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Shabbat, May 31, 2014

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Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Omer: Day 46 - Netzach sheb'Malchut
Tonight Count 47
Jewish History

Sivan 2 is marked on the Jewish calendar as Yom HaMeyuchas ("Day of Distinction"); it was on this day that G-d told Moses -- when Moses ascended Mount Sinai for the first time -- to tell the people of Israel: "You shall be My chosen treasure from among all the nations, for all the earth is Mine. You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:4-6).

Links:
Who Are the Jews?
On the Essence of Choice
More on the "choseness" of the Jewish people

Until the Six-Day War (see “Today in Jewish History” for Iyar 26), the Syrian army was deployed in strong fortifications on the Golan Heights, from which they repeatedly shelled the Israeli settlements below. On the fifth day of the war, the Israeli Army broke through the Syrian front. Facing very difficult topographical conditions, they scaled the steep and rugged heights. The Engineering Corps cleared the way of mines, followed by bulldozers which leveled a route for the tanks on the rocky face. After more than 24 hours of heavy fighting, the Syrian deployment collapsed and the Syrian forces fled in retreat.

Links: More on the Six-Day War

Laws and Customs

In preparation for the festival of Shavuot, 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 Shabbat being the Shabbat before Shhavuot, we study Chapter Six. (In many communities -- and such is the Chabad custom -- the study cycle is repeated through the summer, until the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah.)

Link: Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 6

Tomorrow is the forty-seventh 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 forty-seven days, which are six 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'Malchut -- "Humility in Receptiveness"

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

Every society has that which bonds it: A common ancestry and a system of lineage. Or a common language or common borders or governing body. Usually, it is a combination of several factors that mold a mass of people into a single whole.

The Jewish people are unique in that they have only a single nucleus—and it is none of the above.

All that bonds us is Torah. Nothing else has proven capable of holding us together for more than a generation or two. Nothing else, other than the same Torah that first forged us as a nation.

Likutei Sichot vol. 20, pg. 260.