64 posts categorized "Jewish Customs and Practice"

The Special Day for the Parent's Prayer - Today, Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan

LB Brit Of Nachman Reckles
Today (Monday) is the eve of the new month of Sivan, the most opportune day of the year for us to prayer for our children. Our custom is to say the Shla's Prayer ("Shla" is the acronym for "Shnai Luchot Habrit", a classic guide to the service of Hashem). We must pray for the little lambs to become sturdy rams. Don't miss this golden opportunity. You can pray for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And if you don't yet have children, this is an opportune time to ask for children. May Hashem answer all your prayers!

The "Challakeh" ceremony: Significance of a boy's 3rd birthday and first haircut

The "Challakeh" ceremony is when a Jewish child receives his first haircut at the age of three.

The age of 3 marks a turning point in a toddler's life. Shedding the long locks of babyhood helps little boys look forward to their new "big boy" responsibilities. Gone are the days of bottle, diaper and nestling in Mommy's arms. A 3-year-old boy is ready to receive "payis", his side curls, a "kipa" (skullcap), and "tztitzis", the ritual fringes that every male Jew is commanded to wear. With his new haircut, kipa, payis, and tzitzis, the little fellow of 3 is ready to move up to the world of friends, school and formal Torah education. He will learn blessings, prayers and the Hebrew alphabet. Yes - we begin teaching our little boys to read at the age of 3.

Cutting his hair makes a strong emotional impression on the child. He knows he is entering a new stage of maturity, a fact that helps him live up to his new role and responsibilities.

Numerous families celebrate the "challakeh" at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, in Miron, Israel, and cut the child's hair near the cave where he lived and later died. Others prefer to take the child to a yeshiva or to their own rabbi - preferably a scholar and a pious man, because the "upsherin", or actual 1st haircut, should be done in a holy place and by a righteous person. Oftentimes, before the child gets his final haircut, first the scissors go from hand to hand while family, friends and rabbis take turns snipping. The first cut is at the spot where tefillin will be placed.

In Israel, this custom is closely associated with Lag B'Omer, which this year is today, May 3. It's an incredibly joyous scene as hundreds of 3-year-old boys receive their first haircut at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai. Because this custom is tied into Kabbalistic thought concerning the spirituality of hair, many put off the ceremony until Lag B'Omer. Following their haircuts, the children each get a plastic Aleph-Bet card, with honey smeared on each letter. Parents then encourage their little ones to lick the honey while saying each letter, so that Torah should be "sweet on their tongues."

Nachman Challakeh Lag B'Omer

Above image: A Brody grandson in Meron on Lag B'Omer a few years ago, moments before his first haircut. A hearty mazal-tov to all of us who will be making "Challakehs" for our 3-year olds today - may we have all the sweetness and joy in the world, and see our children and grandchildren growing in health of body and spirit, amen.

All For One

Hey everyone, it’s David, Racheli’s lucky husband. I’d like to talk to you about a very special person who, through his untimely and tragic passing, taught me the real meaning of unity. 

Nearly eight years ago when my family and I made aliyah, Rav Brody told me something that I didn’t understand: “When a soldier dies in the States, most people don’t hear about it. If they do, they’re not deeply affected by it. But when a soldier dies in Israel, the entire country mourns his loss.”

I superficially understood his point because my Memorial Day holidays consisted of partying at the beach with friends. Unless someone personally knew a soldier that had perished in battle, no one else felt the solemn occasion of the day.

But here, it’s very different.

Here, most Israelis feel the pain of Memorial Day. Unfortunately I finally understood why, this past week. My dear friend from shul lost his beloved 20-year-old son last Friday night as he was chasing terrorists during a smuggling operation. May Hashem avenge his martyred blood. 

The tank he was driving somehow veered off-course and turned upside down. The explosives it was carrying blew up while he was still inside…

No one should know from such horror.

A group of my buddies from shul went with me to the funeral this past Sunday. To say everyone there was crying would be a sorry understatement. My heart breaks every time I think about my friend having to watch his son’s martyred body being lowered into the ground.

Yesterday my friends and I were catching up, and two of them said something very telling. One mentioned that when he was asked at work why he wasn’t there Sunday, he explained that he was at the funeral of his friend’s son who had just been killed in battle. “Oh, Eliyahu Drori?” the co-worker asked with tears in his eyes.

My other friend recalled a strikingly similar conversation at his workplace.

To me, this revelation says it all.

Although on the surface there is so much tension between Israelis, and they can start fighting with each other at any moment, underneath there is a deep connection that Americans can never understand.

I see it at my gym. When a guy walks in and starts hugging all of his friends with such warmth, even though they’re sweating like crazy, I see the love, the brotherhood they share with each other.

Being a part of the army together, risking your lives at every moment together, going through grueling, nearly impossible trainings and missions together - that creates a bond that is indescribable.

And this bond is not just between soldiers. Every soldier here is like the son and daughter of every parent. Every father and mother cries when they hear of a soldier being killed. They feel the pain of that soldier’s parents in such a deep way.

I understand because that’s the way I feel about my friend.

Eliyahu z”l was a former student of my oldest son’s yeshiva. I was touched by the outpouring of support by the entire staff, as well as students that had never met him. My son Yehuda arranged for his class to hold morning prayers at the shiva home for the duration of the shiva. This morning, some of the faculty spoke about him and fondly remembered him as a special light, a sweet soul that was a much loved addition to their school.

To my dear friends, the Drori family, words cannot express the immense sorrow I feel for you. Even though I had only met Eliyahu a few times at shul, I was touched by his warm smile and friendly demeanor. You were truly fortunate to have him as a son.

May he and all of the righteous martyrs that died for the sake of the Jewish People, or because they were Jewish, shine brightly in that special place in Heaven reserved for the most precious of souls. And may we see the end of pain and suffering, and joyfully greet the Mashiach and all of our loved ones once again, speedily, Amen.

In loving memory of Eliyahu Drori z"l. Don't miss Rav Brody's Memorial Day post below. 


Birkat Ha'ilanot: Blessing of the Trees

New beginning

Once a year, during the Hebrew month of Nissan, we have the special mitzva of making a blessing over (at least two) blossoming fruit trees. According to Kabbala, this blessing is deeply significant, and helps correct the soul that is reincarnated within the tree. That soul is forever beholding to the person who makes the blessing, for he or she has done a great favor in helping that soul attain its tikkun, or correction.

You have from now until Friday, April 13, 2018 to fulfill this wonderful mitzva. All you need are two blossoming fruit trees within reasonable distance of one another (i.e. that you can see both at the time of making the blessing). Since some poskim say that the blessing shouldn't be made on grafted trees, it's a good idea to look for wild fruit trees or trees like olives, pomegranates or date palms here in Israel.

For your convenience, here is the blessing,

In English: Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the Universe, who let nothing lack in His universe and created within it good creatures and good trees in order to give pleasure to human beings.

In Transliteration: Baruch ata Adonoi, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, she-lo chisar be-olamo klum v-vara vo beriyyot tovot ve-ilanot tovim lehanot bahem bnai Adam.

In Hebrew:  ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם שלא חסר בעולמו כלום וברא בו בריות טובות ואילנות טובים להנות בהם בני אדם

May your Passover and upcoming summer be as fragrant as a citrus blossom! Now is the time for wonderful new beginnings. Every blessing, LB

A Pre-Passover Message from Rabbi Shalom Arush

Message RSA
Cherished friends,

As the Passover holiday approaches, many worthy but needy families in Jerusalem have added worries: Barely able to feed their families, much less clothe them, they have no idea how they'll provide for the quickly approaching Passover. The heavy holiday expenses create hardships for many families who simply can't manage to purchase all their holiday needs; no one's at all talking about "enjoying" the holiday. They can barely afford to put wine and matza on the Passover table, so who can think about new shoes for the children? These are families who don't know if they'll have food on the table this coming Passover, and I wish I were exaggerating.
As the Rosh Yeshiva of Chut Shel Chesed and Director of Emuna Outreach, I feel that chesed - loving-kindness - is one of the most important mitzvoth there is; I'm sure that you agree with me. That's why I included the word chesed in the name of our yeshiva, to emphasize that helping our fellow human is a highest priority. The Torah says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." "Flour for Passover" means to help the less fortunate of our Jewish brethren have a joyous Passover holiday by enabling them to have the necessary staples.
Rebbetzen Arush and I do our utmost to identify the needy families who are too embarrassed to request assistance, and to give them the needed foodstuffs and financial support. I am privileged and honored to offer you a share in this mitzva. This is a wonderful opportunity to join us in our annual Kimcha d'Piskha, or "Flour for Passover" Project.
Your donation to our "Emuna Outreach Kimcha d'Piskha Fund" will provide needy families in Israel with all their needs for Passover, including meat and poultry, wine, matzot, dry goods, fruit and vegetables. Donate to Emuna Outreach to make sure that these worthy families of sorely limited means will also be able to enjoy their Passover holiday. Your donation is US tax deductable.

May we all have a truly joyous holiday, amen!