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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Rosh Chodesh Adar
Jewish History

The 9th plague to strike the Egyptians for their refusal to release the Children of Israel from slavery -- a thick darkness that blanketed the land so that "no man saw his fellow, and no man could move from his place" (Exodus 10:23) -- commenced on the 1st of Adar, six weeks before the Exodus.

Link: More on The Plague of Darkness

The highly regarded Biblical commentator, Rabbi Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (1089?-1164CE), passed away on Adar 1, 4924.

Link: Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra

Adar 1 is also the yahrtzeit (anniversary of the passing) of the great Halachist Rabbi Shabtai Hakohen Katz (1621-1663?), author of the Siftei Cohen commentary on Rabbi Yosef Caro's Code of Jewish Law. He is known as "Shach" -- an acronym of the name of his work, which serves to this day as a primary source of Halachah (Jewish law).

Link: The Shach

On this date, in the year following the Holy Temple’s destruction, G‑d tells Ezekiel to take up a lamentation for Pharaoh, king of Egypt, foretelling his downfall in the hands of the Babylonians.

Read the prophecy here: Ezekiel ch. 32

The first of Adar (I) is celebrated by the descendents of Rabbi Yomtov Lipman Heller (1579-1654) as a day of thanksgiving, for his liberation and restoration after his imprisonment in Vienna in 1629.

Rabbi Yomtov Lipman was one of the important rabbinical figures of the early 17th century. Known as the "Tosfos Yomtov" after his commentary on the Mishnah by that name, he also authored important commentaries on the Rosh and other rabbinical works. A disciple of the famed Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Yomtov Lipman was appointed, at the tender age of 18, to serve as a dayan (rabbinical judge) in in that city. He subsequently filled a number of prestigious rabbinical positions, including rabbi of Nikolsburg and of Vienna. In 1627 he was recalled to Prague to serve as the city's chief rabbi.

That position earned him powerful enemies when he refused to follow the dictates of Prague's rich and influential citizens and strove to relieve the burden imposed on the poor by the suffocating "crown taxes" imposed on the Jews. His enemies informed on him to the government, falsely accusing him of treason. In 1629, Rabbi Yomtov Lipman was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. The Jewish communities of Bohemia succeeded in having the sentence commuted and reduced to a heavy fine, and raised the funds for the payment of the first installment that secured his release. However, his enemies obtained an imperial decision that he could not officiate as rabbi in any town of the empire, leaving him homeless and destitute. It took many years for him to pay off the balance of the fine and be restored to his former position. It was only in the winter of 1644, when he settled in Krakow after being appointed chief rabbi of the city, that he felt that that he could celebrate his release and restoration.

Rosh Chodesh Adar (I)--the day that Rabbi Yomtov Lipman assumed the rabbinate of Krakow--was celebrated by him and his family as a day of thanksgiving to G-d. Rabbi Yomtov Lipman asked that future generations continue to mark the date, and the custom is upheld by his descendants to this day.

Links:
The Tosfot Yomtov

Laws and Customs

Today is the second of the two Rosh Chodesh ("Head of the Month") days for the month of Adar (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

"When Adar enters," the Talmud declares, "we increase in joy." For this is "the month that was transformed for them from sorrow to joy, from mourning to festivity" (Esther 9:22) by the great miracle and victory of Purim. Our sages advise that the month of Adar is an auspicious time for the Jewish people, so that if a Jew is faced with a challenging event (i.e., a court case, a medical procedure, etc.) he should endeavor to schedule it during Adar.

Links: 4 Reasons to be Happy; more on joy

Daily Thought

Know as clear as day and contemplate this deeply, that He who emanates all into being is He who rules and judges this world. In the heavens above and on the earth below, there is nothing else. (Deut. 4:39)

The same G‑d who transcends all time and space is the same G‑d manifest in all the forces and fields of physics.

The same G‑d from whom all existence emerges is the same G‑d who conceals that truth from every conscious being, providing space for each one to be that which it is.

The same G‑d from whom all life extends is the same G‑d who restrains that energy, with kindness, so that finite creatures can exist, to the tiniest worm hiding in the bowels of the earth.

And when you know all this, and you contemplate it well…

…that the very substance of each thing is nothing more than an articulation of divine energy, that even time and space extend from Him at will, as do the very limitations and sense of existence of each creation, that darkness is His presence as much as light, hiddenness as is revelation, matter as is energy, somethingness as is nothingness, for He is both beyond and within each place, moment and thing…

…then you will know that there really is nothing else. Nothing else but the one G‑d.

As the Baal Shem Tov would say in simple, succinct form: Divine energy is all there is, and everything is divine energy.

Sha’ar Hayichud V’Ha-emunah, chapter six.