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December 3, 2016 / 3 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Rosh’

Shimon Peres’ Final Rosh Hashana Gift to the World

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Many have already written about the extraordinary scene we witnessed last Friday: the funeral of Shimon Peres, an extraordinary man who led an extraordinary nation.


The exceptional scene was made even more remarkable by the fact that it took place on the morning before Parshat Nitzavim would be read in the synagogues (a fact which President Obama alluded to in his speech) and just a few days before Rosh Hashana.

Peres himself was, of course, an extraordinary person.  It’s not that everyone agreed with his positions or his actions.  I certainly didn’t. And it seems that neither did just about anyone else; in fact, during his long political career he managed to do at least one thing that angered pretty much everybody.  But, as Herb Keinon pointed out last week in the Jerusalem Post, the flip side of that is that he also did something else that just about everyone approved of.  And as Amotz Asa-El wrote (also in last week’s Post), it was in the final phase of his career, when he led the country as President, that he became the collective grandfather that the country adored and the world almost universally respected.

Asa-El also pointed out that the extraordinary nature of the event goes beyond Peres himself.  After all, Peres’s life story mirrored the path traveled by his entire nation during that same time period.  When Shimon was born in Poland shortly after World War I, the Jewish people were not in a good situation, by any measure.  But his funeral in Jerusalem 93 years later took place in an entirely different reality that was frankly unfathomable even just a few decades ago ,when Peres was Prime Minister.

The sight of the leaders of over seventy nations flying to Jerusalem on two days’ notice to pay their final respects to a retired statesman from a tiny country of 7.5 million people may be completely unprecedented in human history. And its full significance might become a bit clearer if we ponder another interesting fact: On the day of Peres’ funeral, in accordance with a proclamation issued by President Obama, flags were flown at half-mast at U.S. government buildings around the world.  It turns out that it is quite rare for the U.S. to honor a foreign leader this way.  In fact, only seven other people have ever been accorded this sign of respect.  Here’s the full list:

  • 1961 – U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold
  • 1965 – British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
  • 1981 – Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat
  • 1995 – Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
  • 1999 – Jordanian King Hussein
  • 2005 – Pope John Paul II
  • 2013 – South African revolutionary and President Nelson Mandela

Together with Peres, this means that a total of eight foreign leaders have been honored this way by the U.S.A.

Now look again at this list of the eight people who, according to the world’s greatest democracy, have made the most positive impacts on the world. Two out of the eight were Israeli Prime Ministers (making Israel the only country represented more than once).  Another two were Arab leaders who were honored for making peace with Israel.  And one can also add that Winston Churchill’s greatest achievement was helping to defeat Nazi Germany, and that Pope John Paul II was noteworthy to a very large extent because of the significant steps he took to improve his church’s relations with the Jewish People.  That leaves only two of eight great people whose mark on humanity didn’t relate very directly to the tiny nation known as the people of Israel.

Which brings me to the incredible timing of Peres’ funeral, the morning before Shabbat Parshat Nitzavim.  It was, after all, in yesterday’s Torah portion that we read the Biblical prophecy promising that one day, after centuries of exile, we will return to our land:

“It will be that when all these things have come upon you – the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you – that you will take it to your heart among all the nations where Hashem, your God, has dispersed you. And you will return unto Hashem your God and listen to His voice…then Hashem, your God, will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which Hashem, your God, has scattered you. If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there Hashem, your God, will gather you in and from there he will take you. Hashem, your God, will bring you to the Land that your forefathers possessed and you shall possess it; He will do good to you and make you more numerous than your forefathers.” (Devarim 30:1-5, Artscroll translation)

The sight of all these world leaders flocking to Jerusalem – the sovereign capital of the Jewish people, regardless of where their embassies are – to pay their respects to the last of Israel’s founding fathers marks another stage in the manifest fulfillment of this prophecy.

It is also eloquent testimony to the fact that the entire world recognizes the importance of the Jewish People.  For some reason, many of us often have trouble understanding this, but pretty much the entire rest of the world sees it. This makes Peres’ funeral an incredible Kiddush shem Shamayim, sanctification of God’s name.

And the Kiddush Hashem was greatly magnified and increased by the fact that Peres himself, a man not who was not generally associated with religion, specifically asked in his will for the prayer Avinu Malkeinu to be sung there.

Was there some kind of Divine inspiration behind this?  Could Peres have possibly known that he would be buried so close to Rosh HaShana?  I have no idea.  But it is incredibly fitting that this was the final point in the great and long legacy of Shimon Peres: The scene of the leaders of most of the world’s nations solemnly listening to a Rosh Hashana prayer, less than 72 hours before the Jewish people will gather to recite that very prayer, as well as many others for the peace and well-being of the entire world.

Rabbi Alan Haber

Tamar Yonah – Fixing Yourself -A Rosh Hashana Special [audio]

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

On this show, Tamar speaks about how one can really fix themselves to be that ‘better person’ they want to be! – A Rosh HaShana Special!

Tamar Yonah 02Oct2016 – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Rosh Hashanah Guide for the Perplexed 2016

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

1. Rosh Hashanah is one of four Jewish New Years: (a) Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the Creation, the beginning of the Jewish civil calendar (5,777) and the seasons, the setting of the Sabbatical (7th) and the Jubilee (50th) years and the figuring of the annual tithe (10%) on vegetable and grains; (b) the first day of the month of Nissan initiates the three Jewish pilgrimages/festivals (Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles) and the measuring of the reign of kings; (c) the first day of the month of Elul, the preparations for Rosh Hashanah and the new year for animal tithes in ancient Israel; (d) the 15th day of the month of Shvat, the new year of the trees, which are role-models for human-beings.

2. Rosh Hashanah – unlike all other Jewish holidays – is a universal (stock-taking, renewal and hopeful) holiday. The Hebrew word “Rosh” (ראש) means “beginning,” “first,” “head,” “chief.” The Hebrew letters of Rosh constitute the root of the Hebrew word for Genesis, “Be’re’sheet” (בראשית), which is the first/lead word in the Bible. Just like the Creation, so should the New Year and our own actions, be a thoughtful, long-term – not a hasty – process. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated at the beginning of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which means beginning/Genesis in ancient Acadian. The Hebrew spelling of Tishrei (תשרי) is also included in the spelling of Genesis (בראשית). Rosh Hashanah is referred to as “Ha’rat Olam” (“the pregnancy of the world” in Hebrew), and its prayers highlight motherhood, optimism and the pregnancies of Sarah, Rachel and Chana, who gave birth to Isaac, Joseph, Benjamin and Samuel respectively. Noah – who led the rebirth of humanity/world – also features in Rosh Hashanah prayers.

3. The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah- “the beginning of the year” in Hebrew) is compatible with the agricultural calendar. It commences with the planting of seeds and the first rain, which highlights the centrality of the soil in human life. The Hebrew word for soil/earth is Adamah ((אדמה, which stands for humility and encompasses the Hebrew word for a human-being (אדמ, pronounced Adam) – which is also the name of the first human-being – and the Hebrew letter ה, which is an abbreviation of God. The Hebrew word Adam (אדמ) encompasses the Hebrew word for blood (דמ), the liquid of life, and is the acronym of Abraham, David and Moses, three role models of humility.

4.  The term Rosh Hashanah, a day of commemoration, was conceived by Jewish sages, during the Second Temple, referring to the Biblical “day of blowing the shofar (the ritual ram’s horn)” and “the day of commemorating the blowing of the shofar” (Leviticus 23:23-25, Numbers 29:1-6). Commemoration is a prerequisite for national cohesion, survival, enhanced future and refraining from past critical errors. On the other hand, forgetfulness spells ignorance, neglect of critical values and lessons, repeat of past errors and potential oblivion. The blowing of the shofar symbolizes faith in God, the annual judgment day, soul-searching and the constant drive to enhance human conduct (the Hebrew spelling of shofar, שופר, is a derivative of the verb שפר, to enhance/improve).

5. Rosh Hashanah and the shofar symbolize and commemorate:

*The reaffirmation of faith in God as the Supreme King and Judge;
*The first human-being, Adam, was created on Rosh Hashanah, the sixth day of Creation, the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei;
*The opening of Noah’s Ark following the flood;
*The almost-sacrifice of Isaac (thou shall not sacrifice human beings!) and the Covenant of the Jewish People with God;
*The three Jewish Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the Prophet Samuel (the latter inspired Thomas Paine, the author of “Common Sense,” the cement of the American Revolution), were conceived/born during the month of Tishrei, which is called “the month of the strong ones; ”
*The release of Joseph from Egyptian jail;
*Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments and the Torah;
*The commitment to liberty. The blowing of the Shofar introduced the Jubilee Year, “Yovel” (יובל) in Hebrew, which is a synonym for shofar. The blowing of the shofar represents deliverance from spiritual and physical slavery. It inspired the anti-slavery Abolitionist movement in the USA;
*the reconstruction of the 2nd Temple;
*the ingathering (Aliyah) of Jews to the Jewish Homeland;
*the cycle of nature – seed planting season and the equality of day and night;
*Optimism in the face of daily adversity. Genuine repentance and rectifying one’s behavior warrants forgiveness;
*The fallibility of all human-beings, starting with Adam and including Moses;
*Humility as a critical attribute which minimizes wrong-doing;
*The “ten days of awe/repentance” which are initiated on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur.
*The blowing of the Shofar constitutes a moral wakeup call.

6. The three pillars of Rosh Hashanah are repentance ,(תשובה) which – in Hebrew – means returning to good deeds, prayer (תפילה), whose root is פלל, to yearn/hope/judge, and charity ( ,(צדקהwhich – in Hebrew – means doing justice.

7. On Rosh Hashanah, one is expected to plan a spiritual and behavioral road map for the entire year. The three Hebrew words, Te’shuvah (repentance/atonement, תשובה), Sheevah (a spiritual and physical return, שיבה) and Shabbat (the Creation was completed on the Sabbath, שבת) emerge from the same Hebrew root.  They constitute a triangular foundation, whose strength depends upon the depth of education and commemoration. According to King Solomon, “The triangular cord cannot be broken.”

8. The shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah as a wake-up call, a break away from the professional, social and political mundane, in order to recommit oneself to basic values and enhancing one’s order of priorities.  Blowing the shofar symbolizes a new beginning for each individual and for the Jewish people. The call for moral improvement – at Mount Sinai – was accompanied by the sound of the shofar.

9. The shofar should be humble (bent and not decorated); natural and unassuming, just like Mount Sinai, which is not the highest, or the most impressive, mountain in Sinai. Humility is the foundation of a positive character, in general, and leadership, in particular.

10. The shofar is the epitome of peace-through-strength.  It is made from the horn of a ram, which is a peaceful animal equipped with strong horns to fend off predators. The numerical value of the Hebrew word for “ram,” איל, is 41 (א-1, י-10, ל-30), which is equal to the value of “mother” (אם, א-1, ם-40), who strongly protects her children.

11. While the blowing of the shofar is a major virtue, the Torah instructs Jews to listen to the blowing of the shofar. The Hebrew root of “listening,” האזנה is Ozen, ear (אוזן), which contains the balancing mechanism in our body (אזון).  Ozen is also the root for “Scale” (מאזניים), which is the zodiac sign of the month of Tishrei.  Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (when people balance their good deeds vs. bad deeds) are observed during the month of Tishrei.

12. The three ways of blowing the shofar express human-being’s inner constant values (Te’kiyah), the tenacious human marathon through success and failure (She’va’rim), and the determined pursuit of faith-driven long-term vision (Troo’ah).

13. The three series of blowing the Shofar represent the faith of mankind in God (Malkhooyot), the centrality of history/commemoration/roots and God’s Covenant with the Jewish People (Zichronot), and repentance/enhancement (Shofarot).

14. The three different soundings of the Shofar represent the three Patriarchs (Abraham’s tenacity, fighting capabilities and forgiveness; Isaac’s benevolence; Jacob’s truthfulness), the three parts of the Bible and the three types of human beings (pious, evil and mediocre), all of whom are worthy of a “second chance.”>

15. Rosh Hashanah services include 101 soundings of the shofar, which is equal to the numerical value of the Hebrew spelling of Michael (מיכאל), one of the four Guardian Angels.

16. The pomegranate – one of the seven species that bless the Land of Israel – is featured during Rosh Hashanah: “May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.” The pomegranate ripens in time for Rosh Hashanah and contains – genetically – 613 seeds, which is the number of Jewish statues/laws. The pomegranate was employed as an ornament of the Holy Arc, the holy Menorah (candelabrum), the coat of the High Priest and the Torah Scrolls. The first two letters of the Hebrew word for pomegranate (רמון, pronounced Rimon) – which is known for its crown – mean sublime (Ram, רמ). The pomegranate (skin and seeds) is a uniquely healthy fruit: high in iron, anti-oxidants, anti-cancer. It decreases blood pressure and enhances the quality of blood and the cardiac and digestion systems. Rimon is a Hebrew metaphor for a gifted person: “wholesome like a pomegranate.”

17. Honey is included in Rosh Hashanah meals in order to sweeten the coming year. The bee is the only insect which produces essential food.  It is a community-oriented, constructive and a diligent creature.  The Hebrew spelling of bee (דבורה) is identical to “the word of God” (דבור-ה’), and Devorah דבורה))was one of the seven Jewish prophetesses.

{More on Rosh Hashanah and additional Jewish holidays: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/499393}

Yoram Ettinger

Rosh Hashanah Greetings From Sandy Koufax

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Universally recognized as one of the greatest pitchers in major league history, Sandy Koufax, an “aristocrat in spikes,” threw four no-hitters, dominated the major leagues for the first half of the 1960s, broke numerous strikeout records, and led the league in ERA for an unprecedented five consecutive years.

He was the first person to win the Cy Young award three times, each time by a unanimous vote and each time by winning the “pitcher’s “triple crown” (wins, strikeouts, and ERA). He won two World Series MVP awards, and he is still the only person to win the Hickok Belt (the award for professional athlete of the year) twice.

Much more can be written about Koufax’s baseball feats and records, but to Jews around the world he will always be remembered for his legendary decision not to pitch in the first game of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins on Oct. 6, 1965 because it was Yom Kippur.

His act of conscience was broadly seen as a moment of pride, sacrifice, and religious commitment, though Koufax himself was far from observant. As such, his moral act was not a reflexive response to his personal religious beliefs but rather an act of deference to, and respect for, the sensibilities of his fellow Jews.

Koufax’s place in the annals of American-Jewish history may have been best summarized by Jane Leavy in Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy: “He was the New Patriarch: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sandy.”

As the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Minnesota emissary pithily advised him during a visit to his hotel room the next day, “Sandy, more Jews knew when Yom Kippur was this year because of you not pitching than who knew from a Jewish calendar.”

Cultural references to Koufax’s act are legion, but my personal favorite is a quote from film The Big Lebowski, where Judaism is characterized as “Three thousand years of beautiful tradition from Moses to Sandy Koufax.”

When Koufax first announced his decision, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, a Roman Catholic, joked to reporters, “I’m going to ask the pope to see what he can do about rain.” Koufax’s teammates were essentially ambivalent but respectful of his decision, even after the substitute starter, Don Drysdale, lost the game. When manager Walt Alston removed him in the third inning after a very poor performance, Drysdale is said to have quipped, “I bet you wish I were Jewish, too.”

Call it divine intervention – or not – but Koufax, after losing Game 2, shut out the Twins in Game 5, came back to win the Series by pitching another shutout in the deciding Game 7, and was named the Series MVP. Interestingly, a year later, on September 25, 1966, he and Ken Holtzman, the two greatest Jewish pitchers in history, faced off against each other for the only time in their careers – the day after both had attended Yom Kippur synagogue services.singer-093016-letter

(Holtzman, who lost a bid for a no-hitter in the ninth inning, won the game, 2-1).

Though there have a number of media accounts concerning Koufax’s participation in Yom Kippur services that famous day in Minnesota in 1965, and though many Jews claimed to have seen him at various synagogues in Minneapolis, he actually never left his hotel room. (Although, by his own account, he did not view the game on television or listen to radio broadcasts.) As he later explained: “I’m Jewish. I’m a role model. I want them to understand they have to have pride.”

On the rare occasions he has commented on his decision to sit out the game, he claimed it was actually his customary practice and that he always observed the holidays by not pitching. For example, in his autobiography published in 1966, a year after he attained Jewish immortality, he wrote:

“There was never any decision to make…because there was never any possibility that I would pitch. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish religion. The club knows I don’t work that day.”

In the 2010 documentary “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story,” Koufax confirmed that “I had taken Yom Kippur off for 10 years. It was just something I’d always done with respect.” However, Koufax had “suited up” on Yom Kippur on at least two previous occasions, although he did not actually throw his first pitch until after sundown. On October 1, 1960, he pitched in relief against the Chicago Cubs and, on September 20, 1961, he started against the Cubs, throwing his first pitch mere moments after the end of Yom Kippur.

On August 11, 2014, I wrote to Koufax (in part): “Looking back on it today, is your decision to sit out the World Series because of Yom Kippur something that you are proud of, is it something you ever think about when you reminisce about your career? And were there any factors or issues that were particularly important to you in leading to your decision to take a moral and ethical stand?”

Koufax autographs are valuable, desirable, and very difficult to obtain; handwritten letters even more so; and correspondence relating to his sitting out the World Series on Yom Kippur is virtually unheard of. In his response to my letter, exhibited with this column, Koufax, consistent with the broad measures he takes to protect his personal life and privacy, does not elaborate on his reasons, but does confirm that his motive for sitting out the game was “respect,” presumably for Jewish tradition:

While I appreciate your interest, my motives & thoughts are private and will always remain so. Respect might be the one applicable word. A very happy new year.

* * * * *

In the further spirit of the intersection of baseball with the Yomim Noraim, exhibited with this column is a fascinating and historic document evidencing an attempt by the New York Yankees early in the 20th century to reschedule a game falling on Rosh Hashanah. In this September 8, 1915 Western Union Telegram to B.B. (“Ban”) Johnson, president of the American League, Yankees co-owner Yankees Tillinghast L’Hommedieu (“T.L.”) Huston writes:

Tomorrow, Sept. 9th is big Jewish holiday in New York. If you will allow us to play Friday’s game as a double header tomorrow, I think it would be most advantageous to both clubs. Will appreciate immediate reply so if permission is granted I can give it out to papers this afternoon.

singer-093016-telegramObviously, Huston was not thinking about Orthodox Jews when he sought to reschedule Friday’s game, which fell on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, as a doubleheader on Thursday, the first day of yom tov. Presumably aware that few Jews stayed home from work on the second day of yom tov, Huston apparently sought to increase attendance on the first day of Rosh Hashanah by scheduling a twin bill for the day most Jews did stay home – and when even those who attended services in the morning could come out to the ballpark in the afternoon.

It is amusing to note how easy it was for the major leagues a century ago to reschedule a game on such short notice – in this case, a single day. Huston’s request was apparently granted by the American League because a doubleheader was played on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Thursday, September 9. The Washington Senators defeated the Yankees in both games, 5-3 and 4-1, and the New York team finished fifth that season (in an eight-team league) with a record of 69-83.

Saul Jay Singer

Rosh Hashanah: The Real Election Day

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

We are living through unusually challenging times at the cusp of the year 5777. The manner in which secular society is evolving poses numerous challenges for us as Torah-observant Jews. In addition, the general political and social state of the world is one that engenders deep pessimism.

The decay of American society as we have known it for so long is deeply troubling. The institutions we have come to rely on to maintain an open, democratic society are crumbling before our very eyes. Government is less trusted now than ever before. The rule of law and the ability of law enforcement to do its job has been undermined by the elites of society, the press, and many elected officials. This has led to rioting and anarchy in several American inner cities. Rabble-rousers are waiting for the opportunity to inflame passions and light the powder keg of race riots with all that this entails.

It is not just America that has been affected. The world order as we know it is changing before our eyes. American power is not what it used to be. As America pulls back somewhat from the international stage, new actors fill the void. Regimes that have histories of repression and violence such as Russia and Iran are making pacts with each other.

A world from which America retreats is a dangerous world indeed.

To add to all of this, it appears the candidates running for the coveted office of president of the United States are the least popular to ever face the American voter. The qualifications, policies, temperaments, and ethics of the candidates leave much be desired – to the extent that many astute observers are truly afraid about the future of America and by extension the world.

These are the sobering thoughts that engulf us as we prepare for another Rosh Hashanah when Hashem will judge the world and seal the decree for the upcoming year.

So how can we strengthen ourselves? Is there a silver lining in the ominous clouds darkening the horizon? Most important, what can we do to invoke Divine Mercy on behalf of ourselves, our families, and all of the Jewish nation as we seek His favor and beg Him to inscribe us for a year of blessing and success?

* * * * *

Let us seek inspiration and insight from a fascinating pasuk in this week’s parshah. In the preceding parshah, the Torah enumerates the profound blessing we will receive for following Hashem’s commandments and conversely the terrible tochachah, punishment, we will undergo if we do not listen to His commandments. The pasuk in this week’s parshah continues by stating, “It will be when all these things come upon you – the blessings and the curse that I have presented before you – then you will return in your heart among all the nations where Hashem your God has dispersed you. And you will return to Hashem your God and listen to His voice… you and your children with all your heart and all your soul” (Devarim 30:1-2).

There are a number of words in this pasuk that require analysis. The pasuk states, “Vehasheivosa el levavech b’chol hagoyim – You will return in your heart among all the nations…” The simple understanding of this concept is that in the parshiyos of Ki Savo and Bechukosai Hashem enumerates the terrible curses and punishments that will befall the Jewish people if they stray from the proper path. The Torah is telling us that in order to stop the pain and suffering caused by the retribution or even to avoid it in the first place, Bnei Yisrael should engage in teshuvah and return to Hashem.

Certainly that is true, but we must still understand why the pasuk adds two seemingly extra words. The pasuk says, “Vehasheivosa el levavecha b’chol hagoyim – You will return in your heart among all the nations…” Where do the two words “bchol hagoyim” come into the picture? What is the connection between the nations of the world and the teshuvah that Klal Yisrael does after receiving the tochachah?

Perhaps we can suggest that there is an additional component that spurs bnei Yisrael to return to Hashem. When we engage in teshuvah, it is not solely because we wish to receive the infinite blessings of Hashem and avoid the terrible retribution heaped upon those who rebel against Him. There is another vitally important catalyst for returning to Hashem, and wanting to be part of the am Hashem, the nation of Hashem. This occurs when we come to the irrefutable realization that the nations surrounding us and in whose midst we live have nothing to offer us.

When looking at the host culture, we observe its modes of “recreation,” what people do for “fun,” and we realize they have little of lasting benefit to offer us. When we think about where society is headed, we realize that with all of the advancements and the tremendous strides – industrial, technological, medical – that humanity has made, the host culture is characterized by moral decadence combined with unbridled hedonism. Not only is it the diametric opposite of the way the Torah desires that we conduct our lives, but it also fails to bring the happiness and joy that is its purported purpose.

Engaging in the unrestrained pleasure seeking that has become the norm in the host culture does not satisfy our soul. Rather, it is akin to a thirsty person drinking saltwater and wondering why he is even thirstier than he was before, after the passing of the momentary feeling of satisfaction he feels as the wet liquid touches his mouth.

The pasuk is thus teaching us that another motivation for “vehasheivosa el levavechafor returning to Hashem, refraining from aveiros, and performing His mitzvos – is “b’chol hagoyim,” by looking around and seeing how the moral conduct of a society such as the one that surrounds us cannot guide us. This is a culture to which we do not really belong.

Rav Dovid Hofstedter

Yes We Have Sweet, Edible, Seedless Pomegranates, Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Yirmiyahu Zamiri, 69, owner of Zamiri Nurseries in Yesud HaMa’ala (est. 1882 in the Hula valley, north of the Kinneret) has been laboring for eight years on developing his proprietary (there’s a patent) seedless pomegranate, Makor Rishon reported Friday. The new species of pomegranate, dubbed “Wine,” features soft edible seeds, and a much sweeter red fruit, called an aril, around the seed.

Wine, or “Yayin” as it is called in Hebrew, is an acronym for the names of Zamiri’s grandchildren.

According to Chabad.org, the common practice of eating a pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah has to do with its abundant seeds, 613 on average, which symbolize our hope that we will stand before the Almighty with as many abundant merits. However, according to the Ben Ish Chai, on Rosh Hashanah one should eat only a sweet pomegranate, because we want our new year to be sweet.

At which point our friends at Chabad.org note, “Of course, the pomegranates we have today generally have a bitter, pungent taste. It appears that in Baghdad, where the Ben Ish Chai lived (1833-1909), they had sweet pomegranates. So the website suggests that “in light of the custom to refrain from bitter foods on Rosh Hashanah, it would seem proper to dip the pomegranate in sugar to at least diminish its pungency.”

No need to do that any more. Because Zamiri and his sons have invented the Wine pomegranate which is fire-engine red and sweet beyond belief. Israeli consumers will be seeing the first commercial yield on the store shelves this coming week, just in time for Rosh Hashanah. They’re sold to the stores at about 50 cents a pound, but by the time the consumer sees it the sweet fruit’s price might quadruple.

Israel exports upwards of 25 thousand tons on pomegranates a year, and on the week before Rosh Hashanah Israelis consume about 10 thousand tons, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Despite limited research data, marketers of pomegranate juice have “liberally” used results from preliminary research to promote their products, until, in February 2010, the FDA issued a warning letter to POM Wonderful, for using published literature to make illegal claims of “unproven anti-disease benefits.”


Stories For Rosh Hashanah

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Few people loved Bnei Yisrael as much as the great tzaddik, Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev. His very fiber and being was permeated with love for the Jewish people and every Jew’s pain was his own. As the Yomim Noraim approached, he would gather together all his strength and ability to plead the case of his beloved nation before the Throne of Mercy.

One Rosh Hashanah, Reb Levi Yitzchok heard the pitiful cries of a poor man who lived next to his shul. He listened and kept quiet. When the time came to blow the shofar, Reb Levi Yitzchak ascended the pulpit, donned the kittel, took the shofar in his hand and began to recite the prayer of “Lamenatzeach’’ seven times. The congregation repeated the prayer after him.

Suddenly, Reb Levi Yitzchok stopped and waited. The congregation waited silently for the rav to make the bracha and begin to blow the shofar. One hour passed, and nothing happened. The people began to fidget and some were clearly frightened.

Reb Levi Yitzchok then put aside the shofar and addressed the congregation.

“My friends,” he said, “outside of my window sits a man who has been in prison for many years. Because of it he knows very little Hebrew and nothing of prayers. Hearing us davening in this shul has made him very sad and in a crying voice he is pleading to Hashem, ‘Father in Heaven, you know that I can’t pray, although my heart longs for prayer. All I know are the 22 letters of the Jewish alphabet, which I do hereby repeat before you. Will you in your infinite mercy arrange these letters into the proper words of prayer?’

“Hashem is now busy arranging these letters into words. We will have to wait until He is ready to hear us.”

Forbidden On Shabbos

Still another time, Rosh Hashanah fell on Shabbos and Reb Levi Yitzchok rose to proclaim: “Father in Heaven, according to Your own Torah, You are required to write a good decree for Your people, Your beloved children.”

The people looked at each other in amazement. What did he mean? Why was this Rosh Hashanah so special?

Reb Levi Yitzchok saw their puzzlement and explained as follows: “Today,” he said “is the holy day of Shabbos, when it is forbidden to write. Thus, even the Heavenly Court is forbidden to write today – except to save a life. That means writing an evil decree is forbidden – but a good one is permitted. To save a life it is permitted to write on Shabbos.”


The Price of Hair

One year on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a young man training to be a barber passed by the home of Reb Levi Yitzchak. His head was uncovered, and his many wavy curls were carefully combed over his forehead.

Seeing him through the window, Reb Levi Yitzchak called him in and said: “Why do you grow your hair that way?”

“Because my job brings me in touch with many noblemen,” said the young man, “so I have to make myself look good.”

“Listen here. I’ll give you a gold ruble if you cut off those curls. After all, wearing your hair like the gentiles is against the commandment in the Torah – ‘You shall not walk in the way of their laws.’”

“No!” said the youth.

“Very well,” said the tzaddik, “then I will give you three rubles.” The youth did not agree – and still would not agree even when the offer reached 20 rubles.

“If you cut off your curls at once,” said Reb Levi Yitzchok, “I promise you a share in the World to Come.”

No sooner did the youth hear these words than his hand dived deep into his pocket for his scissors, and within seconds he had cut off his wavy curls.

“Master of the Universe!” exclaimed Reb Levi Yitzchak. “How strong is the faith of Your people, even the simplest among them! How many weary hours of work and trouble must such a young man go through to earn just one gold ruble! Why, 20 rubles is for him an undreamed-of fortune… And yet, what he was not willing to do for 20 gold rubles he did for a share in the World to Come, even though he has never laid eyes on it!”

The Heavy Load

It was the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The shul was crowded. Reb Levi Yitzchok himself was leading the congregation.

Reb Levi Yitzchok’s soft, vibrant voice touched the heartstrings of every worshipper. As he pronounced the words, his voice broke, and everyone’s heart was filled with remorse. Each pictured himself standing before the Judge of the Universe.

Reb Levi Yitzchok recited line after line of the solemn prayer, which the congregation repeated, until he came to the line: “To Him, Who acquires His servants in judgment…”

Here the Rebbe paused, for the words died on his lips. His tallis slid from his head, revealing his pale face; his eyes were shut, and he seemed to be in a trance.

A shudder passed through the congregation. A critical situation must have arisen in the Heavenly Court; things were not going well for the petitioners.

A few moments later, the color returned to Reb Levi Yitzchok’s face, which now became radiant with joy. His voice shook with ecstasy and triumph as he recited: “To Him, who acquires His servants in judgment!”

After the service, the Rebbe explained: “While we davened, I felt myself lifted up to the gates of heaven, where I saw the Satan carrying a heavy load. The sight filled me with anxiety, for I knew that he was carrying a bag full of sins to put onto the Scales of Justice before the Heavenly Court.

“For a moment the bag was left unattended, so I went to it and began to examine its contents. The bag was crammed with all kinds of sins: evil gossip, hatred without reason, jealousies, wasted time, which should have been spent in study of the Torah – ugly creatures of sins, big and small.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/midrash-stories/stories-for-rosh-hashanah/2016/09/23/

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