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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘shavuot’

Rolling Stones Delay Concert Start for Religious Jews

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Long time readers of yesterday’s papers know that JewishPress.com was instrumental in bringing the Rolling Stones to Israel, 2000 light years from home.

Our Rolling Stones Purim spoof was hot stuff and it was just like the hand of fate flipped a switch and suddenly the Rolling Stones are in another land.

Now time waits for no one, even the Rolling Stones when it comes to when the Shavuot holiday ends. But now it looks like time is on my side as the Rolling Stones have delayed the start of their performance to 9:15PM in little Tel (&) Aviv to allow religious fans to get to the concert. We love you!

Who says you can’t always get what you want?

Shavuos Tips From Tanya

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

1. As always, plan your meals ahead of time.  If you are eating at home, this is even easier.  If you are eating out, and feel comfortable enough, find out what is on the menu and make your choices AHEAD of time.  The general rule is, ONE plate with ONE serving of protein (or a combo of 2), ONE (small) serving of starch, and lots of vegetables.  Dessert can be a fruit (fruit salad, sugar free compote, low calorie ices, etc.)

2. Eat breakfast EVERY single morning.  Many people are tempted to skip this meal and “save up” their calories for the other meals, but this only backfires!  Eating a good healthy breakfast will stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day and will make you less likely to overeat at the actual meals.

3. Be a great guest or an overgracious hostess!  Make yourself busy serving, chatting, helping to clear, etc… Anything that distracts you away from sitting at the table for very long periods of time.

4. Stock up on Diet Center’s Say Cheese diet cheesecakes, or Global’s diet cheesecakes

    These are delicious, low calorie, and great for when everyone else is having “the real thing.”

5. Cheat… A little bit!  It’s ok to cheat a little but follow these guidelines:

  1. Make sure it’s worth it! Think your kids’ leftover noodles versus a spoonful of penne vodka, or cheesecake batter while you’re making it versus a (very small) piece of cheesecake for dessert.  If you’re going to have it, make it worth it!
  2. Plan for it!  Spontaneous cheating is always worse than planned cheating.  If you plan for it, you are in control of it.  So plan ahead what it is that you want to have and stick to that.
  3. No regrets! Have it and forget about it.  Don’t talk about it, think about it, or even worse, go off your diet completely because of it.  (Plus, no one wants to hear you vent)
  4. Make up for it!  If you had a piece of cheesecake for dessert on the first day, take a brisk walk afterwards, or skip dessert that night or the next day.  Treat it like a bank account, if you withdraw, you need to deposit, to keep the balance more or less even.

6. Write it ALL down! As soon as Yom tov is over, write down everything you ate.  This will give you the accountability and may even make you think twice before having something.

7. Walk it off! A brisk walk will not only burn some calories, it will also put you in the right mindset and get you away from the table/pantry/kitchen…

Remember: The goal on Shavuos (or any Yom tov) is not necessarily to LOSE weight, but at least not to gain weight!

Good luck, and enjoy!

Tanya

  Zucchini Souffle – Low Carb, Fat Free (Dairy or Parve) From Nechama Cohen, Jewish Diabetes Association

Ingredients:

  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 large zucchini or other summer squash, peeled
  • 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg whites, or 1 (4-ounce) container of Egg Beaters
  • 1 (8-ounce) package Farmer cheese
  • 2 tablespoons soy or regular flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9×13-inch casserole dish with baking paper. 2. Saute onion and set aside. 3. Grate the zucchini and squeeze out excess liquid. 4. In a separate bowl, combine eggs and cheese, mixing well. Add the flour and season with salt and pepper. 5. Combine zucchini with the cheese mixture. Add the onions. Mix well. 6. Pour into the prepared casserole dish. Bake for about 1 hour.

The Link Between Bamidbar And Shavuot

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

This week’s parshah, Bamidbar, is read prior to the Shavuot holiday. Rabbi Isaiah Halevy Horowitz suggests that this Torah reading teaches us important lessons about the holiday.

Bamidbar presents the names and leaders of each of the tribes of Israel. It can be suggested that the delineation of the leaders of each tribe is linked to Shavuot as it promotes the idea that the heads of the community should be paragons or teachers of Torah.

The parshah also describes the way the Jews encamped around the Tabernacle. Rav Umberto Cassuto echoes the similarity to Shavuot as he calls the Tabernacle a “mini-Sinai.” We simulated Sinai as we wandered through the desert, constantly reliving the experience of revelation.

Bamidbar begins by telling us that God spoke to Moshe in the Sinai desert. Rabbi Nachman Cohen in A Time for All Things maintains that the confluence of Bamidbar and Shavuot is “to underscore the great significance of the Torah having been given in the desert – no man’s land.”

Rabbi Cohen points out that the location of the vast expanse of the wilderness is significant for it teaches us that the Torah is not “the exclusive property of given individuals.” Living a desert existence makes us feel vulnerable. The fact that the Torah was given in the desert also teaches that “Torah can only be acquired if a person humbles himself.”

My colleague Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky inspired another idea. Perhaps the key relationship between Bamidbar and Shavuot is “counting.” Not only does our portion deal with the census – the counting – of the Jewish people, but the Torah, when mentioning Shavuot, stresses the counting of days between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot. In the words of the Torah, “seven weeks shall you count” (Leviticus, 23:15). This teaches that as important as the holiday of Shavuot may be, equally important is the count toward the holiday.

An important lesson emerges. Whenever we are engaged in a particular project, whether working toward a professional goal or striving to achieve in our personal lives, it is important to reflect and to evaluate how much time has already been spent on the endeavor and how much is still required to achieve its realization.

Evaluating forces us to consider the gift of every moment we have. Rabbi Joseph Lookstein points out that we must not only realize what the years have done to us but what we have done with our years.

Hence the confluence of Bamidbar and Shavuot. In the words of the Psalmist, “Teach us to number our days” (Psalms, 90:12). Bamidbar teaches the significance of each person and Shavuot teaches the importance of every moment for the individual.

The Lessons Of Sefirat Ha’Omer

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Our Torah portion talks of the fifty days between Passover and Shavuot commonly known as Sefirat Ha’Omer. From a biblical perspective, these days relate to the barley offering brought on the second day of Passover and the wheat brought on the festival of Shavuot. These are days of hope and prayer that the produce from the ground grows fruitfully and plentifully.

In addition, this period of time certainly has something to do with the counting of time from Passover, the holiday marking our physical exodus from Egypt, to Shavuot, the holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah.

So great is the anticipation of Shavuot that we count joyously one day after the other for seven full weeks hoping to reach higher and higher as we approach that moment in history when the Torah was given. It is fitting that we count up to forty-nine. This is because the number seven in Judaism symbolizes completion, wholeness and spirituality, for it is the number of Shabbat. Forty-nine is seven sets of seven, therefore the Omer period is the ultimate completion of the completion, the holiest of the holiest.

As time progressed in the history of our people, these joyous days turned into sad ones. It was between Passover and Shavuot that the students of Rabbi Akiva died. According to tradition, death came because these learned men were involved in endless dispute. The relationships between these individuals who carried the potential for such greatness broke down resulting in backbiting and a totally ruptured community.

My son Rabbi Dr. Dov Weiss points out that perhaps it is not a coincidence that Rabbi Akiva’s students died during the very days when we count toward the giving of the Torah. No doubt the rabbis led the way in the count toward Shavuot, as rabbis are the teachers par excellence of Torah. Yet, it is these same rabbis who became involved in deep conflict. Rather than these days being joyous they became days of mourning.

Too often Torah scholars become so engrossed in the understanding of Torah that they begin to believe their approach is the only correct one. They often cannot see the truth in any other view. In our communities we too very often see how rabbis and community leaders fail to see any truth in someone else’s view even if it legitimate, creating havoc and endless strife.

It has been suggested that different views are recorded in the Talmud to remind us that while one should continue to focus and deepen his or her view of Torah, it should not lead to tunnel vision. Different outlooks should respect one another. Sefirat Ha’Omer reminds us that we should intensely journey toward Torah, but while we do so we should not possess tunnel vision; we should open the windows and let the winds enter our minds, our bodies and our souls.

Rosh Hashanah 2013 – Pain or pleasure?

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The Torah tells us very little about Rosh Hashanah, not even its name. The three harvest and pilgrim festivals are named, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukot. These were the main focal points of national Jewish life in Biblical times, when as many as possible gathered in Jerusalem and attended Temple ceremonies. The Torah keeps on reiterating how they are supposed to be happy occasions, time to eat, drink, be merry, and share. Yom Kipur is the single Biblical holiday devoted to personal introspection, a serious and painful experience, physically and spiritually.

But when it comes to Rosh Hashanah, all we have to describe it is, “The first day of the seventh month is a Sabbath of remembering and blowing (the shofar)”! (Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29) It is up to the Oral Law to tell us more. The name we use universally nowadays, the New or rather the Head of the Year, came into Judaism much later than the Bible.

So I wonder, where does Rosh Hashanah fit in on the scale of pain and pleasure? Is it a happy, joyful festival like the other three, or is it painful and serious like Yom Kipur? Is it a self- analytical moment in which our very existence is examined and justified, or is it a mystical occasion when we should try, through ecstasy and experience, to get as close to Heaven as we can? Is it a case of “turn from evil and do good” or “do good and turn from evil”?

There is an alternative option, that it is a mixture of both. Just like good chocolate, it has salt as well as sugar. Throughout the history of human intellectual civilization we have always been expected to choose, to decide which one is right. Should we be happy or sad? Should we be enjoying life or suppressing and disciplining? Should we be rational or emotional? Should we be individuals or a community? Perhaps they are both right.

The Western philosophical tradition likes to be precise. It has no time for fuzzy combinations. Either you are Stoic or an Epicurean, an Aristotelian or Platonist, a Greek or a Roman, a Christian or a Muslim, a rationalist or a mystic, a capitalist or a socialist, a Freudian or a Jungian, a person who wants to have fun or a killjoy.

But surely we are a mixture of different ideas, opinions, experiences and feelings. So is Judaism. That’s why we can never agree on anything. Do we have to be scholars or populists, legalists or fabulists, have analytical minds or great memories, prefer gemarah or midrash, be Chasidim or Mitnagdim, Sefardi or a Ashkenazi, strict or lenient? Why can’t we combine lots of different elements and move in and out of different moods and situations?

History plays a part, of course. Zechariah was ready to scrap all the sad fast days and turn them into joyful celebrations. But then came years of oppression and suffering and exile and the number of sad days increased. Once we were exiled from Jerusalem, our liturgy overflowed with sadness, alienation, loss, and woe. Now we have penthouses overlooking the Old City, with swimming pools and saunas. Once Ashkenazi and Sefardi prayed in different worlds; now we are next-door and often visit each other, pray with each other and dance with each other, let alone marry each other. Once Lithuanians placed bans on Chasidim, now they imitate them. Rav Ovadia Yosef once implored his followers to stop dressing in black Ashkenazi gear, now his sons looks like nineteenth century Viennese doctors. Blurring the lines can be good. We should embrace it.

So historically we refer to the first ten days of the month of Tishrei as Yamim Noraim, Awesome Days, serious days, or the Ten Days of Repentance. Heavy days with much longer services than normal, lots of additional poems, much breast-beating and tears of contrition, and the expectation that being found unworthy we will be condemned in ten days to Heavenly punishment. Yet there is another side. We sit down to huge banquets. Our tables are laden with goodies. We dip apples into honey and wish each other a sweet year. We get hold of as many exotic fruits as we can to symbolize good things, and to be able to thank God “who has kept us alive and enabled us to enjoy this moment.” We buy new things and wear our best clothes. We are treated to the sounds of the shofar, and we go down to the water to remark on our never stepping into the same river twice (I bet you never thought of that association with Tashlich).

We can be happy one moment and reflective the next. That, according to the Talmud, is why we break glasses at weddings. It is why we thank God for the bad as well as the good, and vice versa. It is why we celebrate life and we record death. It is why we work but also rest, why we eat but also refrain. The more we do, the richer our lives. But the more we overindulge the less rewarding and enjoyable they become. Unless you add salt, the chocolate cloys. Unless you enjoy life and look on its bright side and remember your good fortune, however modest, the less significant each moment becomes.

Rosh Hashana has no Biblical name because it is sandwiched between the extremes of the delightful pleasures of harvests and the self-denial of Yom Kipur. It stands for the golden mean between them, the best of both harvest festivals and serious self-analysis.

Pain or pleasure? Yes. We all experience it when we look back at our lives, let alone the past year. There are things we did that give us a sense of success and satisfaction. And there are things we did that we regret, wish we had done differently or better, that cause us pain. It’s precisely that combination of the two that Rosh Hashanah reminds us of.

May we all have a sweet year.

The Deeper Meanings of Shavuot

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Based on the Jewish Sages.

1.   Shavuot (Pentecost) was, originally, an agricultural holiday, celebrating the first harvest/fruit by bringing offerings (Bikkurim-ביכורים) to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Following the destruction of the second Temple and the resulting exile in 70 AD - which raised the need to entrench Torah awareness in order to avoid spiritual and physical oblivion – Shavuot became a historical/religious holiday of the Torah.  The Torah played a key role in shaping the U.S. Constitution and the American culture, as well as the foundations of Western democracies.

Shavuot is celebrated by decorating homes and houses of worship with Land of Israel-related crops and flowers, demonstrating the 3,500 year old connection between the Land of Israel (pursued by Abraham), the Torah of Israel (transmitted by Moses) and the People of Israel (united by David).  Shavuot is the holiday of humility, as befits the Torah values, Moses (“the humblest of all human beings), the humble Sinai desert and Mt. Sinai, a modest, non-towering mountain.  Abraham, David and Moses are role models of humility and their Hebrew acronym (Adam - אדמ) means “human-being.”  Humility constitutes a prerequisite for studying the Torah, for constructive human relationships and a prerequisite to effective leadership.

Shavuot – a spiritual holiday – follows Passover – a national liberation holiday: from physical liberation (the Exodus) to spiritual liberation/enhancement (the Torah), in preparation for the return to the Homeland.

2. The holiday has 7 names: The fiftieth (חמישים), Harvest (קציר), Giving of the Torah (מתן תורה), Shavuot (שבועות), Offerings (ביכורים), Rally (עצרת) and Assembly (הקהל).  The Hebrew acronym of the seven names is “The Constitution of the Seven” - חקת שבעה.

Shavuot reflects the centrality of “seven” in Shavuot and Judaism.  The Hebrew root of Shavuot (שבועות) is the word/number Seven (שבע - Sheva), which is also the root of “vow” (שבועה – Shvuah), “satiation” (שובע – Sova) and “week” (שבוע Shavuah). Shavuot is celebrated 7 weeks following Passover. God employed 7 earthly attributes to create the universe (in addition to the 3 divine attributes).  The Sabbath is the 7th day of the Creation in a 7 day weekThe first Hebrew verse in Genesis consists of 7 words. The 7 beneficiaries of the Sabbath are: you, your son and daughter, your male and female servants, your livestock and the stranger.  God created 7 universes – the 7th hosts the pure souls, hence“Seventh Heaven.” There are 7 compartments of hell. There are 7 basic human traits, which individuals are supposed to resurrect/adopt in preparation for Shavuot. 7 key Jewish/universal leaders - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aharon, Joseph and David – are commemorated as distinguished guests (Ushpizin in Hebrew) during the Tabernacle holiday, representing the 7 qualities of the Torah7 generations passed from Abraham to Moses. There are 7 species of the Land of Israel (barley, wheat, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive and date/honey. In Hebrew, number 7 represents multiplication (שבעתיים–Shivatayim.  Grooms and Brides are blessed times. There are 7 major Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Tabernacles, Chanukah, Purim, Passover and Shavuot); 7 directions (north, south, west, east, up, down, one’s inside); 7 continents and 7 oceans and major seas in the globe; 7 world wonders7 notes in a musical scale; 7 days of mourning over the deceased; 7 congregants read the Torah on each Sabbath; 7 Jewish Prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chana, Abigail, Choulda and Esther); 7 gates to the Temple in Jerusalem; 7 branches in the Temple’s Menorah; and 7 Noah Commandments.  Moses’ birth and death day was on the 7th day of Adar.  Jethro had 7 names and 7 daughtersJoshuaencircled Jericho 7 times before the wall tumbled-down.  Passover and Sukkot (Tabernacles) last for 7 days each. The Yom Kippur prayers are concluded by reciting “God is the King” 7 times.  Each Plague lasted for 7 days.  Jubilee follows seven 7-year cycles. According to Judaism, slaves are liberated, and the soil is not-cultivated, in the 7th year. Pentecost is celebrated on the 7th Sunday after Easter.

3.  Shavuot is celebrated 50 days following Passover, the holiday of liberty.  The Jubilee– the cornerstone of liberty and the source of the inscription on the Liberty Bell (Leviticus 25:10) - is celebrated every 50 years. Judaism highlights the constant challenge facing human beings: the choice between the 50 gates of wisdom (the Torah) and the corresponding 50 gates of impurity (Biblical Egypt).  The 50th gate of wisdom is the gate of deliverance.  The USA is composed of 50 states.

4.  Shavuot sheds light on the unique covenant between the Jewish State and the USA: Judeo-Christian Values.  These values impacted the world view of the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers and the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Separation of Powers, Checks & Balances, the abolitionist movement, etc. John Locke wanted the 613 Laws of Moses to become the legal foundation of the new society established in America. Lincoln’s famous 1863 quote paraphrased a statement made by the 14th century British philosopher and translator of the Bible, John Wycliffe: “The Bible is a book of the people, by the people, for the people.”

5.  Shavuot is the second of the 3 Jewish Pilgrimages (Sukkot -Tabernacles, Passover and Shavuot – Pentecost), celebrated on the 6th day of the 3rd Jewish month, Sivan.  It highlights Jewish Unity, compared by King Solomon to “a three folds cord, which is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).  The Torah - the first of the 3 parts of the Jewish Bible – was granted to the Jewish People (which consists of 3 components: Priests, Levites and Israel), by Moses (the youngest of 3 children, brother of Aharon and Miriam), a successor to the 3 Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and to Seth, the 3rd son of Adam and Eve.  The Torah was forged in 3 mannersFire (commitment to principles), Water (lucidity and purity) and Desert (humility and faith-driven defiance of odds). The Torah is one of the 3 pillars of healthy human relationships, along with labor and gratitude/charity. The Torah is one of the 3 pillars of Judaism, along with the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

In Hebrew: ‘Board’

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

לוּחַ Tradition has it that חַג הַשָּׁבֻעוֹת- the Shavuot festival – marks the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

And the Torah – הַתּוֹרָה- was given on tablets – not the kind you swallow (that’s a כַּדּוּר), but the kind made of stone.

The word the תורה uses for tablets is לֻחוֹת, with one tablet being a לוּחַ – a masculine noun, despite its looking feminine in the plural form.

Modern Hebrew takes the word לוח and uses it to mean board, such the one teachers write on.

So we’ve got:

פַּעַם, הַמּוֹרָה הָיְתָה כּוֹתֶבֶת עַל הַלּוּחַ עִם גִּיר. It used to be (literally, once), the (female) teacher would write on the board with chalk. Here are modern varieties of the educational לוח:

לוּחַ מָחִיק erasable board (a whiteboard) לוּחַ חָכָם smartboard לוח has many other meanings, including control panel, calendar and wooden plank. I said that לוח’s meaning in Biblical Hebrew is tablet. The kind of tablet pictured to the left, however is called, in Hebrew, a טַבְּלֶט

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