The fire of Lag BaOmer and When did elderly people like me become disposable? and 22 Facts About the Land of Israel Every Jew Should Know By Menachem Posner and Lag B'Omer tonight and US Postal Service to Israel is Back
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
Love Yehuda Lave
The Fire of the Torah and Lag BaOmer
The fire of the Torah and Lag BaOmer
According to Jewish tradition, the 49 days that separated the Exodus from Egypt (Pesach/Passover) and the Giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai (Shavuot) is a solemn time in the Jewish calendar. It is referred to as the "Sephirot HaOmer" -- counting of the Omer and is an important time of Kabbalistic meaning. Observant Jews count each day of the Omer and observe a number of mourning traditions, including refraining from cutting hair, hearing music, and celebrating weddings and other festive occasions.
Lag BaOmer (Hebrew לַ״ג בָּעוֹמֶר), also Lag B'Omer, is a holiday celebrated on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer which occurs on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar.
This day marks the hillila (celebration, interpreted by some as the anniversary of death) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a Mishnaic sage and leading disciple of Rabbi Akiva in the 2nd century, and the day on which he revealed the deepest secrets of kabbalah in the form of the Zohar (Book of Splendor, literally "radiance"), a landmark text of Jewish Mysticism.
This association has spawned several well-known customs and practices on Lag BaOmer, including the lighting of bonfires, pilgrimages to the tomb of Bar Yochai in the northern Israeli town of Meron, and to Safed, and various customs at the tomb itself.
Another reason for why Jews celebrate Lag BaOmer is that it marks the day that the plague that killed Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 disciples came to an end, and for this reason, the mourning period of Sefirat HaOmer concludes on Lag BaOmer for some people
Except for this year of course. Everything has been turned upside down. We can only keep the traditions that are safe. We have been locked out of our synagogues so we daven outside. The Rabbis have told us that we can get haircuts now because the barbers were closed for two months. However, we keep as many traditions as we can. While many Orthodox Jews don't listen to music at all, many believe the restriction is only on live music. The problem for many is that Israel Independence day, with much live Israeli music happens in the Omer period. Modern Orthodox deal with the conflict by remembering both. The Omer is a very important part of our tradition and lasts for 50 days which is a big chunk of the year, so it is an important period in the Jewish life cycle.
This day served as a "break" in the Omer and activities that were prohibited otherwise during the Counting of the Omer were permitted on Lag B'Omer.
Safed and Lag B'Omer
When the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, came to Tzfat in 1570, he instituted a number of new customs that linked Jewish mysticism with conventional Jewish rituals, among them a Lag B'Omer pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Tsfat, located a 4-hour walk from the tomb of the "Rashbi," was the logical point from which pilgrims would set off on their pilgrimage. Since the 16th century, Tsfat and Lag B'Omer have been intertwined.
Today, by virtue of a Knesset law, formal celebrations for Lag B'Omer begin with the Torah procession that begins in Tzfat's Kikar Abu erev (the day before) Lag B'Omer
The most well-known custom of Lag BaOmer is the lighting of bonfires throughout Israel and worldwide wherever religious Jews can be found. ... Some say that as bar Yochai gave spiritual light to the world with the revelation of the Zohar, bonfires are lit to symbolize the impact of his teachings.
Bonfires are lit throughout the city of Safed to commemorate the soldiers of Bar Kochba who fought against the Romans in the 2nd century C.E. The central bonfire is on Mt. Meron but throughout Tsfat neighborhoods gather to light their own bonfires. Some of the largest and most active bonfires are in the Hassidic neighborhoods of Kiryat Chabad (Canaan northern neighborhood), Meor Chaim (Darom-Southern neighborhood) and Kiryat Breslev (just below the Old Jewish Quarter on HaAri Street).
Cabinet Approves a Lag B'Omer Like No Other
The Israeli Cabinet voted its approval on Wednesday night for unprecedented restrictions on Lag B'Omer celebrations, banning bonfires throughout the country and severely limiting the traditional lighting at Miron, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The ministers accepted a Health Ministry recommendation that no bonfires be permitted from this Thursday to Wednesday, May 13, and that only three bonfires be allowed at the Kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai spread over three days. Attendance at those lightings will be limited to 50 persons, to be overseen by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
In addition, visits to Miron will be banned starting this Thursday for the duration. Rental of lodgings to visitors will be prohibited, and fines imposed on violators, according to Kan news.
As a result, the huge crowds that turn out every year will not be allowed this year.
On May 7, in an update of the USPS site, Israel was removed from their list of international sites without service.
Some commercial airlines are beginning to resume flights to Israel on a very limited basis, primarily for Israelis returning home to Israel.
People are using the word lockdown because they don't know how to spell kwarinteen.
Have you noticed that the number of selfies being posted are down by 68%?
I hope all the school teachers realize their students will return to class using old math.
I've absorbed so many disinfectants, soap, and antibacterial sanitizing gels recently that whenever I go pee, it cleans the toilet.
I'm pretty sure I just heard my fridge say, "What the heck do you want now?!"
I'm as bored as an Amish electrician.
Ontario has banned groups larger than 5. If you're a family of 6, you're all about to find out who's the least favorite!
Health Tip: If you keep a glass of wine in each hand, you can't accidentally touch your face.
My house got TP'd last night ... it's now appraised value has doubled!
Smoking pot and skipping school had me in trouble constantly. Now weed's legal and school's closed ... kids today are livin' the dream!
This is stupid. I just tried to make my own hand sanitizer and it came out as a rum & coke!
If you get an email with the subject "Knock Knock," don't open it. It's a Jehovah's Witness working from home.
After a few days of not going out, I saw someone I knew walking by on the sidewalk outside. I immediately ran to the window and started yelling to them. Now I understand dogs.
Day 36 of social isolation at home, and it's like being in Las Vegas. I'm losing money by the minute. Cocktails are acceptable at any hour. Nobody knows what time it is.
Ideas, that help explain how the world works
Each time that we practice the following exercises, we actually strengthen the anterior cingulate (part of the brain located behind the eyes) and weaken the primitive amygdala (fear center of brain)
:1. Validate your feelings.
2. Do not take responsibility for other people's anger.
3. Do not internalize other's scorn.
4. If you are a sensitive, vulnerable type, keep a list of your daily acts of kindness and courage
5. With unreasonable people, do not try to be reasonable!
6. Stop trying to change people
.7. Train yourself to look at the world with loving eyes.
8. Forgive yourself and others for being imperfect.
22 Facts About the Land of Israel Every Jew Should Know By Menachem Posner
1. The Land of Israel Was Given to Abraham and His Children
In more than one place in the book of Genesis,1 G‑d promises the Land of Israel (then known as the Land of Canaan) to Abraham and his children. This promise is reiterated to his son Isaac,2 and grandson Jacob,3 the progenitor of the Jewish people. It remains in effect until this very day,4 and Israel remains the eternal inheritance of the Nation of Israel.
In Hebrew the Land of Israel is Eretz Yisrael. It is also referred to as Eretz Hakodesh, "the Holy Land," or Artzeinu Hakedoshah, "our Holy Land." This is because the very space is sacred, designated so by G‑d.
Shortly after Abraham and Sarah came to Canaan, a famine forced them to leave to Egypt. Scripture5 describes this trip as a "descent." The sages note that Israel is (metaphorically) higher than all other lands,6 making travel to Israel an ascent and leaving it a descent. Those who returned to Israel in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah are referred to as the olei Bavel ("ascenders [from] Babylon"), and in modern parlance moving to Israel is referred to as aliyah ("ascent").
4. There Are 4 Holy Cities A 19th-century depiction of the Four Holy Cities of Israel. (Photo: Wikimedia)
All of Israel is holy, yet four cities—Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias—can have the words ir hakodesh ("the holy city") appended to their names.
Each one of these is considered unique and holy for different reasons, but the term "four holy cities of Israel" was coined in the 16th century, when these cities banded together for charitable purposes under the leadership of Rabbi Moshe Alshich, together with Rabbi Yosef Caro, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria and Rabbi David ibn Zimra (Radbaz).
5. Its Capital Is Jerusalem For generations the Kotel, the supporting wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, has been the spiritual center of the Jewish nation. (Painting by Gustav Bauernfeind)
In the book of Deuteronomy,7 Moses speaks of a place in the Land of Israel where G‑d will cause His glory to rest. In a dramatic turn of events in the final chapter of the book of Samuel8 it becomes clear that this place is a mountain abutting the city of Jerusalem. Ever since the Holy Temple was built on that mountain, known as Mount Moriah or the Temple Mount, Jerusalem has become the eternal capital of the Jewish people.
After 210 years of suffering in Egypt followed by 40 years of wandering through the desert, Abraham's descendants returned to settle the land promised to their ancestors. The land was divided by lottery, with separate portions given to each of the 12 tribes. The only tribe not to receive a portion was Levi, who had been assigned to serve as ministers to G‑d, and were supported by various tithes and "gifts" members of the other tribes would give them. They lived in cities scattered throughout the land.
7. For Many Years It Was Divided Into Israel and Judah
Saul was the first king to rule the Land of Israel, followed by David and Solomon. After Solomon's passing, his descendants ruled over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, in what became known as the Kingdom of Judah (or Judea). The other 10 tribes were ruled by the kings of Israel in the north. This continued until the northern kingdom fell to the mighty Assyrians in the year 3205 (556 BCE), leaving just the kingdom of Judah. Since then, the surviving people of Israel have become collectively known as Jews ("of Judah"), regardless of their tribal ancestry.
8. Its Borders Are Not the Same as Modern Israel The Talmud records a debate whether Acco is considered part of Israel. (Photo: Seth Aronstam)
The Torah spells out the borders of the Land of Israel,9 which were subsequently expanded by King Solomon. Some of that area, to the east and north, is in modern-day Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Conversely, the southern borders of modern-day Israel may very well extend past the historical boundaries of the Holy Land.
Even as the Jews were exiled from their land, it remained central in their hearts and minds. The thrice-daily prayers and Grace After Meals make numerous mentions of our desire to once again settle there. And even though we may not physically be in the Holy Land, our prayers ascend to heaven through it. Daniel, who lived during the Babylonian exile, faced Jerusalem in prayer: "Daniel . . . went into his house—now, his windows in his upper chamber opened toward Jerusalem—and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed . . ."
Following this tradition, Jews in the Diaspora face Israel (which is often to the east of them) when praying the Amidah.
For hundreds of years there were two centers of Jewish learning, one in Babylon and the other in the Land of Israel (based in the holy city of Tiberias). After the Talmudic sage Rabbi Zeira traveled from Babylon to the Land of Israel, he commented that the very air of the land makes a person wise.10
11. Jews Give Lots of Charity for Israel Volunteers pack up boxes of kosher-for-Passover items as part of Colel Chabad's largest food drive to date, which will be distributed to those in need in time for the holiday. (Photo: Israel Bardugo)
For many hundreds of years, living in the Holy Land was something most Jews could only dream of. However, communities all over the world regularly sent donations to support the needy of the Land, many of whom were impoverished scholars and elderly people. This charity is often known as tzedakah (charity) of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. The oldest such fund, Kollel Chabad, was founded by the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in 1788.
In the Diaspora, the Jewish pilgrimage festivals—Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot (and Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah)—are observed for an extra day. Historically, this was to ensure that even remote communities, who may have made a mistake in their calculations, celebrated on the appropriate day. In Israel, however, there was never any concern, and the only holiday which is expanded into a second day is Rosh Hashanah.
Israel is the holy land, and Jewish law forbids a Jewish person to leave it unless he or she has good reason, which may include: to study Torah, to marry, or for pressing financial reasons. After achieving those objectives, one must return to Israel.11
When G‑d spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He informed him that He would redeem the Israelites and bring them to a "good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey . . ."12 Honey here (and in some other places in Scripture) is understood to refer to fruit nectar, specifically date honey—not bees' honey.
15. It Is Praised With Seven Fruits A cash crop even today, in antiquity date palms provided food, shelter, shade, medicine—and became a symbol of Judea.
In describing the extraordinary beauty and uniqueness of the Land of Israel, Scripture tells us, "For the L‑rd your G‑d is bringing you to a good land, a land with brooks of water . . . a land of wheat and barley, [grape] vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil-producing olives and honey [from dates] . . ."13
When eating any of these along with other fruit, we partake of these first. And a special blessing is said after we eat them, in which we thank G‑d for the land He gave us.
16. Its Topography Varies Dramatically Transport on and near the Dead Sea in 1920.
Although Israel is a relatively small country, it has an incredibly diverse natural landscape. In just a few hours of travel one can traverse sandy deserts, fertile valleys and woodsy mountains, with great fluctuations of weather. It can be snowing in the hills of Jerusalem and sweltering hot just 20 miles away on the sandy beaches of the Dead Sea, the lowest elevation on earth (1410 feet below sea level).
The Torah describes the Land of Israel as "a land with brooks of water, fountains and depths, that emerge in valleys and mountains."14 Blessed with an abundance of water, it sits east of the Mediterranean Sea. On its northwestern corner lies the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which feeds into the Jordan River, which in turn feeds into the Dead Sea in the southeast. Since the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea are both salty, the freshwater supply is limited, propelling modern Israel to become a leader in the desalination industry.
18. It's Strategically Located Between Asia and Africa
The shortest land route from Eurasia to Africa runs through the Land of Israel, which is one of the reasons the area was the site of so much historic warfare. For example, when the Alexandrian Greeks (headquartered in Alexandria, Egypt, which is in Africa) butted heads with the Syrian Greeks (headquartered in what is now Turkey), Israel saw more than its fair share of Greeks in uniform. This led to the Maccabean rebellion and the miracle of Chanukah.
Upon alighting onto the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport in Israel, it is not uncommon to see passengers kissing the ground. This is an ancient tradition in Judaism. In the words of Maimonides,15 "Great sages would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, kiss its stones and roll in its dust. Similarly, Scripture declares:16 'Behold, Your servants hold her stones dear and cherish her dust.'"
Before his passing in Egypt, Jacob asked his son Joseph to transport his body to be buried in his ancestral burial plot in Hebron. According to the Talmud, being buried in the Land of Israel brings a certain measure of atonement to the deceased. In addition, in the time to come, the dead will come back to life in Israel. The bodies of those who are buried outside of Israel will burrow through the earth until they reach the Land, and then their souls will be reinstated in their bodies. Being buried in the Holy Land precludes the need for this process.
Jews in the Diaspora are long used to making sure that processed food is certified kosher. But raw grains, fruits and veggies are almost always okay, provided that they are bug-free. Things are very different in Israel, where many biblical agricultural laws are still in effect (to a degree). Thus, produce may not be enjoyed until a battery of tithes have been separated; fruit of the seventh year is sacred; and one must ascertain that fruit grew from a tree older than four years.
Scripture describes the Holy Land as "a land the L‑rd, your G‑d, looks after; the eyes of L‑rd your G‑d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."17 The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, often cited this verse as proof that Israel's denizens receive G‑d's special protection, making it "the safest place in the world."
By Menachem Posner Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor at Chabad.org, the world's largest Jewish informational website. He has been writing, researching, and editing for Chabad.org since 2006, when he received his rabbinic degree from Central Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch. He resides in Chicago, Ill., with his family.
COVID-19 Suspends Postal Service from US to Israel By Hana Levi Julian -
The COVID-19 novel coronavirus has accomplished an act so harsh it has not been seen since the days of September 11, 2001, the attack on America by the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization: the US Postal Service is temporarily suspending its mail delivery.
Yes, there has been suspension of service for a few days here and there during the various hurricanes that strike the eastern seaboard — true. But now we are talking this time about a suspension of service that spans weeks, not days.
This affects e-commerce sites like Amazon and other major internet meccas that serve to assuage the soul of the American Israeli happily setting forth on their small shopping sprees.
Now the USPS is suspending the international mail for certain destinations (not just Israel, by the way) due to service impacts related to the pandemic — including Israel — under the category of "Suspension Due to Unavailability of Transportation."
A service alert at the USPS International site page reads:
— Please refrain from mailing items addressed to ISRAEL until further notice.
— These service disruptions affect Priority Mail Express International, Priority Mail International, First-Class Mail International, First-Class Package International Service, International Priority Airmail, International Surface Air Lift, and M-Bag items.
— Items will be returned with "SERVICE SUSPENDED".
— Upon request, postage and fees will be refunded.
Mind you, "Unless otherwise noted, service suspensions to a particular country do not affect delivery of military and diplomatic mail."
Israel Postal Service: Can't Promise 'Standards' On the Israel side of the ocean, the following applies:
The Israel Postal Service advises it will continue to process incoming and outgoing mail, giving priority to premium services such as express mail service and PRIME, and will make every effort to ensure regular distribution of mail.
However, due to government restrictions to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, the postal service can no longer guarantee service delivery standards and is invoking force majeure with respect to such standards.
Additionally, a signature is no longer required for items requiring signature upon delivery, and such items will be left at the door after being scanned and photographed to prove that delivery has been made.
When did elderly people like me become disposable?
Psalm 92 proclaims that "in old age [the righteous] still produce fruit, they are full of sap and freshness." By PAUL SOCKEN/JTA
As someone who is no longer young, I find one aspect of the crisis to be particularly unnerving: the attitude toward the elderly.
The media is filled with stories about the problem represented by the elderly. What will happen if there aren't enough respirators for everyone? Should the elderly, who have lived their lives long enough, have the same right to medical care as young people who have their whole lives ahead of them?
There are cold, calculating cost-benefit analyses associated with this grim reaper scenario. One columnist came down on the side of "saving Grandma" only after weighing the pros and cons as if it were an accounting problem. Others have said that the elderly should sacrifice themselves for the good of the country. But this is not the Jewish attitude. Psalm 92 proclaims that "in old age [the righteous] still produce fruit, they are full of sap and freshness."
In his Mishneh Torah, the great philosopher and doctor Maimonides states that "even a young scholar should rise before an old man distinguished in age." In Guide for the Perplexed, he writes that "with the ancient is wisdom."I always thought that the psalmist's plea "Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me" was addressed to God. Now I understand that it is an appeal to our fellow men and women as well not to abandon the elderly when their "use" is no longer manifest.
It is heartbreaking to see so many deaths due to the virus and the personal stories associated with those losses. In many countries, a large proportion of the dead are in nursing homes where the elderly are warehoused with inadequate staffing and medical care.
In Canada, otherwise a deeply caring society, over half the deaths have been in nursing homes where revelations of what goes on behind the doors of those institutions have shocked the nation. We can and we must do better than this for the elderly and for everyone.
When this crisis is finally over, and a semblance of normalcy resumes, we will need to answer many questions about the economy, health care, the appropriate political response to an extreme emergency and the nature of our global world. But no less important is the question of the very nature of our society and its values.
What lack within us gave rise to the discussion of the disposability of the elderly? This crisis has exposed a materialistic calculus, a coarsening of society's discourse since the dismissal of the religious sensibility that built our system of values and ethics over millennia of civilization
.If we have, indeed, entered a post-Christian, post-religious society, a trauma such as the current one reveals its consequences. I would argue that we have seen the underbelly of a society that has forgotten its roots, no longer has a strong set of values and does not understand the importance of honoring all life. If ever there was a time to rethink the journey we have taken as a society and recalculate our direction, it is now.
What an irony it would be if we learned to preserve physical life infinitely better than previous generations only to abandon their more sophisticated search for truth and meaning in life.What will it profit us to reestablish our economy, restructure our health care and solve our global problems if we ignore the human issues that underpin it all? What is the purpose of life if we fail to see the humanity in everyone around us?
See you tomorrow bli-neder Happy Lag BaOmer We need Masaich NOW!