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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Shalom Aleichem’

The Taste Of Love

Monday, June 4th, 2012

“I think I’m going to stay alone for Yom Tov,” I said, shivering with the frightening finality of the words.

The rav sprung into action. He pulled open the fridge and pulled out a small tin of sliced gefilte fish. He pulled open the freezer and pulled out a pan of roasted chicken.

“Yitzy!” he called, “go down to the basement and bring me a box, please.”

Cooked potatoes were sliced and added to the pan.

“Sruly!” he called. “Go downstairs and get two bottles of wine from the Pesach room.”

The Rebbetzin’s tins were covered and stacked and arranged into the box. Two bottles of wine were deposited neatly on their side.

My heart shivered with the finality of it as the possibilities slipped from my fingers. It was set; I would be alone. I had options, but I felt too insecure and threatened in a home anywhere but this one. And they could not have me for Yom Tov. It was my decision. But I was afraid.

Sruly came up the stairs once more, carrying a silver plate and kos in his hands. A big smile crossed his face. “I got this for you,” he said.

I took the dishes from his hand. They were plastic, but looked like real silver. The black-silver shine sparked in my hands, ignited a twin spark in my heart. My face dropped the anxiety and twisted naturally into a smile. “Whose idea was that?” I asked. My heart paused its fluttering.

“Mine,” he responded easily.

This time I grinned. “Thank you so much, Sruly!” I carried my becher into the kitchen and placed it carefully in the box.

The Rebbetzin turned from the stove and returned my smile. “It really was his idea,” she confirmed.

The spark in my heart grew in strength, slowly warming my cold veins.

Hasty best wishes were sent my way, the taxi was called… it was time to leave. I lifted my box and walked out the door.

It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done.

The box was much heavier than its light weight. Only the silver, shimmering in my mind, helped me open that heavy door, walk down the path, and slide into the car that would take me away.

I placed my precious burden on the clean floor of my kitchen. The silver plate was there, shining happily, but there was no kos. I looked frantically for it, lifted out the tins, checked through my bags… It wasn’t there. Later I would find out that the baby had toddled over and lifted it from the box in the minutes before I had left.

At the moment, I felt devastated, cut off from the one tie that sparked a connection of caring… an extra special unnecessary something that came with a big smile crossing a small face.

The Yom Tov food and the small silver plate would be my consolation.

I did my best to set up nicely for Yom Tov, to make this festive night special.

It was hard. All I felt was sadness, and anxiety, and the fear of the unknown. When one is so small inside, it is hard to be alone.

The silver plate lay on the white china dish on the white lace tablecloth. I was exhausted, completely gone… Thoughts came and went, tormenting thoughts, of fear and threat and helplessness and sadness and aloneness and – and what do I do, and why am I left alone… why am I left alone??? Tears of anger and pain rolled down my cheeks.

Just make Kiddush, Tirtza… just make Kiddush.

I poured the wine and raised the clear plastic cup. There was the silver plate, shining to me in a beacon of shimmering connection. In the mirrored surface shone the murky depths- of people, far away perhaps, who could not be with me, but who sent me strength, and caring-

There was depth in the shimmering mirror, even if my foggy mind could not fully grasp its meaning.

Yom Tov was hard, but I pushed, pushed beyond my felt abilities – because I knew I was not alone.

This Shabbos I was alone again.

Not just by myself. Alone. This time I felt totally… bereft, abandoned…. I had not been able to hear from my support and I was… all alone.

‘Never Forget Your Mission’

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

For the time being, at least, this will be my closing column on my experiences in the hospital in San Diego. Today, Baruch Hashem, I am on my way. I had the zechus to be at our Hineni Fortieth Anniversary Dinner, to greet the overflow crowd and impart my heartfelt love to them. True, I am walking with a cane, sometimes a walker, but I am walking, speaking, teaching and writing, and for as long as Hashem will allow me, I shall continue to try to serve Him.

I have been sharing with readers some highlights of my hospital stay; I do so in honor of my saintly father’s teachings that forever remain etched on my heart. “Whenever life’s tests are visited upon you, my dear child,” he would say, “remember that you must focus on its lessons and share them with others so that they too may learn from them and apply them to their own tests of life.”

* * * * *

I was out of surgery just in time for Shabbos. But how do you usher in Shabbos lying in bed in a hospital? My daughter placed a white cloth over the tray table and two bulkelech supplied by the local Chabad along with a seudah they kindly provided on a daily basis. We kindled the Shabbos lights over electric bulbs, but somehow it didn’t feel right. The splendid atmosphere of Shabbos was painfully missing – my family sitting around the table, their eyes sparkling with the joy and sanctity of the day, singing the timeless melody of Shalom Aleichem.

Since the day my husband, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, embarked on his final journey, I have always spent my Shabbosim with my children and grandchildren, blessing each and every one of them. And now I yearned so to place my hands on their heads and give them berachahs and hugs and kisses as I do every Shabbos. I saw them in my mind’s eye and whispered my blessings to them. As I did so, I knew they heard them and blessed me in return. I expressed my gratitude to the One who allowed me to emerge from surgery without mishap and made a silent commitment to serve Him more than ever before.

As I have related in the past few columns, the hospital I found myself in does not have a significant Jewish clientele. When I made Kiddush, some of the nurses came into the room and wondered what our table and the ceremonies were all about. I explained that to Jews, our past, present, and future merge. They are all one, intertwined.

I told them the two little challah rolls on the table are reminders of the double portion of the sweet manna with which G-d blessed us as we made our long trek of 40 years in the desert on our way to the Promised Land. While we gathered manna every day to sustain us for just that day, on Fridays we were given a double portion in honor of Shabbos so that we might forever know that on Shabbos, when we are commanded to refrain from labor, we need not worry – G-d will provide for all our needs.

And, I noted, the white tablecloth and the cloth that covered the challahs were reminders of the Divine Dew that sandwiched the manna and preserved its freshness.

So you see, I continued, our past is not just a memory. It speaks to us today with the same urgency it did yesterday, reminding us that we need not fear, but only place our trust in Him, the One and only One. The world is not just a random happening; G-d created it all with a higher purpose. For six days He labored and on the seventh day He rested so that we too might rest, discover our essence, and draw close to Him.

To illustrate it all I related an allegory:

“Once there was a very wealthy man and he had a sack of precious jewels. A beggar came along and beseeched him, ‘Could you spare just one of your jewels?’

“ ‘My dear son,” the rich man responded, ‘it is my pleasure to give you all that you need. As a matter of fact, you can take as many jewels as you wish, but just make sure to leave one for me.’

A Living Megillah (Part One)

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Many moons ago, when our children were small, my husband and I would spend our summers at Liebowitz’s Pine View Hotel in the Catskill Mountains. It was a special time – before today’s technology -when people actually talked to one another and were happy just to get away from the city and breathe some fresh country air. To me, however, that which was most special was that I had the zechus to host my dear parents every Shabbos. Then my talks took on an added dimension because my beloved, honored parents were there. Many amazing miracles occurred during these Shabbosim.

For now, I will limit myself to one little story, during which I had the great zechus of bringing some young Jews back to Torah. They had become involved in the Jews for J movement, which, in those days, was very popular.

What were these young people doing at the Orthodox Pine View Hotel on Shabbos? I will try to summarize it as concisely as I can.

One summer, while in Jerusalem, a rebbe approached me and told me that back in the States there was a Jewish man who was baptizing unsuspecting young Jews and converting them. “It would be a huge mitzvah if you could reach his heart and bring him and his followers back to Torah,” he said.

I was all too familiar with the Jews for J movement because as I was reaching more young people with a Torah message, they tried to subvert my work and, to confuse issues, they called themselves “Hineni for J.”

When I returned to the States, I called the man whom the rebbe had spoken of and invited him to come see me. Of course, he refused, and tried to persuade me that it was I who was in error.

Undeterred, I persisted with my invitation and told him that I would be leaving for the Catskills the following week with my family, and if he wished, he could join us for Shabbos. “It would be our pleasure to welcome you.” I assured him. And with that, I gave him the phone number of the hotel not knowing if he would ever show.

Several weeks later, he called. “I’m taking you up on your invitation, but I’d like to bring some of my Jewish friends. Will that be all right?”

I readily agreed and prepared the guests at the hotel so that they might help me make them comfortable. They came to missionarize with their Jews for J literature and pamphlets. They tried to debate me to prove that I, as a Torah Jew, was following the wrong path. I told them that I would be happy to discuss the subject, but it was Erev Shabbos, and I had to get ready for the holy day, so it would have to wait until after Shabbos.

On Friday night my husband and my father’s Shalom Aleichem rang out throughout the dining room. It was not only the angels that we greeted that night, but we extended Shalom Aleichem to those lost Yiddishe neshamos who, for the very first time in their lives, sat at a real Shabbos table. As always, before Kiddush, my father and husband blessed all the children. And when my father placed his hands on these young men’s heads, tears flowed from his eyes. He couldn’t bear the thought that Yiddishe neshamos should have come to such a tragic state.

When the young men felt his loving hands on their heads, and saw his tears, their eyes became moist and the pintele Yid, dormant in their souls, came to life. My father always conducted a beautiful Shabbos tisch and the guests would join us in singing and dancing. Suddenly, these young boys were caught up in the joyous sanctity of the moment and danced long into the night. Thus, their transformation commenced.

Shabbos morning, after Kiddush, I spoke on the parshah and the awakening became complete. They no longer had a desire for debate. The only questions that troubled them were how and where they could study Torah and how they could make up for their lost years? Spontaneously, everyone started to sing, Am Yisrael Chai – the Jewish People Lives – Od Avinu Chai – Our Heavenly Father is forever in our neshamos…. and it was with that song that the men danced the boys into the dining room.

On Sunday morning we made plans for their new lives. One of the young men told me that he was engaged to a gentile girl and scheduled to be married in church. He felt it only fair that he go home to personally inform the girl of his new life.

My father overheard the conversation, and in his broken, limited English called out to him, “Sonny, Come here – you go back to girl…. girl cry…give you kiss… you finished man. Send letter and go to New York with Rebbetzin now – study in Yeshiva.”

And so it was. Today, these young men are already zeides with children and grandchildren – all b’nei Torah.

There are myriad stories each connected by the common thread in every Jewish heart. It testifies that no matter how alienated a Jew may be or how far he may have wandered from his roots, in an instant, he can come back. He need only hear words of Torah and experience a Shabbos, and the pintele Yid will be kindled and connect him to the eternal flame of Sinai.

So why, you may ask, am I telling this story now?

My father’s yahrzeit was last week, and he often said to me, “Mein kind, Di kenst schreiben a lebedig Megillah – my child you can write a living Megillah testifying to the eternity of our people.”

In the spirit of kibud Av – honoring my father’s wishes – I related this little story from the past, and in next week’s column, B’Ezrat Hashem, I will share some beautiful stories of today that continue to prove that the Yiddishe neshamah is more powerful than all the forces of assimilation and can bring a Jew back even when it appears that all is lost.

(To Be Continued)

Following The Path Home

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

My daughter met Rutie on her first day of studies at Hebrew University. The classroom was full, mostly with female students, many of them religious. As the weeks went by, Shani got to know some of Rutie’s personal history. Her mother was European- born, from an Orthodox Jewish family. Her father was born in Israel, and had a secular upbringing. Rutie’s family did not lead a religious life, but there were elements of her mother’s past in some of the things they did. Rutie and her mother lit candles every erev Shabbat and chag, and kept a kosher home.

After graduating high school, Rutie traveled to India with some friends. She spent a few Shabbatot at the Chabad centers there and developed more of an interest in keeping Shabbat. Now, in university, she was getting acquainted with a group of young women from backgrounds very different from hers, and she started to ask questions about their way of life.

This past Friday, with all my Shabbat preparations done, we went on a short family trip. While walking along a wild-flower strewn field, my son commented that we had not had guests for Shabbat in a while.

Suddenly, Shani’s cell phone rang. It was Rutie. She had not gone home to Tel Aviv for the weekend, but was staying at the university dorms in order to do some studying. She had a sudden thought that she would rather spend Shabbat with Shani and our family. We cut short our trip and ran home to prepare a few more things for our Shabbat meal, and to set an extra setting for our unexpected guest.

Israeli-born Rutie had no trouble following along as we sang Shalom Aleichem and Aishet Chayil. Our family has a tradition of blessing our children on Friday night right before Kiddush. I placed my hands first on my son’s head and then on my daughter’s head as I blessed them. I ended my words by giving them a gentle kiss on their foreheads. I noticed Rutie watching me with a wistful look, and asked her if she would like me to bless her as well.

I placed my hands on her head and said the words so familiar to Jewish parents, “Ye’simcha Elokim K’Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, v’Leah ” I then gave her a kiss and went back to my seat. Rutie had tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. She spent the rest of Shabbat asking questions and listening intently to the answers.

I don’t know which road Rutie will follow from here on. I can only pray that my blessing for her comes true.

A Planeload Of Joy

Wednesday, September 8th, 2004

We in Israel need Nefesh B’Nefesh. Every time this organization brings in another planeload of olim, the welcome is so uplifting, the arrival is so exciting, the emotional high is so stimulating, that several old-timers go to the airport ceremonies just to be reminded how important American and Canadian aliyah is. They also witness the fantastic job of cutting through the usual Israeli red tape that Nefesh B’Nefesh has accomplished.

Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Fass are examples of how one or two people can create amazing changes in society. Their efforts to bring American and Canadian Jews to Israel have been very successful and they have also created a small revolution in several Israeli government offices. Thanks in part to the demands of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Israeli government offices are planning to reduce bureaucracy and make their operations more efficient, thereby making life a little more comfortable for all Israelis.

The latest flight had over 250 new immigrants. As they left the plane, some parents gathered their children and quietly recited the “Shehecheyanu” prayer: “Thank You G-d for letting me live to see this day.” Others knelt down to kiss the oil-stained tarmac as they realized that they had succeeded in becoming new citizens of the Land of Israel. As on the previous flight, some 40 young singles had come to settle in Israel to bring their spirit, new ideas and strength to our homeland. Several greeters sounded a welcome blast on the Shofar reminding us that this arrival was a mitzvah that will be remembered by Hashem during the High Holy Days that will soon be here. The remainder just sang and cheered with joy to welcome the new Olim with “Shalom Aleichem.”

All along the tarmac, from the plane to the huge hanger used by Nefesh B’Nefesh for the welcoming ceremonies, Israeli soldiers stood with little Israeli flags to welcome the olim home and to help them and escort them to the hanger. It was a heart-warming sight that brought big smiles to the faces of the olim and especially to the children.

We had gathered by 7:00 in the morning for the arrival ceremonies. Some people did not even have a chance to daven, but decided to come anyway, and they davened while waiting for the plane to land. A young doctor, who remembered that I had been the one to greet him when his family made aliyah, came to liven up the event with his pump and balloons and kept the little children smiling. He has put on similar shows in Israeli hospitals because he believes that joy and laughter helps heal many ailments.

In the past, olim fresh off the plane after 11 sleepless hours would be asked to sit through two hours of welcoming speeches. Nefesh B’Nefesh has streamlined the welcome to a perfect blend of speeches and entertainment and the olim appreciated it.

Three of the families came to live in Hashmonaim: the Offenbach family, the Mark family and the Feldman family. One of the cutest families was the Felstein family with each member of the family wearing a family aliyah portrait tee shirt.

The olim will never forget this day in their lives when they finally came home. When are you coming home?

Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com

Q & A: Kiddush Levana (Conclusion)

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003
QUESTION: Why do we say Shalom Aleichem at Kiddush Levana, when we bless the new moon, and why do we do so three times? Is it because we have not seen a new moon for a whole month? Can you explain a little more about this mitzva?
Ira Warshansky
Philadelphia, PA
ANSWER: Last week we discussed the biblical source of the mitzva of Rosh Chodesh, the first commandment given to the Jews as a nation. The correct timing of the months is important because of the necessity to keep the holidays in their proper seasons. To ensure the accurate understanding of the beginning of the month, G-d Himself showed Moses an example of the new moon. Finally, mention was made of the fact that the verses in the liturgy of the blessing of the new moon are recited three times.

* * *

We find a reference to a triple repetition of terms in Parashat Beshalach (Exodus 15:18), where it states, “Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed ? G-d will reign forever and ever.”

Onkelos, in his Aramaic commentary-augmented translation, states, “Hashem malchutei ka’im le’alam u’le’almei almaya,” which is translated as “The reign of G-d is eternal, forever and ever.” We thus find in his translation a three-fold repetition of the word alam to express everlasting eternity.

Similarly, we find in the commentary Avi Ezer (loc. cit.) a similar triple repetition when he states that any time the words netzach, selah, and va’ed are mentioned, this denotes something that is without interruption. “Le’olam u’le’almei almaya” provides that meaning.The Gemara (Sanhedrin 81b) cites R. Shimon b. Gamaliel whose view is inconsistent with the Mishna (ibid.) which states that one who had been lashed twice, and he sinned again, is given the severe punishment of a forced diet of barley bread (which results in death). R. Shimon b. Gamaliel rules that such a behavior pattern is only established by three separate offenses.

Indeed, that is how Rambam (Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:5) understands it, stating, “If he yet again, a third time, violated a  karet prohibition and was warned, he is condemned to be fed barley bread until he expires.” Rambam stresses that he is given three warnings, and only after the third unheeded violation is capital punishment applicable.

We find another instance (Yoreh De’ah 228:3) of repeating something thrice: “hatara,” the nullification of vows. The Beit Din nullifies vows by pronouncing three times either “mutar lach” (it is permissible to you), “sharei lach” (a similar meaning), or “machul lach” (it is forgiven to you).

The Shach (ad loc.) explains the three times as being solely for the purpose of underscoring that point, but that as a matter of strict halacha, once would suffice.

The Talmud (Yoma 85b, Mishna) states “… [regarding] sins between man and his fellow man, Yom Hakippurim does not atone until he asks his fellow’s forgiveness.”

The Gemara (87a) then quotes R. Hisda, who requires the sinner to ask forgiveness before three groups of three people each. R. Yosi b. Hanina states that whoever asks forgiveness of his fellow man should not do so more than three times (if the latter remains unappeased).

Indeed, the Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 606:1) rules accordingly. He teaches that after three such pleadings which have been ignored, the offender no longer bears any iniquity, and Yom Kippur will surely atone.

There are other reasons for repeating Shalom Aleichem three times during Kiddush Levana. Bnei Yissas’char (Ma’amarim 4 and 5, Kiddush Hachodesh) states: “According to the holy words of the Arizal, we say Shalom Aleichem three times after reciting birkat ha’levana because the very first kitrug (denouncement, which is exactly the opposite of shalom,  harmony) was caused by the moon, which said (Chullin 60b): ‘It is impossible for two kings to wear one crown.’ The moon was then ordered to diminish itself in size. As a consolation, the Gemara states that G-d told the moon that righteous men shall be named in reference to the moon, the small luminary (hama’or hakatan). Thus we find that our Patriarch Jacob is called katan (Amos 7:2, referring to the Jewish nation), we have Shemuel hakatan (the Tanna Shemuel), and David (I Samuel 17:14), who was the katan among his brothers. This is another reference to the number three.”

“Now our blessing for the moon is that the blemish (in its light) should be repaired so that it will be restored to its wholeness, and thus the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, resulting in a restoration of harmony. Thus, as the prophet Isaiah states (11:6), “Vegar ze’ev im keves ve’namer im gedi yirbatz - The wolf shall dwell with the sheep and the leopard with the kid.” Therefore, at the blessing of the moon, we say to each other ‘Shalom Aleichem – peace be unto you.’” This concludes the Arizal’s statement, as discussed by Bnei Yissas’char.

Bnei Yissas’char then asks: “Why do we specifically recite the verses three times? It is written (Psalms 119:165): ‘Shalom rav le’ohavei toratecha ve’ein lamo michshol - Manyfold peace to the lovers of Your Torah; they shall not encounter any stumbling blocks.’ This is in accord with
what our sages (Gittin 46a) state: ‘yamim’ (days) refers to two, whereas the term ‘rabbim’ (many) refers to three. Therefore the use of ‘ribbuy,’ the plural count, refers to three. The verse actually means that when shalom (harmony) is recited many times, [at least] three, no stumbling block will be encountered.”

Therefore, at the monthly renewal of the moon, we say Shalom Aleichem three times in order that there be no stumbling block for us during the new month.

Bnei Yissas’char points out the three names of the moon found in the Tanach: yare’ach, levana, and sahar. This too serves as a reason to recite Shalom Aleichem three times, once for each of the moon’s names.

We find yet another explanation in Bnei Yissas’char (Ma’amar Kislev 13, as well as in our ma’amar). He mentions the three fundamental mitzvot: Chodesh Kiddush Hachodesh, through which we count our months and proclaim our festivals), Shabbat and milah (all the mitzvot whose observance the Syrian Greeks attempted to void and thus eliminate all Torah observance – see Megillat Antiochus).

Thus these three mitzvot serve as yet another reason for our saying “Shalom Aleichem” three times.

We can see that there are numerous reasons for our repeating these special phrases three times. We do so every month, as we await our final deliverance, speedily in our days.

Q & A: Kiddush Levana (Part I)

Wednesday, November 26th, 2003
QUESTION: Why do we say Shalom Aleichem at Kiddush Levana, when we bless the new moon, and why do we do so three times? Is it because we have not seen a new moon for a whole month? Can you explain a little more about this mitzva?
Ira Warshansky
Philadelphia, PA
ANSWER: Indeed you are correct in your assumption that we are pleased to see the moon return, and for good reason, as it is the moon which forms the basis for the Jewish year.In the very first Rashi commentary on the Bible we find the statement that the Torah should have begun from the verse in Parashat Bo (Exodus 12:1), “Vayomer Hashem el Moshe ve’el Aharon be’eretz Mitzrayim lemor, Hachodesh hazeh lachem rosh chodashim, rishon hu lachem lechodshei hashana – Hashem said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: This month is to be for you the beginning of months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year”. This is the first mitzva that the Jewish people were commanded as a people. And since the main purpose of the Torah consists of its commandments, beginning the Torah with a mitzva would seem to make sense. (We do find a few commands in the Book of Genesis, such as the command to be fruitful and multiply [peru u'revu], circumcision on the eighth day, and gid ha’nasheh [the prohibition of eating the sinew of the thigh], which could have been included along with the other commandments had G-d so intended.)

Siftei Chachamim explains Rashi’s statement to mean that the Torah did not have to include all the incidents and historical accounts of our forefathers, as these could have been included separately in another volume, just as we have the Book of Joshua and others.

“Hachodesh hazeh” includes the first mitzva (rosh chodesh), a most important one. As we see in both the first and second chapter of Tractate Rosh Hashana, extreme care was given to the proper timing and proclamation of rosh chodesh. Based on witnesses’ testimony, the precise timing of rosh chodesh was crucial for the proper functioning of the Jewish calendar, which is based on the monthly cycle of the moon. Our calendar incorporates another requirement: All the festivals must occur during their proper seasons.

Yet our sages understood that if one were to strictly follow a single set of rules, it would be impossible to satisfy the other requirement. Therefore, a whole formula of calculation was instituted to synchronize the requirements. Ibn Ezra (Shemot 12:1) explains this in great detail.

We know that our festivals are very dependent on the lunar cycle since all biblical references to their yearly arrival is based on the timing of the months. Passover arrives on the 15th of Nissan (the first month), and Shavuot follows 49 days later. Rosh Hashana is referred to as the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei), Yom Hakippurim as the tenth day of that month, and Sukkot comes on the 15th.

Rashi (ad loc.) explains, quoting the Mechilta (Shemot Rabbah), that G-d actually showed Moses the exact shape of the moon that one must see to determine that a specific viewing constitutes a new moon.

The Gemara (Menachot 29a) explains that a Tanna of the school of R. Yishmael taught that three matters remained difficult for Moses until G-d specifically showed them to him with His finger. All three include the word zeh (this): the menorah in the Holy Temple, as it says (Numbers 8:4), “And this is the workmanship of the candelabra”; rosh chodesh, as it says (supra), “This month is to be for you …”; and sheratzim, creeping creatures, as it says (Leviticus 11:29), “And this shall be for you unclean…” Others add even a fourth, the laws of ritual slaughtering, as it says (Exodus 29:38), “And this is what you shall offer upon the altar.” Rashi (Menachot 29a) explains that in all these cases Moses was not able to discern on his own precisely how it had to be done.

The mishna (Rosh Hashana 24a) tells us that based on what Moses saw, and what was subsequently handed down from generation to generation, R. Gamaliel fashioned a picture of the moon in its various phases and would ask the witnesses to a new moon, “Did you see such or did you see such?” as a means of ascertaining whether it was indeed a new moon.

Thus we see that the mitzva of the sanctification of the month is one of such exacting specifications that only after it was shown to Moses by G-d did Moses fully understand it.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 42a) teaches us another mitzva associated with the new moon – Kiddush Levana. The Gemara quotes R. Acha b. Chanina who said in the name of R. Asi in R. Yochanan’s name: “He who blesses the new moon in its due time welcomes, as it were, the Holy Presence, for it states in our verse (supra), ‘This month is to you …’ and it says in yet another verse (Shirat HaYam, Exodus 15:2), ‘… This is my G-d, I shall glorify Him….’”

It was taught in the school of R. Yishmael that had Israel merited only to greet the Presence of their Father in Heaven but once every month, that would have been sufficient. Rashi explains this to mean that even if this had been their only mitzva, in and of itself it would suffice to sustain us. Abaye says that therefore we must recite that prayer while standing.

The Gemara then quotes R. Yehuda, who would bless the new moon with the text that we recite today, as quoted both by Rambam (Hilchot Berachot 16) and by the Tur and R. Yosef Caro (Orach Chayyim 426, Hilchot Rosh Chodesh). The Tur and the Mechaber add extra verses quoted from Tractate Soferim (20:2), which also quotes the Gemara in Sanhedrin: “Siman tov etc.,” three times, “Baruch yotzrech etc.” three times while “dancing” (rising on our toes), “Keshem she’ani ro’ked etc.” three times, “Tippol aleihem etc.” (May Your fear and dread fall upon them etc.) stepping three times forwards and three times backwards,
and “Shalom aleichem” three times.

Our present text includes some variations of extra prayers that we have added over time.

But why are these various pesukim said three times? The Perisha (O.C. 426) explains that we say Shalom alecha (actually we say Shalom aleichem) three times because we previously cursed our enemies with “Tippol aleihem.” Thus we are assuring our friends that we do not wish this upon them, but rather peace (shalom).

One may find it rather odd that the Perisha does not explain why the other verses are said three times, including “Tippol aleihem,” which is the reason for saying “Shalom aleichem” three times.

(To be continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-kiddush-levana-part-i/2003/11/26/

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