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Monday, May 6, 2019

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Rosh Chodesh Iyar
Omer: Day 16 - Gevurah sheb'Tifferet
Tonight Count 17
Jewish History

Fifty three years following the destruction of the First Holy Temple (see Jewish History for the 9th of Av), Zerubabel and Joshua the High Priest began construction of the Second Temple, with permission from King Cyrus of Persia.

The offering of sacrifices had actually commenced a few months earlier, on the vacant lot where the 1st Temple stood, however it was only after the construction started on the 1st of Iyar that the Levites began accompanying the service with song and music.

The construction was later halted after the hostile Samaritans supplied false slanderous information to Cyrus about the Jews' intentions. The construction was resumed many years later, and completed 21 years later under the reign of King Darius (see Jewish History for the Third of Adar).

Link: The Second Temple

Chassidic master Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Horodok (1730?-1788), also known as Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, was one of the leading disciples of the second leader of the Chassidic Movement, Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch. Upon the latter's passing in 1772, R. Menachem Mendel was regarded by his colleagues as the leader of the Chassidic community in Russia, and Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi considered him his rebbe and mentor. In 1777, R. Menachem Mendel led a group of 300 Chassidim to the Holy Land and established Chassidic communities in Safed and Teberias. Rabbi Menachem Mendel passed away on the 1st of Iyar of 1788, and is buried in Tiberias.

“G‑d spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert…on the first day of the second month [Iyar] during the second year from their departure from Egypt, saying: ‘Count the number of the nation of Israel, according to their families and their fathers’ households.… Those who are twenty years old and older….” (Numbers 1:1-3)

Links: The 603,550th Jew; Leading a Nation of Individuals

A native of Spain, R. Yaakov Beirav was among those expelled from the country in 1492. He made his way to North Africa and from there to the Land of Israel, where he established a Torah academy, first in Jerusalem and then in Safed.

R. Yaakov is famous for his efforts to reinstitute semichah—the classical rabbinical ordination that had ceased to exist due to Roman persecution in the fourth century CE. His attempts were met with opposition, particularly from R. Levi Ibn Chaviv of Jerusalem, and ultimately did not bear lasting results.

Links: Rabbi Jacob Berab; What Is a Rabbi?

R. Tzvi Ashkenazi was one of the leading rabbis of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, serving as rabbi in numerous communities in Europe. He is known as the Chacham Tzvi, which is also the title of his work of halachic responsa.

Link: Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi

R. Shmuel Shmelke of Nikolsburg (1726-1778) was a major disciple of the second leader of the chassidic movement, Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch, along with his younger brother, Rabbi Pinchas, who served as rabbi of Frankfurt.They were among the first adherents of the chassidic movement to hold rabbinic posts in Germany. Many chassidic leaders of the next generation were his disciples.

Link: New Rules

Laws and Customs

Today is the second of the two Rosh Chodesh ("Head of the Month") days for the month of "Iyar" (when a month has 30 days, both the last day of the month and the first day of the following month serve as the following month's Rosh Chodesh).

Special portions are added to the daily prayers: Hallel (Psalms 113-118) is recited -- in its "partial" form -- following the Shacharit morning prayer, and the Yaaleh V'yavo prayer is added to the Amidah and to Grace After Meals; the additional Musaf prayer is said (when Rosh Chodesh is Shabbat, special additions are made to the Shabbat Musaf). Tachnun (confession of sins) and similar prayers are omitted.

Many have the custom to mark Rosh Chodesh with a festive meal and reduced work activity. The latter custom is prevalent amongst women, who have a special affinity with Rosh Chodesh -- the month being the feminine aspect of the Jewish Calendar.

Links: The 29th Day; The Lunar Files

Tomorrow is the seventeenth 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 seventeen days, which are two weeks and three 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: Tifferet sheb'Tifferet -- "Harmony 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."

Links:
How to count the Omer
The deeper significance of the Omer Count

Daily Thought

That very first tear that flowed onto your cheek—that one that fell before you became aware, absorbed in thoughts too deep to be spoken, out of the sting of awakening to what this life is truly about and what you have done with it, as you yearned to be not where you are now, not what you are now—

—that tear was real, an unblemished offering. For a moment, nothing else existed, nothing but your G‑d and your naked soul before Him. For a moment, it was all true.

Until, violently, you were jerked back into your world of confusion, once again in the clutches of your ego, remarking, “Aha! A tear!”—and it is as though that moment had never been. So you say to yourself, “It was all a lie. Truth doesn’t pass. Truth is forever.”

If anything is a lie, it is your ego, your imaginary world and its darkness and confusion. All of that comes and passes, never to return. From there, truth will never be born.

But for a moment, a glimmer of truth flashed from the world of truth into your world, achieved what it was meant to achieve, and returned to its source.

All else will disappear. That moment is forever.

Likutei Sichot, volume 17, page 115. Ha’azinu 5728:4.