We had a bonfire outside our shul for Lag BaO’mer. This bonfire has various explanations. Fire represents light. Light represents Torah. Fire represents Torah. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yoh’ai hid in a cave for 13 years to escape Roman persecution. There he studied with his son Elazar in a cave. He brought much light in the world – by illuminating us with the Zohar – Jewish Book of Mysticism.
Many other segulas and reasons for the bonfire: The Yanuka said – one reason is to remember that one should prefer to jump into a fire than to embarrass a person in public. I heard a segula for refuah is to throw a recently used piece of clothing of that person into the lag baomer bonfire.
Here are the details:
סגולה נוראה וחשובה.
ביום ל”ג בעומר אם יש איזה חולה במשפחה או חולי גוף או חולי נפש. או כל צרה שיש לאדם יקח האדם החולה וכדומה או אחד ממשפחתו בגד שלו וישליך אל תוך המדורה שנדלקה לכבוד התנא רבי שמעון בר יוחאי ויאמר אני שורף הבגד של פלוני בן פלונית באש לכבוד התנא. ויהי רצון שישרף החולי השוכן בתוכו או הכשוף שבו או עין רעה שבו או כל מניעה וחסימה ושב ורפא לפב”פ.
It starts with them understanding the value of being on time. They learn that with how parents view time. Do they have to be on time – or getting their a little late is alright?
Getting into the rote can help. I put together a Mneumonic to help parents “BLSHKA”
B – Breakfast (Did they eat a Healthy Breakfast?) L – Lunch (Did they pack their lunch) S – Snack (Do they have a regular & Healthy snack?) H – Homework (Did they pack their homework?) K – Knapsack – (Do they have their Knapsack?) S – Attached (Are they Buckled or attached when riding to school?)
Starting the Second day of Pesach / Passover we start counting the Omer – a personal barley offering that is made by farmers between the fesivals of Passover (for the Jew’s freedom from Egypt) and Shavuot (the receiving of the Torah.)- a total of 49 days. This counting Corresponds to two countings – one is what day of the offerings it is in this offering. It also corresponds to how many days have passed in the counting up of days to Shavuot.
Usually when one looks forward to an event they count down. How many more days till their birthday, how many more days till their marriage, how many more days to get out of jail, how many more days to vacation.
So why here do we count upwards? 1,2,3… instead of downwards 49,48,47,… till the receiving of the Torah.
Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, gives an answer. Let’s say a person was promised One Million Dollars in 100 days. He would count down the days. But if he was promised $10,000 dollars a day for 100 days – he would count up the days.
The days between Pesach and Shavuot are 49. To acquire Torah – it requires 48 things. These are listed in Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers – Chapter 6 Mishna 5. Every day we are supposed to work on a different aspect of growth to acquire the Torah – totalling 48 days and the last day we are to work on all of them. Thus we count upwards – because every day between them is a day of growth – a day to be thankful.
Yaakov Avinu / Jacob Our Forefather – wanted to marry Rachel. Lavan – Rachel’s Father – said if Yaakov would work for him for 7 years he would give his daughter’s hand in marriage to Yaakov. The Torah says something puzzling – for Yaakov the 7 years seemed like several days. I would think the opposite – when a person wants to marry – they feel as it is such a long time.
The Answer – Yaakov was preparing himself for marriage every day to be able to be the founder of the Jewish nation. Every day was a day of growth for him. Every day he would become better by learning Torah and working to improve his character traits. Thus for him it seemed like several days.
Three Point to learn
One has to prepare themselves to get married by working on improving their Middot / character traits. Some people go into marriage thinking – OK now I have someone to serve my needs. But really that is the weak link in the marriage chain – because once one of the spouses does not behave according to their expectations – the chain breaks. If one entered into marriage thinking this is my opportunity to do good to others and to improve my character traits – the chain would not break – because the challenges (like the wife yelling at the husband, the man leaving his clothes around the house, etc.) are seen as opportunities for growth to become a better person.
One should go into marriage understanding that this is an opportunity to do good to others and to improve my character traits.
Every day is an opportunity to Grow – Self improvement is an integral part of acquiring Torah. To become a Dr., a Scientist, a Professor – one does not necessarily need to have good character traits. To become a Torah scholar or to acquire Torah one does.
Recently, a family held a party for the 60th wedding anniversary of their grandparents. It was a happy marriage – one that was peaceful, filled with blessing, joy and many children, grand children and great-grandchildren.
One of the descendants asked the grandfather – “how is it that you managed to live such a peaceful life together.” He replied “Many years ago a person was about to get married. It was the wedding day and the hatan / groom got cold feet. He told the Mesader Kiddushin / Marriage Rabbi that he wished to drop out.
The Rabbi – Rabbi Haim Zonnenfeld – realized that it would be a terrible embarrassment for the bride to not get married on that day. As he didn’t want the young woman to be embarrassed – he spoke to a group of young Yeshiva Bachurim / Yeshiva Students – explaining the situation. He promised that anyone who would volunteer to marry this woman on that day would be blessed with a beautiful marital life with children and grandchildren. One by one – each Yeshiva Bachur declined the offer. The last Bachur – recognizing the pain that the bride would have if the wedding was cancelled – took up the offer. He decided he would marry her.
The rabbi told the young man to call his parents to tell them to come to attend the wedding. They came. The couple got married. “You know who was the young bachur? it was me” he said.
We could say that the blessing was solely the reason for the great marriage. But apparently – a couple in which each partner is concerned about the honor of the mate over their own personal concerns – is also a reason and a formula for such a successful marriage.
In Torah Reading / Parasha Ki Tisa – Hash-m commands Moshe / Moses to build a Mishkan / Tabernacle for Hash-m’s Presence to dwell.
Hash-m tells Moshe to collect half a Shekel coin for each person of Bnai Yisrael / the Children of Israel to make a census. The weigh of a Shekel the coin is 20 Geras. So Half a Shekel Coin is 10 Geras. The Half shekel coin amounted to 10 Geras – was an allusion that the Jews sined against all the 10 commandments – by worshiping the idol of the golden calf. A person should learn to correct themselves from just a light allusion.
When we build a house for ourselves -we use good quality materials. When Hash-m commands us to build a House every single part is infused with Holiness and meaning.
The Half-Shekel coins were used to make the silver sockets – in which the columns of the Mishkan stood upon. All the coins were melted to form a whole. One message is that a family should have the goal of doing what’s good for the family – putting their self interests aside when necessary.
The Builder was Bezalel ben Uri Ben Hur. Hur tried to stop the Jew from building the golden calf. Instead of listening – they killed him. Bezalel could have said – I am not going to build this mishkan for Israel to build receive an atonement – they killed my grandfather. He did not bear a grudge. Do we absolve, let go and forgive or do we keep hatred in the recesses of our hearts?
To enter certain parts of the Mishkan a person had to be purified with the Ashes of the Red Heifer / Para Aduma. A person was who sprinkled upon became Pure – while the sprinkler – became impure. A person who wants peace must be willing to back down to make bring others up.
The Parasha starts will Ki Tisa – When you count. Literally it means – when you uplift. To have peace one should try to start with words that uplift. Your goal should be to uplift the other – not to bring them down.
Rabbi Mica’el Shushan, הרב מיכאל שושן – has a series on shalom bayit / peace at home. [In program 52] He quotes the pasuk – “The end of his act – is in his thought in the beginning” – The verse – means that what Hashem intended from the beginning happened at the end. He gave another interpretation – the end of your act you should consider from the beginning.
He gave an example: Let’s say a man comes home and takes off his shoes. He sits down to eat. His wife comes in “What are you doing?! You know how much I hate when you don’t put away your shoes?! You can’t make a small act to put them away?!” She thinks he’s going to change with her tirade. Really he is not. What will happen?
Excuse the comparison – but a scientist did an experiment. Every time he would feed a dog – he would ring a bell before. After some time – when he would just ring the bell – the dog would start salivating. It became a physical reaction.
When one spouse or parent starts nagging. The person on the receiving end will start associating the nagging voice with negativity and thus have a physical reaction to ignore the the nagger. The voice of that person will trigger ignoring – even when they speak positively.
The talking person should consider what message the sound of their voice provokes. They should consider what works with the other person and do what works.
It’s an oxymoron – mercy killing. If there is mercy – how can there be killing and if there is killing how can there be mercy. When a life & death question occurs – Torah Jews don’t rely on their own opinion. They consult a Torah versed Orthodox competent rabbi. They present the case – and he will provide the ethical answer according to the will of G-d. G-d gave us the Torah. In the Torah – it contains the reasoning to answer any ethical question.
Recently – a question of euthanasia arose – Could one disconnect a person from life support? I asked a competent rabbi. He said no – it is killing.
Once a person is on life support – usually one cannot disconnect them – if it is going to surely result in their death. Obviously each case is different and each must be asked to a competent Orthodox rabbi.
In dealing with such a situation – I learned of an organization that answers such end of life questions according to Torah Halacha / Jewish law. It is called Chaim Aruchim / Long Life.
They not only will provide answers but also intervene on the family’s behalf with the hospital to assure that the halacha is fulfilled.
Hospital’s “ethics” do not necessarily correspond with Torah law. Doctor’s mix their feelings and opinions into treating the patient. Once a Doctor was treating the husband of someone I know. He expressed how much time he expected the patient to live. She responded “You treat the patient. G-d will decide how long he will live.”
There are three things that must be provided by the hospital to the patient:
If they withdraw or refuse one of the above – it may be considered killing.
Things to avoid – Apnea test. It is a test to see if the patient’s brain is working. It is not necessarily accurate. In Torah law a person is alive as long as the heart is beating.
If one does pull the plug of a live person or gives the authorization against the disapproval of the halachic authorities – it may be considered killing according to Torah law.
Once a person was on life support. A doctor came by and felt badly for him. He unplugged him. The patient died. The man he killed came back to him in a dream and said “Why did you kill me? I had some more time to survive in this condition and my sins would have been atoned for on earth. Now he would suffer because he didn’t have that reparation in this world due to the Doctor’s precipitation of his death. Shaken, the Doctor did Teshuva / repented and it served as a merit for the patient he killed.
Suffering is not the worst thing in life. There are worse things – like living with out purpose and without doing good. The Torah provides the means to find purpose and maximize your doing good for yourself and others.
A screen writer wrote an article. Once he was eating in a non-kosher restaurant on Shabbat. He was sitting with a friend. His friend remarked that a religious Jewish family was walking together from a Kollel / Torah Study Institute. They were dressed in beautiful clothing, walking and interacting naturally happy. The friend remarked “I feel sorry for those kids.” He replied “I am sure they feel much more sorry for you.” The sight and his own words stirred something in his heart. Little by little it influenced him to investigate Judaism and eventually he became an observant orthodox Jew.
That family had no idea that they influenced the man. But after they go to the next world they will be rewarded for having brought this man back to Teshuva / Repentance to Judaism.
This story is found a in a book called – “One Small Deed Can Change The World” by Nachman Seltzer. Rabbi Feifer of the Agudah Yisrael of Bayswater said a story.
Once an overprotected child was sent on a bus from Benei Berak to Jerusalem to deliver a package to his uncle. His uncle was to wait for him at the bus station in Jerusalem. The boy boarded the bus with the package in his suitcase.
He fell asleep. When he woke up – he found himself in Teveria. Scared, he disembarked and searched for a phone. A hippy kiosk owner was closing up shop. He let him phone his parents. The boy didn’t know where to spend the night. The kiosk owner told him to sleep by him. He did so. He remembered that he did not say Arvit / the night prayer. He was shaken by the entire experience. He prayed fervently Arvit. The next day he was woken by the man and took a morning bus to Jerusalem.
About 20 years later – he decided to search for the kiosk owner to pay him back for the money he gave him to take the bus to Jerusalem. He finally found him in a kiosk next to the bus station. He reminded him who he was. Exuberant, the man lifted the young father in the air. The kiosk owner took out a picture. He showed him the picture of his observant Jewish family. He told him – after he witnessed the boy praying Arvit – he realized a person can have a personal creation with the Creator / Hashem.
His fervent prayer influenced the kiosk owner to explore Judaism and motivated him to have a close connection with the creator and build a beautiful Jewish family. One Small Deed Can Change The World.
Yosef Hatzadik / Joseph was the ruler of Mitzrayim / Egypt. His Brothers came to purchase grain – because of the famine in Canaaan (Israel). They came before him. He accuses them to be spies.
They really came to search for their long lost brother – Yosef. They didn’t recognize that the ruler before them was actually Yosef. Yosef wanted to test whether the brothers repented for having sold him many years before. He thus took their brother – Binyamin to be a slave – to see if the brothers would defend him.
After he reveals himself to the brothers and the family is reunited. He sends a letter to his father Yaakov that says he is alive and also is the ruler in Egypt. This letter was found in Rome. The letter found is called “Iggeret Yosef Hatzadik”.
Among things that are mentioned is how the snakes and scorpions befriended him, how the Yishmaelim / people from Yishmael Treated him cruely, how he was sent in the dungeon because of a crime he didn’t commit.
Parasha / Weekly Torah Weeding Vayishlach talks about the encounter of Yaakov / Jacob – with his brother Esav / Esau. He sends angels to Esav – to calm him after all these years of animosity. He tells the angels say – that “Jacob – your Servant…” He mentions that the angels should tell Esav that he, Yaakov, is his servant eight times. Because of this Esav has eight kings before Yaakov had even one king.
The lesson is not to lose our control, not to look down upon ourselves in other people’s eyes. We should have a healthy amount of self-respect, self-esteem and self-confidence. When we look down upon ourselves or put ourselves down we lose. Hash-m wants us to believe in ourselves and think highly of ourselves. It is more important to know our qualities than to know our deficiencies.
Further in the parasha (Bereshit/Genesis 32:23), Yaakov is faulted for putting his daughter in a box – so that Esav would not cast his eyes upon her and want to marry her. She was a righteous girl, while Esav was involved in the worst sins. So how could he be faulted? One answer is that Yaakov should have felt badly when he locked her in the box. Another answer was that – each time Yaakov bowed – when he bowed seven times to Esav – he reduced his shells that prevented him from serving Hashem. Esav – was cleared of his evil side for a short time and then it would have been easier for his wife to turn him around completely.
Two things we learn – even a wicked person can do a complete turn around and start following Torah again and be considered righteous. Another thing – that a woman can trun around her husband to do good or bad. Thus choose a righteous wife that follows Torah.
It says “Who is a Kosher Woman? The wife that does the will of her husband.” It can be interpreted simply as understood. But another way to interpret it – is who is a Kosher woman? One that makes the will of her husband (to do good).
Once a rabbi wanted to marry a woman. He said “In our family the husband is the head.” The woman replied “In our family – the wife is the neck – she turns the head in the proper direction.”