Category Archives: Prayer

Sefirat haOmer: The Inner Journey of Liberation


Taking steps daily on our journey towards freedom

We now find ourselves in Chol haMoed Pesach – the intermediate days of Passover, the middle days of this ongoing eight-day holiday. After a gruelling week of preparation and a very energetic first two festival days, we are all physically spent, ready to relax and enjoy the rest of the week to come.

MITZRAYIM TO HAR SINAI: Mark Hurvitz wrote: "Rabbi Amy Scheinerman's father (Andrew Ross z"l, a graphic artist) arranged the squares in a spiral. If you look at it in three-dimensional space we begin at the foot of Sinai and climb up to the summit in time for Shavuot!"

MITZRAYIM TO HAR SINAI: In this Sefirat haOmer chart one envisions themselves taking 49-steps up the summit of Sinai in time for Shavuot. Designed by Aharon Varady, a realization of a concept envision by Andrew Ross z”l.

Still for many people the joy of the festival and that sense of momentum in our souls remains with us. As we each work through own personal exodus during this season. Now that we have determined to become free people, naturally there is a new passion to experience and actualize that freedom. And to continue this spiritual journey to become more liberated. A desire to push forward in this march of freedom still inspiring many of us.

So who do we do that? How do we become freer and more liberated people?

And how do we satisfy this expansive drive aroused in our souls, while also being amidst an exhaustingly vigorous season?

Our tradition responds to this with the mitzvah of the Sefirat haOmer – the commandment of counting of the Omer. And through this tradition we learn how everyday we can do a little bit of work on improving ourselves. That’s all it really requires to pursue freedom within yourself, just taking a small step each day out of whatever has held us back in our life’s journey.

In the procession of the Jewish year, we are on a journey from Pesach to Shavuot. A journey which takes us from freedom in Egypt, and brings us to celebration at Sinai.

We’ve talked before about the biblical commandment, to count seven weeks of harvest gladness in which our ancestors were to offer up their coarse barley growth. And how on the fiftieth day the ancient Israelites would offer up an offering of their finest wheat in the Temple,  in order to bring great culmination to this spring season on the holiday of Shavuot – the festival of weeks, celebrated on the 50th day from Pesach. (see “The Sefirat haOmer: Making The Days Count“)

These two holidays of Pesach and Shavuot, along with a third agricultural festival of Sukkot in the fall, they are called the Shelosh Regalim. These were the three pilgrimage festivals of the Torah, which in ancient times required people to journey all the way up to the capital of Jerusalem every year for these holidays.

This holiday of Shavuot has no fixed date, it occurs after 49 + 1 days after Pesach. Nor did this holiday historically have any fixed religious significance until the rabbis of the Mishna began to relate this holiday with the giving of Torah at Har Sinai.

The rabbis therefore understood these 49 days as a time of personal preparation for receiving Torah. A period which would come to be characterized by personal reflection and ethical introspection. In this way the rabbis made this period an inner journey for us. They helped us appreciate this extensive mitzvah of Sefrat haOmer as a process on a path to become worthy of receiving this revelation of Torah. In order to stand dignified at Shavuot and receive this Torah anew.

In this way we also come to appreciate the sefirah period as a way for refining and cleaning ourselves up along the way – as we shed our slave characteristics –  on our way to the reception of the Torah at Sinai.

This sense of devotion became even more stressed by the kabbalistic masters of the 16th century in Tzfat, and then later by the chassidic masters who followed them. These mystics also decided take the journey inward, but in a much deeper and more profound way.

According to their custom of meditating upon the prayers of their highly mystical siddurim, they gave practical application to the Sefirat haOmer for making it engage a personal tikkun – a correction, a repair in one’s nature. And to do so systematically and with motivated intention.

The mystics broke the sefirah period into seven cycles of seven weeks, seven being the number of completion and wholeness (i.e. number of days in a week; creation). Each of the seven weeks were set to correspond to one of the seven sefirot (Divine forces) which active in the physical world. Likewise each day of the week was set to correspond to a sefirah as well, making us look even deeper into each of these characteristics within ourselves.

This form of meditation reflects upon seven essential characteristics, and then makes us further consider how we operate those creative drives. We learn to focus on specific points of our character.

Let me give you a few examples of how this line of meditation works, and also demonstrate how one can reflect on these (with a few off-the-cuff meditative suggestions that come to mind for me during my personal reflection at this time, those are in quotes; to give us examples of how to work through these thoughts):

Day 1 of the Omer:

חֶסֶד שֶׁבְּחֶסֶד

Kindness within Kindness

“Do I display my kindness with acts of truly pure kindness?”

Day 2 of the Omer:

גְּבוּרָה שֶׁבְּחֶסֶד

Discipline/Judgment within Kindness

“Is my sense of discipline in-line with my sense of kindness?”

Day 3 of the Omer:

תִּפְאֶרֶת שֶׁבְּחֶסֶד

Beauty/Harmony within Kindness

“Do I use my expansive kindness for bringing harmony and balance?”

Day 4 of the Omer:

נֶצַח שֶׁבְּחֶסֶד

Endurance/Victory within Kindness

“Is my sense of kindness in-line with a love that is long-lasting and able to overcome the challenges?”

During the first week we start in Chesed (Kindness), which is an accessible point of reference for the soul as we continue on with the joy of celebrating Pesach and as are just starting out on our sefirah count. Then in the second week we move into Gevurah (Discipline/Judgement). The third week Tiferet (Beauty/Harmony), etc.

Each week we look at one part of our Divinely inspired nature, and then systematically examine how we can bring balance to it. Looking at each level of our consciousness, realizing there are elements of each impulse mixed-in with the others. Our challenge is to bring balance within ourselves so that none of these are in conflict, and so that we can achieve a sense of freedom within ourselves.

This might also be helpful for beginners of this form of meditation: Think of the daily sefirah as representing one aspect of your divinely inspired inner drives or ambitions, and the sefirah for the week as representing how you go about achieving that in your actions. There is certain ways we feel inside, but its all about bringing our outward displays in-line with that.

The kabbalists weaved other meditative elements into their counting of the Omer. They also assigned certain meditative words from psalms and letters to each day. As well as pieces of the highly mystical Aramaic prayer Ana Bekoach. All these textual overlays, to further inspire an inner journey.

Now there is a reason that I keep referring to the Sefirat haOmer as a journey. This mitzvah is one with many steps in order to fulfill it.  It requires us making the effort everyday for 49 days, taking many small steps everyday. We cannot move forward if we stop at any point. Which is what makes this mitzvah so much of a discipline to keep. However, it is a deeply rewarding journey of self-exploration and refinement for those who follow all the way through!

Modern Meditative Aids for the Sefirat haOmer

colorfulomerchart KOL ALEPH MINIOne of the best ways to help one remember the daily Omer count is to use a chart. Over the years many charts have been devised to help people remember and stay accurate with their count. Many communities and homes have unique ones which people festively display and refer to.

These clever charts are also very useful for helping people visualize this path and process. One contemporary chart posted by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat of the ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is a personal favorite. See her entry at Kol Aleph:

This not only a great way to keep count, it is also a great way to meditate upon the Omer. To think of it as a journey moving inward, to examine ourselves in our deepest core. Or we can also see this as a path around a mountain, moving upward with a step each day until we reach the peak of Sinai. This lovely chart is also overlaid with other meditative elements which color and desktop formatting today allow.

Over the years I have made the case that the rabbis made intentional use of specific words, letters and sounds to deliver imagery. As they were limited in their means of presenting these ideas in a black-and-white world in which they produced their manuscripts,  the mystics used other schemas. I have always believed that had the mystics of old lived today they would layer meaning in color, which would also aid in showing relationships of one thing to another.

I’m glad to see that several scholars and rabbis of the modern age are utilizing color to expressed concepts in their works and materials. To help people visualize the lesson and their inner journey.

Aharon-Varady-Sefirot-HaOmer-ChartOne the finest examples of this is the Sefirat HaOmer Chart of Lieba B. Ruth (aka, Lauren Deutsch), which was originally created according to her own color scheme.

Aharon Varady also notes:

“Lauren Deutsch’s system of color correspondences for the sefirot mainly follows the light spectrum from red to deep blue, then black and purple. Her systems accords well with that of Mark Hurvitz’s 7×7 Color Grid for the Omer.”

My friend and colleague Aharon Varady of the Open Siddur Project, was able formulate a meditative chart which would alternatively correspond to the color schema innovated by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.

She has generously shared this Kabbalistic Sefirat HaOmer chart as free and redistributable resource through the Open Siddur Project. Please re-distribute!

DOWNLOAD: SVG (source) | PNG

Please also refer to the original post by Aharon Varady and Lauren Deutsch at Open Siddur Project:

This chart expresses how the sefirot – both for the corresponding week and day of the sefirah count – how they come together. Causing us to conceptualize and consider the relationship of one characteristic to the other, and helping us visualize the balance we are trying to achieve between these powerful forces inside us.

In like manner, Aharon Varady also created a variation of the meditative circles chart utilizing a classical and historically inspired color schema. A schema which was presented in Reb Seidenberg’s Omer Counter widget (Neohasid.org). Aharon noted that this color system corresponds closely with that of the colors suggested by the RAMAK in Pardes Rimonim,Aharon-Varady_-_Omer-Circles-(David-Seidenberg's-Color-schema) as cited in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s book, “Meditation & Kabbalah” (p. 181)  in the chapter titled “Colors.”

Having also taken personal interest in the color correspondences within classic kabbalistic literature, I had also tried to imagine this. To perceive how the mystics would have conceived of this. So this additional contribution has helped bring that to life for me. This color schema is very useful and meaningful to both Chassidic and Sephardic followers of the mystical disciplines.

The meaning of all this is also presented for us by Aharon in his detailed comments of the aforementioned post. The entry also wonderfully included the prayers, blessings, meditations, and even an updating counting widget… in addition to the helping you identify and visualize the interacting sefirot as you observe this special mitzvah!

Conclusion:

Many of us modern people don’t have the time or space in our lives make a religious pilgrimage like ancients used to during this time of year, therefore we have a long tradition of focusing on how to take this journey inward. We should utilize the many ways of teaching and thinking which helps take us on a journey for the soul.

Want to personalize your own journey? Here is a Do-It-Yourself help for making your own Sefirat haOmer Chart.

We have been learning about this inward journey through the soul we engage in during the sefirah period. One of the best ways is to visualize that journey as path up a mountain, as previously mentioned regarding another chart.

Aharon Varady also provides us with a subtle adaptation of a chart concept envisioned by Andrew Ross z”l. As noted by Aharon elsewhere:

 “Mark Hurvitz wrote: “Rabbi Amy Scheinerman‘s father (Andrew Ross z”l, a graphic artist) arranged the squares in a spiral. If you look at it in three-dimensional space we begin at the foot of Sinai and climb up to the summit in time for Shavuot!” (Please see: http://www.scheinerman.net/judaism/shavuot/omer4.html)

This wonderful chart is designed by Aharon Varady, a realization of a concept envision by Andrew Ross z”l.

The chart image shown at the top is a Creative Commons document, editable and redistributable design. Showing a spiral starting from the upper right, and moving counter-clockwise on its way inward. Indeed, all the items presented by Open Siddur are open-source licensed to edit and share! Feel free to personalize it with numbers or meditative thoughts.

What are you making your exodus from this year? Are you trying to leave bad traits behind? Are you making a journey out of addiction? Are you finding liberation from the effects of unhealthy relationships? Or are you just stepping forward in order to leave a sense of apathy behind? Personalize this chart and meditation for your goals. Whatever helps you visualize your journey inward to the soul and upward to Sinai!

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Prayer for Peace by Rebbe Nachman of Beslov


A chassidic prayer of intention for peace and an end to war

Breslov Chassidim Singing

“Let there be a truly great peace between every person and their fellow…”

All over the world, our eyes are turned towards Israel as the region is once again thrown into war. This tense situation also having tragic repercussions in diaspora, with violent protests erupting on the streets of cities worldwide as people take sides in this dispute.

I must admit, I am overwhelmed with the crisis of the past few weeks. Everyone wants to debate who is right, and who is wrong. But I am already past that point. It is not that I do not stand with my people. It’s not that I’m not appalled by the violence. But all these recent events together, this is just not something that I can wrap my head around. It’s all too much. This is not something I can ever rationalize or even apologize for. I’m at a loss for words, and my mind is worn.

Do you feel the same way? Then I think it is time that we step away from trying to over-think it, and start doing some soul-work on this issue. As we all know that on a heart level every one of us wants all this crazy violence to end. Not just between Israel and the Palestinians, but also between all the fighting groups in the middle-east as I.S.I.S. militias push through the region. As well as in the Ukraine and Russia, where the situation is further escalating there as well. Our world needs peace!

At times like this, when I feel like I really need to do some deep soul-searching and when my emotions are pushed to the limit, I sometimes find that even my normal “rational” faculties to be insufficient or even broken. My familiar Chabad chassidut learning which focuses on higher intellect, it needs to be augmented. So then I step down from the lofty realms of Chachman, Binah, and Daat (Wisdom, Insight, and Knowledge, respectively); together refereed to by the acronym ChaBaD, which all relate to levels of higher understanding. Then I dig deeper – going down the kabbalistic tree, down from the head to the heart.

The Central Sefirot: Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet (ChaGaT)It’s at irrational moments like this when I focus on the basic principles of ChaGaT chassidut. Refocusing on the basics which look to the center of our being. I begin to look into the realms of Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet; which are respectively described as Kindness, Severity, and Harmony. In doing this we look at our basic emotive tendencies and try to bring balance between the extremes. Neither being too kind or permissive, wantonly expressing Chesed. Neither being too strong and severe, which is an excessive expression of Gevurah. But instead work to attain balance and to be in harmony; as expressed by Tiferet, also refereed to a Rachamim, meaning Mercy. In this approach, the goal is to find the golden middle path between the extremes.

At this time I would like us all to let ourselves dig deep emotionally. Not just focus on the wars in this outside world, but also deal with the battles raging inside our hearts as a result of these conflicts. So that we can bring balance inside ourselves. And in order to not get dragged into the common tendencies of extremism. To overcome the reactive nature of the soul. So that we be nether driven by fanaticism nor cynicism, but instead be compelled by compassion.

Breslov Chassidim, doing Kiruv (outreach)Probably the most notorious of the ChaGaT schools are the Breslov chassidim. Followers of the legacy and teachings of Rebbe Nachman z”l (1773-1810), of Bratslav, Ukraine. He was the son of Feiga; the meritorious granddaughter of the Baal Shem Tov, the very founder of chassidut. The movement Rebbe Nachman headed, today it has thousands of emissaries and youth active in kiruv. Worldwide they are known for their joyous outreach campaigns, often cutely summed up by observers as the hippie chassidim. (see Breslov.org and Breslev.co.il)

Breslov Street OutreachThe following is a widely distributed prayer, attributed to Rebbe Nachman of Beslov. This prayer is so well-loved that versions of it have made its way into prayerbooks and services everywhere. Not just in chassidic and orthodox Jewish circles, but also in progressive Jewish siddurim and interfaith services (UNESCO, Vatican, etc).

This version is the widely recognized Hebrew text. The English text closely follows the common translation, though slightly modified. The frequently missing first stanza (אדון השלום) is included here. I also added a free-translation for the fourth stanza (ויהיה כל אדם), which has been curiously missing from all previous translations to date.

תפילה לשלום

Prayer for peace

“Lord of Peace, Divine Ruler, to whom peace belongs. Master of Peace, Creator of all things:

אדון השלום, מלך שהשלום שלו עושה שלום ובורא את הכל:

“May it be thy will to put an end to war and bloodshed on earth, and to spread a great and wonderful peace over the whole world, ‘so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’ (Isaiah 2:4)

יהי רצון מלפניך, שתבטל מלחמות ושפיכות דמים מן העולם ותמשיך שלום גדול ונפלא בעולם ולא ישא גוי אל גוי חרב ולא ילמדו עוד מלחמה“:

“Help us and save us all, and let us cling tightly to the virtue of peace. Let there be a truly great peace between every person and their fellow, and between husband and wife, and let there be no discord between any people even in their hearts.

עזרנו והושיענו כולנו שניזכה תמיד לאחוז במידת השלום, ויהיה שלום גדול באמת בין כל אדם לחברו, ובין איש לאשתו ולא יהיה שום מחלוקת אפילו בלב בין כל בני אדם:

“And may it be that all people love peace and pursue peace, always in truth and with wholeheartedness, without holding on to any disputes ever again which would divide us against each other.

ויהיה כל אדם אוהב שלום ורודף שלום תמיד באמת ובלב שלם, ולא נחזיק במחלוקת כלל לעולם ואפילו נגד החולקים עלינו:

“Let us never shame any person on earth, great or small. May it be granted unto us to fulfill Thy Commandment to, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ (Leviticus 19:18) with all our hearts and souls and bodies and possessions.

ולא נבייש שום אדם בעולם מקטן ועד גדול ונזכה לקיים באמת מצוות ואהבת לרעך כמוך“, בכל לב וגוף ונפש וממון:

“And let it come to pass in our time as it is written, ‘And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down and none shall make you afraid. I will drive the wild beasts from the land, and neither shall the sword go through your land.’ (Leviticus 26:6)

ויקוים בנו מקרא שכתוב ונתתי שלום בארץ ושכבתם ואין מחריד והשבתי חיה רעה מן הארץ וחרב לא תעבור בארצכם:

“Hashem who is peace, bless us with peace!”

יי שלום, ברכנו בשלום.

Attributed to Rabbi Nachman ben Feiga of Breslov, 1773-1810

רבי נחמן בן פיגא מברסלב

Text edited and partially translated by Shmuel Gonzales, July 2014. 
This is free and open-source to distribute, under Creative Commons Zero (CCO) licensing, no rights reserved.

 

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Prayers and Mitzvot for the Three Israeli Youth in Captivity


Ready to say Tehillim and Mishebeirach? What can you do to help?

The whole Jewish world is praying for the safe return of three Israeli youth, being held yet another day by Hamas terrorists. Share their faces, and as world citizens demand better of the Palestinian Authority and their already perilous “unity government.”

And do a good deed in the honor of these boys. Pray and say Tehillim (Psalms) their merit, and their names:

Yaakov Naftali Ben Rachel Devorah (Fraenkel, 16 years old)

Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim (Shaer, 16 years old)

Eyal ben Iris Teshura (Yifrach, 19 years old)

Two of the three teenagers abducted are students in Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s Mekor Haim Yeshiva High School in Jerusalem. (see “Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz calls for prayers for teens’ return”)

SHAARH FAMILY / FRENKEL FAMILY / YIFRAH FAMILY / HANDOUT/EPA. (from left to right) Gilad Shaarh , Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah have been missing since last week.

SHAARH FAMILY / FRENKEL FAMILY / YIFRAH FAMILY / HANDOUT/EPA. (from left to right) Gilad Shaarh , Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah have been missing since last week.

As noted by the rabbi, many of us feel deeply pained and even utterly helpless in the face of such a horrible crime against civilian youth. But is there any way we can help?

Yes! We can prevail over hatred of Jews and the terrorism it promotes by proliferating the world with spiritual acts. Acts of chesed (kindness) to properly shame the values of the cowardly. We are not helpless! What we can do is pray with intentions of peace. And fill this dark world with acts of kindness.

Join people worldwide in prayer and good deeds. Including the Jews and Muslims who are praying at the very site the of the abduction, at the Gush EtZion settlement block in the West Bank. (see “At kidnapping site, Jews and Muslims join in prayer.” Times of Israel)

Need help selecting and pledging a mitzvah? You can find help with both online at, “Mitzvot for the Israeli Students.” (Chabad.org) There are so many things the average person can do. You don’t have to be super-spiritual, just pledge to do a Jewish act that you might know how to do but are a bit out of touch with. Do it with the thought in mind that you are doing this soulful act in the merit of those young boys who are not yet free to do these sacred mitzvot.

Need help communicating your prayers? One of the both centering and unifying things about Jewish prayer is the collective experience. Not that we always pray together as a community and discourage private prayer. But what I mean is that even when we pray on our own, most often we tend to use prayers which unite us through a collective experience of liturgy and language.

Our friends over at the Open Siddur Project have provided the Misheiberach prayer (“May the One who blesses…”) which is being circulated for the speedy and safe return of the three captives. This document also includes Psalm 142 in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Misheberakh for those held in Captivity” (Open Siddur)

As the army and police tirelessly search for the captives in the most perilous of terrains and civil conditions. We also stand with the service personnel and their families. Here is a Mishebeirach Prayers, one for the State of Israel and another for the Israel Defense Forces.

Mishebeirach Prayers for Israel and the IDF” (Hardcore Mesorah)

Please share these prayers with your congregation or chavura group, these are appropriately added during the Torah reading service or at any other times the Misheibeirach is said in your community. Or even during your own personal prayer and meditation.

Do you want to say Tehillim? One of the most common ways for Jews to pour out our hearts is through reciting Tehillim. This is quite possibly one of the oldest and most intimate forms of supplication. But do you know why we engage in the recitation and reflection upon the Psalms? Learn the how and why of saying Tehillim. I have also included several Psalms which are appropriate for those who are saying Tehillim at this time in the following piece:

Saying Tehillim for Israel and the IDF” (Hardcore Mesorah)

It is most common for people to say the following two psalms in time of danger and distress:

Psalm 20

Psalm 142

At this time our rabbis and scholars are also suggesting the following appropriate psalms for these young boys:

Psalm 121

Psalm 143

Lastly, do something completely practical, appeal to peoples humanity! Join in vigils for these youth. Start a community dialogue regarding the peace process. Help the world see this through the eyes of humanity.

And as concerned citizens we need to voice our appall with all who would rejoice and encourage their children celebrate the capture of youth not much older than themselves. It’s not just our boys that are being harmed, it’s also Arab children who are being distorting with this type of hateful brainwashing through social media! (see “More Palestinian Reactions To Kidnapping: The Most Disturbing Of All”)

Remember our boys until they come home! Share their faces and names, remind people these youth are not abstract components of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. They are real youth; with families, friends, and a people who care deeply for them. These are real youth; with dreams, passions and talents.

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Do you need a siddur? This blog proudly cooperates with The Open Siddur Project. The project is a volunteer based organization dedicated to documenting and making the wealth of Jewish prayer and prayer resources available with free, redistributable licensing in electronic format and print formats. You can find my contributions of liturgy HERE. Find out how you can also be a part of this worthy cause!


Is there a Hebrew Thanksgiving connection? Yes, it’s the Turkey!


Interesting Points About the Origins of the Name Turkey in English and Hebrew

This holiday drash is a bit special because it is the first time that American Thanksgiving coincides with the start of Chanukah. Thanksgiving running late and Chanukah seeming to fall early in the season, causes a unique coinciding of two holidays that are very special to me. Add to that my birthday also falling this week, it’s been a week of joy and things for me to be grateful for.

thanksgiving-dinner-holiday-feast-turkey-wallpaper

One of the things I’m most thankful for at this time of year is Turkey! It’s actually one of my favorite foods. It is a symbol of thanksgiving the world over, used as the center of festive meals for many holiday observances. But for us North Americans it holds a special place as being a native bird, it puts some of the best of out bounty on display.

So what’s with then name of the Turkey? How does it get this strange name? English speakers and Hebrew speakers both have legends about how they came up with the strange name for this bird.

The well-known Anglo myth regarding why we call the bird a Turkey is because the bird was mistaken for another type of bird when it was imported into central Europe. They were simply classified as a Turkey Fowl along with guinea-fowl, the name Turkey however stuck in the end. Being named after their assumed place of origin, pointing towards their import location in Constantinople.

Now one might ask themselves, what they call them in Turkish? They call them a “Hindi.” That is where they assumed the wild turkeys came from, from the Indus valley in India. They also did not realize that they Spanish and Portuguese traders who colonized India were importing them from the New World at first. They are not the only people to have made that mistake. This is also reflected in other languages such as Russian, Yiddish, Armenian, Catalan, French, Italian, Polish, etc. Each of these languages still retains a variance of the name India in their proper name for the Turkey.

It is also true in Hebrew, we call it by a full name “tarnegol hodu,” or the Rooster of India. Hodu is also the long-held classical Hebrew name for India. In the end we all drop the first part of the name that states the type of animal it is, and just simply call it a hodu.

Now Jews also hold two urban legends about how they names Turkey and Hodu came to be used. There are those who hold by a legend that Christopher Columbus was a converso-Jew who had some crew expelled by the Inquisition with him, they named the colorful bird after the Hebrew work for a parrot “tuki,” it mistakenly got passed along as Turkey. Yet others also credit him with the name Hodu, saying that he thought the Native Americans were Indians so he called their bird Hodu, after where he thought he had landed; the Indian subcontinent. I can’t vouch for either one of these claims, as they both rely on tall tales. But it’s an interesting connection

Now if that isn’t enough to keep the mind thinking wild connections, I couldn’t help but giggle when I came across the places in our morning Hebrew prayers where we say the commonly used phrase “hodu l’Hashem.”

This is more grandly repeated in rounds on Shabbat and Festival days with the recitation of Psalm 136, “Hodu l’Hashem ki tov, ki l’olma chasdo / thank the L-rd for He is good, His kindness endures forever!” We see and hear the word “hodu” used, here but in a totally different way. Here the word hodu is a call to give thanks. From the Hebrew root holdot, meaning thanksgiving.

Though the word form seems the same, the only distinction that is made between the classical Hebrew word “hodu” and the more modern use of “hodu” is a slight variance by the native speaker. One tends to raise their voice in the prayer; accenting the first syllable, HOdu. In everyday speech though we tend to accent our last syllable, like when speaking of India it’s “hoDU.”

So remember as you say your prayers on Thanksgiving, when we say our prayer. It goes like this:

“Thank the L-rd for He is good,

His kindness endures forever”

| Hodu l’Hashem ki-tov

| ki l’olam chasdo

Psalm 136:1

Not:

“The Turkey of the L-rd is good, His kindness never ends.”

We all know that your bird isn’t going to last that long, not with a full-house of hungry people. The good things is that the chesed of Hashem – the kindness and mercy of G-d is something that is never-ending. It never runs out, it lasts forever. Not just today, but every day of the year. So we can and should also be thankful each and every day as well!

This is Shmu, from Hardcore Mesorah. I want to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and also a Chag Chanukah Sameach.

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Neilah: Closing the Gates of Repentance


Reflections on Forgiveness from the Yom Kippur Amidah

Neilah

Like most people, I am also battling my body and my will during this fast day of Yom haKippurim. It is a long day, being one of the few full day-long fasts in our calendar. This is especially rare this year, as this very solemn day of rest is also paired with the weekly Sabbath day of rest. Normally we do not fasts on Shabbat. However as our tradition considers this day of atonement a thing of pure joy, the regular festive meals are suspended as we feast on some deep prayers and reflections.

And during this holiday we certainly have many helpings of prayers. This holiday of Yom haKippurim – the day of atonements – we recite our central prayer duty, the Amidah no less that five times (Ma’ariv, Shacharit, Mussaf, Minchah, and Neilah).

I am sitting here considering the words of the final prayer, the Neilah – the closing of the gates of teshuvah (repentance) and heaven. I would like us to explore the concept of atonement, through the aid of this prayer and the scriptural context from which it is drawn.

The liturgy reads as follows:

“Our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, forgive us our wrongdoings, on this Shabbat day and on this Day of Atonements, on this day of pardoning of sin, on this day of assembly; wipe away and remove our transgressions and sins from before Your eyes, as it is stated: ‘I, just I, am He who wipes away your transgressions. For My own sake, I will not recall.’ (Isaiah 43:25)”

אלהינו ואלהי אבותינו מחול לעונותינו ביום השבת הזה וביום הכפרים הזה ביום סליחת העון הזה ביום מקרא קדש הזה מחה והעבר פשעינו וחטאתינו מנגד עיניך כאמור: אנכי אנכי הוא מחה פשעיך למעני וחטאתיך לא אזכר:

Fifth Amidah, Neilah for Yom Kippur

Here we are asking G-d, for the last time, to forgive our avonoteinu – our wrongdoings. To wipe away our p’shaeinu v’chatoteinu – our transgressions and our sins. This prayer is an important one to me, because neilah is always a tearjerker. It has full urgency, as it is our last chance to repent. We don’t want to get left outside of the gates of repentance. But at the same time it comes with all the exhilaration of accomplishment for those who engage it. All the senses are firing at once.

I would like us to look at the basics of why we go through this process at all. We will find the answer provided for us straightaway, here during the height of the High Holy Days, during the pinnacle of our celebration here in the Neilah prayer. There is one simple point that drives this holiday. We do all this simply because G-d wants to forgive us. We aren’t trying to necessarily convince G-d to forgive us, its has more to do with us getting in-line with the spirit of atonement and the theme of forgiveness for ourselves.

One of the reasons that this holiday is so hard to explain to outsiders is that the world often has a very different message about atonement, as does the common culture. In most religions its it is most often about who you go through to get redemption, or more precisely who does it for you. Who is this leader that either commands G-d’s recognition of his pardon, or who is the man who sacrifices himself to pay off your moral dept. How can we repent without such a person? When we say we are atoning the big question is, “Who is going to forgive you? Who atones for you?”

This kind of perplexes us Jews. Because as reasoning people, and knowing the Torah, we understand that the true way to atone is to ask forgiveness from the people that we have sinned against and to remedy the wrong. We have been doing this work of teshuvah (repentance), revisiting the situation and setting it right, for some weeks now. We aren’t atoning by asking G-d to forgive our interpersonal wrongs, nor our lapses in ethics. That we must do for ourselves, with the people affected.

Hopefully at this point most of our ethical and moral issues have been dealt with and considered. So why is it so heartfelt for us at this point in the service? Why does it shake us in such a way through to our very core? This is because what we are dealing with now is the issues that are between us and G-d, and between us and ourselves. Often times these prayers of Yom Kippur are heavy with prayers of forgiveness for the wrongs that we have done against ourselves and G-d alone. The things deep inside of us that need to be settled, the places that are tremendously hard to reach and painful to touch. Things that can only be settled on a heart-level.

As we approach this prayer I would hope that we can say it with all joy, because we have remedied our wrong deeds and are ready to stand atoned and forgiven. We should feel overcome by a sense of relief. Why should we stand upright now with a sense of celebration and awe? It is because we can stand forgiven if we chose to make it so today! Who is the guarantor of this pardon that we should acknowledge it?

Our prayer draws from the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“I,

I am the One who

blots our your transgressions

for My sake,

and your sins I will not remember.”

אָנֹכִי |

אָנֹכִי הוּא |

מֹחֶה פְשָׁעֶיךָ, |

לְמַעֲנִי: |

וְחַטֹּאתֶיךָ, לֹא אֶזְכֹּר: |

Isaiah 43:25

G-d declares to us that He is the one that forgives our sins, it is He alone. And He does this “l’maani / for My own sake.” Just because He wants to! What of the guilt of our sins? Of our sin’s, He says that He chooses to remember them no more.

The text of the prophet Isaiah from where this is drawn actually gives us a good look into not only why G-d wants to forgiveness us in this way, but also why it is important for us to set a day for atonement aside. This verse can be found in the paragraph of Isaiah 43:22-28.

For a moment G-d calls out to us, like a long-lost parents during the holidays. You can hear the almost distinctive tone of a Jewish mother in the voice of G-d here. You haven’t called on me or even bothered to remember me. You haven’t troubled yourself on account of Me, G-d says. Even more interestingly, He starts out by saying in verse 22 that “v’lo oti karata / you haven’t called out to me,” not even when you needed help. That is so like us, to call out only when we need something, so He mentions that form of outcry first. But here G-d is calling out to people who don’t even have the impulse in them for that. Rashi says instead they called out to idols to help them. That’s how distance the relationship has become for some.

G-d also calls out something remarkable to us. He calls out to the people who haven’t been bothered to offer sacrifice. People who haven’t bothered to offer any offerings up for G-d. What is so astounding about this verse is that even as it accuses the people of not sacrificing or giving offerings, G-d says, “I have not burdened you with grain offerings, nor wearied you with incense offerings.” (v.23) In this verse Rashi take the tone a little more directly for us at this point, saying that G-d indeed has not burdened us, in fact even the grain offerings of the Temple itself only required a mere handful. Of being wearied, Rashi chimes on how quickly we can grow tired of our service before Him. We are too tired to care, even when all He is asking is that we show a pinch of conviction and regard in our daily lives.

In the next verse we see the theme follow in the same tone. We have not bothered G-d with our offerings of money and sweet cane, nor have fat meats for offerings been brought; but the people have instead burdened Him with their sins, and wearied G-d with our many wrongdoing we commit. We just can’t be bothered sometimes, except when it comes to doing wrong.  (v.24)

And it is in this context that G-d takes the higher grounds and says to us, “I, even I erase your transgressions for My sake, and your sins I will not remember.” (v.25) G-d thus offers us His means for atonement and pardon. It is He that initiates and calls us to the table to discuss whom has been wronged in this game of life. He calls “hazikraini,” He is calling out, “Remember Me!” He challenges us, “nisaftah yachad / let us reason together.” G-d asks us to consider ourselves and our role in this universe, and the role G-d and our own will both play in our existence. He calls us to saper, to lay it all out and take a true accounting, so that in the end we can come to a just resolution. He calls to you and me. That you may be, “l’maan titz’dak / that you may be accounted just.” (v.26)

And this is really what the majority of the Yom haKippurim is spent doing. Not just feeling penitent for our wrongs, but also focusing on how to “titz’dak,” how to get right. Even if we are already right with other people, sometimes we aren’t exactly right with ourselves and G-d yet. We hold the weight of guilt and shame hanging our shoulders. The pressure of all kinds of wrongs and moral failures that we are grieved over, for which we still hold ourselves accountable for. But we are asked to give it up, because G-d wants to relieve us of that for His own sake.  Just because He wants to, because He thinks it’s best for you to live a life free and justified in your own being. G-d doesn’t want to remember anymore, and neither should you. These words in neilah are one last chance to deliver this message.

For me these are some of the reasons the prayers of neilah are so beautiful. It drives such a beautiful message home for us: Not only do we need to seek out atonement, but we also need to be willing to accept forgiveness for ourselves.

As we approach neilah I would ask us all to just hold on through one more prayer service. We are almost there, we can see the finish line. Put all your energy into the final stretch of this marathon of teshuvah (repentance). As we come together for this last tefillah and service before Hashem, let us fully embrace this prayer with equal joy and awe. And with confidence, knowing that our heartfelt prayers of repentance and atonement have been heard. We can now let these gates close, our work is done. So raise your voices high, this is just an encore!


Selichot: The Penitential Prayers for Rosh HaShanah


Selichot: The Penitential Prayers for Rosh HaShanah
Resources for repentance in the month of Elul and the Days of Awe

Tens of thousands of Jewish people gather for a mass prayer for forgiveness (slichot) at Western Wall in Jerusalem's old city

Tens of thousands of Jewish people gather while it’s still dark for a mass prayer for forgiveness (selichot) at Western Wall in Jerusalem’s old city

As we enter the month of Elul all Jewish communities begin to reflect on our ways and deeds in a spirit of repentance. The reason for our reflection and introspection is because we are preparing for Rosh haShanah (The Jewish New Year, the day of judgment) and Yom haKippurim (the Day of Atonements).

However there is more that just proximity to the start of a new civil year in the Jewish calendar that makes Elul an ideal time for repentance. Many people point out the similarity between the word Elul and the word “to search” in the Aramaic language. This is a perfect time for us to look inward and search out the state of our moral character. For this reason the entire month of Elul is considered a time of personal repentance and self-judgment. Though we have the High Holidays to petition G-d for mercy and forgiveness, we examine ourselves before we stand this judgment to be sure our hearts are pure.

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For Sephardim – the period of reflection begins in the month of Elul with Selichot, a month prior. When connected to the ten Day of Awe; this allows for as much as forty days for teshuvah and to do the work of renewal of the soul.

In the Sephardic tradition this season is a bit more obvious, for the entire month prior one says the Selichot – the Penitential Prayers. From the second day of Elul (once Rosh Chodesh has passed) they are recited in the presence of a minyan (a full congregation) for communal repentance.

For Ashkenazim this period is not as long, only requiring a minimum of four days of Selichot before Rosh haShanah. As the New Year only falls on certain days of the week according to the rules of the Jewish calendar, this may vary. If Rosh haShanah falls on a Thursday or on Shabbat, then one only recites from after the preceding Shabbat. If it falls on Monday or Tuesday, then this period starts about a week and half earlier. This period is commenced immediately after celestial midnight on motzei Shabbat (the going out of the sabbath, Saturday evening); with men and women, both adults and their children, gather to engage in prayer and liturgy. (For 2015 this starts on September 5th)

So the Sephardic tradition starts in Elul. While Ashkenazim start closer to the holiday of Rosh haShanah, during the period when the series of traditional Selichot begin to become most grand and intense right before the holiday.

In both traditions, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi, the Selichot are said after Tikkun Chatzot – the Midnight Prayer Service – during the period between halachic midnight and dawn. However, for the sake of convenience you might find that your local congregation holds their Selichot service immediate before Shacharit (Morning Prayers).

It is ideal that one say Selichot in the presence of a minyan, as some of the prayers are only able to be recited with a sufficient quorum. The prayers are not just worded in the plural, but they are composed to be said responsively. Selichot are often said in rounds by lay persons, giving everyone an opportunity for participation. Selichot are said daily (except on Shabbat).

It is the custom of most communities to say Selichot during the Aseret Yamei Teshuvah – The Ten Days of Repentance, the days between Rosh haShannah and Yom Kippur. This is not the case in the Chabad custom, in which one does not say Selichot during these Days of Awe except for on the day of Tzom Gedalia – the fast of Gedalia. (For 2015 this will fall on September 15th)

Do you need a copy of the Selichot? You can download digital copies in PDF format, and according to different traditions. Here are a few leads:

  • New Chabad Selichot in Hebrew – this is a new typesetting with instructions, there is no English translation. According to the tradition of Chabad chassidus.(Chabad.org)
  • Classic Chabad Slichot in English – this text also has the facing Hebrew pages, however the person who digitized it scanned the Hebrew upside down in many cases. (Hebrewbooks.org)
  • Classic Chabad for Day One – with English, this also has upside-down Hebrew pages. (Hebrewbooks.org)
  • Selichot Avodat Yisrael, Sephard – this is a comprehensive set of selichot for each day. (Daat.ac.il)
  • Selichot Saadia Gaon – Mizrahi tradition, the tradition of the middle-east. Nusach Edut haMizrach (Daat.ac.il)
  • Selichot Teimani – according to the Yeminite tradition (Daat.ac.il)
  • Selichot Kol Tuv Sefard – de acuerdo a la tradición de las comunidades sefarditas de Londres y Amsterdam, en hebreo y español. Compilado por el Rabino Juan Mejía, rabino Masortí. (koltuvsefarad.com)


Ten Tehillim (Psalms) for After a Terror Attack


Psalms You Can Say In Vigil for the Victims of the Boston Terror Attack

Terrorist Attack on the Boston Marathon: the people of Israel and all America stands with Boston.

Terrorist Attack on the Boston Marathon: the people of Israel and all Americans stand with the City of Boston.

During great times of distress it is the Jewish custom to engage in prayers and the saying of Tehillim (Psalms). Psalms are actually liturgical songs, and for this reason they are the backbone of Jewish prayer. The Psalms are not only a deep guide for prayer, but they are also a heartfelt book of poetry that provides prayers for strength and words of comfort to those who utilize them.

To learn more about the reciting of Tehillim (Psalms), please refer to the following article:

Most often for chassidim Psalms are said at night or in the darkness of the early morning, during times of reflection and devotion. It may even be paired with Tikkun Chatzot, or the Bedtime Shema.

I have handpicked these ten Psalms that I believe are appropriate for this incident. Certain standard Tehillim are most often suggested after terrorist attacks or similar disasters; Psalms 23, 83 and 121. Psalm 46 is also a commonly appropriate chapter, it also holds special significance for Americans since it has been previously invoked by President Barak Obama in memory of the victims of the 9/11 attack.

May G-d hear our prayers and bring a speedy recovery, and restore the peace and joy to the city of Boston and all the Artzot haBrit – The United States, or literally in Hebrew “the Land of The Covenant.” (a term derived in references to our Constitution).

Psalm 46 – “G-d is for us a shelter and a strength, a help in troubles; He is very accessible… But as for the river-its rivulets shall cause the city of G-d, the holy place of the dwellings of the Most High, to rejoice. Gd is in its midst that it should not totter; G-d shall help it as morning approaches… The L-rd of Hosts is with us; the G-d of Jacob is our fortress forever.”

Psalm 20 – “May the L-rd answer you on a day of distress; may the name of the G-d of Jacob fortify you. May He send your aid from His sanctuary, and may He support you from Zion… They kneel and fall, but we rise and gain strength.”

Psalm 23 – “The L-rd is my shepherd; I shall not want. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff-they comfort me.”

Psalm 83 – “O G-d, have no silence, do not be silent and do not be still, O G-d. For behold, Your enemies stir, and those who hate You raise their heads. Against Your people they plot cunningly, and they take counsel against Your protected ones….”

Psalm 121 – “I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come? My help is from the L-rd, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to falter; Your Guardian will not slumber.”

Psalm 27 – “The L-rd is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The L-rd is the stronghold of my life; from whom shall I be frightened? When evildoers draw near to me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies against me-they stumbled and fell.”

Psalm 56 – “They lodge, they hide, they watch my steps, when they hope for my life… Then my enemies will retreat on the day that I call. Thereby I will know that I have a G-d… In G-d I trusted. I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 64 – “Hear, O G-d, my voice in my prayer; from fear of the enemy You shall guard my life. You shall hide me from the counsel of evildoers, from the gathering of workers of iniquity.”

Psalm 68 – “May Gd rise up; His enemies scatter, and those who hate Him flee from before Him. As smoke is driven away, You will drive [them] away; as wax melts before fire, the wicked will perish from before G-d. And the righteous will rejoice, yea, they will exult before G-d and they will delight with joy.”

Psalm 70 – “May those who seek my life be shamed and humiliated; may those who desire my harm turn back and be disgraced… May all those who seek You exult and rejoice, and may those who love Your salvation say constantly, “May G-d be magnified”… But I am poor and needy, O G-d, hasten to me; You are my aid and my rescuer, O L-rd, do not delay.”


Afternoon Prayers: Mincha Gedolah or Mincha Ketanah?


When is the earliest time to daven Mincha and how does a Minyan effect this choice?

Davening Mincha / MaarivA few weeks ago a friend asked a very important, but very basic question. One that got me taken down a long path of consideration. We are going to look at this in-depth. Our question is: When is the best time to say Mincha – the afternoon prayers.

It is most common for people to say Mincha later in the afternoon. Most often the prayers are said at the same time, or just adjacent to, the evening prayers of Maariv (Arvit). This is how it is normally done. This is the halacha (the law) as we will see.

Although often times there is a consideration given to one’s opportunity to say prayers with a minyan – a full congregation, a sufficient quorum. It is ideal to say prayers with a minyan than on one’s own, so people plan their prayer schedule to conform to meeting with this group. Nonetheless there is a time requirement in which to say morning and evening prayers; we say them in the morning and any time at night, if we are close to passing the appropriate time of day then we say them on our own. However Mincha can apparently be said all day long, as long as its past midday, so on some occasions that might leave us up to considering for ourselves when is ideal.

Is it better to say it on our own at the most halachically agreeable time later in the afternoon, or with a minyan even if that means saying it earlier? What is more appropriate? We are going to look at some answers to that question, and explore the reasons why we pray Mincha in this manner to begin with. We also make this even more interesting by taking a look at what some Sephardic poskim have to say regarding the halacha.

A look at the Laws relating to Mincha

Normally when I start presenting instructions for any type of mitzvah I start with the Shulchan Aruch – popularly known as The Code of Jewish Law. It usually is the stopping off place for our consideration of just about every mitzvah. In general, it not only presents us with the Sephardic approach for things as its base text, but it also is augmented with the glosses of the Rema who speaks for the Ashkenazi tradition as well. Very few times do I need to dig much further than that, or needing to do much more than identify halachic sources that clarify the approach for their respective communities based on this text. But today we are going to see a divergence from this, where the Shulchan Aruch is not necessarily giving a definitive voice.

We might need to break this down a bit for this to be understood, but let us start first off with the Shulchan Aruch‘s approach first. This is necessary also because we really need to draw a line of thinking as to why one might deviate from this approach.

The Maran (Rabbi Yosef Karo) tells us one fulfills his obligation of saying their Mincha prayers – which correspond to be our afternoon prayer service – after a half-hour past midday. We mean from when the sun is actually at its zenith, not when it says noon on the clock, this is decided by dividing the day into 12 proportional hour. However he states that the most ideal time to daven Mincha is after 9 hour all the way up until a ¼ hour before the 11th hour. One who discharges his obligation after 6 ½ hours apparently does so “b’deieved,” counting as one that does a make-up, but that the ideal time is later in the afternoon.

The Rema (Rabbi Moshe Issereles) in his glosses for this stresses the point that we are talking about proportional hours, that relate to the actual calculation of daylight and not mere relative hours like we find on the clock, in which all hours are 60 minutes long. If we think about it, simple hours are only the case on the equinoxes in the central temperate zones. But if you go more north or south, or the days drift longer or shorter because of the seasons, this calculation changes; these divisions of time are not static but instead are proportional to the length of day. The celestial hours work out well for people in Eretz Yisrael and Babylonia but it doesn’t really hold true up north in his native Poland and thus needs to be adjusted proportionally to the actual daylight hours, where in winter the days are exceedingly shorter.

The Maran and Rema seem to agree, with the Shulchan Aruch favoring the Ashkenazi approach even down to agreeing therefore that one has until tzet kochavim (the appearance of stars) to discharge their service, which would mean the birth of a new day. There would be little disagreement on this, except the consequential debate as to when this period to discharge Mincha ends; be it actually at tzet kochavim (twilight) or at shkiah (sunset). It would also be debated how early is too early to say Maariv. But thats not necessarily what we are talking about today, so we will pass right on to how this halacha effects us choosing the optimal prayer time. (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Siman 233)

Why is Mincha not said at Noon?

In all my travels I have rarely seen people engage in their Mincha prayers in the height of the midday. It is generally the case that congregations convene a Minyan to pray late in the day to say Mincha and then after a short pause engage in Maariv close to sunset. One may pray three times a day (four times on holy days, when you account for Musaf), but congregations are only made to convene twice a day.

But if we are saying “afternoon prayers” then one should naturally wonder why anyone would suggest that we do not say them until late in the afternoon. Why not near noon?

The confusion, in some ways, arises out of a disagreement that goes all the way back to the Talmud as to who instituted the daily prayer times to begin with. It is a disagreement that would continue to surface up until the middle-ages and even cut into the middle of certain communities themselves. For instance the Rambam and the Ramban (both Sephardic) would also disagree with each other as to the origins of our prayer services, leading each to different views as to if they were essentially biblical or rabbinic in origin. The answer to this defines if one would be transgressing a biblical command or merely failure to live up to a rabbinic custom if not meeting their obligation.

In the Talmud, in the name of Rabbi Yosi ben Chaninah, we are taught that the prayer services were introduced to us by our fathers. Avraham Avinu instituted the morning prayers (Shacharit) and Yitzhak Avinu the afternoon prayers (Mincha). By prayers, we are talking about saying the standing Amidah – which is our duty before G-d. (Talmud Bavli, Brachot 26b) The Gemara notes that Yitzhak prayed and meditated in the field, then stayed there because the sun was setting and then after his devotion he laid down to rest. (see Genesis 28:11)

However, earlier on in the Gemara we are taught that of all the prayer services the one that is the most acceptable before G-d as a spiritual devotion is the afternoon prayers. (Talmud Bavli, Brachot 6b; statement of Rabbi Chelbo in the name of Rabbi Hunah) We are taught to pay special attention to pray the afternoon prayers because even Elijah the Prophet was only heard during the afternoon offering. He prayed for G-d to hear him, and He did, responding with fire from heaven. (see 1 Kings 18:36-37)

This brings up a great machloket (disagreement) between the Sages (if not also dividing the Biblical approach) as to what is the most appropriate time of day for Minchah – the afternoon prayers. What is better, during the late afternoon or during the time of the midday sacrifice?

If we return to our main source text regarding the subject (Talmud Bavli, Brachot 26b), we find that there are rabbis who state that the institution of our daily prayer services are based upon the daily sacrificial offerings, meaning as a substitution for sacrificial offerings presumably instituted by the Sages; so it is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehoshuah ben Levi. We then find that Rabbi Yehuda seems to concur initially in the Gemara, that one can only say similar prayers up until the 7th hour of the day. He gives as his example that the additional (Musaf) offerings of a holy day can only be brought until the 7th hour. This time in the middle of the day therefore seems ideal.

However, as we look at this text we must be reminded that his initial statement that he makes is that one may start Mincha until the middle of the afternoon (plag haMincha). But the Gemara continues and begins to explain something very different in the end. It begins to define what we mean by afternoon. We are then also taught in the name of Rabbi Yehudah that afternoon is divided into two periods; the earlier being Mincha Gedolah that begins a ½ hour after high-noon, and Mincha Ketana that begins 3 ½ hours after high-noon. It is obvious to all that these statements appear contradictory to each other.

Nonetheless when the Talmud apparently goes to rule on this subject it answers the dispute this way: “Come and hear: for it has been taught: Rabbi Yehudah said: They referred to the middle of the latter afternoon-tide, which is eleven hours less a quarter.” In his own name a clarification is offered up.

Still it must be noted that the dispute does not end here. Though there is a seeming ruling being brought down to settle the confusion, this does not detract from the conviction of Rabbi Yosi ben Chaninah. He goes on to retort that though the Rabbis found justification for the services by corresponding them to the sacrifices, he contends that the actual true birth of the prayer services was in the biblical example and age. He contends that the Sages just added on to them by finding justification from our forefathers, and only then added the Musaf prayer services after the manner of the others. Philosophically his point is that the prayer services transcends the mere spirit and rules of sacrifice alone.

The Talmud thus does not offer us a definitive answer for this dispute. It continued well into the middle-ages as a matter of dispute between our Rabbis, in some cases even cutting through communities themselves (as is the case with the Rambam and Ramban’s disagreement on this matter).

However it should be noted that the law, as laid down by the Shulchan Aruch, does not just rule with the latter clarification of Rabbi Yehudah regarding Minchah Ketanah but also keeps in mind other implications, ones revealed to us in great detail by the commentary of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah.

The Mishnah – the raw and unqualified source of the Talmudic text does give us something very deep to consider. The Mishnah of Talmud Balvi for Shabbat 9a, it tells us that before Mincha it is not allowed for a person to get their hair cut, enter a bathhouse (or sauna for cleansing oneself) or a tannery (that processes animal skins), nor engage in eating or even in deliberating a lawsuit. The reasons is so that one will not be delayed in saying his prayers by engaging in a lengthy process.

The Gemara – the commentary of the Talmud, that clarifies the Mishnah it will begin to debate out what this means, and how much engagement in one of these acts has to be done before one finds themselves fully engaged and unable to stop. The Gemara however does bring our attention to the latter clause of Mishnah that tells us that one who is already engaged in one of these acts does not need to break off his actions, but he can continue what he is doing. So as long as there is time for him to continue to prayer after, he need not worry and can be lenient in these matters.

However, if we look at the Mishnah we are clearly told that when we are talking about someone engaging in a distracting or postponing act near Minchah, we are talking about Mincha Gedolah, not the latter Mincha Ketahah.

The Rambam, in his commentary for all of Jewish Law in the Mishnah Torah, cannot ignore this clause. He does rule in agreement with the Mishnah above, and likewise it is brought down to us in the Shulchan Aruch, (Orach Chayim 234) which in unison with him on this matter. However, even the Rambam has to do much work in explaining what is the point of no return for a postponing action, likewise what it mean by eating.

This point here cannot be missed, because as we begin to see our seasons changing this becomes a real concern. If the Mishnah outright says that one should not engage in any time consuming or involved acts after Mincha Gedolah until one prays, this puts a very big constraint on to one’s day. Especially if one is insisting on praying at Mincha Ketana, near sunset. We would be saying that no one can really do any viable business or even eat from midday until after dark. Sure one can rely on the leniency, but this is obviously not the ideal. What we would be saying, for example, is that in a long days like we have in Summer one should wait an enormous amount of time to take on a meal, something that is quite impractical.

The seasons also have another implication, one that is relevant for us now during the middle of winter when the days are very short. Sometimes, because of the shortness of the day, people will often encounter difficulties if they wait until the late afternoon to pray their Mincha. It can often be hard for an individual to even distinguish if it’s daytime or night time already. Though evening prayers (of the Amidah of Maariv) are not a requirement, being only a service of rabbinic institution which does not have any correspondence to a separate sacrifice of its own, the Mincha prayers are required to be said and we would all agree that they correspond to their time of day. Now Maariv does not have a repetition of the Amidah, reminding of the fact that it was not distinct but merely the occasional offering of leftover pieces of the other sacrifices of the day in evening flames.

However it is the custom for many to say a shorted Mincha Amidah, truncated by adding only a partial repetition by the Shliach Tzibur (the prayer leader); the leader starting the prayers himself but cutting off his repetition after the Kedushah, with the congregations then continuing on after that point with their own silent reading of the rest of the Amidah. However keep in mind that the reason is not because of similarity of Maariv and Mincha that might lead one to dispense of a full repetition of the Amidah, its because with days so short it can often be impossible for one to finish their Mincha prayers on time. The Maran cites this as the Sephardic tradition that he was familiar with, but he instead rules in favor of the full repetition of Mincha in agreement with the Ashkenazi approach.

Modern debate among Sephardic poskim regarding the halacha

Now it must be noted that many great rabbis, even among the Sephardic tradition, hold by the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch; it is defined by “the code” and the Mishneh Torah, therefore is the Ikar haDin (the letter of the law). This is made clear to us, even among critical and scholarly poskim such as Rabbi Chaim David haLevi (the famed Sephardi legal expert know as the Mekor Chaim haLevi). In his Kitzur Mekor Chaim, like many who came before him, he saw no reason to break with the position of the Shulchan Aruch and Rambam.

In fact the Mekor Chaim makes some interesting points after defining the names Mincha Gedolah and Ketanah – having to explain away why one is the greater and one is the lesser. He outright says that it is wrong for a person to pray at Mincha Gedolah, especially if there is a time later in the day that is less stressful for a person to pray, presumably during Mincha Ketanah! It is more ideal in the afterglow of the day, and one has up until the Shkiah of Sunset in which to say their Mincha prayers.1

The Mekor Chaim also makes another interesting point, that seems relevant for our modern day. He makes it clearly proper for even Sephardim to hold by this, his reasoning is because it alleviates one having to gather and then scatter at two different times, especially for those who show up to services for joining in with the congregation because they don’t read Hebrew. However, he stresses that for those who pray in Hebrew themselves, they should make sure to not delay so late as to wait until twilight for dispensing their Mincha prayers. Presumably waiting for a later congregation to convene is not justifiable in the case of a literate Hebrew speaker.

However when it comes to explaining how to fit waiting until later into our lives, and the details of the poskim regarding waiting for meals and such he further offers logical explanations for being lenient in this respect. He states that if one is relieving oneself by taking on a small meal (a snack) to make it easier to pray, then one may. Though he says that in the case of large meals such as for a wedding banquet it should be that one pray and then engage in a big meal after their davening. The Mekor Chaim is once again our compassionate conservative, and offers us logical reasons for our modern age. Though we can not ignore that first he outright tells us at the beginning that his position is “afilu meikar hadin / after the essence of the law,” that no one should have more than a egg sized portion of bread or fruit after Mincha arrives without praying. He does not wish to break with the law, even by a letter unless humanly necessary. (see Kitzur Mekor Chaim, Siman כה Tefillat Mincha, pages 56-57)

Interestingly enough, his predecessor as Rishon L’Tzion (Sephardic Chief Rabbi) of Tel-Aviv – Yafo was Rabbi Ovediah Yosef (shelita), who tells us that he too was previously of this opinion, siding harshly with the Shulchan Aruch. He even noted that on days when he saw a congregation going past the seventh hour he would say Musaf on his own and not wait for the congregation.

He asserts that he felt likewise about Mincha, that it should be said at its ideal halachic time. However upon inspection he later rejected this position, noting that a great deal of early rabbinic sources held that saying Mincha Gedolah was “Le’chatehila,” it was the ideal way to fulfill a mitzvah. Among those that he cites the Saadia Gaon, the Rif, the Rosh (Rabbi Ashen Ben Yechiel), the Ramban and the Ritba. This is further supported by prominent legal experts such as the Tur. The Rav tells us that had the Maran been aware of the long list of sources that held by this view, then he would have acquiesced and ruled differently in the Shulchan Aruch. (see Teshuvot Yechaveh Daat)

As we see, when all this comes together we have a very interesting perspective being delivered to us by Rabbi Ovediah Yosef. He says it is thus better to say the prayers at their corresponding times in full with a minyan, and not delay them to wait for a later minyan who says them truncated or even to say them privately at the more halachically agreeable time.

Theoretically this should be optimal from the perspective of people who hold by the Nusach Ari z”l (namely Sephardim and Chassidim). As we see the Rabbi Yitzhak Luria – great kabbalist know as the Ari z”l – did not establish a shorter and easier to say order of prayers. He first off insists that the entire repetition be recited by the leader, which he asserts is the established custom (as cited by the Aruch haShulchan, 223:6); thereby seeming to insist that one not wait until the latest times possible for saying Mincha. But he also further extended the prayers by including readings of the daily Tamid offering of Ketoret (incense) to be said with one’s prayers. To do this one needs more time, starting earlier is more helpful.

Okay, now enough of looking at teshuvot – to legal discourse after the fact regarding this. When we look at the rabbinic literature we find that we have a halacha being brought down – a law to guide us by – but a debate still remains. We would have a legal opinion presented to us by the Shulchan Aruch, supported by the Misheh Torah of the Rambam. However even well respected commentaries upon these such as the Aruch haShulchan and the Mishna Berurah would not attempt to settle the issue of what is better, be it Mincha Ketanah or Mincha Gedolah. They would actually show a curious honesty that even the Rambam had, despite their opinions, and present both arguments. The issue is far from settled, in fact each approach has certain philosophically merits behind it.

Mincha is our “Gift” to G-d

As we look at Mincha I would ask us to finally consider a more elementary definition of what we are talking about, one often noted by our scholars. Sometimes words come layered with legal terminology and idiom, to the point that we often look over the obvious truth about something that is revealed in it’s very name. Mincha more essentially means grain offering in biblical Hebrew, poetically it means a gift, present or tribute.

It can be said that if we really want to reinforce the significance of Mincha as a mindset and not just a mere time of the day that comes and goes, then we should be more interested in presenting our prayers as a real gift before G-d. One can argue that taking time out of their day to daven Mincha Gedolah would be more meaningful. Nothing is more precious than the hight of the day, if used for prayer then it’s a really big gesture.

Nonetheless one who chooses to daven later is also losing out on “prime-time hours.” Probably even more so today considering many of us work until quite late, not being limited by considerations of daylight for operating our businesses. Taking time out of our day in order to offer it up as a gift before Hashem in prayer is a real sacrifice. It has merit also, we should not just dismiss the halacha of the Shulchan Aruch right away either. Our sacrifice in light of halacha doesn’t have to be too oppressive to our daily activity as functioning people. But we do need to give back something.

And that is the real lesson of Mincha, I believe; that we are to take time out of our day and give it in service to G-d. We take time out of when we should be more concerned with making that final dollar or merely getting back to the safety of our homes, and we give it to Hashem. Not trying to make the best of the day for just our uses. We offer part of our day back as a gift to G-d.

The Halacha in Summary

The ideal halachic time for saying Minchah is during the later part of the afternoon, during Mincha Ketanah. One has the entire afternoon in which to say their prayers, but halacha favors the latter for engaging in prayer. However if given the chance to pray with a minyan at a less ideal time during Mincha Gedolah then this is acceptable.

Do you need to find out the halachic times for praying? There are various automated Zmanim resources available online, such as at Chabad.org or MyZmanim.com, that will calculate the halachic times for your location.

1) Kitzur Mekor Chaim, page 56:

טעה להתפלל משש שעות ולמעלה ללא שעת דחק יצא בדיעבד ומצוה להתפלל עם דמדומי חמה, היינו מעט קודם שקיעת החמה


Mishebeirach Prayers for Israel and the IDF


Misheberach Prayers for Israel and the IDF
What are the prayers of blessing for the Jewish State and Israel Defense Forces?

IDF SoldierWe are quickly coming upon Shabbat. This week we have seen a great escalation of the violence against Israel. In response the military is deploying for defensive and possibly policing actions. One of the best ways we can help our brothers and friends in Israel is to bombard heaven with prayers of mercy and deliverance from this crisis.

After the readings of the Torah on Shabbat we will include Mi Shebeirach prayers of blessing that the One Who blesses us remember those who are in need of healing or help. We petition G-d on behalf of those in the deepest need of help during the hight of the service, before the face of the most holy Sefer Torah itself.

Does you congregation include the prayers for the State of Israel or the Israel Defense Forces regularly? If not, this is surely a good time to remember them in this time of crisis. Here are the traditional prayers to be said by the Gabbai, the one who calls people up to Torah.

Prayer for the Members of the Israel Defense Forces

He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Force, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our G-d from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.

May Hashem cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighting men from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavour.

May He lead our enemies under their sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is Hashem, your G-d, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you.

Now let us respond: Amen.

מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת חַיָּלֵי צְבָא הֲגַנָּה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, הָעוֹמְדִים עַל מִשְׁמַר אַרְצֵנוּ וְעָרֵי אֱלהֵינוּ מִגְּבוּל הַלְּבָנוֹן וְעַד מִדְבַּר מִצְרַיִם וּמִן הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל עַד לְבוֹא הָעֲרָבָה בַּיַּבָּשָׁה בָּאֲוִיר וּבַיָּם.

יִתֵּן יְיָ אֶת אוֹיְבֵינוּ הַקָּמִים עָלֵינוּ נִגָּפִים לִפְנֵיהֶם. הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יִשְׁמֹר וְיַצִּיל אֶת חַיָלֵינוּ מִכָּל צָרָה וְצוּקָה וּמִכָּל נֶגַע וּמַחְלָה וְיִשְׁלַח בְּרָכָה וְהַצְלָחָה בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיהֶם.

יַדְבֵּר שׂוֹנְאֵינוּ תַּחְתֵּיהֶם וִיעַטְרֵם בְּכֶתֶר יְשׁוּעָה וּבְעֲטֶרֶת נִצָּחוֹן. וִיקֻיַּם בָּהֶם הַכָּתוּב: כִּי יְיָ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הַהֹלֵךְ עִמָּכֶם לְהִלָּחֵם לָכֶם עִם איבֵיכֶם לְהוֹשִׁיעַ אֶתְכֶם:

וְנאמַר: אָמֵן:

Prayer for the Israel Defense Forces,

This version is according to the decision of the

Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel, 27th of Elul, 5764

Prayer for the State of Israel

Our Father who is in heaven, Protector and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the beginning of the flowering of our redemption. Shield it beneath the wings of Your love; spread over it Your canopy of peace; send Your light and Your truth to its leaders, officers, and counselors, and direct them with Your good counsel.

Strengthen the defenders of our Holy Land; grant them, our G-d, salvation and crown them with victory. Establish peace in the land, and everlasting joy for its inhabitants. Remember our brothers, the whole house of Israel, in all the lands of their dispersion. Speedily bring them to Zion, Your city, to Jerusalem Your dwelling-place, as it is written in the Torah of Your servant Moses:

“Even if you are dispersed in the uttermost parts of the world, from there Hashem your G-d will gather and fetch you. Hashem your G-d will bring you into the land which your ancestors possessed, and you shall possess it; and G-d will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your ancestors.”

Unite our hearts to love and revere Your name, and to observe all the precepts of Your Torah. Speedily send us Your righteous Messiah of the House of David, to redeem those waiting for Your salvation.

Shine forth in Your glorious majesty over all the inhabitants of Your world. Let everything that breathes proclaim: “Hashem G-d of Israel is King; His majesty rules over all.”

Amen. Selah.

אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹאֲלוֹ, בָּרֵךְ אֶת מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, רֵאשִׁית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ. הָגֵן עָלֶיהָ בְּאֶבְרַת חַסְדֶּךָ וּפְרֹשׁ עָלֶיהָ סֻכַּת שְׁלוֹמֶךָ וּשְׁלַח אוֹרְךָ וַאֲמִתְּךָ לְרָאשֶׁיהָ, שָׂרֶיהָ וְיוֹעֲצֶיהָ, וְתַקְּנֵם בְּעֵצָה טוֹבָה מִלְּפָנֶיךָ.

חַזֵּק אֶת יְדֵי מְגִנֵּי אֶרֶץ קָדְשֵׁנוּ, וְהַנְחִילֵם אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְשׁוּעָה וַעֲטֶרֶת נִצָּחוֹן תְּעַטְּרֵם, וְנָתַתָּ שָׁלוֹם בָּאָרֶץ וְשִׂמְחַת עוֹלָם לְיוֹשְׁבֶיהָ. וְאֶת אַחֵינוּ כָּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, פְּקָדנָא בְּכָל אַרְצוֹת פְּזוּרֵיהֶם, וְתוֹלִיכֵם מְהֵרָה קוֹמְמִיּוּת לְצִיּוֹן עִירֶךָ וְלִירוּשָׁלַיִם מִשְׁכַּן שְׁמֶךָ, כַּכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה עַבְדֶּךְ:

אִם יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמַיִם, מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ יְיָ אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ: וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ יְיָ אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יָרְשׁוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ וִירִשְׁתָּהּ, וְהֵיטִבְךָ וְהִרְבְּךָ מֵאֲבֹתֶיךָ:

וְיַחֵד לְבָבֵנוּ לְאַהֲבָה וּלְיִרְאָה אֶת שְׁמֶךָ, וְלִשְׁמֹר אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָתֶךָ, וּשְׁלַח לָנוּ מְהֵרָה בֶּן דָּוִד מְשִׁיחַ צִדְקֶךָ, לִפְדּוֹת מְחַכֵּי קֵץ יְשׁוּעָתֶךָ.

הוֹפַע בַּהֲדַר גְּאוֹן עֻזֶּךָ עַל כָּל יוֹשְׁבֵי תֵּבֵל אַרְצֶךָ, וְיאמַר כֹּל אֲשֶׁר נְשָׁמָה בְּאַפּוֹ: יְיָ אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֶלֶךְ וּמַלְכוּתוֹ בַּכֹּל מָשָׁלָה.

אָמֵן סֶלָה.

Chief Rabbis Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac Halevi Herzog and Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel

with the assistance of the celebrated author Shai Agnon; Elul 5708 – September 1948

Want to learn more about the history of saying prayers for the government and state? Want to understand the history of the prayer for the State of Israel? One of the finest articles on the subject is written by Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem simply titled, “Prayers For The Government And The State Of Israel.”

Related Links:


Saying Tehillim for Israel and the IDF


Saying Tehillim for Israel and the IDF
What can the faithful do religiously to help during crisis?

IDF SOldier, Birkat Kohanim

IDF soldiers extending the Birkat Kohanim – the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26).

Often times during seasons of crisis or turmoil people turn to the scriptures for comfort. Probably the most well-known and often read books of the bible is Tehillim – the Psalms. Though the Psalms have many authors, a great bulk of them are attributed to King David who set a standard for combing prayers with poetry. In fact the Psalms are more than just poetry, they have all the makings of true music. They are famous songs of the heart that seem to rise the surface when our peace is ruptured. We turn back to the timelessness of the Davidic tradition, prayers said in deep words by people who truly understood overcoming suffering and hardships. We say psalms in their example and in their merit, that G-d should comfort and answer us likewise.

It is not by accident that we often fall back upon the Psalms, they actually make up a major part of the liturgy for Jews and people of many other faiths as well. This seems to be ideally what it was created for, as a graciously choreographed form of communal prayer that is filled with all the touches of personal devotion. Psalm 23 for example is probably the most known religious chapter in the world, “The L-rd is my shepherd, I shall not want… yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” This one psalm though it speaks of gloom it does not wallow in it, and has become the backbone for both times of grief like funerals and at times of celebration like Shabbat evening. It’s always a good time to say some tehillim because they are just so beautiful and meaningful on so many levels.

But some psalms carry a strong theme. Sometimes we pair certain Psalms together in order to be said in vigil. The most common example is saying tehillim for the sick. In our tradition it is common for people to take up Psalms relating to sickness and healing, or even verses that remind them of the person they are hoping a speedy recovery for. One says them together during our times of prayer in order to hope in G-d for their healing. We cause our prayers to rise up for this person to heaven in psalm. For that there are many methods and suggested lists of Psalms, both long and short. (Need help figuring out which tehillim to say for a sick person? Try this, at DailyTehillim.com)

But psalms can be paired together for all kinds of reasons, some are songs of praise and thanksgiving, while others can be about lamenting and mourning. The Psalms has prayers for almost every conceivable occurrence if we are open to the raw emotion of the words.

Soldier in TefillinBut most often for chassidim the Psalms are said at night or in the darkness of the early morning, during times of reflection and devotion (maybe even paired with Tikkun Chatzot, or the Bedtime Shema). For chassidim and the mystically inclined that are interested in looking inward, the reflection on the words of King David are always appropriate. And as the Likkutei Mohoran of Rebbe Nachman teaches us when we look into the Psalms of King David and we see his pleading regarding being saved from his wars, we should reflect on them our own personal wars with the yetzer hara – our evil impulse. (Likkutei Mohoran 101, 125) This is our most common way of saying tehillim on a day-to-day basis.

But sometimes there comes when the battle is more than just a personal struggle, the war is not the normative internal battle with the self. Sometimes there are seasons of turmoil and violence that disturb world peace. There are times when Israel finds itself in the literally need of salvation and deliverance from the trials of war and calamity. In these cases there are not so many examples of what chapters of Psalms to say, actually there are so many that would be very appropriate and are literally concerning battle. Here are a few that I think would be good suggestions in this time of crisis. We can say one or a few psalms a day after your prayers in order to hope in G-d for the safe deliverance of Israel and the safety of the Israel Defense Forces. One can select any psalm that fulfills the cry of their heart for the circumstances at hand. Here are some suggestions:

Psalm 144 – Deliverance from wars and the enemy’s slander. I would highly suggest this psalm. This song has a seeming chorus to it, it repeats the words “Rescue me, and deliver me out of the hand of strangers, whose mouth speak falsehood, and their right hand is a right hand of lying.” During the past few Israel military offenses it has taken much abuse from the international community because of the bias and lies against the Jewish state. More than ever the people of Israel not only need deliverance from war but also from the slander of her enemies.

Psalm 46 – “G-d is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. We will not fear…”

Psalm 20 – “We will shout for joy in your victory, and in the name of our G-d we will set up our flags; Hashem fulfill all your petitions.”

Psalm 22 – “But You, O Hashem, be not far off; O You be my strength, hurry to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; mine only one, from the power of the dog.”

Psalm 69 – “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink; let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters…For G-d will save Zion, and build the cities of Judah; and they shall abide there, and have it in possession.”

Psalm 121“I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: from whence shall my help come?” Though sometimes added in part during the Bedtime Shema, it is a wonderful Psalm to consider in time of need.

Psalm 130 – Repentance and reflections from fears in the night. “My soul waits for Hashem, more than watchmen for the morning; yea, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in Hashem!”


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