Following the Portuguese Expulsion in 1496 (see Jewish History for the 22nd of Tevet) many Jews who chose to remain in Portugal became "Marranos," openly identified themselves as Christians, while secretly maintaining Jewish beliefs and traditions.
Many of the Marranos eventually migrated to other countries, where they once again openly professed their allegiance to Judaism. However, because they had been "baptized," their situation was often perilous. On the 3rd of Iyar in 1556, on the orders of Pope Paul IV, 25 of these Marranos were burnt at the stake in Ancona, Italy.
Gracia Mendes Nasi was a very influential and wealthy woman; herself a Portuguese Marrano who relocated to the Ottoman Empire. In her past, she, too, had personally experienced persecution because of her Marrano status. Upon hearing about the burning of her co-religionists, she organized a financial boycott against the port of Ancona. She called on all Jews to do trade from the neighboring harbors and thus financially ruin Ancona.
Her trade embargo was successful for a few months, and is considered to be one of the first times the Jews struck back against the Inquisition.
Born in the Russian town of Beshenkowitz on January 12, 1902 (Shevat 4, 5662), Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov moved to Riga, Latvia, with his parents in 1904. A born educator and pedagogue, at a young age Chaim Mordechai was appointed head of Jewish education for the Latvian Ministry of Education.
When the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, moved to Riga (from Russia) in 1928, Rabbi Hodakov became drawn to the Rebbe and became part of the Rebbe's work force. In 1940, he accompanied the Rebbe to the United States.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak appointed Hodakov as director of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch (the educational arm of the Lubavitch movement), Machne Israel (the social service arm), and Kehot Publication Society, all of which were under the chairmanship of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory.
In 1950, when the Rebbe ascended to the helm of the world wide Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Rabbi Hodakov became his Chief-of-Staff and head of his secretariat. He was later appointed chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella organization that oversees the worldwide network of Chabad-Lubavitch organizations and institutions.
Rabbi Hodakov was a vigorous and resolute activist who innovated many educational ideas and programs. He was a role model for many young Chassidim in his demeanor and in his devotion to the Rebbe.
In preparation for the festival of
we study one of the six chapters of the Talmud's
Ethics of the Fathers ("Avot") on the afternoon of each of the six Shabbatot between Passover and Shavuot; this week we study Chapter Two. (In many communities -- and such is the Chabad custom -- the study cycle is repeated through the summer, until the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah.)
Tomorrow is the nineteenth 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 nineteen days, which are two weeks and 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'Tifferet-- "Humility in Harmony"
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."
If it is to be lived with purpose, life is a delicate balancing act of body and soul, heaven and earth. It requires two feet firmly upon the ground and a clear head high up in the air. Only then are you the master.
In a rush, you are not in control of your world—the world is in control of you. Place your foot gently on the brakes, slow down, switch gears from madness to mind. Reclaim mastery.