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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Omer: Day 18 - Netzach sheb'Tifferet
Tonight Count 19
Jewish History

Following the Portuguese Expulsion in 1496 (see Jewish History for the 22nd of Tevet) many Jews who chose to remain in Portugal became known as "Marranos," openly identified themselves as Christians, while secretly maintaining Jewish beliefs and traditions.

Many of the secret Jews eventually migrated to other countries, where they once again openly professed their allegiance to Judaism. However, because they had been "baptized," their situation was often perilous. On the 3rd of Iyar in 1556, on the orders of Pope Paul IV, 25 of these hidden Jews were burnt at the stake in Ancona, Italy.

Gracia Mendes Nasi was a very influential and wealthy woman; herself a Portuguese crypto Jew who relocated to the Ottoman Empire. In her past, she, too, had personally experienced persecution because of her status. Upon hearing about the burning of her co-religionists, she organized a financial boycott against the port of Ancona. She called on all Jews to do trade from the neighboring harbors and thus financially ruin Ancona.

Her trade embargo was successful for a few months, and is considered to be one of the first times the Jews struck back against the Inquisition.

Donna Gracia Mendez Nassi
The Life of s Secret Jew
The Spanish & Portuguese Expulsion; Inquisition

Born in the Russian town of Beshenkowitz on January 12, 1902 (Shevat 4, 5662), Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov moved to Riga, Latvia, with his parents in 1904. A born educator and pedagogue, at a young age Chaim Mordechai was appointed head of Jewish education for the Latvian Ministry of Education.

When the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, moved to Riga (from Russia) in 1928, Rabbi Hodakov became drawn to the Rebbe and became part of the Rebbe's work force. In 1940, he accompanied the Rebbe to the United States.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak appointed Hodakov as director of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch (the educational arm of the Lubavitch movement), Machne Israel (the social service arm), and Kehot Publication Society, all of which were under the chairmanship of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory.

In 1950, when the Rebbe ascended to the helm of the world wide Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Rabbi Hodakov became his Chief-of-Staff and head of his secretariat. He was later appointed chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella organization that oversees the worldwide network of Chabad-Lubavitch organizations and institutions.

Rabbi Hodakov was a vigorous and resolute activist who innovated many educational ideas and programs. He was a role model for many young Chassidim in his demeanor and in his devotion to the Rebbe.


A Man of Great Devotion

A Small Man with Great Advice

Laws and Customs

Tomorrow is the nineteenth 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 nineteen days, which are two weeks and five 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: Hod sheb'Tifferet -- "Humility 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."

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

Daily Thought

Of the 54 parshiot of the Five Books of Moses, only one is named after a woman. It is called “The Life of Sarah.”

It opens by informing us that Sarah has died.

Yes, this is the life of Sarah. Her true life. Because only in her passing was Sarah’s life fulfilled.

During her lifetime, she and her husband Abraham surveyed the land promised to their children. Only once Sarah died did Abraham make his first actual purchase, publicly and with full payment. Sarah’s burial plot and its accompanying field in Hebron mark the seminal point of the Land of Israel.

During her lifetime, Sarah had only one child, who remained single. From where would come the “offspring more numerous than the stars” that G‑d had promised? With Sarah’s passing, the match between Isaac and Rebecca was made, a woman much like Sarah, through whom the Jewish people would become a reality.

During Sarah’s lifetime, Abraham was not able to guide Ishmael. By divine command, he was compelled to harken to Sarah, who witnessed Ishmael’s corruptive influence and demanded he be sent away. By the end of the parashah, Abraham is following in the ways of Sarah with the rest of his children. Even Ishmael has repented and accepted Isaac as the true heir of Abraham.

It was after Sarah’s passing that Abraham’s vision began to emerge into reality in this world—through the work of Sarah.

This is true life—a life not confined to the years of a physical body, but a life that becomes yet more real after it is released from those confines, and continues to be felt more and more with every year that passes.

Such is the life of a mother. While the rest of us live within a moment that has already disappeared, a mother gives life, nurtures life, and guides that life into eternity.

Likutei Sichot vol. 5, pg. 338b ff. Hitvaduyot 5745, vol. 1, pg. 129ff. See also Likutei Sichot vol. 15, pg. 145ff.