Laws of Tishrei
THREE WEEKS, NINE DAYS, SHIVA ASAR B’TAMMUZ AND TISHA B’AV LAWS AND CUSTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH THIS PERIOD
During the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz until after Tisha B’Av, the custom is to observe some aspects of mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple. The following guidelines have been adapted from the website of Ohr Someyach. Please note that the following is all according to the Ashkenazic custom; for the Sephardic custom please consult an appropriate rabbinic authority from the Sephardic community.
The Three Weeks – 17 Tammuz through 9 Av
Weddings should not be performed during this period.
Engagements may take place with a meal until the 1st of Av. From the 1st of Av until after Tisha B’Av they may take place with refreshments only.
Dancing and playing or listening to music is prohibited. A musician who earns his living by playing for non-Jews may do so until the 1st of Av.
The custom is to refrain from reciting the blessing "sh’hecheyanu" on new garments or fruit, except on Shabbat. Pregnant women or ill people who need the fruit may eat it normally, without "sh’hecheyanu".
The custom is to refrain from taking a haircut, including the beard. An adult may not give a haircut to a child (under bar- or bat-mitzva).
Trimming one’s mustache is permitted if it interferes with eating.
A person who usually shaves daily (in a permitted manner) and would suffer business or financial loss by not shaving, may do so until the 1st of Av, or at most until the Friday before Tisha B’Av. Whatever one’s situation, shaving on Tisha B’Av is not permitted.
The 9 Days – 1 Av until after Tisha B’Av
One should not purchase an object of joy that will be available after Tisha B’Av for the same price.
Construction for aesthetic reasons should be suspended.
Construction for a mitzvah like a synagogue, place of Torah study, or a mikva is permitted.
The custom is to refrain from eating meat and poultry or drinking wine and grape juice during the nine days. This prohibition also applies to children.
Eating meat and drinking wine is permitted on Shabbat during the nine days. Even if one brings Shabbat in early on Friday afternoon before sunset, or extends the third meal of Shabbat into Saturday night, one may eat meat and drink wine at those times.
One may drink the wine of Havdallah. Some have the custom to give the wine to a child of 6-9 years old, or to use beer for Havdallah.
Meat and wine are permitted at a meal in honor of a mitzvah like brit milah, pidyon haben (redemption of the first born), and at a siyum to celebrate the completion of a Talmud tractate.
A person who requires meat because of weakness or illness, including small children and pregnant or nursing women who have difficulty eating dairy, may of course eat meat. However, if possible, poultry is preferable to meat.
Laundering is prohibited even for use after Tisha B’Av. This includes giving clothing to a non-Jewish cleaner. One may give clothes in to a non-Jewish cleaner before the 1st of Av, even though it will be washed during the nine days.
The prohibition of laundering includes linens, tablecloths, and towels.
A person who has no clean clothes may wash what he needs until the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av.
Children’s diapers and clothing that constantly get dirty may be washed by need even during the week of Tisha B’Av, but it must be done privately, in other words not taking to storefront cleaner.
Laundering for the purpose of a mitzvah is permitted.
It is forbidden to wear freshly laundered clothing during the nine days. This includes all clothing except undergarments etc. and sports clothing worn for workouts.
One should prepare for the nine days by wearing freshly laundered suits, pants, shirts, dresses, blouses and the like for a short time before the onset of the nine days, so that they may be worn during the nine days. Socks, undershirts and underwear need not be prepared.
One may wear freshly laundered Shabbat clothing, as well as use clean tablecloths and towels.
Since one may wear freshly laundered garments on Shabbat, if one forgot or was unable to prepare enough garments before the nine days, he may change for Friday night and then change again on Shabbat morning. These garments may then be worn during the week. This applies only to clothing that is suitable to wear on Shabbat, since wearing a garment on Shabbat for the sole purpose of wearing it during the week is forbidden.
Fresh garments and Shabbat clothing may be worn in honor of a mitzvah for example at a brit milah for you are the parent, mohel, or sandek.
While wearing new clothing that doesn’t require the blessing “sh’hecheyanu” is permitted until the 1st of Av, during the nine days it is prohibited even on Shabbat.
One may not buy new clothes or shoes even for use after Tisha B’Av, except in a case of great necessity, for example for one’s wedding.
If one forgot or was unable to buy special shoes needed for Tisha B’Av, one may do so during the nine days.
The custom is not to bathe for pleasure during the nine days. One may bathe for medical reasons, or to remove dirt or perspiration, in water that is not very hot, in other words colder than the normal bathing temperature. The same applies to showering.
Swimming is prohibited except for medical reasons.
There is no restriction to the bathing one does in honor of Shabbat.
The fast of Tisha B’av
Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning and repentance on which we recall the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and other tragic events that took place on this day in our history. By carefully observing the laws and customs instituted by our Sages, we are able to feel the full impact of what we have lost.
If a brit milah or redemption of the first-born occurs on the day before Tisha B'Av (Tisha B’Av in the evening), if meat is being served the meal must be held before noon.
Since the study of Torah is pleasurable, from noon some people refrain from learning topics other than what is relevant to Tisha B'Av or mourning. However, many people learn all topics of Torah until sunset.
Since Tisha B'Av is called a ‘moed’ (holiday or appointed day), no tachanun is said at mincha in the afternoon before Tisha B'Av (nor on Tisha B'Av itself).
The custom is to eat a final meal after mincha and before sunset, consisting of bread, cold hard-boiled eggs and water. The meal is eaten while seated on the ground, a portion of the bread should be dipped in ashes and eaten, and no mezuman is said in Birkat Hamazon.
After the meal, one may sit normally until sunset. Shoes may be worn all day until sunset.
When Shabbat is the Day Before Tisha B'Av
One may eat normal Shabbat meals but must end the third meal before sunset. Eating with company other than one's family should be avoided, but a mezuman is said.
Av haRachamim is said in the morning prayers; tzidkatcha tzedek in not said at mincha.
When a brit occurs on this Shabbat, the meal should take place before mincha.
Some restrict Torah learning as above, but many are even more lenient because of Shabbat.
Normally one waits at home until nightfall, then one says ‘baruch hamavdil bein kodesh le-chol’, changes from Shabbat clothing in to weekday clothing, and then one goes to synagogue.
‘Attah Chonantanu’ is recited as usual in the evening prayer. However, the customary Havdallah is not said. Rather, the blessing over candlelight is recited after the evening prayer and before reading Eicha. After Tisha B'Av (Sunday night), Havdallah is recited over a cup of wine (or grape juice), or beer but no besamim is used.
Eating and Drinking
All eating and drinking is forbidden on Tisha B’Av. This includes rinsing one’s mouth out and brushing one’s teeth, except in a case of great distress.
Swallowing capsules or medical tablets or liquid medicine without water is permitted.
The ill or elderly, as well as pregnant and nursing women, are required to fast, unless a doctor says that fasting may injure their health.
A woman within 7 days of childbirth may not fast, and within thirty days should not fast.
Boys up to twelve years old and girls up to eleven are not required to fast the entire day. There are various opinions as to whether they should fast part of the day.
Those not required to fast should eat only what is needed to keep them going for the day.
When Tisha B'Av is observed on Sunday, a person who is not required to fast should recite Havdallah over beer, coffee or tea.
Bathing and Washing
All bathing is prohibited even in cold water including just the hands, face and feet.
Ritual washing upon waking, after using the bathroom, etc., is permitted, but only up to the knuckles.
One may wash away dirt (including cleaning the eyes), and if necessary may use soap or warm water to remove the dirt or bad odor.
Washing one’s hands before cooking or for medical reasons is permitted.
Wearing Leather Shoes
Even shoes made partially of leather are prohibited. Shoes made of cloth, rubber or plastic are permitted.
Wearing leather shoes is permitted for medical reasons.
The Study of Torah
Since the study of Torah is pleasurable, as already mentioned, it is prohibited to learn topics other than those relevant to Tisha B'Av or mourning.
One may learn: Eicha with its midrash and commentaries, any portion of the Prophets that deal with tragedy or destruction, the third chapter of Tractate Moed Katan (which deals with mourning), the story of the destruction (in Tractate Gittin 56b-58a, Tractate Sanhedrin 104, and in Josephus), and the halachot of Tisha B’Av and mourning.
One should deprive oneself of some comfort in sleep. Some people reduce the number women, the elderly and the ill are exempt. Obviously this only applies if it is not going to cause medical problems.
Sitting on a normal chair is forbidden until midday. One may sit on a low bench or chair, or on a cushion on the floor.
Greeting someone with "good morning" and the like is prohibited. One who is greeted should answer softly and, if possible, inform the person of the prohibition.
One should not give a gift except to the needy.
Things that divert one from mourning such as idle talk, reading the newspaper, taking a walk for pleasure, etc. are prohibited.
The custom is to refrain until midday from any time-consuming work that diverts one from mourning.
Ashkenazim do not wear tefillin at Shacharit, nor is a blessing made on tzitzit.
At Mincha, tefillin is worn and those who wear a tallit gadol make the blessing then.
At Mincha, the prayers Nacheim and Aneinu are added to the Shmonah Esrei during the blessing "Veliyerushalayim" and "Shma Koleinu" respectively. "Sim Shalom" is said in place of "Shalom Rav." If one forgot them and completed that bracha, one need not repeat the prayer.
The limitations of the "Three Weeks" and the "Nine Days" continue until midday of the 10th of Av. This includes the prohibition of music, haircuts, meat and wine, laundering and bathing.
When Tisha B’Av is observed on the 10th of Av (the 9th was Shabbat and observance of Tisha B'Av was postponed to Sunday the 10th), haircuts, laundering and bathing are permitted Sunday night, the 11th of Av. However, meat and wine are still prohibited until Monday morning.
When Tisha B’Av is on Thursday so that the 10th of Av is on Friday, in honor of Shabbat laundering may be permitted Thursday night; haircuts and bathing Friday morning; and music in the afternoon.
The custom is to sanctify the new moon the night after Tisha B'Av, preferably after having eaten something. When Tisha B'Av is on Thursday, the custom is to wait until Saturday night when the service can be said with greater joy.
Laws of Purim
- Purim is preceded by the Fast of Esther, which begins at dawn on the 13th of Adar and continues until nightfall. When the 13th is on Shabbat, the Fast of Esther is observed on the preceding Thursday. It is forbidden to eat and drink on this day (one may, however, wash, and wear leather shoes).
- In unwalled cities, Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar, from night to night.
- In cities with walls dating from the days of Joshua, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of Adar, as it was in Shushan, the capital of Persia; hence the name, Shushan Purim. Jerusalem is a walled city and most of its suburbs are also considered part of Jerusalem regarding this law.
READING OF THE SCROLL OF ESTHER
- The Scroll of Esther is read publicly in the evening and on the morning of Purim.
- It must be read from a scroll written in accordance with Halachah.
- The reader and the audience must have intent to fulfil the mitzvah of reading and to fulfil the obligation of the blessings before and after.
- It is customary to make noise when the name of Haman is mentioned.
- It is forbidden to speak from the time of the blessings before the reading, until the end of the blessings after the reading.
- Ideally the scroll should be read in the presence of a minyan.
- The prayer 'al hanissim' is added in the Silent Prayer (Shmoneh Esrei) and in Grace after Meals.
- If one forgot 'al hanissim' one does not repeat the prayer.
- During the morning service (shacharit), the Torah is read.
- The prayer of repentance, tachanun, is not recited, nor is the prayer lamenatzeach.
GIFTS TO FRIENDS
- One is obligated to give at least one gift to one fellow Jew. The more the better.
- The gift must consist of at least two items of food, ready to eat.
- It is preferable to send the gift via a third party.
GIFTS TO THE POOR
- One is obligated to give a gift of money, sufficient for one meal, to at least two poor people. The more the better.
- Funds must be available on the day of Purim. (No post-dated checks.)
- It is preferable to take care of this obligation early in the day.
- The gift may be given to a third party in order to distribute on the day of Purim.
- More should be spent on gifts to the poor than on gifts to friends (unless they are also poor).
THE FESTIVE MEAL
- It is obligatory to partake of a festive meal on the day of Purim.
- It is customary to eat food with seeds - e.g., Hamentashen with poppy seed filling.
- One should drink more wine than one is accustomed to.
- It is correct to invite guests, especially the needy.
- The conversation should be focused on words of Torah.
- Many have a custom to dress up in costumes.
- It is customary to give charity to all who ask.
- Some produce amusing Purim plays.
- Some also present amusing divrei Torah.
- It is customary to visit the homes of one's Rabbis and teachers.
- One should start studying the laws of Passover on Purim.
- It is correct not to engage in business or work on Purim.
- At the afternoon service before Purim it is customary to give three coins (preferable with the number ½ on them) to charity in memory of the three "half-shekels" given to the Temple.
Orthdox Union Passover Guide 2015
Fast of the 10th of Tevet
What is this fast all about? - Click here to read Rabbi Berel Wein's explanation
The Laws of Chanukah - Click here
Rosh Chodesh Elul
Elul is the name of the month which we are given each year to prepare for the “Days of Awe:”
Elul and Rosh Chodesh Elul – In Relation to Other Months of the Year
5 Av – 30 days
6 Elul – 29 days; Rosh Chodesh is 2 days
7 Tishrei – 30 days
Special Significance (Biblical and by “Minhag,” (Jewish Custom) ) of Rosh Chodesh Elul
Moshe had gone up in the Month of Sivan, and returned after forty days and forty nights, on the 17th of Tammuz with the First Luchos. When Moshe observed the Jewish People sinning by creating and worshipping the Golden Calf, and participating in other sinful activities centered around the worship of that idol, he broke that first set of Luchos. He ascended Mount Sinai a second time, on the eighteenth day of Tammuz, the day after the great sin, and remained there for another forty days and forty nights, praying to G-d to spare the Jewish People and to return His full Presence among them.
At the conclusion of the second forty day and forty night period (that is, on the 29th of Av, Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul), G-d forgave the Jewish People and instructed Moshe to ascend Har Sinai yet again the next day, to receive the Second Luchos, on which would be inscribed for the second time the Ten Commandments. Moshe’s ascension to Har Sinai for the third time (which also took forty days and forty nights, ending on Yom Kippur) occurred on Rosh Chodesh Elul.
HaShem also restored His Presence to the Jewish People by authorizing the construction of the “Mishkan,” the Temporary Structure which served as a “Residence,” so to speak, for the Divine Presence, before the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem.
Minhagim (Customs) Related to Rosh Chodesh Elul
Beginning the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, and continuing until-but-not-including Erev Rosh HaShanah (the day preceding Rosh HaShanah), the custom is to blow the Shofar every weekday (excluding Shabbat, but not Sunday), four sounds -
1. Tekiah – a flat straight sound, “Tuuuu”
2.- 3. Combination of Shevarim – three broken sounds, resembling sighing, “U-Tu, U-Tu, U-Tu,” and Teruah – nine rapid sounds resembling wailing, “Tu, Tu, Tu, Tu, Tu, Tu, Tu, Tu, Tu”
4. And a final Tekiah
Note: The duration of the “Tekiah” sounds at the beginning and at the end, both during this Elul-introductory period of Shofar-blowing, and on Rosh HaShanah itself, the Day of Sounding the Shofar, must be equal to the duration of the Shevarim-Teruah (or Shevarim alone, or Teruah alone, as we shall see, placed in between them).
When Moshe went up the Second Time to receive the “Aseret HaDibrot,” the “Ten Commandments,” the Jewish People blew the Shofar in the Camp. They did this to impress upon themselves that Moshe had once again gone up the mountain of Sinai, so that they would not again make the tragic mistake in judging the time of Moshe’s return, and fall again into Idol Worship.
Therefore, the Jewish People in later generations accepted upon themselves the custom of blowing the Shofar, beginning with Rosh Chodesh Elul to remind themselves that the people of Israel in the desert had sinned with the Egel, had repented, had been forgiven by G-d and restored to their former level of holiness. This would arouse in their hearts and minds the importance and the effectiveness of doing “Teshuvah.”
Ashkenazic (Northern, Western and Eastern Europe) have the custom, beginning with the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, of reciting Chapter 27 of Tehilim (Psalms), beginning “By (King) David, ‘The L-rd is my Light and my Salvation,’ ” until and including Hoshannah Rabbah.
This custom is based on the Medrash which links the “Light” of David, and the “Light” of all human beings, to Rosh HaShanah, the Day of Judgment, when by the light of the “neshamah,” the soul, Hashem searches out the recesses and “hidden” areas of the human being. This idea is in turn based on the verse “The Lamp of Hashem is the human soul, which searches out all the recesses of his being.” And the “Salvation” of David and of all human beings is linked to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Hashem atones for the sins of His creatures.
Tisha B’Av – History and Laws
Tisha B’Av – The “ninth day” in the Jewish month of Av, which starts at sundown on the eighth day and concludes at sundown on the ninth day of Av. This is the day when the intensity of the entire three week mourning period reaches its peak (keep reading below for details and use our entire Tisha B’Av Resource Center to learn more).
According to our sages, many tragic events occurred to our ancestors on this day:
- The sin of the spies caused Hashem to decree that the Children of Israel who left Egypt would not be permitted to enter the land of Israel;
- The first Temple was destroyed;
- The second Temple was destroyed;
- Betar, the last fortress to hold out against the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt in the year 135, fell, sealing the fate of the Jewish people.
- One year after the fall of Betar, the Temple area was plowed.
- In 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain issued the expulsion decree, setting Tisha B’Av as the final date by which not a single Jew would be allowed to walk on Spanish soil.
- World War I – which began the downward slide to the Holocaust – began on Tisha B’av.
The prohibitions on Tisha B’Av itself are similar to those of Yom Kippur. In addition to not eating or drinking, we are not allowed to wash, anoint oneself or wear leather shoes. In a prohibition more stringent than on Yom Kippur, we are only allowed to study certain portions of the Torah and Talmud on Tisha B’Av.
The observance of Tisha B’Av begins with the Seudah HaMafseket, the last meal before the fast commences.
NOTE: During years when the fast starts on Saturday night we do not have a seuda HaMafseket.
Unlike the elaborate feast we have before Yom Kippur, this meal is typically one course, usually consisting of a hard-boiled egg and some bread. Also, this meal is generally not eaten with others to avoid having a Zimmun (quorum for public blessing) at Birchat HaMazon. Zimmun indicates permanence, habit and durability. We avoid the Zimmun because we’d prefer not to make this mournful meal a recurring experience. It is customary to eat this meal seated on the floor or a low stool.
- Until Mincha on Tisha B’Av one should try to avoid sitting on a chair or bench. Instead, the custom is to stand or sit on the floor, just like a mourner during the Shiva (traditional seven days of mourning a loved one).
- Beginning at Mincha sitting on chairs is permitted, and we reduce the intensity of the grief that has pervaded us so far. Also, men put on Tefillin and recite those Tefillot that were omitted at Shacharit.
- It is forbidden to greet friends or acquaintances on Tisha B’Av. However, if greeted first, one should answer, but in a low tone in order not to arouse resentment.
- At the evening Ma’ariv service, the entire congregation sits on the floor and recites the Book of Eicha (Lamentations) where the prophet Jeremiah weeps the destruction, and we weep with him.
- The morning of Tisha B’Av is the saddest part of the day. We recite Kinot, and the men do not don Tefillin at Shacharit, because Tefillin are called “Pe-ar,” “Glory,” and this is definitely not a day of glory for the Jewish People.
Our sages teach that whoever mourns over Jerusalem will merit the future vision of her joy. As it is written in Isaiah (Chapter 66, verse 10), “rejoice greatly with her, all who mourn her.”
Five disasters occurred on Shivah Asar B’Tammuz:
- Moshe descended from Mount Sinai, discovered the people worshipping the golden calf, and broke the luchot;
- During the siege of Jerusalem before the destruction of the first Temple the daily offering, was suspended because the Kohanim (who had fortified themselves inside the Temple) could not get any more sheep for the sacrifice.
- In the year 70, the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the second Temple;
- Apustumus the wicked burned a Torah Scroll; and
- The Romans set up an idol in the courtyard of the Temple.
This period of time is known as Bein HaM’Tzarim, “between the straits”, because it says in Eicha (Chapter 1, verse 3): “and her pursuers overtook her between the straits”, referring to the calamitous events that befell the Jewish people between Shivah Asar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av. (Some of the prohibitions and customs we observe during this period are mentioned here. For specific questions contact a Rabbi.)
- Visiting cinemas, theaters, concert halls or any other place where there is public entertainment is strictly prohibited.
- With the exception of socks and undergarments, new clothes should not be purchased.
- Haircuts are forbidden. According to some authorities, men who shave daily for business reasons may shave during this period.
The Nine Days
The intensity of the three week mourning period increases with the onset of Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av. So, in addition to those items mentioned below, during the days between Rosh Chodesh and Tisha B’Av, we are prohibited from:
- Building or performing alterations in one’s home, unless the work is important repair work. This prohibition includes painting, wall papering and other forms of home decorations.
- Eating meat or drinking wine, except on Shabbat.
- Giving clothing to or getting clothing back from the cleaners or doing laundry. Children’s clothing, especially babies and infants, may be cleaned during this period. Also, this restriction doesn’t apply to clothing warn directly against the body which requires frequent changing.
- Weaving, knitting and needle craft work, with the exception of repairing torn clothing, is prohibited during this period.
- Swimming and bathing for pleasure is prohibited. Taking a bath or shower for hygiene purposes is permitted. Children in camp may go swimming during the instructional swim period. Visiting a Mikveh when necessary is permitted.
- The Shabbat before Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Chazon because the Haftorah that morning begins with the word Chazon.
This year, Shavuot takes place on June 3rd and 4th, 2014.
The order of prayer and kidush is the same for Shavuot as for the Shalosh Regalim, (the three pilgrim-festivals), with specific reference made however, to 'this festival of Shavuot, the time of the giving of our Torah.' During musaf the 'additional-sacrificial-offerings' and the 'new-gift-offering' for Shavuot are mentioned as is the passage Uveyom Habikurim. Hallel is likewise said in whole, in accord with the practice followed during the Shalosh Regalim.
During the kiddush, shecheyanu is said. Women recite shecheyanu together with the brachah over the candles, prior to lighting them. Again in keeping with Yom Tov practice, it is obligatory to partake of two meals - to include meat and wine.
It is customary to practice immersion in a mikvah (ritual bath) on Erev Shavuot (the eve of Shavuot), for one is obliged to purify himself at the advent of a Yom Tov. There are some who practice immersion also on Yom Tov. There are some who practice immersion also on Yom Tov morning, in remembrance of Israel's purification during the 'days-of-abstinence,' prior to their receipt of the Torah.
Though it is generally customary to recite the ma'ariv prayers somewhat earlier than usual on Erev Yom Tov, the first night of Shavuot, however, ma'ariv is delayed till after the appearance of the stars. Seven whole weeks are to elapse counting from the second day of Pesach till the advent of Shavuot. And, if the sanctity of Yom Tov is 'accepted' before the forty ninth day is concluded, the days-of-the-counting will not have been whole. Similarly, the Shavuot kiddush is not recited till certain nightfall.
It is customary to decorate the synagogues and home with greens. And some decorate the Torah scrolls with roses. If the greens were not prepared before Shavuot, it is forbidden to use unprepared leaves - though they were cut before Shavuot - for decoration. If the greens were however prepared for the sake of the festival, but were not arranged out of forgetfulness, they may be arranged on Yom Tov.
There is a custom of placing tree branches and boughs about the 'bimah' (Synagogue pulpit) in the Synagogue, to recall that Shavuot is the time of judgment for the fruit of the trees, so that prayers might be uttered in their behalf. The Gaon of Vilna however, suspended this custom in many communities since it had become an established practice in gentile religious festival usage.
It is customary to remain awake through the night for study of Torah and the reading of the Tikun-for-the-Night-of-Shavuot.
Special care should be exercised not to slumber during the 'shacharit' prayers, the Torah reading, and especially during 'musaf', which 'seals' the Omer-period. (The reference is to the 'new-gift-offering' brought on Shavuot morning upon the termination of the Omer-count days).
Those who remain awake through the night wash their hands in the morning, but do not recite 'al netilat yadayim,' and 'Birkot Hashachar.' They are required only to hear these brachot recited by one who is obligated to say them, and to answer Amen.
- "Shavuot is an extension of Pesach and its conclusion. Just as we eat two cooked dishes on Pesach in memory of the Paschal-Lamb and the Chaggigah offering of Pesach, we likewise eat two cooked foods on Shavuot; one a milk dish, and the other a meat dish. Since one may not eat from the same loaf of bread with both meat and milk dishes, this custom is a memorial of the two breads brought on Shavuot" (Rabbi Moshe Isserles - Rama).
- 'The day when Moshe was drawn out of the water was the 6th of Sivan, and he was willing to be nursed only by a Hebrew woman. Therefore we recall this merit of his, through eating of milk foods on the same day' (Sefer Matamim).
- 'Till the giving of the Torah, the Jews were permitted to eat meat of animals which were not kosher as well as meat of animals that had not been slaughtered in accord with the laws of shechitah. After the giving of the Torah, shechitah and the laws of forbidden foods were prescribed for them. Since all their utensils and dishes thereby became prohibited and they were unable to make them kosher, they could only eat milk foods' (Ge'ulat Israel).
- 'The Numerical value of the Hebrew letters which constitute the Hebrew for Milk, chalav, add up to forty, corresponding to the forty days spent by Moshe on Mount Sinai' (Rabbi Shimshon of Ostropol).
The Children as Guarantors
At the time of the giving of the Torah all Israel guaranteed for each other. How? When G-d wished to give the Torah to Israel, He said to them: 'Give Me guarantors that you will observe the Torah.' Said they to Him: '"Are not the Patriarchs guarantors for us?' Said He: 'They are indebted to Me, would that they be able to stand for themselves.' The matter is likened to one who needs a loan. He was told: 'Bring a guarantor, and take as much as you wish.' Whereupon he went and brought someone who also was indebted to the lender. His would-be creditor then said: 'You have brought someone who is indebted to me. Would that he be able to stand for himself. Come and bring one who is not indebted to me.' Thus did G-d say to Israel: 'Have you brought Me the Patriarchs - who themselves owe me a variety of debts - as guarantors? Rather give Me guarantors who are not indebted ot Me. And who are those who are not indebted to me?' He said to them: 'The children.' They immediately brought Him the children ... G-d said to them: 'Do you stand as guarantors that if I give your parents the Torah, they will observe it; and if not, will you be responsible for them?' They answered, 'Yes!' said He, "I am the Lord your G-d.' They answered: 'Yes!...'
Why the Torah was Given in the Wilderness
'And they encamped in the wilderness' (Shmot 19). The Torah was given freely, publicly, in an ownerless place. For if it had been given in the Land of Israel, the nations of the world would say that they have no portion in it. Therefore, the Torah was given in this manner, so that whoever wishes to accept it may come and accept it.'
'If it had been given in the Land of Israel, the people of Israel would have said to the nations: 'You have no portion in it.' It was not given in the Land of Israel in order not to create dissension among the tribes.'
'And why was it given in the wilderness? Just as the wilderness is empty of all luxuries, likewise do the words of the Torah endure only with one who refrains from all luxuries.'
'I Am the Lord Your G-d'
Why were the Ten Commandments said in singular? To teach you that each and every Israelite should say: the Ten Commandments were given for my sake and I am obligated to fulfill them. And that one should not say, it is sufficient for the Torah to be fulfilled by others
'You Shall Have No Other gods'
Rabbi Eliezer said: 'Other gods' - they fashioned for themselves new gods daily. If one of them had a golden god and he needed the gold, he made himself a silver god. If he had a silver god and needed the silver he made one of copper. If he had a copper god, and needed the copper, he made one of iron and lead. And thus it is said, 'New gods that came up of late' (Dvarim 32).
- 'Ruth is read Shavuot because the timing of its events occurred 'at the beginning of the barley harvest,' and this period is also the time of Shavuot'(Abudraham).
- 'The reading of Ruth on Shavuot is a reminder of the stand at Mt. Sinai, when the people of Israel received a total of six hundred and thirteen mitzvoth - six hundred and six mitzvoth in addition to the seven previous Noahide Laws. The numerical value of Hebrew letters which comprise the word Ruth is six hundred and six' (Teshu'ot Chen).
- 'From her very birth, Ruth was worthy of accepting upon herself the yoke of mitzvoth; and the very letters of her name bear witness to it. The letters for Ruth add up to six hundred and six which together with the seven Noahide Laws add up to six hundred and thirteen' (the Gaon of Vilna).
- 'Our fathers had the status of converts when they accepted the Torah (in order to enter the covenant they were required to undergo circumcision and immersion as is the case with converts). In honor of Ruth who was a convert and became the mother of Israel's royal family, we say, 'When we received the Torah, we were all converts' (Agan).
- 'Megilat Ruth was written by the Prophet Samuel, to indicate the genealogy of Kind David for Ruth the Moabite. We learn from the writing of this Megilah that there was Divine assent in the matter, for the end of the Megilah recounts David's ancestry and David was born on Shavuot and died on Shavuot' (Bechor Shor).
- The story of Ruth is read at the time of the giving of the Torah so that we might know that the written Torah and the Oral Torah, are together one Torah, and one is not Possible without the other. For David, the anointed of G-d unto all generations, was descended from a Moabite woman, and his legitimacy depended on the Oral Torah - which declared that only a Moabite man was prohibited from entering the fold of Israel - but not a Moabite woman. On the foundations of the House of David, the whole people of Israel is supported. All this could only come about through the authority of the Oral Torah.
Sefirat HaOmer - The Basic Meaning
The word “Sefirah” basically means “counting” or “the count.”
What is being counted?
One counts things of value.
One counts units of time till a desired goal; for a child, it might be, “How many days till vacation?” For an adult, “How many weeks or months till I get my degree?” or “How many years till I’ll be eligible for a promotion?”
Frequently, as in the example above, the items which are counted are units of time. In Judaism, “time” has great value; it is forbidden to waste it, or to “kill time.”
In the Jewish Tradition, the term “Sefirah” also has a specific meaning, and refers to a count of the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot: between the Festival of “Physical Redemption” and the Festival of “Spiritual Redemption.”
On Pesach, the Jewish People were redeemed from a terrible period of physical slavery in the “House of Bondage” of Egypt. On Shavuot, which commemorates G-d’s giving His precious gift, the Torah, to the Jewish People at Mt. Sinai, we celebrate our going from Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Freedom.
The purpose of Physical Redemption is Spiritual Redemption. Without the Spiritual, the Physical would have no meaning. The only source of Morality is G-d; the human being is very inventive, but he or she is incapable of inventing a moral code. The best that the human can do on his own, is establish rules that prevent society from descending into chaos. As Rabbi Chanina, the Assistant to the High Priest says in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 3, Mishnah 2) ” ‘Pray for the welfare of the government,’ any form of government, because if people did not fear it, one person would eat his neighbor alive.”
The Torah prescribes a way of life which lifts the human being above his purely physical nature to the level of a moral and spiritual and physical being. It enables him to realize that the conscience within him was planted there by G-d, and that he has the ability to be in touch with, and to model his behavior, to a limited extent, after that of his Creator.
He or she comes to realize that the exit from Slavery was only to become again a Servant, but this time not to any human so-called “master,” but rather to be a Servant of G-d, the true Master of the Universe.
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