it so far, the second Adar is the “leap” month. If so, why do we celebrate Purim in the second Adar? The Mechaber explains (Orach Chayyim 685:1), “If the rosh chodesh of Adar that is closest to Nissan [i.e. Adar II] falls on Shabbat, we read Parashat Shekalim [the first of the four special Torah readings - Shekalim, followed by Zachor, Parah, and finally Parashat Hachodesh].”
   The Mishna Berura (ad loc., citing Rashi on Megilla 29a s.v. “Korin beparashat Shekalim” explains that this is done so that in the time of the existence of the Temple they would bring their shekalim in the month closest to rosh chodesh Nissan in order to be able to bring offerings from rosh chodesh and on from the new shekalim donations.
   Also of interest is the dispute between R. Eliezer b. R. Yosi and Rabban Shimon b. Gamaliel (Megilla 6b) as to whether we perform the mitzvot of Purim – reading the Megilla and giving matanot la’evyonim – gifts to the poor – during the first Adar or the second. R. Eliezer b. R. Yosi is of the opinion that we observe the mitzvot of Purim during the Adar closest to Shevat, just as in all the other years, as the verse states (Esther 9:27), “Bechol shana veshana – each and every year,” and we have a rule of “Ein ma’avirin al hamitzvot – We do not allow a mitzvah to be bypassed,” meaning that we perform it as soon as possible.
   Rabban Shimon b. Gamaliel derives from the same verse that just as Purim is in the Adar closest to Nissan in an ordinary year, so is it in a leap year, so that we may connect the redemption of Purim to the redemption from Egypt. Thus, according to Rabban Shimon b. Gamaliel, whose opinion we follow, Purim during a leap year is celebrated during the second Adar for a reason unrelated to whether that month is the added one.
   Rabbi Dov Aaron Brisman (segan av beit din of the Iggud Horabbanim – Rabbinical Alliance of America, rav, Philadelphia) addresses this matter as well (Responsa Shalmei Chova, Yoreh De’ah 94). He was asked about the proper observance of a yahrzeit for a man who died on the second day of rosh chodesh, which is the first day of Adar. The death occurred during a non-leap year, and the deceased’s son wanted to know when to observe the yahrzeit during a leap year – rosh chodesh of Adar I or Adar II.
   Rabbi Brisman cites Chochmat Adam (171:1), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (221:3), and Kol Bo (on aveilut), all reflecting the Ashkenazi custom to recite kaddish on that day (in this case, the first of Adar) in both Adars of a leap year.
   However, the fast of the ba’al yahrzeit – the one observing the yahrzeit – is only observed in the first Adar. This ruling is rooted in Rema (Orach Chayyim 568:7), Magen Avraham (op. cit. sk20), and Shach (Yoreh Deah 402:sk11).
   Next, Rabbi Brisman cites the opposing view of the Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 568:7). If the death occurs in Adar during a regular year, the fast is observed on that day in the second Adar of a leap year. Rema posits otherwise – that the fast is observed during the first Adar – unless the deceased died during the second Adar of a leap year.
   In that case, the fast is held during the second Adar of all subsequent leap years. If the death occurred during Adar of a regular year or the first Adar of a leap year, the custom is to fast during the first Adar of leap years. Rema also cites the more stringent view of Mahari Molin to fast on that date in both Adars of a leap year.
   As you see, deciding which is the “real” Adar is not a simple matter and has practical repercussions.

(To be continued)

 

   Rabbi Yaakov Klass can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-two-adars-part-ii/2011/03/02/

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