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Shabbat, May 15, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Omer: Day 48 - Yesod sheb'Malchut
Tonight Count 49
Jewish History

On Sivan 4 of the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE)--two days before the revelation at Mount Sinai--Moses wrote down the first 68 chapters of the Torah, from Genesis 1:1 ("In the Beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth") to the Giving of the Torah in Exodus 19 (Exodus 24:4; Rashi ibid.).

Link: How and When was the Torah Written?

A mob, accompanied by the bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, France, razed the local synagogue to the ground. The bishop then informed the Jews that he, as bishop, could have but one flock, and unless they were willing to embrace Christianity, they must leave the city. Five hundred Jews were forced to be baptized and the remainder fled to Marseilles.

Pope Sixtus IV instructed his local bishops that all Jews who had fled the Spanish Inquisition (see "Today in Jewish History" for Adar 7) should be sent back to Spain.

The Cossack rebellion against Polish rule in Ukraine, under the leadership of Bogdan Chmielnitzki (may his name be blotted out) began on the 4th of Sivan of the year 5408 from creation (1648 CE). In their bloody march through the Ukraine, Volhynia, Podolia, Poland proper and Lithuania, Chmielnitzki's peasant army massacred between 100,000 and 300,000 Jews. Three hundred Jewish communities were destroyed.

Links: Rabbi Abraham Abele Gombiner

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-ninth -- and last -- 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-nine days, which are seven 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 which commences tomorrow at nightfall.

Tonight's Sefirah: Malchut sheb'Malchut -- "Receptiveness in Receptiveness" (also: "Sovreignty in Sovereignty")

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

How is it possible that any of the mitzvahs we do make sense to us?

They are, after all, connection points to G-d Himself. Before Him, the vast neural networks of our human brains and a cheap pocket calculator of the 70s are on equal standing.

God is beyond infinite. He is, as Maimonides writes, absolute existence. If in the realm of infinity, simple arithmetic breaks down, how can we apply human logic in the face of the Absolute?

And yet, not only do we attribute reasons to these mitzvahs—often reasons that work nicely within the context of our meat-based neurological wiring —we insist on deriving one rule from another, comparing and contrasting one mitzvah to the next, and forging ahead with applications based on such calculations.

As the Giver of these mitzvahs instructed us to do, when He said, “If you have a question, take it to your sages and follow their instructions to the detail.” (Deut. 17:8-11)

It could only be that we are connecting to a G-d who transcends all opposites.

Finite and infinite, reason and beyond reason, creation and Creator—for Him, all these are a singularity, blending in perfect harmony at their origin.

These mitzvahs are so divine, so unlimited, and so true, they can even embed themselves neatly within the neural network of a living organism on Planet Earth.

Maamar Margela B'fuma D'Rava 5746.