Living Torah (Continued)

Living Torah #24
Yichus and Family Pride
In Yiddish the word “Yichus,” which comes from the word for “relationship,” is used to mean a worthy or distinguished family connection, a connection in which you take pride. Having yichus may mean having as one of your ancestors a famous rabbi, scholar, or a great person in any walk of life. The term can also be used in a negative way, as when a person uses yichus to gain an unfair advantage.
But more important than whom your parents or relatives were is, who are YOU? The rabbis said: adom karov etzel atzmo,” “A person is a relative to himself.” This is a basic legal principle governing the rules of evidence. By the edict of Jewish Law, the relative of someone involved in a lawsuit could not give evidence in the case. If the relatives could not be witnesses, could the person who brought the suit be his own witness? The answer was no. The law rules that a person is considered his “own relative,” therefore his testimony may not be admitted into evidence.
The principle of adom karov etzel atzmo embodies a moral truth that shines through the law. Everyone needs self-esteem. Everyone has a legitimate concern for himself and for his own image. In order to respect others, you have to develop self-respect.
Too many people feel unworthy. Perhaps they feel they do not measure up to their parents, siblings, or others. They do not recognize they are created in the image of HaShem. These people are blessed with talents and abilities they never fully realize. People who are self-confident, on the other hand, find it easier to relate to others and to develop their inner gifts. That is one of the reasons why the rabbis spoke glowingly of yichus atzmo, “pride in your own accomplishments.” As you become more resourceful, responsible, and self-confident, you provide reasons for your family to take pride in you.
In the Torah nowhere is it commanded to honor a sibling but common sense tells us that siblings are usually more important to us than people who are not part of the immediate family. However, the rabbis derived a requirement to honor them from a single two-letter word Alef-Tav, which follows the word for “honor/respect” in the fifth commandment. This word is superfluous in Hebrew and usually translators try to give it an understanding that agrees with the text or drop it entirely from the scripture. The rabbis in the case say based on this word that there are seven next of kin upon whose death one must observe the rite of mourning: Father, mother; son, daughter; sister, whether from the father’s side of mother’s side, even a married sister, wife, and husband (Yoreh De’ah 372:304). Borrowing from Sha’ul, I’m now going to reveal to you a mystery. Deu. 5:16 is the fifth commandment which reads: “Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” In the Hebrew text immediately following the word, translated Honor is a two-letter word Alef-tav. We have seen in previous studies that the Alef-Tav is the same as the Alpha-Omega found it the book of Revelation. In the context of the scriptures, this means Yahshua is the beginning and the end, but Alef-Tav points to Yahshua. Now read this scripture inserting the proper translation. Honor Yahshua, thy father and mother. Now, you might take this two ways. One understanding that we are to Honor Yahshua who is our Father and Mother or you might read it as saying Yahshua is deserving of honor first but also after him is deserving of honor/respect our earthly father and mother. I believe the second understanding is the proper one. Gen 1:1 says in the Beginning G-d created the Heavens. In the Hebrew it reads: Bereshit bara Elohim eht the hashamyim: translated it reads: In the beginning created G-d Yahshua the heavens. Now, we could understand this to mean that in the beginning G-d created Yahshua then the heavens and the earth. But from our studies of the Bible20we know that Yahshua was in the bosom of G-d as the Word and was begotten as the Son, so by understanding all of Scripture we can come to the understanding that the creative effort of the universe were shared by G-d in concert with Yahshua and not that He was created in the beginning of creation. Likewise, I think the latter understanding above is justified and more proper.
In addition to parents and siblings your family or mishpachah includes more people who are “important others.” The rabbis say r3elationships between grandparents and grandchildren may be just as close as between parents. You family also include aunts, uncles, cousins, even friends who deserve honor and respect.
Through our family, we learn how to live in the community, how to treat others, and what kind of treatment you can expect to receive from others. In closing, the family serves as a way of measuring the world, helping you find a place in it.
Living Torah #25
As the Sun Goes Down
As the day, ends and we are home comfortable with our family we get ready for Minchan service. The Shulchan Aruch tells us that the “the reward for davening Minchan is very great.” Why? Because Minchan has no landmark moment to call its own, Shacharit, the morning t’filla is recited before the day’s work. Ma’ariv, the evening t’filla is recited after the day’s work is done. But Halakhah permits us to daven Minchan at any time between just after midday and just before nightfall.
What is the meaning of Minchan? The rabbis recognized that many people might find it difficult to interrupt the headlong rush of a day’s business to daven Minchan. Nevertheless, they emphasized the importance of this tefilla and the reward for practicing it. When you make a Minchan a permanent part of your day, you gain an island of peace, a change of pace, a break from dulling routines. Ramban observed that Minchan derives its root menuchah, meaning “rest”, “respite” or “stillness.”
The literal meaning of Minchan is “gift” or “offering.” The name originally referred to the twice-a- day flour offering brought in conjunction with the sacrifice to HaShem in the Bet HaMikdash. After some time it came to mean only the afternoon sacrifice for which Minchan is a substitute. Since the destruction of the Temple, the name has literally been applied only to the afternoon tefilla.
The following are the three services mentioned: Shacharit; Minchan; Ma’ariv.
Birkhot HaShachar: the morning berakhot, followed by portions of Torah Study related to sacrifices, the rabbis’ Kaddish, Psalm 30, and the mourner’s Kaddish
Pesukei D’Zimrah, psalms of praise, including the Ashrei
Borkhu, the invitation to daven
Shema, with two berakhot preceding and one following
Amidah, The Shemoneh Esreh
Tachnum, prayers for forgiveness, This section is omitted on special days
Torah reading: on Mondays and Thursdays
Concluding Tefillot, includes Ashrei, UvL’Tzion, Kaddish, Aleinu, and the Shir Shel Yom, or “psalm of the day.”
Ashrei, followed by the chtzi Kaddish, or “half Kaddish,” recited by the leader
Amidah, the Shemoneh Esreh
Aleinu, followed by the mourner’s Kaddish=0 D
Borkhu, the invitation to daven, preceded by two verses from Psalms (78:38 and 20:10) seeking pardon and forgiveness
Shema, wit two berakhot preceding and two following
Amidah, the Shemoneh Esreh, read silently
Aleinu, followed by the mourner’s Kaddish
Shacharit the morning tefilla is filled with promise, Ma’ariv, the evening tefilla is shrouded in darkness. Jewish tradition holds that while Shacharis emphasizes HaShem’s benevolence; both Ma’ariv and Minchan involve HaShem’s judgment. But there is a difference between the judgment of Ma’ariv and Minchan. Ma’ariv deals with dina rafya, or “soft judgment” Tradition says the darkness bring us the promise of light or assures us of the future. Minchan on the other hand deals dina kashya, or harsh punishment. The imagery is a waning day and weakening stamina and the future it promises is a short-lived twilight realm. The prayers are brief and abrupt. Rabbi Eliezer held that the only real petitions to HaShem come at the time of the “stillness of the sun,” twilight sky, when the sun seems to hang motionless in the twilight sky.
The rabbis provide us with yet another important reason to daven Minchan.
Said Rav Chelbo in the name of Rav Huna; a person should always be careful to pray the Minchan service for Elijah’s prayer was answered only when the afternoon sacrifice was about to be offered…(Ber.6b).
The First book of Kings vividly describes how the prophet Elijah, Eliyahu HaNavi, challenged and defeated 450 idolatrous prophets at Minchan time. According to the Tanakh, Eretz Yisrael was parched with drought, the people were thirsting, and starvation was everywhere. The people of Israel had strayed to follow the prophets of Ba’al, whom the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel brought in from Tyre. HaShem sent Eliyahu to gather the people and he demanded of them “How long will you keep hopping between two opinions?” “If the L-rd is G-d, follow Him; and if Ba’al, follow him!” (1 Kings 18:21)
When it was time for the Minchan offering, the prophet Eliyahu came forward and said L-rd, G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel! Let it be known today that you are G-d in Israel and that I am your servant, and that I have done these things at your bidding, Answer me, O L-rd, an sere me, that this people may know You, O L-rd, are G-d; for You have turned their hearts backward. Then the fire from the L-rd descended from Heaven and consumed the offering, the wood, the stones, the earth; and it licked up the after that was in the trench. When they saw al this, all the people flung themselves on their faces and cried out: “The L-rd alone is G-d! The L-rd alone is G-d!” (18:36-39)
The rains came and the people were saved. The outcry, “The L-rd alone is God!” is read to this day at the climax of the Ne’ilah, the concluding service for Yom Kippur. Because Eliyahu and the people were answered at Minchan, tradition has made it this t’filla the time to petition HaShem and hope for His answer.
Ma’ariv and Torah Study
The set time for reciting the Shema is when three stars appear in the midnight sky. Many people resist studying Torah at night being tired, etc., yet they have plenty of energy to go shopping, watch television, play ball or talk on the phone. The rabbis however say, “the nights were created for the study or Torah” (Eruv. 65a) The Talmud contains a story about studying at night.
Said Resh Lakish: He who studies Torah at night, the Holy One, blessed be He, draws around him a string of loving-kindness [for protection]; for it is written: “By=2 0day the L-rd will command His loving-kindness, and in the night His song is with me.” Israel says: “For by night His song is with me.” Why will the L-rd command His loving-kindness by day? Because at night the song of the Torah is with Him (Ps 42:9)
Hillel said, “Never say ‘when I have time I will study.’ “ “You may never have the time” (Avot 2:5)
The Evening Meal
The laws and traditions of Judaism are sometimes surprising because they seem so modern. The evening meal of a normal person should be lighter than the meal one eats during the day. The benefits are fourfold:
It will preserve one’s health
I will avoid discomfort during the night which is caused buy heavy eating [just before bedtime]
One will have pleasant dreams, whereas excessive eating and drinking cause nightmares
Ones sleep will not be heavy and one will be able to arise at the proper time (Kitzur S.A. 71:2)
The Shulchan Arukh teaches that you don’t have to overdo it., You should learn to judge when you have had enough and lear politely to decline food if to much is served to you.
In closing Judaism teaches us to be sensitive to and acknowledge the benefits we derive form the good things HaShem has given us.
Let me leave you with the birkhot hanehenin that is designed to sensitize us to the beauty and worth or the world, and to the messages that HaShem constantly leaves for us. .
The Birchot hanehenin begins always with “Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe,” and what is added depends on the situation.
On seeing a rainbow, add: “Who remembers the covenant. Is faithful to the covenant, and keeps the promise.”
On seeing wonders of nature (Lighting, high mountains, etc.): “Who had made the creation.”
On seeing the ocean: “Who has made the great sea”
On seeing beautiful trees or animals: “Who has such as these in the world.”
On seeing a person who is a Torah scholar: “Who has imparted of His Wisdom to that that fear Him.”
On seeing an exalted ruler: “Who has given of His glory to flesh and blood.”
On hearing thunder: Whose strength and might fill the world.”
On hearing bad news: “the true judge”
On hearing good news: “who is good and dispenses good”
On smelling fragrant spices: “who creates diverse kinds of spices ”
On smelling fragrant trees or aromatic bark: “who creates fragrant wood.”
On smelling fruits: “who gives a good scent of fruit.”

Shalom v’brachas,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart