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ב"ה
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Tuesday, 16 Iyar, 5782

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Omer: Day 31 - Tifferet sheb'Hod
Tonight Count 32
Jewish History

Manna, the "bread from heaven" which sustained the Children of Israel during their 40 years of wandering through the desert, began to fall on the 16th of Iyar of the year 2448 from creation--one month after the Exodus (see "Today in Jewish History" for yesterday, Iyar 15).

Links:
The Manna (the Torah's account with readings from Talmud, Midrash and Commentaries)
Our Daily Bread (meditations on earning a living)
Bread From Heaven
More on the manna

In the year 70 CE (3830 from Creation), Titus and the Roman army laid siege upon Jerusalem, greatly weakening its defenders. On the 16th of Iyar, the Romans razed the middle wall of Jerusalem. The city was later burned, its inhabitants massacred, and the Temple destroyed on the 9th of Av.

Link: Destruction of the Second Temple - Historical Background

The Nazi Nuremberg Laws, depriving Jews the rights citizenship, were passed by the government of Nazi Germany in 1935. In 1939, on the 16th of Iyar, the laws went into effect in Nazi-allied Hungary.

Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp and the model for the other concentration camps. During the war, 200,000 Jews were housed in Dachau. More than 30,000 were killed and tens of thousands died due to the conditions and spread of disease in the camp.

The camp was freed by the 45th Infantry Division of the U.S. Seventh Army on the 16th of Iyar, 1945. It was the second concentration camp to be liberated following the end of WWII.

The U.S. troops forced the citizens of the local community to come to the camp, observe the conditions, and help clean the facilities.

On this day in 1948 (5708) Witold Pilecki was executed by the Communist Polish government after a show trial where he was found guilty of espionage. A leader of the Polish resistance, he volunteered to be imprisoned in Auschwitz, where he remained from 1940 to 1943. During that time, smuggled out information on the mass killings and other atrocities that the Germans were committing. They were the first comprehensive reports of the Nazi killing machine to reach the West.

Laws and Customs

Tomorrow is the thirty-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 thirty-two days, which are four weeks and 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'Hod -- "Ambition in Humility"

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

Life upon this earth is worthwhile—every moment of it. It is impossible that G‑d breathes life into you and yet you have no purpose in being alive. G‑d does not create failures.

We all know the specter of futility. Empty, wasted days—even lives that would seem far better off had they never been.

But it is all an artifact of our constricted view.

We who have no clue of the purpose of each life within the Creator’s grand scheme, no knowledge of the story of the divine spark within each creature. No concept of who we truly are. How could we measure the value of one more breath of life?

If we had a perch above and beyond, we would see an entirely different world.

We would see how every instance that appears to us as failure is a crucial step towards a much higher place.

How the pain of tearing ourselves away from our past is the gift of true transcendence.

How, one day, with one small turn, an entire broken life will be repaired and redeemed. Indeed, this wounded soldier will be all the more precious for having taken the longer road—for every soul is destined to return home.

As the acorns become mighty oaks only once they begin to rot in the dark soil, as the caterpillars abandon all form within their cocoons to emerge as magnificent butterflies—all the truly great things in our world unfold only in those places where no one cares to look, and no one wants to be.

After your time on this earth, your soul will rise to that perch above, and yet higher. And then it will return here again, as all the souls will return to reap their harvest.

Then you will see. There is no failure in G‑d’s world. Not a moment of it.

Based on 19 Iyar, 5712.