By custom, we refrain from playing musical instruments and listening to music during the Omer. Yet, this isn't at all explicit in Halacha. Where do we learn this from? This is the replay of my kollel shiur last week - enjoy it!
During the Omer, we must make a special effort to love, and at least respect, our fellow human. We curtail music and rejoicing during this time of the year because of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students who died in a plague. Yes, they were lofty Torah scholars, but they didn't properly respect one another. We must rectify this...
The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a told me the following story about his great grandfather, Rebbe Meir'l of Promiszlan. Keep it in mind before allowing yourself the "luxury" of feuding with a fellow Jew:
Serving the same G-d
Rebbe Meir'l of Promiszlan and Rebbe Yitzchok of Strettin were engaged in a long, drawn-out feud. Knowing that dissension serves no purpose, Rebbe Meir'l approached Rebbe Yitzchok and attempted to make peace. The latter only turned his face to the wall. "Please, Strettinner Rebbe, allow me to tell you a tale," said Rebbe Meir'l, and told him the following story:
During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, a Marrano* suspected of secretly being Jewish became deathly ill. The Inquisitors called the local priest, and told him to go see if the dying man would make last confession, proving that he's a Catholic, or else otherwise be burned at the stake as a Jew. The Priest and the Henchman entered the sick man's room, and the sick man turned his face to the wall, refusing to reject his true faith in Hashem during his last minutes on earth.
The Inquisitors said, "Ahah, he's a secret Jew!" The priest said no, he's embarrassed to confess in front of others. Everyone must leave the room!
Only the dying man and the Priest remained in the room. The priest, a Marranno himself, whispered in the man's ear, "You can say Shma Yisrael now, and express your belief in Hashem before you die. You no longer need to turn your back on me, because we both serve the same G-d." With his dying breath, the Marrano utterred, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is one!"
"So you see, Strettinner Rebbe," said Rebbe Meir'l, "You no longer have to turn your back on me, because we serve the same G-d!" The feud ended on the spot.
*Marranos - the Spanish Jews who posed as Catholics on the outside, and secretly continued to practice their Judaism behind closed doors
When everything is OK, in Hebrew we say "hakol b'seder", or literally, everything is in order. Why do we call our ceremonial Passover eve meal a "Seder"? What does everything is in order have to do with it? Enjoy our concluding Passover-preparation lesson for this year and have a wonderful Seder and Passover holiday...
Why does the recitation of the Haggada on Pesach begin with the children asking questions? Isn't it more logical that the father first teach them, then let them ask questions? Let's prepare ourselves for Seder night with this week's emuna lesson:
A Jew starts his morning by saying "Modeh Ani", thanking Hashem for returning his soul and giving him a new day. We say this as soon as we open our eyes, before we even get out of bed. I always tell people to say it word for word with tremendous joy, intent and feelings of gratitude, no faster than one word per second.
Physicians and fitness trainers will tell you that the best way to overcome morning dizziness and low blood pressure is to sit up on the edge of the bed immediately upon waking, legs down, for at least 12 seconds. By no small coincidence, there are exactly 12 words in Modeh Ani....
Don't forget to say "Parshat HaMan" today: Segula (spiritual invoking ploy) for a good income - on the Tuesday of the Parshat Beshalach week, our sages tell us that it's an opportune time to recite "Parshat HaMan", the story of the manna, the Heaven-sent bread that sustained the Children of Israel for forty years in the desert. One should read it in Hebrew if possible, twice mikra and once targum. For your convenience, here is a clearly presented Parshat HaMan which you are more than welcome to download. If you read English only, then I've translated it for you, here: Download Parshat HaMan - English. May Hashem send a wonderful income to everyone, amen!
I have a custom that I received from an old tzaddik: he told me that when you take your 3-year old to cheder (Orthodox Jewish elementary school for boys) on the first day, give the cheder rebbe (boys' elementary school teacher) a monetary gift (like a $50 bill) and ask him to pay special attention to your son. The old tzaddik told me that the gift to the cheder rebbe invokes Divine assistance for your son's Torah learning and it makes the rebbe happy as well, for cheder rebbes never earn the money they really deserve. So, whenever I am honored with the mitzvah of being sandek at a brit, I take responsibility for the child's initial success in Torah and I give the father of the baby an envelope with money inside and tell him to pass it on to the child's rebbe when the child goes to cheder for the first time at age 3.
With the above in mind, several years ago, I had the privilege of being sandek at the brit of David Mark's son in Maale Chever south of Hevron. David wrote me this spine-chilling email earlier this month:
...our son who you were sandek for, has grown up and is now in first grade. It was his rebbe that was killed a few weeks ago along with his son. It was hard for us as parents to go through that with him, but I saw that children really handle these things better than we do. His rebbe was an amazing person and it was to him in the beginning of the year that we gave the gift you had given us as his sandek that you told me to give to his future cheder rabbi. Rav Yaakov Litman was a tremendous Tzaddik. I wrote a eulogy for him here.
Rabbi Yaakov Litman Hy"d (photo, above right), a beautiful human and a most wonderful cheder rebbe (elementary school teacher) was brutally murdered by Arab terrorists 6 weeks ago.