On this day in 1796, the Jewish community of Fossano, Italy was miraculously saved from the hands of a murderous mob by a French bomb which landed just in time to scare away the attackers. This day was established as "Purim Fossano" in commemoration of the miraculous salvation.
Rabbi Menachem Zemba was born in a suburb of Warsaw, Poland in 1883. A follower of the Gerrer chassidic dynasty, he was a great genius and Torah scholar. He joined the Warsaw rabbinate in 1935, and was recognized as a leading rabbinic figure in pre-war Eastern Europe.
Rabbi Zemba was a moral force in the Warsaw Ghetto, always striving to infuse the community with optimism and hope. He arranged clandestine locations in cellars and bomb shelters where girls and boys would study Torah. Although afforded opportunities to escape the ghetto, he refused to do so, insisting that his presence was needed by the Jews in the ghetto.
Rabbi Zemba was a strong supporter of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, donating personal funds for ammunition and giving his whole-hearted blessing for the endeavor (see Jewish History for the 27th of Nissan). Five days after the fighting begun, on Shabbat the 19th of Nissan, the house were Rabbi Zemba was hiding was set afire by the SS. When attempting to escape, Rabbi Zemba was shot dead by the Nazis. May G-d avenge his blood.
The rabbi was buried in the Ghetto, and in 1958 his body was flown to Israel where he was buried in Jerusalem amid a great funeral procession.
Rabbi Zemba was a prolific writer. Unfortunately, most of his scholarly manuscripts were burnt in the Warsaw Ghetto. His few works which were authored before the war are still studied by Torah scholars world-wide.
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
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 fifth 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 five 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:Hod sheb'Chessed-- "Humility 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."
In each one of us there is an Egypt and a Pharaoh and a Moses and Freedom in a Promised Land. And every point in time is an opportunity for another Exodus.
Egypt is a place that chains you to who you are, constraining you from growth and change. And Pharaoh is that voice inside that mocks your gambit to escape, saying, “How could you attempt being today something you were not yesterday? Aren’t you good enough just as you are? Don’t you know who you are?”
Moses is the liberator, the infinite force deep within, an impetuous and all-powerful drive to break out from any bondage, to always transcend, to connect with that which has no bounds.
But Freedom and the Promised Land are not static elements that lie in wait. They are your own achievements which you may create at any moment, in any thing that you do, simply by breaking free from whoever you were the day before.
Last Passover you may not have yet begun to light a candle. Or some other mitzvah still waits for you to fulfill its full potential. This year, defy Pharaoh and light up your world. With unbounded light.