Iyar 26 is the yahrtzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Saadia Gaon (892?-942), author of Emunot V'deot, one of the earliest works of Jewish philosophy. ("Gaon" was the title given to the leading Sages of Babylonia in the post-Talmudic period).
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (known by the acronym "Ramchal"), philosopher, kabbalist and ethicist, was born in Padua, Italy, in 1707. At a very early age, he began to study Kabbalah under the tutelage of Rabbi Moshe Zacuto, one of the foremost Kabbalists of his generation. While still in his twenties, he authored numerous works of Torah scholarship, including Derech Hashem ("The way of G-d"), a systematic exposition of the fundamentals of Judaism.
In 1735, Luzzatto left his native Italy and, avoiding public life, set up shop as a gem cutter in Amsterdam. His fame nevertheless caught up with him, and in 1740, (at the turn of the Jewish century 5500), he published his most famous work, Mesilat Yesharim ("Path of the Just"). Like many other great men of his age, Luzzatto longed for the Holy Land, and in 1743 he settled in Acco. He was not to enjoy a long stay there, however, and on Iyar 26, 5507 (1747), at the age of 39, he and his entire family died in a plague. According to most traditions, he was buried in Tiberias, next to the tomb of Rabbi Akiva.
Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik Epstein (1770-1857), who served as the rabbi of the town of Homel in White Russia for 58 years,
was a leading figure in the first three generations of Chabad Chassidism. As a young man, he became attracted to the teachings of the first Chabad Rebbe,
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, and remained a devoted follower of the 2nd and 3rd Rebbes, Rabbi DovBer and Rabbi Menachem Mendel. He authored a number of Chassidic works, including Sh'tei HaMeorot and Chanah Ariel.
In the spring of 1967, the Arab capitals paraded their arms and openly spoke of overrunning the Land of Israel and casting its inhabitants into the sea. The international media was almost unanimous in its belief that the small Jewish state, outflanked and outgunned by its enemies, stood little chance of survival. It seemed that, for the second time in a generation, the world was going to stand by and allow the enemies of the Jewish people to slaughter them in the millions.
On Iyar 26 (June 5, 1967), Israel launched preemptive strikes on its southern and northern frontiers. In just six days, the Jewish army defeated five Arab armies on three fronts and liberated territories of its promised homeland amounting to an area greater than its own size, including the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount (see “Today in Jewish History” for Iyar 28).
The openly miraculous nature of Israel’s victory spawned a global awakening of the Jewish soul, fueling the already present and growing teshuvah movement of return to G‑d and Jewish traditions. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, called it a moment of biblical proportions, an “opportunity the likes of which has not been granted for thousands of years.” Many thousands of Jews flocked to put on tefillin and pray at the newly liberated Western Wall of the Temple Mount.
Tomorrow is the forty-second 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-two days, which are six weeks, 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:Malchut sheb'Yesod-- "Receptiveness in Connection"
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."