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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Omer: Day 21 - Malchut sheb'Tifferet
Tonight Count 22
Jewish History

Following the assassination a month earlier of Tzar Alexander II of Russia, and the subsequent rumors that the Jews were behind the assassination, anti-Jewish riots broke out on the 6th of Iyar. The riots and pogroms lasted for four years, during which time thousands of Jewish homes and synagogues were destroyed, and countless Jews were injured and impoverished. The unrest started out in Southern Russia, and quickly spread throughout the entire country.

Tzar Alexander III actually blamed the riots on the Jews(!) and punished them by enacting new laws which further restricted their freedoms. Among these devastating laws were legislation which restricted Jews from residing in towns with fewer than 10,000 citizens, and limiting their professional employment and education opportunities.

These oppressive laws, known as the "May Laws," compelled many Jews to emigrate. They are said to have caused more than two million Jews to leave Russia, many of them opting to move to the United States of America, and the freedoms it offered.

Link: The Pogroms of 1881-1884

One day after the State of Israel was proclaimed (see Jewish History for the 5th of Iyar), the surrounding Arab nations -- Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq --declared war on the fledgling state, with the objective of "driving the Jews into the sea." Tel Aviv was bombed on that very first day of the War of Independence.

Link: War of Independence

R. Levi ben Gershon, known by the acronym Ralbag or by the Graecized Gersonides, was a great Torah scholar who lived in Provence (a region in Southern France). He is famous for his Bible commentary, which includes many ethical lessons to be learned from the stories of Scripture. He was also proficient in philosophy, astronomy, and mathematics, and wrote numerous works and treatises on these topics.

Link: Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon

Laws and Customs

Tomorrow is the twenty-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 twenty-two days, which are three 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'Netzach -- "Kindness in Ambition"

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

“Nothing bad descends from Above.” -R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi

In essence, all is good. There is nothing truly bad. In the Creator’s conception, every creature and everything that happens to every creature—all is sweet fruit from Eden.

But when that goodness emerges from G‑d’s thought and plays itself out on the stage of our earthly lives, it often looks really awful. Indeed, the most precious gifts of a lifetime tend to enter in the most life-disrupting ways.

Think of the screech that came out of your flute when you tried to play a high, sweet note. Or the jarring mess when you attempted a nice riff on your guitar. When you’re starting off, all the best stuff keeps coming out as noise.

In some faintly similar way, so too with life: The sweeter heaven’s blessings, the more they might taste like bitter curses.

Like well-intended words repeated in the wrong way to the wrong person at the wrong time—all context lost, all meaning completely inverted—so too, the warmest kisses from heaven can slap against your cheek like freezing rain.

Such is the order of heaven and earth in its present, unfinished stage. Ideas that look fantastic to the heavenly host make their landing here on earth with the most disastrous implementation. And it’s mostly because our world lacks a landing pad anywhere near large enough for such blinding conceptions.

The avenues of our hearts are too constricted, our neuropathways too tightly set and fixed. And our vision oh so strained that we can’t see beyond just the things we want and the acquirements that enslave us. Our entire world has simply not been tuned to receive divine goodness.

We inhabit a world of cacophony begging to be rearranged into music, words yearning to speak their true meaning, scenery just waiting to be moved into place—until all that occurs below will attain magnificent harmony with its origin above.

And how do we allow that to happen? Mostly by allowing ourselves to believe it’s already there.

You’ve likely heard the story of the recalcitrant child who turns out good because someone really believed in that kid. As art emerges from the hands of those who believe in art, kindness from hearts that believe in kindness, and science from minds who trust there is an explanation.

So too, a dark and bitter chapter of life is reframed into a higher context, redeemed, and revealed in all its glorious, delicious splendor by a soul that trusts that G‑d is good, and G‑d is One.

No matter how things may appear.

Open your mind, open your heart. Trust that all is good, and it will be good. Good beyond anything you could possibly imagine, but down to earth good.

Extracted from the last two lines of Igeret Hakodesh 11.