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Friday, March 29, 2013

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Passover (Chol Hamoed)
Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Omer: Day Three - Tifferet sheb'Chessed
Tonight Count 4
Jewish History

Following the Jewish nation's grand exodus from Egypt (see Jewish history for the 15th of Nissan), Pharaoh, who only gave official permission for the Jews to to leave for three days, was informed by secret agents whom he sent together with the Jews that they had no intention of returning.

Pharaoh decided to mobilize his army and pursue the Jews, with the intention of bringing them back to Egypt. This led to the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea (see Jewish history for the 21st of Nissan).

Link: In Hot Pursuit

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson (1878-1944), was born on the 18th of Nissan in the town of Podrovnah (near Gomel) to his parents, Rabbi Baruch Schneur and Rebbetzin Zelda Rachel Schneerson; his great-great grandfather was the 3rd Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch.

In 1900 Rabbi Levi Yitzchak married Rebbetzin Chanah Yanovski, whose father, Rabbi Meir Shlomo, was the rabbi of the Russian city of Nikolaiyev. In 1902, their eldest son, Menachem Mendel, later to be known as The Lubavitcher Rebbe, was born. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak lived in Nokolaiyev until 1909, when he was appointed to serve as the Rabbi of Yekatrinoslav (today, Dnepropetrovsk). In 1939 he was arrested by the communist regime for his fearless stance against the Party's efforts to eradicate Jewish learning and practice in the Soviet Union. After more than a year of torture and interrogations in Stalin's notorious prisons, he was sentenced to exile to the interior of Russia, where he died in 1944.

For more on Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, including the story of his valiant battle for Yiddishkeit, his arrest and exile, see Rebbetzin Chana's biography.

On the eighth day following his birth on the 11th of Nissan, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of righteous memory, was entered into the covenant of our Patriarch Abraham.

He was named after his great-great-great grandfather, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, the third Chabad Rebbe.

On the 18th of Nissan, 5753 (April 9, 1993), Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveichik, a scion of the illustrious Volozhin-Brisk rabbinic dynasty, passed away at the age of 90.

Rabbi Soloveichik, known to many as "The Rav," was the Rosh Yeshivah (dean) of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University in New York City. He was a great thinker who authored many volumes on Jewish thought and law, and a great Talmudic scholar and educator.

His regular classes were attended by hundreds, and many thousands still enjoy their recordings. He inspired many students to delve into the study of the Talmud and Jewish law.

Laws and Customs

Click here for a summary of the Passover Torah readings.

Of the eight days of Passover, the first two and the last two are "yom tov" (festival days). The middle four days are called chol hamoed--"weekdays of the festival," also called "the intermediate days." (In Israel, where Passover is observed for seven days, the first and last days are yom tov, and the middle five days are chol hamoed).

The yom tov days are days of rest, during which all creative work is forbidden, as it is on the Shabbat, with the exception of certain types of work associated with food preparation (e.g., cooking and "carrying"). On chol hamoed the prohibition of work is less stringent--work whose avoidance would result in "significant loss" is permitted (except when chol hamoed is also Shabbat, when all work is forbidden).

The "Yaale V'yavo" prayer is included in all prayers and Grace After Meals. Hallel (partial) and Musaf are recited following the Shacharit (morning) prayers. It is the Chabad custom not to put on tefillin during the "intermediate days".

Click here for a more detailed treatment of the laws of Chol Hamoed.

Tomorrow is the fourth day of the Omer Count. Since, on the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall of the previous evening, we count the omer for tomorrow's date tonight, after nightfall: "Today is four days to the Omer." (If you miss the count tonight, you can count the omer all day tomorrow, but without the preceding blessing).

The 49-day "Counting of the Omer" retraces our ancestors' seven-week spiritual journey from the Exodus to Sinai. Each evening we recite a special blessing and count the days and weeks that have passed since the Omer; the 50th day is Shavuot, the festival celebrating the Giving of the Torah at Sinai.

Tonight's Sefirah: Netzach sheb'Chessed -- "Ambition in Kindness"

The teachings of Kabbalah explain that there are seven "Divine Attributes" -- Sefirot -- that G-d assumes through which to relate to our existence: Chessed, Gevurah, Tifferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut ("Love", "Strength", "Beauty", "Victory", "Splendor", "Foundation" and "Sovereignty"). In the human being, created in the "image of G-d," the seven sefirot are mirrored in the seven "emotional attributes" of the human soul: Kindness, Restraint, Harmony, Ambition, Humility, Connection and Receptiveness. Each of the seven attributes contain elements of all seven--i.e., "Kindness in Kindness", "Restraint in Kindness", "Harmony in Kindness", etc.--making for a total of forty-nine traits. The 49-day Omer Count is thus a 49-step process of self-refinement, with each day devoted to the "rectification" and perfection of one the forty-nine "sefirot."

Links:
How to count the Omer
The deeper significance of the Omer Count

Daily Thought

Take the world at face value, and it won’t let you move forward. You’ll have to bridle every impulse, carefully balance every step—and even then, for every step forward, you could fall back two. You’ll have enslaved yourself within an Egypt of your own making.

Here is your route of escape—the splitting of the sea:

Meditate deeply upon the inner soul of the world;
struggle to see the vision described by our teachers.
Part the murky waters of a coarse, material world;
enter the reality that lies beneath it.

Grasp that inner vision and it will flow outward
through the heart to the conscious self,
down to the heel that steps upon the earth,
until all these, as well, become mind.

Your eyes are now open,
your heart is awake,
your hands themselves know what to grab and what to avoid,
as your feet know where to walk.

In the struggle for deeper vision,
life becomes effortless.

You are free.

Torat Menachem 5748, vol. 3, p. 106.