Tonight and tomorrow is the 11th day of Cheshvan, the yahrtzeit of our matriarch Rachel whom we affectionately call, Mama Rochel. Light a candle in her memory and ask Hashem, in her merit, for whatever you wish.
Here's my dear friend Yaacov Shwekey singing "Mama Rochel", a moving song written by Abie Rottenberg. May her sacred memory guard over us.
Today (Thursday) is the 29th of Iyar according to the Hebrew calendar. Jewish tradition teaches that today is an opportune time to pray that our children grow up in health of body, mind, and soul. The best known prayer that our people have been using for hundreds of years is "A Parent's Prayer" composed by the holy Shl"a, a 17th Century Scholar and Kabbalist who is buried near the Rambam in Tiberias. As a service to our readers, Artscroll.com sent us a PDF with the prayer in Hebrew and English, which you can download here.
We've often said that the most important part of raising happy and successful children is praying for them. The 5 minutes that you take to say the Shl"a's prayer will be one of the best investments you ever made.
Lag B'omer dancing with the 3 year-olds, who've just received their first haircuts, the traditional "Chalakeh", now proudly (and maybe a little overwhelmed about being the center of attention of several hundred thousand people) sporting their new "payis" and "tztitzis"
Warmest regards from Miron and from Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. On the day of his departure from the material world, Rabbi Shimon called his disciples to his deathbed and commanded them to commemorate the anniversary of his death with joy and laughter. Mark it as "the day of my joy," he ordered. And so, ever since then, Lag B'omer has been a day of simcha, of happiness. To this day, we honor the directives of the tzaddik and come to Meron to sing, dance, and pray our hearts out. Rebbe Shimon helps our prayers reach the proper address.
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, April 28. 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."
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.
On December 14, 1973, only a few short weeks after the termination of the Yom Kippur War, the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed and saintly memory gave a remarkable talk how a modern army must bebased on high-tech and sophisticated warfare rather than masses of men and armaments. The IDF, which is talking about a radical reorganization, is only now waking up to what the Rebbe said 40 years ago. In this amazing clip, the Rebbe also explains why we need an army even though it's Hashem who is fighting our battles. This is a rare clip and a must-see:
Zaidie Lazer learning Torah with grandson Yaacov Yosef Brody from Jerusalem (photo from 2008)
Whenever Zaidie (grandfather) Lazer Brody gets together with his grandchildren, we sing a moving song that
comes from a woman's prayer after lighting Sabbath candles. Many young couples also say this prayer on their wedding day:
"May I merit to raise children and grandchildren who are wise and discerning, who love Hashem and fear G-d, men of truth, holy seed, clinging to Hashem, and who illuminate the world with Torah and good deeds and all the work of serving the Creator."
G-d willing, I hope to be singing this with my grandchildren tonight at the Bar Mitzva of my cherished grandson, Yaacov Yosef Brody, the eldest son of my eldest son Rabbi BenTzion Brody of Jerusalem.
Baruch Levine composed this melody, and performs it ever so beautifully. Enjoy! May you have nothing but happy occasions in your family, and joy from your offspring, amen!