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Shalom Men of Torah.

Parsha Vayishlach….what can we say?  Yesterday’s portion was awesome!  Packed with so much deep and profound significance.  Not the least of which is Jacob’s encounter with a “man” whom he later describes as “the Divine”.

This event at a place called Peniel (literally, the face of El) has been discussed by many commentators through the ages.  The real question is what is this incident teaching us?  We know it was a watershed moment in Jacob’s life, but how do we put ourselves in the story?  What significance, beyond the obvious historical one, does this event at Peniel have for me?

There is lots of debate and discussion within the movement about who is Israel?  We all are at least familiar with most of the different views on this matter.  However, from a midrashic perspective allow me to offer another view.

The Torah records that as Jacob wrestled all night with the man he refused to let go.  He held on with all his might.  He did not give up.  This is Jacob’s nature.  He knows how to fight for what matters — the birthright, the blessings, for Rachel, for his flocks, etc.  When the man saw that Jacob would not relent, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” (32:27), something profound happened.  The man changed his name from Jacob to Israel.

The name Israel means “he who wrestles with El”. May I suggest that at the end of the day the final remnant of Israel will be composed of only those who, regardless of ethnicity, have continually wrestled with Hashem and persevered.  Those who are willing to overcome and prevail like Jacob will be those who truly inherit the eternal promises given to the seed of Avraham Avinu.

What are some signs that you are wrestling with Hashem (this is not an exhaustive list, of course):

  • Do you find your thoughts more often than not contemplating the weekly Torah portion, the lessons from Tzadik class, the daily prayers, etc?
  • Are you really concerned about should I where my tzitzit in or out? — I want to keep the commandment but I don’t want to offend anyone.
  • What is the proper approach to kashrut?  Should I separate or not?
  • Are you mindful of those who the Torah says we should honor — the elderly, widows, etc.?
  • Do you enjoy the fellowship of your community and can’t wait until the next time we are together?
  • Are you willing to cast off old preconceived notions and understandings for the sake of truth when it confronts you?
  • Does keeping the mitzvot bring joy or oy?  Is His burden light and His yoke easy?
  • Is taking the Name in vain (the way you carry yourself) always a concern for which you have genuine fear?
  • Are you willing to separate yourself from the world, the visible church and even perhaps on occasion from traditional Judaism for the sake of the Master?

If you can honestly answer “yes” to these questions than congratulations, you are Israel. If you cannot honestly answer “yes”, then what are you waiting for?  Get back in the wrestling match?

Those who profess a faith in G-d but have no concern over these questions and the things of G-d, but are rather more concerned about careers, health insurance, paying bills, their next vacation, entertainment, Monday night football and all the other distractions that can so easily ensnare us, are not wrestling with Hashem.  Therefore, are they Israel? — probably not.

The Torah describes the price Jacob paid for contending with man. The man pulls his hip out of socket…ouch!  Consequently, Jacob walked with a limp from that point onward.  That is to say, he never walked the same again.  Brethren, the sign of those who wrestle with Hashem is their walk (halacha) changes forever more.

Consider this analogy.  Picture yourself standing in the middle of a busy highway with a large freight truck coming straight for you at a high rate of speed with no hope of escape.  If you have an encounter with a large, freight truck — something about you must change.  There is no way you can remain the same.  Is not our G-d even bigger than a freight truck?

Brethren, it is impossible to have an encounter with the Adonai Elohim Tzvaot and remain the same.  Therefore, if we are part of the remnant it is because we have and continue to wrestle with Hashem and His Word.  And, consequently we are changed.  The way we think, the way we talk, the way we eat, the way we dress, the way we conduct business, the way we relate to others, our sexual practices, our priorities….everything about us and every aspect of our lives must change.  That is the sign!  Are we not new creatures?  Has not the old man passed away?

“He that overcomes shall inherit all things, and I shall be his G-d and he shall be my son.” Rev.21:7

Shavua Tov,

Avigdor ben Avraham

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Shalom Men of Torah.

As many of you know, Jonathan and Noach, will be returning from Israel in about a week from now.  If anyone needs kosher techelet from Israel for your tallit or tallit katan please email me at gupham1@gmail.com by this Sunday, October 31.  I will arrange with Jonathan to purchase the techelet and bring it back with him.

There are two types of techelet.  Both are kosher.

1.  The first is the brighter and darker blue.  This is a result of an indigo-type ink blended with the techelet (i.e. blue snail juice).  Again, this is still considered completely kosher.  Is less expensive.  And it is available with just the blue threads — to be added to your existing white tzitzit.  Cost in USD for this is approximately $25 per set.

2. The second is the lighter, sky blue techelet which is dyed with 100% blue snail juice (i.e. no blend).  This is significantly more expensive and comes with the white and techelet threads in each set.  Cost in USD is approximately $75 per set.  Ouch!  But for all you Puritans….this is the real deal.

Also, if anyone would like simple, cheap white tallit katans let me know.  Cost is about $10 USD.  These come with just the white, standard tzitzit and the threads are not the best quality.  But it is cheap and you can always replace the cheaper tzitzit with a nicer set.

Depending on how big the order is Jonathan can likely “cut a deal” on the price and save everyone a few shekels.

If you are interested please indicate “Type 1” or “Type 2” techelet and quantity in your email.

With our focus on the mitzvot (commandments), I thought you’d appreciate the table First Fruits of Zion uses to categorize the 613 as enumerated by the Rambam…

Categorization of the Mitzvot

Click on the image to make it larger…  Enjoy!

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.

by tzadikguy

Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon says: If two sit together and there are no words of Torah between them, it is a session of scorners, as it is said: ‘In the session of scorners he does not sit.’ But if two sit together and words of Torah are between them, the Divine Presence rests between them, as it is said: ‘Then those who fear HaShem spoke to one another, and HaShem listened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear HaShem and give thought to His Name.’ From this verse we would know this only about two people; how do we know that if even one person sits and occupies himself with Torah the Holy One, Blessed is He, determines a reward for him? For it is said: ‘Let one sit in solitude and be still, for he will have received [a reward] for it.’
Pirkei Avot 3:3

Rabbi Shimon said: If three have eaten at the same table and have not spoken words of Torah there, it is as if they have eaten of offerings to the dead idols, as it is said: ‘For all tables are full of vomit and filth, without the Omnipresent.’ But if three have eaten at the same table and have spoken words of Torah there, it is as if they have eaten from the table of the Omnipresent, as it is said: ‘And he said to me, “This is the table this is before HaShem.”‘
Pirkei Avot 3:4

These are some strong statements and ones that challenge the way we live. These are statements that make us uncomfortable and lead us to possibly justify our actions by saying, “This is so legalistic”. Though these statements may seem presumptuous or too difficult to accomplish, they are simply examples of living out the Shema.

4“Hear, O Israel: The L-RD our God, the L-RD is one. 5You shall love the L-RD your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:4-9

It would seem that we should talk about His mitzvot and Torah in general at ALL times. Whether it is at the dinner table, or with some friends we should be discussing Torah at least for a little while. This is not just a good idea it is a mitzvah and we should all take this very seriously. Just thinking about this task is quite daunting. Trying to bring up Torah or the Bible in every situation will be difficult but I can guarantee topics and discussion will become easier to initiate the more you know the Tanach. You will find yourself with much to say and much to share the more you study and apply the Tanach in your life. The classic snowball effect relates perfectly to this situation. The more you study, the more you want to discuss, the more discussion leads to more questions and possibly more people to discuss with, then before you know it you are bringing up Torah in all situations. Gentlemen, this should be our end goal. If we long to be a light to the nations and set an example for those around us then it is imperative to study, apply, then discuss and teach. Let’s get the ball rolling and intensify our study of HaShem’s beautiful gift: The Torah.

Some great ideas for increasing study time are using the available resources including:

What are some study methods and resources you have discovered?

by Tzadikguy

Today I was reading a chapter entitled “Responsibility” from the excellent book, Toward a Meaningful Life. In general, responsibility may be easily viewed as specific tasks assigned to us throughout our life. We are responsible for our grades in school, for our pets, for our money, for our car, etc..Often times a person’s responsibilities are selfish or materialistic, and they are quick to relieve themselves of responsibility when there is a problem.

Now, let us stop and take a look at life and the reason for living. Why has HaShem allowed us to wake up alive and healthy today? It is so that we may fulfill our responsibility as human beings. We are here to draw closer to HaShem and be a light to the nations. We are responsible for fulfilling our purpose by making the correct decisions. By considering the purpose of life, we are able to accurately understand our foundational responsibility. Once we have this understanding then our specific responsibilities become more focused and purposed on the most important things in life. If we are focused on personal gain, acceptance, happiness, or any other selfish desire then it will have a direct effect on what we perceive to be our responsibility. We are responsible for keeping Torah, being a light to those around us, influencing our community and society, and using our special gifts and talents to help and improve the world. Free-will is a gracious gift from HaShem. Will you chose to take responsibility and start making the right decisions?

Of course, the most important element is implementation and action. How can you take responsibility in your workplace? In your community? What are some good habits to develop to remind us of our purpose in life?

by torahgirl & tzadikguy

Prayer has been defined as “the service of the heart” or “in the heart,” as opposed to the service that was performed in the Temple, which consisted basically of the offering of sacrifices. The service of prayer is many faceted. In it we address ourselves to G-d. We may turn to Him in petition, addressing our needs to Him, and needs can be of many sorts. To pray for peace is to ask for our needs as much as is asking for food, rain, or prosperity.

Entering Jewish Prayer: A Guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service by Reuven Hammer

We begin the morning Shacharit service with the Morning Blessings. The most famous of them is Modeh Ani: “I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion – abundant is your faithfulness!” These blessings are designed to be recited when you first wake up and get out of bed.

The second part of Shacharit is called Pesukei d’Zimrah, which means Verses of Praise. The Siddur explains “the sages taught that one should set forth the praises of G-d before making requests of Him… by focusing on G-d’s glory all around us, we prepare ourselves for the Shema and Shemoneh Esrei,, when we accept Him as our King and pray for the needs of the Jewish people.” The Pesukei d’Zimrah starts with the beautiful blessing “Blessed is He Who spoke…” It is made up of Psalms and other Scripture passages which prepare our hearts for the reverent worship of Shemoneh Esrei.

The third part of Shacharit is the Blessings of the Shema and the Shema itself. These blessings “express G-d’s mastery over nature, pray for intellectual and moral attainment through the study of Torah, and describe G-d’s role in the flow of history.” Traditionally the Shema is recited twice a day, morning and evening.

Finally, we’re ready for the Shemoneh Esrei, the “eighteen benedictions.” The Talmud calls Shemoneh Esrei “The Prayer,” because this is where we express our needs and ask Hashem to fulfill them. Tradition says the Shemoneh Esrei was instituted by the Patriarchs. It is one of the most important prayers in the Siddur. It’s also called the Amidah or Standing Prayer, because we rise and take three steps forward to recognize that we are approaching the King. The Siddur instructs us to “recite it with quiet devotion and without any interruption, verbal or otherwise.” The Shemoneh Esrei illustrates yirah HaShem (fear of G-d) and ahavat HaShem (love of G-d). We show fear for HaShem by physical actions during the prayer such as stepping forward to symbolize entering His presence and bending the knees while bowing to acknowledge His sovereignty. We do these things to concentrate intently on what is being read and to physically demonstrate our reverence for Him. We show love for HaShem by humbly praying the words and blessings in this beautiful prayer with the intent to honor Him with our obedience.

Learning about prayer – understanding the liturgy, the history of the Siddur (daily prayerbook), the structure of the service, and its themes – is a way of helping us to enter the world of Jewish tradition. The Siddur is the best possible introduction into that world. It brings us face to face with Judaism’s struggle for an understanding of G-d, humanity, and the world. Mastery of the Siddur is the key both to the ability to worship as a Jew and to the understanding of the meaning of Judaism. Once we possess it, new vistas open before us.

Entering Jewish Prayer: A Guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service by Reuven Hammer

Our purpose here on earth is to draw closer to HaShem and if prayer is the first thing we do each day, then the rest of the day is more centered around our purpose. When is the last time you began your day with prayer?
Challenge yourself to pray Shacharit every morning for one week. This challenge will express the physical and mental change that comes from starting your day with the right attitude toward HaShem and others. We recommend starting with the Modeh Ani, thanking HaShem for the gift of a new day, then prepare your heart by reading a few Psalms from the Pesukei d’Zimrah, and finish by standing to enter HaShem’s presence and recite the Shemoneh Esrei. Try it for a week! If you’re already familiar with weekday Shacharit prayers but don’t do them every day, make a special effort for 7 days in a row and see how it goes.

Resources:

Artscroll Complete Siddur page numbers
Morning Blessings: page 3
Blessings of the Shema: page 85
Shemoneh Esrei: page 99

Follow-up Questions
Have you had more of an awareness of HaShem?
Have you learned more about HaShem and His Torah?
Have you referred to Torah in conversation more often than usual this week?
Have you prayed more throughout the day?
Have other people noticed a change in your attitude/behavior?

Torahgirl’s post on Candlelighters

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

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