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A GLOSSARY of JEWISH TERMS and WORDS for CHRISTIANS

Glossaries ...Sources of self-understanding
Go to: Glossary of Christian Terms for Jews

Asara B’Tevet

 

The Fast of Tevet [עשרה בטבת] falls on the tenth day of the month of Tevet. Asara B'Tevet is a minor fast day. A fast is observed from sunrise to sunset in memory of the the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (588 BCE, 2 Kgs. 25:1-4) which ultimately resulted in the breaching of the walls of the city (17th Tammuz 586, Jer. 52:6-7), the destruction of the Temple of Solomon three weeks later (9th Av) and the conquest of Judah and the consequent exile.
Asara B'Tevet is therefore a part of the series of Fast Days which are connected with the destruction of Solomon's Temple:

  1. The beginning of the Siege, Asara B'Tevet, 10th Tevet
  2. The breaching of the City walls, 17th Tammuz
  3. The destruction of the Temple, Tisha B'Av (9th Av)
  4. The Fast of Gedaliah (Tzom Gedaliah, 3 Tishri)

The Chief Rabbinate in Israel has, in modern times, also been marked Asara B'Tevet as a day of remembrance [a general kaddish day] for all those who died in The Shoah [The Holocaust] especially those who lack a definite date of death and so have no identifiable yahrtzeitץ

[עשרה בטבת, Yiddish, anniversary, lit. “time of [one] year”.]

The Bat Kol  

The rabbi's speak of the Bat Kol (which means Daughter of a Voice) which is generally manifested as a voice delivering a Divine message proclaiming God's will or judgment.

The Bat Kol is sometimes envisaged as a dove: The Bat Ḳol was loud or soft according to circumstances; but the quality of the tone was peculiar. Rab said: "God roars like a lion, and says: 'Wo unto the children on whose account I have destroyed My house, and burnt My Temple, and whom I have dispersed among the nations.'" Jose entered a ruin at Jerusalem and encountered there the prophet Elijah, who asked him: "My son, what voice didst thou hear in the ruins?" He answered: "I heard a Bat Ḳol; it murmured like a dove [ מנהמת כיונה ] and exclaimed: 'Woe unto the children,' etc." In the course of the conversation God is spoken of instead of the Bat Ḳol (Ber. 3a). Elisha b. Abuyah heard a voice chirping behind the Temple [ מצפצפת ואומרת ], Eccl. R. vii. 8). (Jewish Encyclopedia, Bat Kol)

The Bat Kol was identified with the Holy Spirit or with God. The manner of the Bat Kol's manifestation in the human realm, however, differed from the word of God received by the prophets, being seen as a lower level of prophecy but a mighty and powerful voice.

Talmudic discussion utilises the authoritative imagery of the Bat Kol in settling a dispute i.e., “the words of both are the words of the living God, but the halakhah is in agreement with the rulings of Bet Hillel" (Eruvin 13b) and at other times sought to clarify the authority of the Bat Kol e.g., Bava Metzia 58b. Midrash also refers to the Bat Kol. A heavenly voice proclaimed that God, the Divine self, would attend to the burial of Moses (Deuteronomy Rabbah, 11:10). Read more...

Chanukah

 

The festival of Chanukah celebrates the liberation of the Temple by the Maccabees (2nd Century BCE). The Chanukiah [a special menorah for Chanukah] holds eight candles and a serving candle [used to light the other candles.] On each successive eve of Chanukah a new candle is lit. E.g., Day 1, one candle; Day 2, two candles, till the eighth day when all candles are lit.

Erev

 

The Hebrew word erev means evening. The Jewish day begins in the evening. Erev Shabbat is Friday evening.

Haftarah

 

The reading from the Prophets that accompanies the Parashat Hashavuah, the Portion of the Week taken from the Torah.

Haftarot of Admonition  

The Haftarot of Admonition are the haftarah portions which are read during the three weeks preceding Tisha B'Av. Their designation, Haftarot of Admonition [or Affliction], derives from the Period known since Rabbinic times as “bein ha-metzarim” (Between the Breaches) a time of mourning which remembers the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the time of the first Temple. [Bein ha-metzarim is a phrase taken from Lamentations 1:3, “All her pursuers overtook her in the narrow places.”]

The Three Weeks, a period which begins after Tzom Tammuz (17th of Tammuz), is also known as telata de'puranuta (The Three [Weeks] of Admonition) because the overarching theme of the haftarah portions [Jer. 1:1-2:3; Jer. 2:4-28, 3:4; and Isa. 1:1-27) is the threat of Divine punishment. [The choice of Jeremiah probably lies in the fact that Jews read the Book of Lamentations on Tisha B'Av which, according to the Gemara was written by Jeremiah (BT. Bava Batra 15a).]

Following Tisha B'Av the haftarah readings turn to “consolation” with a series of seven haftarah portions which connect mourning for the Temple with the Days of Awe. Four of the Haftarah of Consolation occur during the month of Elul and immediately precede the Days of Awe which begin with Tishrei.

Jewish Festivals

 

The Book of Genesis (1:14) speaks of the “lights in the dome of the sky” that set the days apart as signs of “set times/seasons” for the days and years. The Hebrew word for “set times” is moadim/festivals. Jewish festivals are events in time that are “sacred markers”; witnesses to the sacred. The Jewish festivals are: Shabbat (Sabbath), Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot (Tabernacles), Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Purim, Pesach (Passover), and Shavuot (Pentecost)

Kabbalat Shabbat  

Kabbalat Shabbat (The Receiving of Shabbat) is a mystical ritual inspired by the kabbalists of Safed which welcomes the Sabbath. The short ritual precedes the formal Friday night services on Shabbat. The Kabbalat Shabbat service includes Psalms (24, 95-99, 29) — the order of the psalms reflects the six days of creation followed by the Sabbath (Ps. 29) — and Lekha Dodi. The poem/hymn Lekha Dodi (Come, My Beloved) reflects the kabbalistic theme developed by the 16th kabbalists that the Sabbath, as God’s Shechinah, enters the world as a Bride of Israel to spend the Sabbath with Israel. The hymn itself, attributed to R. Solomon Alkabetz is based upon the words of the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Hanina, who used to say on Friday evening, “Come, let us go out to meet the Queen Sabbath” (Shab. 119a). Kabbalat Shabbat is concluded with Psalms 92 and 93. Some communities include Yedid Nefesh (R. Eleazer b. Moses Azikri, Safed 1533–1600) and portions of the Song of Songs (e.g. Dodi Li).

Kristallnacht

 

Kristallnacht, also called The Night of Broken Glass, was the night, 9th November 1938, when across Germany and parts of Austria synagogues were attacked, burned and destroyed, Jewish shops, businesses and homes were vandalized and burned, and many Jews lost their lives, during an unprecedented riotous upsurge of violence and hatred against Jews.

Lag Ba’Omer

 

According to the Torah the days between Passover and Shavuot are to be counted (Lev. 23:15-16; Deut. 16:15-16). These 49 days of counting, which relate to the offering of an omer of barley, (called in Hebrew Sefirat Ha'Omer) are likened to a connecting thread between the Passover from Mitzrayim [Egypt] and the Giving of the Torah at Sinai.

Lag Ba'Omer (falling on 18th Iyyar) is the 33rd day of counting and, according to a tradition recorded in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (120:1-10), signals a small break in the counting to celebrate the ending of the "great plague," a perceived "divine sent" plague during the Counting of the Omer [Sefirat Ha'Omer] in Rabbi Akiva’s time (2nd Century). The Talmud relates (Yevamoth 62b) that 2400 of Rabbi Akiva's disciples died at the same time because they did not treat each other with respect and the "world" remained desolate of learning until R. Akiva taught new masters. These new masters [R. Meir, R. Judah, R. Jose, R. Simeon, and R. Eleazar b. Shammua] revived the Torah.

Another tradition suggests that the R. Akiva's students died at the hands of the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt. The celebration of Lag Ba'Omer with a break in fasting and the lighting of bonfires is, perhaps, a reflection of this tradition.

Yet another traditional celebration by some Jews at Lag Ba'Omer is the memorial of the death of R. Shimon. It is a kabbalistic belief that through one of R. Akiva's five students who survived the plague, R. Shimon [R. Shimon bar Yochai; Rashbi; aka. R. Simeon,] Israel received the mystical Torah, The Zohar. This hidden and mystical Torah transmitted through R. Shimon is a complement to the revealed Torah given through Moses.

The word "lag" is a shorthand way for writing 33, a number which is written in Hebrew as lamed gimel [לייג]. Lag Ba'Omer is thus the 33rd day of the counting of the omer. An omer is a measure of barley. The counting of the days in the omer [ba omer = meaning, in the omer—Shephardic Jews call the days la omer meaning, of the omer] is a practice which dates from biblical times (Lev. 23:15-16) when, from the second day of Passover through to Shavuot [seven weeks,] a sheaf of barley the size of an omer was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. After Shavuot the offering changed from barley to wheat. It is because Shavuot marks the end of the 49 days of counting of the omer that Shavuot is also referred to as the Feast or Festival of Weeks. Shavuot, being the 50th day after Passover was named Pentecost by Hellenic Jews. See below for Sefirat Ha'Omer, The Counting of the Omer.

Parashat Hashavuah

 

The Portion of the Week—set readings from the Torah studied each week and read in synagogues on the Sabbath.

Pesach

 

Pesach | פֶּסַח
Passover (Pesach) is the Jewish festival that remembers and relives the experience of God’s saving intervention in the history of Israel. The original Passover events are celebrated and retold every year during the Passover Seder, as though “each and every Jew living today were themselves part of the experience” (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah).

Pesach Sheni  

Pesach Sheni, meaning 2nd Passover, is a minor observance instituted for those who, because of reasons associated with the laws of ritual purity, were unable to celebrate Passover on 14th Nisan. Celebrated on the 14th day of Iyyar, Pesach Sheni is mentioned in the Torah [Num. 9:1-14] and makes allowance for those who being ritually impure could not participate in the Passover sacrifice of the lamb, Korban Pesach, and so were unable to fulfill the mitzvah [commandment] of Passover.

Today no one is able to fulfill the commandment of Korban Pesach because there is no longer a Temple or sacrificial cult. Therefore, Pesach Sheni is remembered as a memorial, some keeping the custom of eating matzah [unleavened bread].

An Hasidic philosophic approach to Pesach Sheni is found in the understaing of "second chances." God wants everyone to have the opportunity to profess their belief in the great significance of the Passover offering, which the Sefer Chinuch says is a sign of acceptance that our destiny is in the hands of God.

Purim
פורים

 

Purim celebrates the miracle of the deliverance from persecution and suffering wrought for the Jewish people in Persia. The story is told in the Book of Esther (Megillat Esther) c. 4th Cent. BCE.

Purim is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar. [In leap years Purim falls in Adar II.] Traditionally, the date of Purim marks the first day following the victory/deliverance of the Jews in Persia.

"They [the Jews in the provinces] rested on the fourteenth day and made it a day of feasting and merry making" (Esther 9:17)

In cities that were surrounded by a wall in the time of Joshua Purim is celebrated on the 15th day of Adar, also called Shushan Purim.

The story of Purim which is recounted in the Hebrew Bible, in the Megillat Esther [Scroll of Esther], dates from the 4th Century BCE. [Megillat Esther is the last of the canonical texts to be determined for inclusion in the Tanakh.] The Talmud attributes the account given in Megillat Esther to a redaction of an original text written by Mordechai (Baba Bathra 15a). The Book of Esther in the Septuagint [Greek Bible] differs from Megillat Esther and is understood as an interpretive adaptation. The Greek Esther (c. 2nd Century BCE) adds additional traditions, e.g., Ahasuerus is identified with Artaxerxes.

Jerome's Latin text [Vulgate] of the Book of Esther is a translation of the Hebrew text with additions based upon the Greek version. Read more...

Shushan Purim  

The Book of Esther recounts that fighting continued in the city of Susa (capital of the Persian empire) on the 14th Adar, while the Jews elsewhere were celebrating the triumph of Mordecai's intercession and the deliverance of the Jews from Haman. Thus the Jews of Susa (Shushan) celebrated their deliverance on Adar 15 (Esther 9:18). In memory of that event cities that were "walled" at the time of Joshua celebrated Purim on day later, on 15th Adar (Meg 1:1). Today, in keeping with that tradition, Jerusalem continues to celebrate Purim on Shushan Purim, 15th Adar.

Purim Katan  

In a leap year, there are two months of Adar (Adar I & Adar II) and the celebration of Purim is moved to Adar II. However, Purim, together with Shushan Purim is celebrated in a minor way in Adar I. This celebration is called Purim Katan [and Shushan Purim Katan.] The word katan means “little” or “small.”

There is a strong connection between Purim Katan and Purim since it is the only observance (together with Shushan Purim Katan) which remains to be celebrated twice, in both months of Adar, in a leap year. The Talmud states, that

“There is no difference between the fourteenth of the first Adar [Purim Katan] and the fourteenth of the second Adar [Purim Sheni] save in the matter of the reading of the Megillah and gifts to the poor”
(BT. Megillah 6b).

Although it is a “little” Purim without the set observances of Purim, Jewish practice is to avoid mourning and fasting on Purim Katan, to omit the Tachanun (supplication prayers) after the Amidah prayer during Shacharit (morning) and Minchah (afternoon) services, and to celebrate the holiday with joy.

Rosh Chodesh

 

Rosh Chodesh is the “Head of the Month,” the time of the new moon.

Rosh Hashanah

 

Rosh Hashanah, New Years Day, the first day of the Days of Awe, Yamim Noraim, is one of the holiest days in the Jewish year. Synagogue services focus on God’s sovereignty. It is customary to each apples dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah and to wish everyone “Happy New Year, and sweet one.”

Sefirat Ha'Omer

Counting the Omer
 

The Torah teaches that the days between Passover and Shavuot are to be counted (Lev. 23:15-16; Deut. 16:15-16). These days of "counting" refer to the period within which the obligation to bring an omer of barley from the harvest as a "first fruits' offering to the Temple was to be fulfilled. The days of counting, which lasted a period of seven weeks, are called, in Hebrew, Sefirat Ha'Omer and are likened to a connecting thread between the Passover from Mitzrayim [Egypt] and the giving of the Torah at Sinai. According to the Sefer HaChinuch [Book of Education, 13th Century, Spain*] the purpose of the redemption from Egypt was the giving and reception of the Torah at Sinai. Counting the Omer between Passover and Shavuot 50 days later signifies the commitment of Jews to the promise of Sinai and the acceptance of the Torah.

A spiritual understanding of Counting of the Omer [Sefirat Ha'Omer] is therefore connected to the physical exodus from Mitzrayim [biblical Egypt] and the spiritual freedom received in the giving of the Torah at Sinai which is celebrated at Shavuot. The physical bringing of barley sheaves during the 49 days period between Passover and Shavuot helps make a spiritual connection between the the two festival events. The redemption from slavery is not complete without the reception of the Torah at Sinai.

An omer is a measure of barley. The counting of the days in the omer [ba omer = in the omer; Shephardic Jews call the days la omer meaning of the omer] is a practice which dates from biblical times (Lev. 23:15-16) when, from the second day of Passover through to Shavuot [seven weeks,] a sheaf of barley the size of an omer was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. Following Shavuot the offering changed from barley to wheat. It is because Shavuot marks the end of the 49 days of counting of the omer that Shavuot is also referred to as the Feast or Festival of Weeks. Shavuot, being the 50th day after Passover was named Pentecost by Hellenic Jews. See above for Lag Ba'Omer.

* The Sefer HaChinuch is an anonymous work published in the 13th Century in Spain, which discusses the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah from legal and moral perspectives, drawing upon their biblical sources and developing their philosophical meaning and their understanding as halakhah. The work has been attributed to R. Aharon HaLevi of Barcelona [Ra'ah] a colleague of Rashba [R. Shlomo Ben Aderet] but, because of contradictions between the Chinuch and his Ra'ah's works, many believe that Sefer Chinuch is the work of another Aharon HaLevi, a student of Rashba rather than his colleague.

Shabbat

 

Shabbat (שבת, Sabbath), is a recurring weekly festival; a day of rest in honor of Creation and Redemption, beginning at sundown on Friday evening and “going out” at sundown Saturday.

Shabbat HaChodesh   Shabbat HaChodesh | שבת החדש
Shabbat HaChodesh, Lit. “Sabbath of the Month” or “Sabbath of the New [Moon],” is the Sabbath which precedes the month if Nisan. This Sabbath has a special place in the yearly cycle because it was on this day [the Torah relates] that God gave the instruction to sanctify the new moon (kiddush hachodesh). For this reason the month of Nisan is counted as the first of the months in the Jewish calendar and the beginning of the year. The celebration of Shabbat HaChodesh also provides a timely reminder of the approach of Pesach (Passover). Both these matters are the subject of the special Torah reading, called Hachodesh (Exodus 12:1-20), which is added to the weekly Torah portion for Shabbat HaChodesh. When the celebration of Shabbat HaChodesh and Rosh Chodesh Nisan fall on the same day an additional reading is taken from Numbers (28:9-15). The Haftarah readings remain the same (Ezekiel 45:16–46:18).
Shabbat HaGadol  

Shabbat HaGadol | שבת הגדול

The Sabbath preceding Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol (The Great Sabbath). The origins of this special Shabbat lie in the Torah. It was on this day that the Jewish People followed the command of God and “took for themselves” a lamb which was to be set aside for the paschal sacrifice. This day, the 10th of Nisan, occurred four days before the first Passover (Pesach Mitzrayim, i.e. Passover from Egypt) which the sages determined to be on a Thursday.

The rabbis have attempted to explain the term Gadol applied to this Sabbath by reflecting upon the significance of the lamb (a deity to the Egyptians) and the instruction to select the lamb four days prior to the sacrifice.

This day was Gadol (Great) because The Great God (HaGadol) of the Hebrews commanded and miraculously allowed it to happen that, despite the affront to the Egyptians against their deity, the people of Israel where enabled to take this action. The Egyptians were not able to prevent the people of Israel from taking their lambs; a great miracle (nes gadol) indeed.

It is related in midrash that when the people of Israel explained their action as their protection against the coming plague of the firstborn [the tenth and last of the plagues], the firstborn of Egypt begged their fathers to let the Israelites go. When this cry was refused war broke out between them and many Egyptians died (Tosafot, Shabbat 87b; Midrash Tehillim 136:6; Tanchuma, Bo). This event alone warranted the designation Gadol to this day.

Others have espoused the teaching that because many Israelites who had adopted Egyptian practices repented and returned to their Jewish roots on this day, this Shabbat was honoured with the distinction Gadol in honor of God, who is referred to as “HaGadol”. According to the Pri Chadash (Rav Chizkiah Silva, 1657-1696) it was on this day that the people of Israel performed their first mitzvah, an achievement which alone should be called Gadol. Additionally they, in performing this first mitzvah, showed their maturity. It was, in effect, their bar mitzvah. These Jews, this day, became mature (gadol) adults. In a similar vein the Chatam Sofer (Moses Schreiber, 1762-1839) taught that on this day the people of Israel did teshuvah, fully returning to God in faith and commitment. Therefore they themselves are called gadol because God is Gadol.

Shabbat Shekalim  

Shabbat Skekalim (שבת שקלים) is one of four special Sabbaths related to the coming of Passover or Purim on which four extra readings from the Torah (Arba Parashiot) are read.

On Shabbat Shekalim, which falls on the Sabbath prior to, or on Rosh Chodesh Adar [Adar II in a leap year], a maftir reading is taken from Exodus (30:11-16) which describes the census of the Israelites and the requirement that every adult male contribute a half shekel to support the Temple. This tax is called the machatzit hashekel (“half a shekel”). The haftarah read this Shabbat is also related to the Temple tax (2 Kgs. 11:17-12:17).

Shabbat Shekalim falls approximately one month before the payment of the machatzit hashekel was due (on the 1st of Nisan.) In the Temple Period it was at this time that the courts would begin to post notices and make preparations for the approaching tax obligation, to remind people and set up the necessary structures (e.g., special money changers) to collect donations (Megillah 29b).

There is a relationship between Shabbat Shekalim and the celebration of Purim (Adar 14). According to the Talmud (Megillah 13b) it was because of the merit of the machatzit hashekel that the genocidal decree Haman obtained from King Ahasuerus was overturned. The money collected being for the tax being used to counter the 10,000 silver talents Haman had given the king.

“Resh Lakish said: It was well known beforehand to Him at whose word the world came into being that Haman would one day pay shekels for the destruction of Israel. Therefore He anticipated his shekels with those of Israel. And so we have learnt: ‘On the first of Adar proclamation is made regarding the shekalim’.” (Talmud, Megillah 13b)

Today many people make an effort to give to charity at the time of the Fast of Esther (13th Adar).

Shavuot

 

Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage feasts. Shavuot, also called Hag Hashavuot/The Festival of Weeks, has agricultural roots in the “first fruits” of the harvest, and spiritual links to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Shavuot is often called Hag Matan Torateinu (The Festival of the Giving of Our Torah.) Read more...

Shemini Atzeret

 

At the conclusion of the festival of Sukkot there are two holidays, Shemini Atzeret and Simhat Torah. In Israel, and for Liberal Jews, these are celebrated on the same day. For other Jews throughout the diaspora (where holidays are observed over two days) Simchat Torah is celebrated on the second day of Shemini Atzeret.

Shemini Atzeret, the “assembly of the eighth day,” is celebrated at the end of Sukkot (after the seventh day.) A Rabbinic midrash says that God desired one more day of intimacy with Israel and said to them, “Your departure is difficult for me. Stay with me one more day.” Shemini Atzeret is not a part of Sukkot but a separate holiday in it's own right.

On Shemini Atzeret the prayer for rain, teffilat geshem, is inserted in the second blessing of the Amidah prayer, replacing the prayer for dew recited since the beginning of Passover.

Simchat Torah

 

Simchat Torah—the “Time of Rejoicing in the Torah,” follows Shemini Atzeret. It is a time of celebration when the liturgical reading cycle of the Torah comes to an end and a new cycle begins again (with Genesis 1:1, Parashat Bereshit).

Sukkot

 

The Book of Leviticus teaches “You shall dwell in booths for seven days” (23:42). The Sukkot festival is related agriculturally to harvest, historically to forty years of “wandering” in the wilderness, and spiritually to rejoicing in the gifts and bounty that God has brought and wrought. Sukkot is called the Season of our Joy. It is customary to make a lulav for waving at prayer time during Sukkot.

Ta’anit

 

Ta’anit, means “Day of Fasting”. There are six fast days in the Jewish calendar. Tzom Gedaliah, Yom Kippur, Asara B’Tevet, Ta’anit Esther, Tzom Tammuz and Tisha B’Av.

Ta’anit Bechorot

 

The Fast of the First Born which commemorates the saving of the first born of Israel is observed by first born Jewish males on the day preceding Passover.

Ta’anit Esther

 

תענית = "fast" ; אסתר = Esther | תַּעֲנִית אֶסְתֵּר

Ta'anit Esther [trans. Fast of Esther] observed on the 13th day of Adar, the day preceding Purim, commemorates the three day fast observed by Queen Esther and the Jewish people prior to Esther pleading the cause of the Jews before King Ahasuerus, when threatened with death by the evil Haman. The Fast of Esther is followed by the celebratory festival of Purim.

Ta'anit Esther is a fast which appears to be of late origin being mentioned in halakhic literature only in the 8th Century. Rabbinic notes suggest the fast was at one time held in Nisan soon after the time when Haman cast lots. Ta'anit Esther is a counterbalance in Rabbinic literature to the celebratory nature of the holiday of Purim.

When Ta'anit Esther (Adar 13) falls on a Sabbath the fast, Ta'anit Esther, is observed on the preceding Thursday.

Tikkun Olam  

Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) is a Hebrew phrase which occurs in early rabbinic vocabulary (e.g., the Mishnah Git.4.2) in the context of preserving harmony in the world. It occurs also in the Jewish Aleinu prayer promoting the notion of perfection of the world, and in the vocabulary of Kabbalah where it draws upon kabbalistic mysticism in which redemption is related to the repair of the fragmentation of the God in creation.

Lurianic Kabbalah envisions creation as God’s act of tzimtzum (divine “contraction”) by which “sparks” of divine light became attached to broken shards (klipot) of kelim (vessels of divine light.) These vessels, the lower sefirot, shattered in the creation of the world. Kabbalistic tikkun olam seeks to gather these divine sparks, which give power to all evil in the world, and thus restore the completeness of God. This restoration is twofold: a restoration both of light and of souls so that ultimately all that is holy is extracted from the created world causing the created world to cease existence.


Kabbalistic tikkun olam is concerned to encourage a two-fold “repair of the world” which is achieved by external action and intention and inner hidden action: by intentioned prayer (contemplation and study) and the performance of the mitzvot (commandments), which will facilitate the mystical gathering of souls and fractured light into a whole/holiness—oneness which is Unity. All the disorder that resulted from the shevirah (shattering), the exile of all created beings in the created world, will eventually be repaired in a combined human and divine effort of tikkun: repairing, healing, and redeeming the world, in effect the reversing of the fracturing of the divine light that occurred in creation. When evil in the world is eradicated and human beings can return to their divine source, tikkun will be accomplished and human beings will be, once again, “the image of God.” To achieve this requires love and mercy on the part of people because these qualities will dissolve the shards of evil releasing the divine light trapped to them. At that point the exile of people and the mystical Shekinah will be over.


The tikkun olam term in modern Jewish practices is translated into action in practices that contribute to the healing and transforming the world. Ethical actions, justice and mercy, prayer, study and action, all matters expounded in Jewish law (halakhah) have found new relevance in the modern world as social action and justice. Tikkun olam provides impetus for transforming the world. It is a compelling notion which allows one to believe in one’s personal influence and responsibility to eradicate from the world all evil understood in terms of injustice, suffering and environmental disaster etc. The influence of Lurianic kabbalah enables the actions of tikkun olam to be seen as a personal and communal participation in, not only effecting small changes in the world, but in a cosmic transformation.

Tisha B’Av

 

Tisha B’Av, the Ninth Day of Av, is a fast day of mourning for the many tragedies of Jewish history. Read more...

Torah

 

The Five Books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, sometimes called the Chumash [meaning, "The Five" in Hebrew].
The term, Torah, can also refer in the general body of scriptures that constitute the Jewish bible [The Five Books of Moses (Gk. Pentateuch), the Prophets and the Writings], and to the Teachings of the Torah, The Law.

Tu B’Av  

Tu B'Av is the 15th day of the month of Av, a minor holiday in the Jewish Calendar which brings to an end "The Three Weeks," a period of mourning which began with Tzom Tammuz (The 17th of Tammuz). It is perhaps because of this that the Tachanun (penitential prayers) are removed from the daily prayer on Tu B'Av [usually recited during the Shacharit (morning) service each day] and it is a practice not to give eulogies at funerals on Tu B'Av. Both traditions suggest the end to the mourning period.

The weeks that follow look forward to the days of preparation and repentance of Elul and Tishrei, ending with Yom Kippur. Liturgically the weekly haftarot readings (prophetical readings) change theme, moving from admonition to seven weeks of consolation before Rosh Hashanah. Read more...

Tu B’Shevat

 

Called the New Year for Trees, Tu B'Shevat, the 15th of the month of Shevat is one of four Jewish “New Years.” The holiday is connected to the practice of tithing and the need to establish the “legal” age of a tree to determine when the fruit should be tithed and when one could eat the produce.

“And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as forbidden; three years shall it be as forbidden unto you; it shall not be eaten. And in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy, for giving praise unto the LORD. But in the fifth year may ye eat of the fruit thereof....” (Leviticus 19:23-25)

Tu B'Shevat (the word “Tu” is “15” written in Hebrew “טו”) falls near the beginning of spring after the bulk of the winter rains have fallen and trees are in bud with new growth and fertility.

The holiday is celebrated is different ways.

  • Many eat fruit of the land, especially that of the “seven species” grown in Israel.
  • New year for trees is also a time to focus on planting trees or raising money to plant trees, especially in Israel.
  • In the 17th Century the Kaballists of Safed established a special Tu B'Shevat seder which focused on the esoteric meaning to be found in the biblical statement, “Man is like the tree in the field” (Deut. 20:19). The practice spread among Sephardim and later to Ashkenazim. Many Jews celebrate a special seder modelled on the Passover seder on Tu B'Shevat.

Tu B'Shevat is not mentioned in the Torah but is found in the Mishnah in the context of establishing the correct date.

“There are four ‘new year’ days... the First of Shevat is the new year for trees, according to the ruling of Beit Shammai; Beit Hillel says, the fifteenth of that month.”
(Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 1:1)

Tzom Gedaliah

 

The Fast of Gedaliah remembers the killing of the Jewish governor of Judea, Gedaliah ben Achikam, in the time of Nebuchadnezzar.

Tzom Tammuz

 

Tzom Tammuz falls on 17th day of the Jewish month of Tammuz (Shiva Asar B'Tammuz). [When the 17th Tammuz falls on Shabbat, the commemoration of Tzom Tammuz is moved to the following day in order to maintain the sanctity of Shabbat.]

Tzom Tammuz begins at dawn and ends at sundown. The day is known in the Tanach as the “fast of the fourth month” and associated with a coming time of joy and happiness for Judah.

The word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying: Thus says the Lord of hosts. The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah: therefore love truth and peace. (NRSV, Zech. 8:18-19)

Tzom Tammuz (“tzom” means “fast”) is associated with many calamitous dates in Jewish history. On this day Jews fast, refrain from joyous celebrations, observe special prayers and Torah readings. It is on this day also that the “Three Weeks,” a period of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples begins. The “Three Weeks” come to an end with the fast of Tisha B'Av (The 9th of Av).

The Talmud (Ta'anit 26b; 28b) and associated Gemara discuss the “five” tragedies which were reputed to have occurred on 17th Tammuz.

  1. The breaking of the two tablets of the Law by Moses.
  2. The daily offering (Korban Tamid) was discontinued in the Temple.
  3. The breaching of the walls of Jerusalem.
    1. by Nebuchadnezzar, culminating in the destruction of the 1st Temple in c. 587 BCE.
    2. by the romans in 70 CE.
  4. The Greek, Apostomos, burned a copy of the Torah (Ta'anit 4:6). This event was later associated with the beginning of the Bar Kochba revolt.
  5. An idolatrous image was placed in the Temple. (See Baba Kama 82b for Talmudic discussion placing this event in the Hasmonean Period. Others say this was done by King Manasseh of Judah c. 697-642 BCE).

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Yom HaShoah   Yom HaShoah (יום השואה ) is a national day of remembrance in Israel and also marked in Jewish Communities around the world, which honors the 6 million who died in the Shoah (Holocaust) and those who participated in the Jewish Resistance during the Nazi period. The official name of the day is Yom HaShoah veHagevurah (Day of the Catastrophe/Devastation and Herosim - יום לשואה ולגבורה .) Yom HaShoah is both a national memorial day and a public holiday in Israel celebrated each year on the 27th day of Nisan and falls just eight days before Yom HaZikaron (the national memorial day for Israel's soldiers). On Yom HaShoah places of entertainment close and work ceases. On erev Yom HaShoah at a State Ceremony at Yad Vashem the Flag is lowered to half mast while survivors light six candles (in remembrance of the 6 million who died). The next morning, at 10:00 am, sirens sound throughout the country for two minutes and the whole country comes to a halt to stand in silence in tribute to the dead.

Yom Kippur

 

Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur falls on the 10th day of Tishri, at the culmination of forty days of repentance. These days of repentance include: the month of Elul (30 days), followed by Rosh Hashanah (the 1st day of Tishri)—the beginning of Ten Days of Awe. Yom Kippur is the final Day of Awe, 10th Tishrei.

 

         
         
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