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Is there a lesson to be learned during this Christmas season?

There are some people who have difficulty letting go of Christmas and all the traditions that follow. Once I began keeping the Torah I also had difficulty releasing my hold on some of the festive traditions I held tight since childhood. However, each ascending year I have removed myself further until this year I feel completely disassociated with Christmas. One may ask what is so wrong with Christmas? After all the reason for the season is Yeshua right? If that is the “real” reason for the season then why would we associate Messiah with idolatry and activities with pagan roots? A great article dealing with the issue of mixing between holy and secular is titled Why I don’t celebrate Christmas by Tim Hegg.

This year our Tzadik Class participated in a Christmas Quiz to test our knowledge of Messiah’s birth based on the text in scripture. It is astonishing how much of our knowledge of Messiah’s birth has been influenced by worldly traditions and embellishments from the media. The more I thought about the drastic difference between the text in scripture and my knowledge of the story the more I became aware of the trap we all encounter. Accepting an interpretation of scripture as truth. Everything I learned about Christmas was an interpretation of scripture and I lethargically accepted it as truth. How often do we listen to an interpretation of scripture without checking all the references, context, and the required cohesiveness with the Torah? The lesson we can learn this year is to abandon passivity and study the Bible for ourselves. HaShem certainly blesses people with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. We should continually seek to learn from those around us, but weigh everything against the Torah and the literal text.

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Gentlemen,

Remember that we keep the mitzvah of acknowledging the new month tonight at sundown. I’m curious to hear what traditions you are building in your families for these occasions; praying, blowing the shofar, etc.

“Also in the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be as a reminder of you before your G-d. I am the Hashem your G-d.” – Numbers 10:10 (NASU)

Read the short passage about the Shunammite’s son in 2 Kings 4. Do you notice the reference to the new month? The woman’s husband knew that she would naturally visit the man of G-d on a new month…

Tomorrow is Shabbat as well as Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5771. Hope to see all of you at prayers tomorrow, then Oneg, and portion review of Noach.

Good Shabbos!

Joseph

33And the L-RD spoke to Moses, saying, 34“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the L-RD. 35On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36For seven days you shall present food offerings to the L-RD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the L-RD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.

37“These are the appointed feasts of the L-RD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the L-RD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day, 38 besides the L-RD’s Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the L-RD.

39“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the L-RD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the L-RD your G-d seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the L-RD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the L-RD your G-d.” Vayikra [Leviticus] 33-43

The commandment of Sukkot is found in Vayikra [Leviticus] 23, Bamidbar[Numbers] 29, and Devarim [Deuteronomy] 16 with several other mentions throughout Scripture. It is crucial that these verses be the starting point for anyone interested in celebrating Sukkot. Once a solid knowledge of literal Scripture is acquired then one should begin reading the traditions of the feast. Have the ability to distinguish between man-made traditions and the mitzvot [commandments] of HaShem. In most cases Jewish traditions support the mitzvot [commandments] and make mitzvot [commandments] easier to keep. For example the mitzvah [commandment] of writing the words of the Sh’ma on the doorposts of your house is made easier by affixing a mezuzah. Although, some traditions may distract from the purpose and are not scriptural. For example, stepping over a silver spoon as a bride and groom enter the secluded room. Do you have any questions about what is commanded and what is tradition in relation to sukkot?

Please leave a comment with your questions. Also, here are some great resources to expand your knowledge of Sukkot and celebrate this joyous occasion together with Israel.

Overview of Sukkot:

http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm

Basic and advanced information [audio, text, video]:

http://www.ou.org/chagim/sukkot/

Special Torah Readings for Sukkot:

Sukkot, Day 1 Lev 22:26-23:44 Num 29:12-16 Zech 14:1-21
Sukkot, Day 2 I Kings 8:2-21
Sukkot, Chol Ha-mo’ed Day 1 Num 29:17-25
Sukkot, Chol Ha-mo’ed Day 2 Num 29:20-28
Sukkot, Chol Ha-mo’ed Day 3 Num 29:23-31
Sukkot, Chol Ha-mo’ed Day 4 Num 29:26-34
Sukkot, Intermediate Shabbat Ex 33:12-34:26 Ezek 38:18-39:16
Hoshanah Rabbah Num 29:26-34
Shemini Atzeret Deut 14:22-16:17 Num 29:35-30:1 I Ki 8:54-9:1

Blessing upon entering a sukkah:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam,
asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu leishev ba-sukkah.

Blessed are You, L-RD our G-d, King of the Universe,
Who sanctifies us with His mitzvot and has commanded us to dwell in the sukkah.

Ordering Etrog and Lulav sets:

http://www.esrogfarm.com/2010/07/esrog-lulav-sets-for-shipping/

Additional Scripture Readings:

Numbers 29 12 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall keep a feast to the L-RD seven days.”

Deuteronomy 16 13 “You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress.”

Ezra 3 4 “And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required,..”

Nehemiah 8 14 “And they found it written in the Law that the L-RD had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month,..”

Ezekiel 45 25 “In the seventh month, on the fifteenth day of the month and for the seven days of the feast, he shall make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, and grain offerings, and for the oil.”

Hosea 12 9 “I am the L-RD your God from the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed feast.”

Zechariah 14 16 “Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the L-RD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.”

John 7 2 “Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.”

Did you build a sukkah? If so, tell us about it!

Sanctifying HaShem throughout our community is a more difficult concept than I had originally thought because of a line from this weeks’ parasha [portion], Ha’azinu. HaShem said to Moshe in Deuteronomy 32:51 that he would not enter the Land,“because you did not sanctify Me among the Children of Israel.” Consider who Moshe was. He wrote the Torah, he preformed many miracles, he spoke with HaShem “face to face”, he saw with his own eyes HaShem’s back; just to identify a few incredible experiences. Yet Moshe still made a mistake and did not sanctify HaShem.

Not a single person in this generation is as righteous as Moshe. He is one of the most revered men throughout the Tanach. So much so that our Moshiach is actually referred to as “a prophet like unto Moses.” The intention of this post is not to disrespect or belittle Moshe, Heaven forbid! The thought I am trying to convey is understanding the difficulty of sanctifying HaShem and how we need to constantly seek to draw closer to Him. If it was difficult in Moshe’s time to sanctify HaShem how much more difficult is it today. Society in general is filled with distractions, idols, and temptations. If you are content or complacent with your halachah [walk] then you are not sanctifying His Name. Sanctification is a daily process of living life in accordance with Torah and proclaiming HaShem’s holiness with thoughts, words, and deeds. It is because of His mercies that all of us awoke this morning to find Yom Kippur speedily approaching. He is holy and His Name is holy.

Sanctifying HaShem is difficult because it requires disregard for fleshly desires, pure thoughts, and a constant selfless attitude. Personally I am far from living how I know I must but each day is a step closer. He is worthy of all our praise and He deserves to be sanctified.

What are you personally doing to sanctify HaShem in your community with your life?

May this Yom Kippur motivate true teshuva [repentance] from sin.

These are the holidays that man says we may have off.

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday
  • Christmas Eve (1/2 day)
  • Christmas Day

However, it is not man we are here to serve. The reason we are here is to serve HaShem and draw closer to Him, but how can we expect to do this if we do not keep and observe His Moedim {appointed times}? None of the previous holidays are in the Bible except for New Years and even that is on the wrong day. Thankfully, HaShem compiled the Moedim into one chapter of the Torah! Vayikra {Leviticus} 23 explains when each Moed {festival} is, what it is celebrating, and whether or not we may work. It is very important to purchase a Hebraic calendar and study Vayikra 23. The Hebraic calendar is also available online at www.hebcal.com. Throughout the year there are 7 days we are commanded not to work as listed below for the year 2010.

  • Pesach – the first and last day – March 30, Tuesday and April 5, Monday
  • Shavuot– May 19, Wednesday
  • Rosh Hashanna– September 9, Thursday
  • Yom Kippur – September 18, Saturday
  • Sukkot– the first and last day – September 23, Thursday & September 29, Wednesday

It is important to note though these dates and days may vary from year to year, HaShem’s calendar does not change. He is an unchangeable and eternal G-d and His Moedim are “appointed times” during the year. We should all be examples in our workplace and request these days off. Most companies should grant permission for time off because they are required by law not to discriminate against religions. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that it is prohibited to deny a requested reasonable accommodation of an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – if an accommodation will not impose more than a de minimis cost or burden on business operations.1 Most likely your boss and coworkers will inquire about why you have these days off which becomes a great opportunity to share Torah and our obligation to keep it. Many people have said they were first introduced to Torah and began keeping the Mitzvot {commandments} after attending a Pesach seder, a Shabbat service, a Sukkot party, or any other Biblical celebration. HaShem desires our observance of His wonderful Moedim so we may keep His Torah and draw closer to Him. Let us be a light and an example for our friends, families, and coworkers. Let us be Tzadikim {righteous ones}.

1 http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/qanda_religion.html

by Kefa

I’m sure we’ve all gotten some sort of request by our employer for some weekend work sometime in our lives (ok, I actually haven’t :P) A quick favor turns into an agitated plea, which turns into an irritated requisite, which turns into an ultimatum; your job or your religion.

There are three sides to a response:

  • Honor G-d, honor the Torah, and honor the Sabbath; never work on a Saturday, whatever the cost.
  • Avoid any Saturday work until it puts your family’s well-being in jeopardy (job-threatening).
  • And, of course, you could just work on Shabbat…

If you’re an option 3 person, you can stop reading here.

A lot of men are torn between their responsibilities as a husband/father/provider and their obligation to the G-d of Israel. G-d commands us in Exodus 20,

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your G-d. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Pretty straight forward, don’t you think? You may argue that G-d values life over the Sabbath. It’s for this reason that we find no problem lying to save a life. The Preservation of Life trumps any other mitzvah in the Torah. But can providing money for your family be considered the Preservation of Life?

Is the necessity of  financial security, a roof under which to sleep, and food to eat an influence caused by the world? Perhaps we need to re-examine our convictions.

I would turn your attention to Joseph, son of Jacob, who was faced with pleasure and security on one side and his convictions and conscience on the other. Sleeping with Potiphar’s wife would have saved him from a bad reputation, losing his job, and ultimately ending up in jail (not to distract from the point, but if had slept with her he also wouldn’t have had to flash the other servants). But of course, he chose to disregard what the world considered valuable and he glorified G-d’s Name and His Torah.

Adultery may seem a far cry from the Sabbath, but is the situation much different? “Break commandment (one of those special ten, no less!) for reward.” What is the difference from your employer saying, “You will lose your job if you don’t lie to this prospect about the value of the item,” or, “You’re fired unless you steal our competition’s business plan,” or, “You can say goodbye to your job if you don’t come with the boys down to the strip club”? What makes the Sabbath a lesser commandment that you would make an excuse to break it? Have you no shame?!

“How can we serve G-d if we starve to death? How can we be a light to the world if our children are unclothed, unhoused, or unfed?”

Is it really our place to question the Will of G-d?! From where do we draw the authority to assume that G-d will not provide for the ones who love him, as demonstrated by their adherence to his commands?

If you are truly convicted of your beliefs, you will be willing to suffer for what you choose to do or choose not to do; you will accept the consequences and trust G-d for the omnipotent father that he is.


The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.

Proverbs 21:1

by tzadikguy

Each year people across the globe count down to New Year’s Day usually 10 seconds before midnight. Whether it is Rosh HaShanah, the Chinese New Year, or the Roman Calendar New Year it is customary to prepare one’s self for the approaching year. Some traditionally throw boisterous, confetti-filled parties and/or light fireworks to “ring in the New Year”. Nevertheless counting down to something exciting is not a new concept. The purposes are to increase anticipation, ensure preparations are in order, and have a continuous reminder of an impending event. Well some people have missed a very important command {mitzvah} in the Torah to countdown the days of the Omer from Passover {Pesach} to Pentecost {Shavu’ot}.
The command {mitzvah} is found in Leviticus 23:15-16 and it says:

15You shall count for yourselves – from the morrow of the rest day, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving – seven weeks, they shall be complete. 16Until the morrow of the seventh week you shall count, fifty days; and you shall offer a new meal-offering to HaShem.”

What exactly is an Omer? According to Rabbi Shraga Simmons from aish.com the Omer is explained as such:

“In the days of the Holy Temple, the Jewish people would bring a barley offering on the second day of Passover (Leviticus 23:10). This was called the ‘Omer’ (literally, ‘sheaf’) and in practical terms would permit the consumption of recently-harvested grains.”

Pentecost {Shavu’ot} is the day that Israel was given the Torah on Mount Sinai! Of all the significant events throughout scripture I would place the giving of the Torah high on the list as worthy of a countdown. It is His Word and His essence manifested through the beautifully written words on stone and parchment. The Torah was His gift to us so that we may walk in righteousness, bring honor to His name, and love Him. During Passover {Pesach} we celebrate Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt but it was not complete until HaShem endowed Israel with His Torah 50 days later. What a beautiful event to celebrate and remember and we do this through the Counting of the Omer {Sefirat Ha’Omer} as HaShem said.

In addition, since we know that obedience is what demonstrates our love for HaShem let us fulfill this command {mitzvah} together and “ring in Pentecost {Shavu’ot}”. You can receive daily Tweets with the day of the Omer by following us on Twitter at twitter.com/menoftorah.




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