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Shabbat, May 21, 2022

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Omer: Day 35 - Malchut sheb'Hod
Tonight Count 36
Jewish History

On the 20th of Iyar 2449 (1312 BCE)--nearly a year after the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai--the Children of Israel departed their encampment near the Mountain. They resumed their journey when the pillar of cloud rose for the first time from over the "Tabernacle--the divine sign that would signal the resumption of their travels throughout their encampments and journeys over the next 38 years, until they reached the eastern bank of the Jordan River on the eve of their entry into the Holy Land.

Links: The Israelites' Journey through the Desert

On the 20th of Iyar in 1288, thirteen Jews in Troyes, France, were burned at the stake by the Inquisition. They were accused, in a blood libel, of the supposed murder of a Christian child. The thirteen Jews were chosen from among the richer members of the community.

Jews were also killed in a blood libel in Neuchatel, Switzerland, on this date.

The Jews of Venice, Italy, were forbidden to practice law or to act as advocates in the Courts of Venice on the 20th of Iyar of 1637.

The Hadassah University Hospital and Medical Center was opened on Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem. The hospital, designed by renowned Bauhaus architect Erich Mendelssohn, opened as a modern, 300-bed academic medical facility.

In the ghetto of Kovno, the Nazis decreed the execution of all pregnant Jewish women.

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 week we study Chapter Four. (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 4

Tomorrow is the thirty-sixth 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-six days, which are five weeks and one day, 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: Chessed sheb'Yesod -- "Kindness 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."

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

Daily Thought

The words and the stories of Torah are but its clothing; the guidance within them is its body.

And as with a body, within that guidance breathes a soul that gives life to whoever follows it.

And within that soul breathes a deeper, transcendental soul, the soul of the soul: G‑d Himself within His Torah.

Grasp the clothes alone, and you are like the student who hears the words but not the thoughts. Grasp straight for the soul—or even the body—and you will come up with nothing. They are not graspable; they are G‑dly wisdom, and you are a created being.

Instead, examine those words and those stories; turn them again and again. As words from the heart are one with the heart, every word of these stories is Torah. As fine clothes and jewelry bring out the beauty of their wearer, so these words and stories will open your eyes to the G‑dliness within them.

This is what Torah is meant to achieve: that we should discover G‑d in simple stories. Because once we will find Him there, we will find Him in the simple stories of our own lives as well.

Maamar Gal Einai 5737.