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December 8, 2016 / 8 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘shavuot’

Soul Talk – G-d and the Torah: Do They Restrict Your Life or Enhance It? [audio]

Monday, June 6th, 2016

How do you see G-d and the Torah with its laws and commandments? Do you feel that they restrict your life or enhance it?

The holiday of Shavuot is upon us, when we celebrate the giving of the Torah. Yet, not everyone embraces the presence of G-d and his teachings in their lives. What is it that stops us from recognizing that inviting G-d’s presence by learning and keeping the Torah can truly enhance our lives?

Listen to Soul Talk with Rabbi David Aaron, where he will share a perspective that will clear common misunderstandings and reinvigorate our desire to make G-d and Torah an integral part of our lives.

Please send us your questions to soultalk@israelnewstalkradio.com. We would love to include them in future broadcasts of Soul Talk!

Soul Talk 05Jun – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Koren Shavuot Mahzor Reveals Surprise

Monday, June 6th, 2016

“Shavuot is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” writes Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in “The Greatest Gift” which introduces the new Koren Shavuot Mahzor. He explains, “According to the written sources, biblical and post-biblical, there was intense debate as to when Shavuot is celebrated and why. That is what makes the study of this particular festival so fascinating… it has to do with one of the most fundamental questions of all: what it is to be a Jew and why.”

The latest recipient of the prestigious Templeton Prize just released his latest work, his translation and commentary on the entire Shavuot tefilla service, published by Koren Publishers. This new Mahzor completes the Koren Mahzor series, but adds a new, surprising feature: the endorsement of the RCA, the Rabbinical Council of America. In fact, just this month, Koren and the RCA announced a new partnership that will include the RCA stamp of approval on all new editions of Koren’s English-Hebrew Maḥzor series.

“We are thrilled and honored to work together with the RCA,” says Matthew Miller, Koren’s publisher and CEO. “There’s no better time to launch this partnership than right before Shavuot, a time when we receive the Torah anew and rejoice in the spiritual and intellectual gift that the Jewish people has been given.”

This partnership brings together Koren’s world-renowned reputation for elegant and inspiring Jewish texts with the RCA’s strong constituency of more than 1,000 Orthodox rabbinical leaders in North America. Like the other prayer books in Koren’s growing collection, the new RCA-endorsed Shavuot Mahzor includes profound essays and commentary on the themes and concepts of the holiday by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, beautiful translations of the entire prayer service, Megillat Ruth and relevant Torah readings as well as prayers for the State of Israel, its soldiers and the American government. As this new venture progresses, Koren will issue new RCA-endorsed editions of all Koren Sacks Mahzorim and new siddurim.

Koren Publishers Jerusalem is largely known for introducing the thought of Rabbi Sacks to American Jewry through the Koren Sacks Siddur. Adopted widely by Modern Orthodox communities throughout North America, the Sacks Siddur brought in a new era into Orthodox synagogues by featuring a true-to-text translation that retains the rhythm of the tefillot, and a recognition of the modern State of Israel and its military forces. However, the company itself was founded by master typographer Eliyahu Koren in 1962. That year, Koren released its first edition of the Koren Tanakh, which won international acclaim for its textual precision and elegant design. It was the first Tanakh to be entirely produced in the nascent State of Israel.

Since that time, Koren Publishers has developed partnerships with a wide range of Orthodox organizations, scholars and institutions including Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Binyamin Lau, Yeshiva University, the OU, and more. Its divisions include Maggid Books and The Toby Press.

“As one of the key bodies representing North American Orthodox Jewry and outstanding rabbinic personalities, we believe this collaboration is the perfect fit for synagogues that wish to enrich their community’s tefilla experience,” said Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the RCA. “We looking forward to working with Koren’s team on developing Siddurim and Maḥzorim together.”

Jewish Press Staff

Shavuot: A Reminder That We Were All There

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Of our three Shalosh Regalim, holy festivals, I have always considered Shavuot the most “user-friendly.” There is no shlepping food and dishes outdoors for eight days, often at the mercy of the elements, ranging from freezing temperatures (in the North) or energy-sapping heat and humidity (in the South). I have been in sukkot where heaters barely dispelled the shivering cold or where fans and even air-conditioning hardly made a dent in banishing stifling air – or blowing away the busy bees buzzing around the honey-dipped challah.

Pesach, of course, in terms of ease of preparing is in a league of its own.

Shavuot, however, merely involves showcasing flowers and greenery all over the house (as kids we would tape bright-faced dandelions and other foliage onto the walls) adding fragrance and color to the festivities.

Besides being easy on the body, Shavuot is soul-enhancing for it is the anniversary of Matan Torah – when all of Bnei Yisrael accepted and embraced the G-d-given blueprint on how to best conduct our lives so that we, as well as those who cross our path, would mutually grow closer to reaching our potential.

The Torah is all about treating every living thing, both human and animal, with compassion – in essence, dealing with everyone the way we ourselves would want to be dealt with. If I were an ox, for example, I would want to be fed and watered in a timely manner after pulling a plow all day.

Torah is about mindfulness, leading to respect and chesed.

However, since as human beings we have not yet evolved to this very lofty madrega, we sometimes need a reminder to be “nice” to everybody – especially those on the fringe. Megillat Rut, the book that we read on Shavuot, reminds us of our holy mandate to be considerate, aware and proactive to those who need our focus most – the poor, the vulnerable, the unconnected.

In Megillat Rut, there are two very telling statements in terms of the message the Torah is conveying. The first is, “And when she [Rut] had risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying: ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and put her not to shame’” (2:15).

Earlier (2:10), Boaz tells his workers to drop some of the wheat they reap so Rut can gather it: “…leave it, and let her glean; and rebuke her not.” In verse 9, Boaz had approached Rut and told her, “Let your eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go you after them; have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch you?”

Boaz obviously finds it necessary to reassure Rut that no one will hassle or bully her while she is gleaning wheat, and twice he admonishes his field hands not to rebuke or shame her and make her feel threatened in any way.

Why was this necessary? After all, it seems like Boaz’s workers were G-d-fearing men. In an earlier verse we read, “and behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers: ‘The Lord be with you.’ And they answered him: ‘The Lord bless you.’”

It is reasonable to assume that the men were aware of the Torah commandment of letting the poor pick up the stalks of wheat that would fall from the sheaves that were reaped (Vayikra 19: 9). Why would they shame anyone? And why would Boaz take the extra step of approaching Rut to reassure her that she would be left alone? It was, after all, her first day – it’s not like there was a previous history of harassment that induced him to say something.

Cheryl Kupfer

Tens of Thousands Rejoice in Lag B’Omer Celebration at Rashbi’s Tomb on Mt. Meron [video]

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

The mystical mountain of Mount Meron rang out with music and song into the wee hours of Thursday morning as Jews celebrated the holiday of Lag B’Omer at the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and that of his son, close by.

“Lag” stands for the two Hebrew letters, Lamed and Gimel, which equal 33. The holiday falls on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer – the seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot, the holiday marking the day on which the Nation of Israel received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Tens of thousands of Jewish men and women from all walks of life streamed into the area around the Tomb of the RaShBI, as he is called, and his son (who is also buried there), for this is the day on which Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai left this world, and passed to the next.

Rabbi Shimon knew the Romans would soon come to capture him, as he was a great spiritual and Cabbalistic leader at the time. He therefore fled with his son to a cave where the two men were fed by a carob tree, and drank from a pure spring that miraculously appeared.

The rabbi and his son spent 12 years in that cave, until the death of Caesar. But when he emerged, he saw a farmer tilling a nearby field, and became so upset at the apparent “waste of time from Torah learning” that his gaze actually set fire to the field. The rabbi returned to the cave for another 12 months, to begin to adjust to normal day-to-day life.

It is to mark that fiery response by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai that bonfires are lit on the night of Lag B’Omer each year.

But the holiday also marks the cessation of the deadly plague that took the lives of 24,000 students of the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Akiva – which miraculously ended on this day as well. According to the Talmud, the plague was sent by Heaven as punishment for the students’ disrespectful behavior to one another; each was jealous of the other. They denigrated each other even as they competed to reach ever higher levels of spirituality.

The tradition of celebrating the holiday at RaShBI’s tombb in Meron spans thousands of generations, drawing Jews from around the world. This year, literally tens of thousands of Jews reached the site.

According to the Magen David Adom emergency medical response service, 150 people were treated on site for light burns, dehydration and excessive drinking. Of those, 17 taken to nearby Ziv Hospital in Tzfat and Poriya Medical Center for further care. Two were listed in fair to serious condition due to alcohol poisoning.

MDA and other medical services maintained a broad spectrum of staff and equipment at the site with two clinics, ambulances, first-aid motorbikes, tractor bikes and Segways.

Hana Levi Julian

The Curious Customs of Lag B’Omer [photos]

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Of all the strange things we Jews do to commemorate our holidays, Lag B’Omer has got to have some of the stranger customs with particularly vague and questionable origins. In fact, there’s only a few hints to Lag B’Omer before the 17th century, when we start to see some of the customs popularized.

The 33rd day of counting the Omer between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot commemorates the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi), who revealed Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) to the Jewish people (or at least to his disciples) after hiding from the Romans for 13 years in a cave in the town of Peki’in.

Normally when someone dies, we’re not particularly happy, and we don’t memorialize his death with celebrations.

So some question if Rashbi really died (שמת) on that day, or if we think so because of a printing error in a book, and it was actually a day Rashbi was happy (שמח) about an a particular event.

And then there’s that matter of the revolt against the Romans. Depending on which version of the story you hear, it’s the day when the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying – either because the Romans stopped killing them (because they killed them all), or the plague that was killing them was over.

To start off the celebrations, we make bonfires, very big bonfires, and pretty much try to burn anything that’s isn’t nailed down. And if it is nailed down, that what crowbars are for.

Lag B'Omer

Lag B'omer Photos by Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

LAG BA'OMER Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

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Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Sometimes the fire department has to be called out.

Firefighters in Bnei Brak on Lag B'Omer

Firefighters in Bnei Brak on Lag B’Omer. Firefighter Photos by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90


Many people (and we mean quite a lot) go to Meron for Lag B’Omer to light those bonfires.

Meron is where Rashbi is buried. That we know for sure.

The bonfires either represent the intense light and fire introduced by Rashbi, or alternatively it was the signalling method the students of Rabbi Akiva used to let the others know they were still alive or that the Romans were coming.

Then there’s the bow and arrow. If you’re looking at the military explanation, it’s kind of self-explanatory.

Jewish men shooting a bow and arrow in Meron on Lag B'omer

Jewish men shooting a bow and arrow in Meron on Lag B’omer. Photo by Moshe Azriel/Flash90

Another strange explanation is that the students of Rabbi Akiva told the Romans they were carrying their bows and arrows to hunt animals, when in reality they were going into the woods to learn Torah together. In those years, the Romans were busy outlawing Jewish practices (Shabbat, Brit Mila and Learning Torah).

But seriously, have you ever heard of a Jewish person hunting an animal for food? We shecht (slaughter) our animals with a very sharp ritual knife. Did the Romans really believe that? Or is this just another obfuscation of the Jewish revolt?

The spiritual explanation has to do with the story that no rainbows (קשת=bow) were seen in the sky during Rashbi’s lifetime. The rainbow has a mixed connotation. It’s a reminder that God promised Noah that He would never again destroy the world by flood, but it’s also a reminder that humanity sinned gravely and is still sinning and deserves punishment but God is holding back.

And then we have the Upsherin, the custom where 3-year-old boys get their first haircut – except for the payos (sidelocks).

Again, this is a custom that only a few hundred years old, and has no clear connection to Lag B’Omer that we are aware of. But it is exciting to give your 3-year-old a haircut for the first time and watch him transform from a toddler to a child.

An Upsherin

An Upsherin. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90


One thing is for sure, Lag B’Omer beats Burning Man hands down.

Photo of the Day

‘Mystery Rabbi’ Sues Rapper ‘Ice Cube’ for $2 Million for Assault

Friday, May 29th, 2015

A man identified as “P. Taras” who says he is  a rabbi is suing rapper “Ice Cube” for $2 million following an assault the entertainer ordered after the two men literally bumped into each other outside an elevator.

The TMZ website reported that Taras said he was at the MGM Detroit hotel on Monday, the holiday of Shavuot, when Ice Cube bumped into him.

Taras said something to the tune of “Hey, watch out,” and Ice Cube allegedly sent his “boys” into action with a few punches to the sounds of some ad lib anti-Semitic rap.

The victim says he may have been beaten up because he was wearing a kippa, but Ice Cube’s spokesmen said it all is a lie and that the rapper does not even know who Taras is.

Of course he would not know since the first time they met is when they bumped into each other because one or both of them was not looking straight ahead.

But who is this rabbi “Taras”? And what was he doing in a hotel, which features casinos, on Shavuot.

Michigan Rabbi Jason Miller wrote on his website:

No, I have never heard of a rabbi here in Detroit named Taras….Now, for the record, I don’t believe there is such a rabbi named Taras here in Detroit. Of course, there could have been a rabbi visiting over the Memorial Day weekend… but I highly doubt any Jewish person wearing a yarmulke would have been at the MGM Grand on the Shavuot holiday, when going to a casino would be forbidden

Taras wants the last word and commented on TMZ, but this time he posted his name as “Rev Taras,” which means he might be a reverend, who is a religious functionary, even though he signed off as “P. Taras:

This incident occurred in the HOTEL part, and their [sic] is video which is already in my possession. I am not releasing any videos due to the fact that Mr. Jackson has a right to defend this suit, and he has not yet been served with the complaint. When same happens, at the apporpriate [sic] time I will release such material. -P. Taras

Ice Cube is a Muslim by conversion, and many of his lyrics are blatantly violent, with one of his songs calling for the murder of a Jew in the music industry. One of his lines in a rap was, “Let a white Jew tell [them] what to do.”

But that does not mean that “Taras” is not trying a scam to win more than he could win in a casino on Shavuot, as some of TMZ’s readers noted on the website.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Shavuot: The Scandalous Backstory of Ruth & Boaz

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Rabbi David Fohrman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/multimedia/video-picks/shavuot-the-scandalous-backstory-of-ruth-boaz/2015/05/22/

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