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Welcome to an open forum about God presented in a question of the week format.

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"Why do you believe in God?"

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Parashat Vayetzei - Jacob's Ladder "Sulam" and the Structure of Prayer

Posted on November 12, 2018 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Parashat Vayetzei / פרשת ויצא - Jacob’s Ladder “Sulam” and the Structure of Prayer (Pineal Gland - Transportation Device)

Bereshit 28:12

12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of YHWH ascending and descending on it.

Come and see, the ladder holds two worlds - the world above and the world below - everything goes through Jacob's “Yaakov” ladder, the foundation of the world.

Prayer “tefilah” is likened to the ladder in the dream of Yaakov. As the Book of Bereshit relates Chapter 28 verse12, in his dream, Yaakov saw “a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. The Hebrew word for “ladder”—sulam—is comprised of three Hebrew letters totaling 130: samach equaling 60; lamed equaling 30; and mem equaling 40. This is the same numerical value as that of the word Sinai: samach equaling 60; yud equaling 10; nun equaling 50; and yud equaling 10. This implies that the peak or ultimate experience of tefilah is the mystical union with YHWH, such as the Israelite people achieved at Mt. Sinai.

If the word sulam is spelled with an additional letter vav (equaling 6), its numerical value is 136, which is the same as kol meaning “voice.” This suggests that the means of travel on the ladder of tefilah is through the vocalization of our prayers. We need to include all levels of our being on this inner journey of tefilah (pineal gland - transportation device), most importantly our humanity, which is distinguished by our ability to speak, an ability not shared by any other creatures. The sages and commentators, have many interpretations for Sulam Yaakov but the simplest is that the sulam has to do with the encounter between the human soul and YHWH, an encounter which later generations have come to know as tefilah.

When Yaakov awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely YHWH is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of YHWH; this is the gate “Portal” of heaven.

The synagogue “temple” is the house of YHWH. Tefilah is the gate “portal” of heaven. And when we pray, the most profound result is that we too are conscious of the feeling: “Surely YHWH is in this place, and I did not know it.”

Our liturgy has a symmetrical three-part structure, 1-2-3, which has the following form: (1) ascent; (2) standing in the Presence; and (3) descent.

Four Stages of Prayer

The Midrash Tanchuma says that there were four steps to Yaakov’s sulam, and the Zohar teaches that these four rungs parallel the four main stages of morning prayer, beginning with earthly reality and slowly moving upward and inward to a higher, deeper level of connection and unity with YHWH. At the outset of tefilah, we begin by standing on the first rung, and through the course of the prayer service, we climb the sulam toward spiritual perfection and elevation.

The four stages of morning prayer with a threefold structure are as follows:

1. Morning Blessings (Birchat Hashchar), which reflect the dawn of our awareness: “Ki karov elecha hadavar mi’od bificha ubilvavcha la’asoso,” (Devarim 30:14) “For the matter of serving YHWH is very close to you, it is in your mouth and heart to fulfill it..” We thank YHWH for instilling Israel with the capacity to discern between night and day;

2. Verses of Praise (Pesukei DeZimrah), a series of psalms which constitute a preparation prayer which reduces negativity and awakens our emotions;

3. Recitation of the Shema (Keriat Shema), has three blessings that surround it, which internalizes our emotions; and

4. The Silent Standing Prayer (Amidah, also known as the Shemonei Esrei), which is a deep encounter with the Divine in a quiet space of union, ultimately reaching a place of oneness. It ends with a series of concluding prayers including Ashrei, itself a key element of Pesukei DeZimrah.

The basis of this threefold structure is found in a statement in the Talmud (Berakhot 32b) that “the early pious men used to wait for an hour before praying, then they would pray for an hour, and then they would wait for a further hour.” The Talmud asks on what basis they did so. It answers by citing the verse Ashrei itself: “Happy are those who sit in Your house.”

The structure of the Amidah has the following three-part pattern: (a) shevach, praise, the first three paragraphs; (b) bakashah, requests, the middle paragraphs, and (c) hodayah, ‘thanks’ or ‘acknowledgements’, the last three paragraphs. On Shabbat and Yom Tov, the middle section is replaced by usually one, on Rosh Hashanah three, paragraphs relating to ‘the holiness of the day’ claiming we do not make requests on days of rest.

Shevach is a preparation. It is our entry to the divine presence. Hodayah is a leave-taking. We thank YHWH for the goodness with which He has favoured us. Bakashah, the central section, is standing in the presence itself. We are like supplicants standing before the King, presenting our requests. The spiritual form of the first and last actions – entry and leave-taking – are dramatized by taking three steps forward, and at the end, three steps back. This is the choreography of ascent and descent.

The kedushah – verses taken from the mystical visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel – is said three times in the morning service (on Shabbat, the third is transferred to the afternoon service, because the morning service is more than usually long. However, its proper place is in the morning service). The first, known as kedushat yotser, occurs in the blessings before the Shema; the third, kedushah de-sidra, is in the concluding section of the prayers, beginning Uva le-Tzion. The middle kedushah is in the reader’s repetition of the Amidah.

The kedushah makes explicit reference to angels. Its key verses are the words Isaiah and Ezekiel heard the angels saying as they surround the Throne of Glory. We speak of the angels at this point: the Serafim, Cherubim, Ofanim and holy Chayot.

There are obvious differences between the first and last, on the one hand, and the second on the other. The first and third do not need a minyan. They can be said privately. They do not need to be said standing. The second requires a minyan and must be said standing.

Maimonides explains the difference. In the first and third, we are describing what the angels do when they praise YHWH. In the second, we are enacting what they do. The first and third are preparation for, and reflection on, an event. The second is the event itself, as we re-live it.

There is a basic shape and depth of tefilah. It consists of ascent-standing in the Presence – descent. The inspiration for this is Yaakov’s vision.

Essentially, tefilah is a ladder stretching from earth to heaven. On this ladder of words, thoughts and emotions, we gradually leave earth’s gravitational field. We move from the world around us, perceived by the senses, to an awareness of that which lies beyond the world – the earth’s Creator.

The spiritual ascent or stages of prayer can be paralleled to the worlds of creation as well as the levels of our soul:

1. the world of action (asiyah) and the soul level of physical/functional consciousness (nefesh);

2. the world of formation (yetzirah) and the soul level of emotional consciousness (ruach);

3. the world of creation/context (beriah) and the soul level of intellectual/cognitive ability (neshamah); and

4. the world of unity (atzilut) and the soul level of transcendental consciousness (chayah), which is reflected as our inner most deepest will and desire.

Yet, on Rosh Hashanah, we have additional prayers. The prayer service is much longer than on Shabbat or other holidays, because the verbalization of these prayers is very important.

It is no accident that Rosh Hashanah celebrates the creation of the first human being—Adam (Adam ha Rishon—The Common Soul). In describing the creation of Adam ha Rishon, the Torah says: “And He [YHWH] blew into his nostrils nishmat chayim,” a phrase which can be translated as “breath of life” or “a speaking soul.” Our capacity to communicate and structurally verbalize our feelings or thoughts is fundamentally a human ability, and thus expresses our humanness. Speech is our means to communicate and it allows us to build our civilization; additionally, our individual humanness is expressed in our distinctive voice—as unique to each person as a fingerprint.

Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah we go about verbalizing holy words of tefilah; we demonstrate our uniqueness as human beings—by using the highest form of speech we know “tefilah.”

The Rungs of Yaakov’s Ladder “Tefilah”

#4 The Silent/Standing Prayer - Atzilut -World of Unity: Chayah Transcendental Consciousness;

#3 Recitation of the Shema - Beriah World of Creation: Neshamah Intellectual Ability;

#2 Verses of Praise Yetzirah - World of Formation: Ruach Emotional Cosnciousness; and

#1 Morning Blessings Asiyah - World of Action: Nefesh Physical Consciousness.

As we climb the four levels of prayer upward and inward, ascent and descent; we come more in touch with our deeper levels of soul, and they become our internal reality.

Therefore, Sulam Yaakov is a symbol that represents and links different worlds.

In his book Ruah Chaim (“the breath of life," Rabbi Haim of Volozhin (a student of the Vilna Gaon 1749-1821) writes:

“…a ladder stationed on the earth–that is Sinai; and its top reaches the heaven–which represents our soul’s life, which is in the highest sphere. A whole person is like a tree whose roots are above, and whose trunk extends downward, which is the body, and which is fastened to its supernal roots.”

Therefore, Torah learning is likened to a Sinaitic event, since Torah is what connects the heavens and the earth; and Tefilah through its four stages during the liturgy enables one to ascend and descend on the sulam between the two spheres above and below linking everything in the physical dimension to its paralleled spiritual dimension: “As above, so below; as below, so above.” Thus, through the system of tefilah, we ignite supernal energies that flow through channels or conduits attaching our souls to YHWH.

From sleep or 1/60th of death; when our eyes are closed to a silent meditation done before we open our eyes or say a single word “modeh ani” we begin our ascent on Yaakov’s ladder. This inner connection is defined through our (i) “yechidah” literally “singularity;” (ii) “chayah” life source; (iii) neshamah “breath;” (iv) “ruach” wind or spirit; and (v) “nefesh” literally living being “bloodstream” forming a chain link on the rungs of the sulam leading us through the four levels of tefilah energy which ultimately leads us to the Supernal Universe and ultimately to YHWH.

Chayei Sarah: Heroism and Wellbeing in the 21st Century

Posted on October 30, 2018 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

This week's Torah portion:  Chayei Sarah  (חַיֵּי שָׂרָה‬ — Hebrew for "life of Sarah")  constitutes Genesis "Bereshit" 23:1–25:18

(A Tribute to Martha Leah Poinsett-Williams A Twenty-First Centuray Sarah)

This week's Torah portion begins with the death of Sarah, but it is more about the legacy she left with Isaac to carry on through the Israelite people in the generations to come. Chayei Sarah is the only Torah portion named after a woman.  Sarah is the mother of only Isaac, giving birth in her old age. Sarah is the critical other half of Isaac’s birth and therefore our covenant’s parentage.  We know little about Sarah's characteristics.  However, if we tap into our imagination, we could probably envision Sarah to possess the valor, courage, and heroism of our beloved sister Martha Leah Poinsett-Williams who is featured in the article below: 


Living with Advanced Breast Cancer

How three women shine in the face of disease.

12 Min Read Cancer Care & Research

Elaine Schain, 76, looks forward to changing the floral arrangements at the soup kitchen where she volunteers every Friday. Lissette Montanez, 46, takes pride in making sure children in her Lower Manhattan neighborhood get to and from school safely each day. And Martha Williams, 68, tries to never miss a tai chi class, where she finds energy, spirituality, and a sense of well-being.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Health Matters spoke with these three vibrant New Yorkers who are living with or have faced advanced breast cancer. Each woman is thoroughly engaged with their communities, and grateful to their families, who have helped provide a foundation and support system from which they draw strength. Elaine, Lissette, and Martha are honest about their struggles with cancer but remain steadfast in their determination to lead fulfilling lives — in spite of the difficulties, setbacks, and lingering effects of the disease.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop breast cancer in 2018. More than 150,000 women in the U.S. — like Elaine and Lissette — are living with metastatic breast cancer (meaning the cancer has spread to other organs), according to a recent study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The study also had good news, though. Women with metastatic breast cancer are living longer as a result of better treatments.

Here, Elaine, Lissette, and Martha share with us in their own words how their inspiring journeys, unique perspectives, and passion for life go far beyond cancer.

Elaine Schain

Long-term treatment hasn’t stopped this retired teacher from giving back to her community or staying active.

I just celebrated my 76th birthday. Having had cancer for 19 years, I am very happy to have another year. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my right breast in 1999. It was treated with a lumpectomy, radiation, and medication, and it never came back on that side. Eight years ago, however, I had a different kind of breast cancer in the other breast. It was more aggressive and required a lumpectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. Two years ago it metastasized to my liver, where it could not be cured, but it could be treated. I am now on my third chemotherapy protocol.

As long as my wonderful medical team, originally headed by Dr. Anne Moore and, since her retirement, by Dr. Tessa Cigler, has a treatment to offer, I will keep going. If it comes to a point where the treatment interferes with my ability to function, I will stop the treatment, whatever will follow. While that may sound pessimistic, I consider myself a realist. I have been functioning well, so I go on. I volunteer at the All Souls soup kitchen on Fridays; I volunteer in a hospital on Tuesdays and I speak to medical students about my experiences. I am out and about! My husband and I go to shows and movies, to museums and parks, and we take long walks to explore Manhattan. We are occupied. I believe staying active and engaged is the most important thing anyone can do.

The soup kitchen is my favorite volunteer activity. We serve nutritious food to 250 to 270 guests in need each week. Each table has an artificial floral arrangement, which I make and change for each season. The people there are gracious and do more for me than I do for them. When you do for others, it takes your mind off your own problems.

I swim and do water aerobics for most of the year. I used to ice skate and ballroom dance, which I can no longer do — not because of the cancer but due to a stroke I suffered in 2008 that has affected my balance.

We go to Florida in the winter. When I am there, I am a regular at the gym, exercising, and where I take a number of classes, including my favorite, Zumba Gold, which is very much like Latin dancing. I love Zumba. I love the rhythm of all Latin music. If I hear it in the street, I stop; it gets me, that kind of music.

I enjoy great support from my family and friends. Married over 54 years to my caring and devoted husband, Howard, we have three married children and seven grandchildren who are my pride and joy.

By and large, I am doing quite well. I have more side effects from the stroke than I do from the cancer. Since I can’t smile with the left side of my face due to the complications from the stroke, I wear a smile pendant so people know that I am still smiling. I have smiled all my life and I won’t stop now.

Martha Williams

The Brooklyn native is jumping back into life after facing a difficult diagnosis.

When my energy returned after cancer treatment earlier this year, I had a desire to do things, to interact with people. I wanted to spend time with my grandchildren and my family, and I knew I wanted to take tai chi.

That’s because, some years ago, I used to go to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to have my car serviced. While I’d wait, I would watch seniors nearby doing slow, focused movements — what I later learned was tai chi. And I just thought, “That’s so beautiful, I wish I could learn that.”

I started to take classes in July. Wednesday evenings and Friday mornings I’m at tai chi, come what may. After class, I feel like I’m walking 10 feet off the ground. I walk faster, and I have more energy. It’s good for balance and for memory, because you need to remember the movements. It enhances my spiritual well-being, and makes me feel connected to the other people in the room. Our instructor, Sensei Derrick Shareef, tells us to use our peripheral vision to watch everyone else. The class is doing the slow movements in unity, and it makes you feel like you’re bonded spiritually. It’s like singing in a choir — everybody is a part of the whole chorus and all the melodies merge to make beautiful music.

Before I’d found tai chi and started going to Rochdale Village Community Center in Queens for classes, I’d lost my energy to cancer. When I found a lump on my breast in July of 2014, I had already lost two friends and two first cousins to breast cancer, and I decided to seek alternative means of treatment — I had my doubts about traditional therapy. The tumor eventually grew bigger, and I knew I needed to find out what I was dealing with. A friend recommended her primary care physician, Dr. Jeffrey Vieira at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, who I went to see in 2017. He arranged for me to see oncologist Dr. Alan Astrow, who asked me, like other doctors, why I wasn’t doing traditional treatment, and I told him it was because of those I had lost. Though he wanted me to begin treatment, I was not ready, and we agreed I would come back in two months. In the interim, my family was putting pressure on me because I had lost a lot of weight. I had no energy. I would just sit on the couch and turn the TV on. I wasn’t opening mail; I wasn’t functioning. I prayed about it and something told me to go to my appointment, and that I would know what to do after that.

At the appointment, Dr. Astrow said to me, “Ms. Williams, we are going to …” and then he stopped, and he said, “Ms. Williams, what do you want to do?” What doctor does that? I told him I wanted to see a radiologist and have a PET scan. He got on his cellphone and called Dr. Hani Ashamalla, a radiation oncologist, and he agreed to see me that same day. Dr. Astrow’s nurse walked me across the street to Dr. Ashamalla’s office. He examined me on a Thursday and said of the tumor, “This has to come out by Saturday.” Well, that got my attention. I agreed to see a surgeon, Dr. Raffaele Borriello, and he got on his cellphone and they admitted me. I had triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive type. At that point my cancer had spread to form a mass under my right armpit.

I went through with the surgery in January, and my appetite immediately came back. The nurses were incredible. I never had to ring a buzzer and wonder about where my food or medication was. They were superb. I went through chemotherapy and radiation, and am currently free of disease. I’m also grateful to my plastic surgeon, who did a phenomenal job with my breast reconstruction.

I traveled to my family reunion in Williamsburg, Virginia, this year, and to my cousin’s 30th anniversary celebration, where he and his wife recommitted to their vows. I visited friends in North Carolina. I love to travel nationally and internationally, and intend to plan some trips going forward.

I believe that there is more God has in store for me to do, that he is not ready to call me yet. I am trying very hard to live life as fully as I can as a tribute to my friends and relatives who were trying to do the same thing, who wanted very much to survive, and didn’t. So I talk to them all the time and say, “This is for us.”

Lissette Montañez

This crossing guard is tackling cancer with courage.

I started work as a crossing guard in September 2017. I enjoy everything about this job — the people, being in the community, and especially the children. They put a smile on my face. They’re really special to me. I work in Lower Manhattan, where I grew up, so I’m comfortable here. When tourists ask for directions, I can help them out. I’ve built friendships doing my crossing guard duties too.

I chose to be a crossing guard because I was looking for a purpose. I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2008, back when I was living in Florida. I immediately started intravenous chemotherapy and had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor in my left breast. Then I did radiation, and, according to the doctors, I was in remission. In October 2015, after I’d moved back to New York, I discovered my breast cancer had returned, and it was now stage 4 and metastatic. It had spread to other areas of my body, my bones in particular. They started treating me right away. I currently take medication and oral chemotherapy, as well as chemotherapy and hormone injections.

I have the foundation of a very strong family, and that is the reason I’ve had courage in facing my illnesses. My mother, who unfortunately is no longer with us, faced a lot and had remarkable courage; she was who I always wanted to be. I wanted to learn from her strength, and I’d like to think I’ve made my mother proud. Sometimes I amaze myself and think, “Wow, I am Mom.” It helps, too, that I have a wonderful medical team at NewYork-Presbyterian — my oncologist Dr. Ok-Kyong Chaekal is amazing, and the entire team is incredible.

Like any illness, it sucks. But it is what it is. All I can do is my treatment, and pray for the best. It’s difficult, especially on days when I am immobile due to treatment and have to stay in bed, or when other illnesses come, like a cold. I’m used to being an active person, so when I’m knocked on my rear, I feel useless, and I start doubting myself. But then I think about my family, and I get myself out of that funk. When I get down and depressed, I think of my family, and I force myself out of bed and jump in the shower. I cry for a little bit, and once I come back out, I might still be a little depressed, but maybe not as much as before. I get dressed and tell my boyfriend, “Come on, let’s go for a walk,” and then we’ll go out, even if it’s just for 10 minutes to sit in the park and do nothing.

My boyfriend got me into fishing. We’ve been sharing different new experiences, and it’s been great. Once in a while we go out to Long Island, but we usually go to Canarsie Pier or Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. It’s peaceful and quiet and nobody bothers you. You forget about everything, even if it’s just for a few hours.

I like people to hear my story. And if they can get anything out of it, even if it’s just a little bit of courage, I feel like my place here on Earth has had its purpose.

Learn more about cancer treatment at New York-Presbyterian. 

A Woman of Valor: An Interpretation for the 21st Century - By Stacey Zisook Robinson , 3/07/2018

She doesn't feel brave,
except sometimes she does.
She feels the weight of rubies
and gold twist on her fingers;
she prefers a crown of flowers
in her hair to cold metal
and the straight-edged lines
of rocks.

She doesn't feel brave,
except when she does
in her heart -
the heart of a wife
and daughter
mother, perhaps
Or not - childless,
by choice or
unseen circumstance.

Weaver of tales, spinner of
fine linen that snags
sometimes, and she smooths it
with supple fingers -
slim fingers -
crooked and thick-with-age fingers.
She pulls the threads
that pulls the cloth.
There is beauty in its folds.

She doesn't feel brave,
but she laughs,
and it sounds like water
and light; and she knows goodness
and sometimes pain,
and the law of kindness
is on her tongue.

She doesn't feel strong,
but she rises when she falls,
because there are bills to pay
and dinner to fix
and papers to grade
and sometimes write.
There are knees to bandage
and meetings to endure
and the clock just keeps ticking.
And there are friends to love,
and family to love,
and self to love -
yes: self to love,

She rises, exhausted.
She rises, in joy.
She rises, trembling.
She rises, fearless.
She rises, bruised.
She rises, alone.
She rises, lonely.
She rises.

She knows nothing of valor
or the value of rubies.
She rises, and does not feel strong,
but sometimes she knows blessings
and a stumbling bit of grace.

This poem is an interpretation based on Proverbs 31:10-31, which is also known as "Eshet Chayil," A Woman of Valor.

In closing:  Tehillim to heal the sick

Psalm 20

This chapter ranks among the most familiar Psalms given its inclusion in the daily prayer service. The reason for its inclusion, perhaps, is that this Psalm provides hope and encouragement during times of crisis, assuring us of God's ability to assist even under the direst circumstances. As we all confront difficult situations on one level or another each day, we recite this chapter as an appeal to the Almighty for assistance.


Psalms Chapter 20 תְּהִלִּים


א לַמְנַצֵּחַ, מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד. 1 For the Leader. A Psalm of David.

ב יַעַנְךָ יְהוָה, בְּיוֹם צָרָה; יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ, שֵׁם אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב. 2 The LORD answer thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob set thee up on high;

ג יִשְׁלַח-עֶזְרְךָ מִקֹּדֶשׁ; וּמִצִּיּוֹן, יִסְעָדֶךָּ. 3 Send forth thy help from the sanctuary, and support thee out of Zion;

ד יִזְכֹּר כָּל-מִנְחֹתֶךָ; וְעוֹלָתְךָ יְדַשְּׁנֶה סֶלָה. 4 Receive the memorial of all thy meal-offerings, and accept the fat of thy burnt-sacrifice; Selah

ה יִתֶּן-לְךָ כִלְבָבֶךָ; וְכָל-עֲצָתְךָ יְמַלֵּא. 5 Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.

ו נְרַנְּנָה, בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ-- וּבְשֵׁם-אֱלֹהֵינוּ נִדְגֹּל;

יְמַלֵּא יְהוָה, כָּל-מִשְׁאֲלוֹתֶיךָ. 6 We will shout for joy in thy victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our standards; {N}

the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.

ז עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי-- כִּי הוֹשִׁיעַ יְהוָה, מְשִׁיחוֹ:

יַעֲנֵהוּ, מִשְּׁמֵי קָדְשׁוֹ-- בִּגְבֻרוֹת, יֵשַׁע יְמִינוֹ. 7 Now know I that the LORD saveth His anointed; {N}

He will answer him from His holy heaven with the mighty acts of His saving right hand.

ח אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב, וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים;

וַאֲנַחְנוּ, בְּשֵׁם-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר. 8 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; {N}

but we will make mention of the name of the LORD our God.

ט הֵמָּה, כָּרְעוּ וְנָפָלוּ; וַאֲנַחְנוּ קַּמְנוּ, וַנִּתְעוֹדָד. 9 They are bowed down and fallen; but we are risen, and stand upright.

י יְהוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה: הַמֶּלֶךְ, יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם-קָרְאֵנוּ. 10 Save, LORD; let the King answer us in the day that we call.


Parashat Lech-Lecha (Bereshit 12:1 - 17:27) Go Forth

Posted on October 14, 2018 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (0)


Parashat Lech-Lecha


(Go Forth)




Making of a Nation




In YHWH, Israel has the source of inexhaustible strength.


The everlasting YHWH will not fail to carry through His great purposes.

What is written in Bereshit 15: 13-14, to say the least, is central or at the core of the entire Biblical narrative. It can even easily be shown that what is written in Bereshit 15:13-14 is also at the center of numerous narratives and sections of the Holy Qur'an – even the entire book.

In Bereishit 17:7 – YHWH establishes His Covenant with Abraham.

7  And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a YHWH unto thee and to thy seed after thee.

In 1619, (as it was recorded) “20 and odd” Africans arrived off the coast of Virginia, is this the marker for the prophecy of Bereshit 15:13-14:  13 And He said unto Abram: 'Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

It is believed that Sunday, August 25, 2019, will mark the 400-year anniversary of the "20 and odd," Africans. How has this date shaped the Israelite experience in the United States of America? Does the date have historical meaning for the Israelite in the Twenty-First Century?

Can any other group prove that this has happened to them just as prophecy said it would?


Posted on October 8, 2018 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

"In the beginning" - (Genesis “Bereishit”):

Tishrei 29, 5779/October 8, 2018

“In the beginning YHWH created the heaven and the earth.”

YHWH created the space-mass-time universe on the first day of the Creation Week. No one of these elements can have a meaningful existence without the others. Space and matter must exist in time, and time requires space and matter. Time is only meaningful if physical entities exist and events transpire during time.


Yet, speech is the tool of creation, as in: “And YHWH said, ‘Let there be light’” (Bereshit 1:3). YHWH, in all His Splendor and Magnificence, created the entire universe, time, space and matter continuum with His voice, except for man, whom YHWH formed out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul - "speaking being" (Bereshit 2:7). YHWH gave man reign over all other creations through his power of speech. Therefore, the Torah so strongly emphasizes the need to guard our unique attribute of speech.

The 50 Gates; of Divine Energy are the basis of all of Torah; and the Chosen People of Israel as the human soul mirrors the Divine as written in Bereshit 1:27: “YHWH created man in His own image, in the image of YHWH He created him, male and female He created them.” Bereshit sets the world stage; YHWH made the world, universe and humankind; making the world humankind’s dwelling‐place. “For so says YHWH, the Creator of Heaven, He is YHWH who formed the earth, who made it and established it, who did not create it to be a void (tohu), but who formed it to be a dwelling (la‐ shevet)” (Isaiah 45:1). It further reads: “They shall make for Me a holy place and I shall dwell in their midst” (Exodus “Shemot” 25:8. “Surely YHWH is here in this place….It will be the house of YHWH” (Bereshit 28:16, 22).

The Chosen Children of Israel has a dwelling, la-shevet, which constitutes both time and space. Time systematically moved Israel to become a nation, chosen by YHWH at Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai represents YHWH’s election of Israel as the Chosen People. Israel’s dwelling through the desert; eventually was led by YHWH to occupied space at the foot of Mount Sinai, where the elected Chosen People received the covenant with all of its commandments. As Scripture puts it in the first creation narrative: “And YHWH said, ‘let there be light in the expanse of the sky to divide between day and night, and to be for signs and seasons, for days and for years”’ (Bereshit 1:14). Space in the creation narrative is ordered by its relation to the land of Israel. In the Torah, the idea for a Land of Israel is born adjacent with the idea for a People of Israel.


YHWH’s covenant with Abraham includes a promise that Abraham’s descendants will inherit the area from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates. From the moment that YHWH liberates these descendants from slavery and the People of Israel transform from an idea into a reality, the Torah’s narrative arc has one end: inhabiting this Promised Land.


Now, man through the power of literary speech; uses the aleph bet to form words; personifications; similes; and metaphors. Cleverly, man puts pen to paper using words in its proper sequence to form myriads of interpretations from the Torah, thus stirring up emotions and conceptions among its readers. Thus, men have used his unique aspect of speech; and writing from the text in the Torah to substantiate “Jewish history” through the doctrine of “chosenness.” Chosenness in the Torah, began when YHWH singled out Abram “Abraham” with the command, “Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Bereshit 12:1); and the subsequent promise to bless Abraham and his descendants. This blessing, reiterated several times throughout the Torah, became the basis for the doctrine of chosenness–the idea that the Jewish people have a relationship with YHWH unlike that of any other nation. Throughout the centuries many people have claimed to be the Nation of Israel. So, who are the chosen Children of Israel and what is this widespread train of thought regarding “chosenness?”

Merriam-Webster: Definition of Jew

1 : a person belonging to a continuation through descent or conversion of the ancient Jewish people

2 : one whose religion is Judaism

3a : a member of the tribe of Judah


b : Israelite

4 : a member of a nation existing in Palestine from the sixth century b.c. to the first century a.d.

Wikipedia Definition of Chosenness: In Judaism, "chosenness" is the belief that the Jews, via descent from the ancient Israelites, are the chosen people, i.e. chosen to be in a covenant with YHWH.

The Meaning of Chosenness

The fundamental notion of the Chosen People is expressed in the distinction between “Israel” on the one hand, and the “Nations of the World” on the other. The Talmudic definition of nations other than Israel as “Nations of the World” means to convey the central idea behind the Divine choice of Israel: we were chosen to connect the world to an unworldly elevation, raising the world beyond its earthly level. The pinnacle of this achievement is the Temple, which forms a spiritual “embassy of YHWH” within the physical world.

Bereishit 28:12; Bereishit Rabbah 68:12 – Yaakov’s Ladder.

“He dreamt; and behold, a ladder stood on the ground, and its head reached the heavens. And behold, angels of YHWH ascended and descended upon it.”

The person who is complete is planted in Worlds Above, in the source of his soul, and passes through thousands of spiritual domains, until the lower part of his soul enters the physical body. This is the meaning of the verse “For the portion of YHWH is His nation, Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance” – his elevated soul is “a portion of YHWH,” from which he descends like a rope until he reaches the physical body. Every physical deed therefore has the power to make an impact at the elevation of the source, like a rope, whose upper end moves when its lower end is shaken.

The nation of Israel is named after Yaakov, the third and most perfected Patriarch, who was renamed Israel. Just as Yaakov united two worlds, the spiritual world above and our physical world, so the continued role of Israel is to unite two worlds.

The Sages term non-Jewish nations “Nations of the World.” They are essentially “of the world.”

Jewish life, by way of contrast, revolves around a third dimension, a plane of existence that connects the physical world with a higher, Divine existence. Unlike the Nations of the World, the deeds with which Israel is charged are therefore little understood by their human perpetrators – for they pertain to a Divine sphere that is “not of the world.”

The Chosen People of the Bible


From the time of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the people of Israel were chosen as the nation of YHWH. They are called His sons, they are treasured by Him, and they possess an everlasting covenant with Him. Even non-Jewish leaders honest enough to take Scripture at face value readily accept the concept of chosenness.


Bereishit 17:7 – The Covenant with Abraham.


And I will establish this covenant between Me and you, and your children after you; throughout their generations it shall be an eternal covenant, that I shall be YHWH to you and your children after you.

Deuteronomy (Devarim) 7:6 – YHWH’s chosen treasure.


You are a holy nation to YHWH, your YHWH; YHWH, your YHWH, has chosen you to be for Him a treasured nation from all of the nations which are on the face of the earth.

The election of the Jewish people was sealed with the giving of the Torah. We proclaim this fact every morning and every time we are called to the Torah (“Aliyah”) The calling of a member of a Jewish congregation to the tebah for a portion of reading from the Torah.


Blessing over the Torah, Morning Prayers – The Jewish people were chosen to receive the Torah, the word of YHWH. Blessed are You, O Lord, our YHWH, King of the world, who chose us from all the nations, and gave us His Torah.

The Chosen People of History


It is not only the Torah that states that the Jews are the Chosen People. History itself reveals that there is something special about the Jewish people. In accordance with the prophecies, the Jewish people, homeless and hated by the nations, have somehow survived while other peoples have vanished. For the intellectually honest observer, this miraculous survival is a clear indication of the unique status of the Jewish people.

Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu) 30:11 – The survival of the Jewish people in contrast with other nations. For I am with you to save you, says YHWH; I will bring annihilation upon all the nations among whom I scattered you, but upon you I will not bring annihilation. Mark Twain, Concerning the Jews, Harper’s Magazine, March 1898 – What Yirmiyahu prophesied came to pass.


The Egyptian, the Babylonian and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

Leo Tolstoy, What is the Jew? quoted in The Final Resolution page 189, The Jewish World Periodical, 1908 – The embodiment of eternity. What is the Jew? … What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed; persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish? What is this Jew whom they have never succeeded in enticing with all the enticements in the world, whose oppressors and persecutors only suggested that he deny (and disown) his religion and cast aside the faithfulness of his ancestors?! The Jew – is the symbol of eternity … He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.

Winston Churchill, Illustrated Sunday Herald, February 8, 1920 – The most remarkable race.


Some people like Jews and some do not, but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.


Winston Churchill, speech given in Jerusalem, 1921, cited in Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews, page 307 – What civilization owes the Jews.

We owe to the Jews … a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together. On that system and by that faith there has been built out of the wreck of the Roman Empire the whole of our existing civilization.


Chosenness: Ideology - Politics & Policy

Nation Review

Yes, Jews Are the Chosen People By Dennis Prager (a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist.) - May 17, 2011 4:00 AM

For good or ill


I assume that the type of person who reads columns such as this one has wondered at one time or another why, for thousands of years, there has been so much attention paid to Jews; and why, today, so much attention is paid to Israel, the lone Jewish state.

How do most people explain this preoccupation? There is no fully rational explanation for the amount of attention paid to the Jews and the Jewish state. And there is no fully rational explanation for the amount of hatred directed at them.

A lifetime of study of this issue, including writing (with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin) a book on antisemitism (Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism) has convinced me that, along with all the rational explanations, there is one explanation that transcends reason alone.


It is that the Jews are YHWH’s chosen people.


Now, believe me, dear reader, I am well aware of the hazards of making such a claim. It sounds chauvinistic. It sounds racist. And it sounds irrational, if not bizarre.


But it is none of these.


About, chauvinism, there is not a hint of inherent superiority in the claim of Jewish chosenness. In fact, the Jewish Bible, the book that states the Jews are chosen, constantly berates the Jews for their flawed moral behavior. No bible of any other religion is so critical of the religious group affiliated with that bible as the Hebrew Scriptures are of the Jews.

As for racism, Jewish chosenness cannot be racist by definition. Here is why: a) The Jews are not a race; there are Jews of every race. And b) any person of any race, ethnicity, or nationality can become a member of the Jewish people and thereby be as chosen as Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah or the chief rabbi of Israel.

And about chosenness being an irrational or even bizarre claim, it must be so only to atheists. They don’t believe in a Chooser, so they cannot believe in a Chosen. But for most believing Jews and Christians (most particularly the Founders who saw America as a Second Israel, a second Chosen People), Jewish Chosenness has been a given. And even the atheist must look at the evidence and conclude that the Jews play a role in history that defies reason.

Can reason alone explain how a hodgepodge of ex-slaves was able to change history — to introduce the moral YHWH-Creator we know as YHWH, to devise ethical monotheism; to write the world’s most influential book, the Bible; to be the only civilization to deny the cyclical worldview and give humanity belief in a linear (i.e., purposeful) history; to provide morality-driven prophets; and so much more — without YHWH playing the decisive role in this people’s history?


Without the Jews, there would be no Christianity (a fact acknowledged by the great majority of Christians); and no Islam (a fact acknowledged by almost no Muslims). Read Thomas Cahill’s “The Gifts of the Jews” or Paul Johnson’s “History of the Jews” to get an idea about how much this people changed history.


What further renders the claim for Jewish chosenness worthy of rational consideration is that virtually every other nation has perceived itself as chosen or otherwise divinely special. For example, China means “Middle Kingdom” in Chinese – meaning that China is at the center of the world; and Japan considers itself the land where the sun originates (“Land of the Rising Sun”) The difference between Jewish chosenness and other nations’ similar claims is that no one cares about any other group considering itself Chosen, while vast numbers of non-Jews have either believed the Jews’ claim or have hated the Jews for it.

Perhaps the greatest evidence for the Jews’ chosenness has been provided in modern times, during which time evil has consistently targeted the Jews:

• Nazi Germany was more concerned with exterminating the Jews than with winning World War II.


• Throughout its 70-year history, the Soviet Union persecuted its Jews and tried to extinguish Judaism. Hatred of Jews was one thing Communists and Nazis shared.

• The United Nations has spent more time discussing and condemning the Jewish state than any other country in the world. Yet this state is smaller than every Central American country, including El Salvador, Panama, and even Belize. Imagine if the amount of attention paid to Israel were paid to Belize — who would not think there was something extraordinary about that country?

• Much of the contemporary Muslim world — and nearly all the Arab world — is obsessed with annihilating the lone Jewish state.

In the words of Catholic scholar Fr. Edward Flannery, “the Jews carry the burden of YHWH in history.” Most Jews, being secular, do not believe this. And many Jews dislike talk of chosenness because they fear it will increase antisemitism; they may be right.


But it doesn’t alter the fact that the obsession with one of the smallest countries and smallest peoples on earth, and the unique hatred of the Jews and the Jewish state by the world’s most vicious ideologies can be best explained only in transcendent terms. Namely that YHWH, for whatever reason, chose the Jews.

Concept of Chosenness

The concept of "chosenness" in Judaism, holds that the Jewish people were singularly chosen to enter into a covenant with YHWH. This is a central theme found throughout the history of Jewish thought, deeply rooted in biblical ideology and was developed further in talmudic, philosophic, mystical and contemporary Judaism.

Most Jews hold that being the "Chosen People" means that they have been placed on earth to fulfill a certain purpose. Traditional proof for Jewish "chosenness" is found in the Torah, the Jewish bible, in the Book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 14) where it says: "For you are a holy people to Hashem your YHWH, and YHWH has chosen you to be his treasured people from all the nations that are on the face of the earth." In the Book of Beresit (Chapter 17) it is also written: "And I [G-d] will establish My covenant between Me and you [the Jewish people] and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be YHWH to you and your descendants after you."


According to Judah Halevi's Kuzari, the entire Jewish people was endowed with a special religious ability, first given to Adam and then bequeathed through a line of chosen representatives to all of Israel.

It was because of the Jews willingness to accept and obey the Torah that YHWH chose them. This concept of chosenness has helped Jews to maintain loyalty to their tradition and halakhah.


During the 1930s, George Bernard Shaw remarked that if the Nazis would only realize how Jewish their notion of Aryan superiority was, they would drop it immediately. Later, in 1973, as a result, of the Yom Kippur War, Yakov Malik, the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations, said: "The Zionists have come forward with the theory of the Chosen People, an absurd ideology. That is religious racism." Indeed, the most damaging antisemitic document in history, the forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is based on the idea of an international conspiracy to rule the world by the "Chosen People."

Does the ideology of "chosenness" really mean that the Jews were divinely chosen? After all, how did the notion of one YHWH become known to the world? Through the Jews. And, according to Jewish sources, that is the meaning of chosenness: to make YHWH known to the world. As Rabbi Louis Jacobs has written: "We are not discussing a dogma incapable of verification, but the recognition of sober historical fact. The world owes to Israel the idea of the one God of righteousness and holiness. This is how YHWH became known to mankind."


Does Judaism believe that chosenness endows Jews with special rights in the way racist ideologies endow those born into the "right race"? Not at all. The most famous verse in the Bible on the subject of chosenness says the precise opposite: "You alone have I singled out of all the families of the earth. That is why I call you to account for all your iniquities" (Amos 3:2). Chosenness is so unconnected to any notion of race that Jews believe that the Messiah himself will descend from Ruth, a non-Jewish woman who converted to Judaism.

Why were the Jews chosen? Because they are descendants of Abraham. And why were Abraham and his descendants given the task of making YHWH known to the world? The Torah never tells us. What YHWH does say in Deuteronomy "Devarim," is that "it is not because you are numerous that YHWH chose you, indeed you are the smallest of people" (7:7). Because of the Jews' small numbers, any success they would have in making YHWH known to the world would presumably reflect upon the power of the idea of YHWH. Had the Jews been a large nation with an outstanding army, their successes in making YHWH known would have been attributed to their might and not to the truth of their ideas. After all, non-Muslims living in the Arab world were hardly impressed by the large numbers of people brought to Islam through the sword.


The "Chosen People" idea is so powerful that other religious sects have appropriated it. Both Catholicism and Protestantism believe that YHWH chose the Jews, but that two thousand years ago a new covenant was made with Christianity. During most of Christian history, and even among some adherents to the present day, Christian chosenness meant that only Christians go to heaven while the non-chosen are either placed in limbo or are damned.


Mohammed, likewise, didn't deny Abraham's chosenness. He simply claimed that Abraham was a Muslim, and he traced Islam's descent through the Jewish Patriarch.

How powerful is this universal concept of "CHOSENNESS"...The election of the "Jewish" ISRAELITE people was sealed with the giving of the Torah. We "ISRAEL" proclaim this fact every morning and every time we are called to the Torah (“Aliyah”)?

The Concept of Tzedakah "Charity"

Posted on September 7, 2018 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Before Rabbi Zechariah HaLewi ibn Abraham's zt"l untimely death on September 27, 2015, he was told that the Israelite community would never be prosperous because they do not understand the concept of Tzedakah.  So, what is Tzedakah?  Jacquelyn DeGroot writes:

Jewish Philanthropy: The Concept of Tzedakah 

Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for philanthropy and charity. It is a form of social justice in which donors benefit from giving as much or more than the recipients. So much more than a financial transaction, tzedakah builds trusting relationships and includes contributions of time, effort, and insight.


In the Hebrew language the closest word to philanthropy is tzedakah. While the word is used interchangeably for charity, tzedakah is seen as a form of social justice provided by the donor as well as those who utilize the support to do their work and those who allow the support into their lives. As is the case with justice, this critical social responsibility cannot be done to someone – rather, it must be done with someone. In Hebrew, the word meaning "to give" is Natan. In Hebrew and in English, the word can be read forward and backward, so when we think about philanthropy and idea of “to give” it is also about “to receive.”

So much more than a financial transaction, philanthropy in the spirit of tzedakah builds trusting relationships and recognizes contributions of time, effort, and insight.

A mitzvah is any of the 613 commandments that Jews are obligated to observe and more generally refers to any good deed. The 'mitzvah of tzedakah' is one of the most important.

Great scholars are often quoted in many writings regarding tzedakah. A famous medieval Jewish scholar was Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon; his writings are called the Maimonidies.

Many writings refer to the pushke . Most Jewish homes had a blue and white tin box for the deposit of tzedakah coins for charity. From early childhood, Jewish children learned their responsibility was to care for other Jews in need. Though the methods are now more complex, the motivation for tzedakah endures through the centuries: to sustain the Jewish people, to enhance the Jewish life and to strengthen the Jewish community for today and the future. During daily prayer services, a pushke (or charity box) is commonly passed as part of the service, meaning prayer and charity go together ( Jewish Community Foundation of Central New York, Inc. ).

"The word federation is used in the Jewish community to denote a central Jewish communal organization which carried out the function of recruiting and maintaining volunteers, collecting tzedakah dollars, coordinating budgets, setting priorities, allocating funds and interacting with other communal institutions" (Raphael 1979, xiii).

Historic Roots

At the end of every Jewish worship service, the Aleinu prayer states a goal of the Jewish people to "perfect the world under the sovereignty of God." The term "perfect the world" in Hebrew is tikkun olam , which also means to fix or repair the world. The Torah claims "there will never cease to be needy ones in your land" (Deuteronomy 15:11) (United Jewish Communities 2004).

In ancient times, the Hebrew Torah was intended for a primarily agricultural economy and addressed the tzedakah in agrarian terms. For example, at harvest time, the Torah instructs believers to leave crops standing in the corners of fields to allow the poor to reap needed food for survival.

However, as the economy of the Near East diversified, rabbis addressed the tzedakah in financial terms. Public and private funds were created to help support people in need. Food banks and soup kitchens were developed at a time of no governmental assistance.

The sages shaped post-biblical Judaism and used the word tzedakah for charitable activity. The root word of tzedakah means "justice" and implies the rabbis viewed social welfare as an economic and social justice matter.

Later, the rabbis of medieval times clarified and codified the disparate laws of tzedakah . Rabbi Moses Maimonides developed an eight-stage approach to tzedakah giving that asked, "How much should one give? Should giving be done anonymously? What is the ideal form, or amount, of tzedakah ?" He taught the most virtuous assistance allows the recipient to become self-sufficient (United Jewish Communities). The obligations and questions involved in giving tzedakah are relevant today and offer a variety ways to give contributions.


Tzedakah is more than giving money to the poor. Done properly, tzedakah requires the donor share his or her compassion and empathy along with the money. In the writings of Maimonides, "whoever gives tzedakah to the poor with a sour expression and in a surly manner, even if he gives a thousand gold pieces, loses his merit. One should instead give cheerfully and joyfully, and emphasize with him in his sorrow" (Just Tzedakah 1999.

Tzedakah has two aspects: one with the hand and one with the heart. Judaism teaches the belief that donors benefit from tzedakah as much or more than the poor recipients and the belief remains a common theme in Jewish tradition. Whereas the poor receive money or other material assistance, the donor receives the merit of sharing the Almighty's work. Accordingly, tzedakah involves giving assistance with the hand and consolation with the mouth so the heart is without embitterment. The donor should give with a pleasant expression and with a full heart and the beggar should not hear rebuke (ibid.).

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

The Boston Federation was founded in 1895. The Jewish cultural tradition of 'taking care of one's own' shaped the created institutions by addressing immigrant needs at the beginning of the 20 th century. Individual support of synagogues and welfare agencies grew into a Jewish federated philanthropy of pooled individual contributions that supported a defined institutional infrastructure. Federations are actually grant-making public charities which raise funds allocated annually from a large number of donors (Mendelson).

However, foundations are dramatically different than the federated form of charity. The foundation funds are donor-directed, a practice not followed by the federated form of giving (Schneider 2002).

Landsmanshaften were mutual aid societies organized by immigrants on the basis of communities of origin. "As early as 1892 there were eighty-seven eastern European Landsmanshaften in New York. By 1910, there were more than two thousand, representing over nine hundred European cities and towns, embracing every Jewish family in New York. The success of the mutual aid societies was due to the fact that most of the members had gone through similar immigration and resettlement experiences" (Mayer 2001, 19).

The Jewish tradition of giving is strong, especially with tzedakah as an important part of the culture and religious identity. In the United States, a large fundraising network was created to help support Jewish organizations, individuals in need, the State of Israel and other Jewish communities around the world. The Jewish fundraising system has been heralded as a model of efficiency and effectiveness, particularly relating to organizational planning (Wuthnow 1990).

Key Related Ideas

An abundance of information is available on the practice of tzedakah and the importance in the Jewish culture. The guidelines for giving are very clear. There are four stages of giving: minimum, good, better and best.

The minimum annual contribution of tzedakah is an amount under $2.00. However, that amount is unacceptably low from a person who eats decent food and wears decent clothes.

A good contribution of the mitzvah of tzedakah from a person of adequate means is the amount of 10 percent of net income.

The better contribution of the mitzvah of tzedakah is 20 percent of net income. The rabbis limited tzedakah to giving no more than one-fifth of income; extreme generosity may eventually cause a person to become needy. There are exceptions to the one-fifth upper limit. One may give more than one-fifth in circumstances relating to ransoming a slave, saving a life, supporting Torah scholars and atonement for sin.

The best contribution of the mitzvah of tzedakah is the community, comprised of many advantaged people and few poor people, providing whatever is lacking to the poor. Each person of adequate means must give his or her fair share as decided voluntarily or by the community. The obligation to provide for the poor with whatever is lacking does not fall on the individual, but on the community. The individual is obligated to make known the needs of a poor person discovered in the community. However, if is the community is comprised of a single wealthy person, no community effort and a few poor people, the wealthy person does have the obligation to provide the poor with whatever is lacking, even if the wealthy person can afford it. The mitzvah is to fulfill the needs of the poor person but not to bestow riches.

Unlike the traditional Jewish view of tzedakah, it is now popular for the mitzvah of tzedakah to be practiced as a private matter with individuals deciding the amount of contribution. . "In other times, the community assessed the individuals' tzedakah obligation. When individuals did not donate an appropriate amount, the court could force the reluctant donor to give or even confiscate an appropriate amount of his assets."  (Just Tzedakah 1999)

Ashrei - Psalms Chapter 145 תְּהִלִּים

16 Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfiest every living thing with favour.

Ashrei is recited three times daily during the full course of Jewish prayers, in accordance with the Talmud, citing Rabbi Eleazar ben Abina of the 4th century, which says that one who thoughtfully recites Ashrei three times daily, particularly the verse פותח ("Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing"), is guaranteed a place in Olam Haba (the World to Come).  It is for this reason that not only is Ashrei recited these three times, but many of its verses occur throughout liturgy.

Introductory verse: Psalm 84:5: It is customary for the congregants to be seated while reciting Ashrei, as the introductory verse, "Happy are the people who dwell in Your house", describes the congregants as part of the household, not strangers or mere visitors, so they sit to demonstrate that connection. The word ישב (yashav), here translated as "dwell"—also means "sit down" (as in Exodus 17:12, First Kings 2:12, and Psalm 122:5), so the Talmud also suggests that this verse describes people sitting (b. Beracoth 32b).

Verse 16 (פ. "You open Your hand ..." This is a most important verse and the universal practice is that it must be said with much concentration on its meaning and with sincerity. In the weekday morning services, especially among Ashkenazim, when the worshippers are wearing their tefillin, it is common reverently to touch the arm tefillin during the first half of the verse ("Your hand") and then the head tefillin during the second half ("its desire").  At other times, when tefillin are not worn, in addition to the concentration on the meaning of the verse, it is a custom (primarily Mizrahi but also practiced by others) to lift up one's upturned hands as if to receive God's gifts.

Priestly Blessing "birkat kohanim"

According to the Torah, Aaron blessed the people after offering sacrifices, and YHWH, promises that "I will place my name on their hands" (the Kohanim's hands) "and bless them" (the Jews receiving the blessing). The Jewish Sages stressed that although the priests are the ones carrying out the blessing, it is not them or the ceremonial practice of raising their hands that results in the blessing, but rather it is God's desire that His blessing should be transferred by means of the Kohanim's HANDS.

Even after the destruction of the second Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem, the practice has been continued in Jewish synagogues, and today in most Jewish communities, Kohanim bless the worshippers in the synagogue during special Jewish prayer services.

The text of the Priestly Blessing recited by the Kohanim, which appears verbatim in the Torah, is:

[May] Adonai bless you, and guard you –

יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ‬

(Yevhārēkh-khā Adhōnāy veyishmerēkhā ...)

[May] Adonai make His face shine unto you, and be gracious to you –

יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ‬

("Yāʾēr Adhōnāy pānāw ēlekhā viḥunnékkā ...)

[May] Adonai lift up His face unto you, and give to you peace –

יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם‬

("Yissā Adhōnāy pānāw ēlekhā viyāsēm lekhā shālōm.")

The source of the text is Numbers 6:23–27, where Aaron and his sons bless the ISRAELITES with this blessing. 

Various interpretations of these verses connect them to the three Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or to three attributes of God: Mercy, Courage, and Glory.

Therefore, "I will place my name on their hands" - Tzedakah requires an "open" "Thou openest Thy hand" not "closed" hand "and satisfiest every living thing with favour."  Blessings "energies" are received through an OPEN HAND.  Aaron blessed the people after offering sacrifices, and YHWH, promises that "I will place my name on their hands..."


High Holy Day Appeal

Posted on August 28, 2018 at 2:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Offerings are a wonderful way to memorialize or pay tribute to loved ones and help maintain our synagogue.

HONOR THE ONES YOU LOVE, Yahrzeit, or illness, or any stated reason:

I would like to make a contribution

__ in honor of

__ in memory of

__ or stated reason



Contributions can be made securely on our website: Click on our donate button on our Home page  to make your offerings for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot in honor of or in memory of your love one.

Contributions can also be made by checks payable to Commandment Keepers EHC, mail checks to:

Commandment Keepers EHC
223-227 East Kinney Street, Newark, NJ 07105

Give to the Building Maintenance Fund: Recommended $100 to help maintain our synagogue.

Shanah Tovah!

Genesis "Bereshit" 15: 13,14 - The Biblical Account Of The Exodus (Part 2)

Posted on May 25, 2018 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (2)

“A Jewish Rabbi Challenges Whether Ancient History Supports The Biblical Account Of The Exodus And Why Blacks In America Should Be Interested In The Controversy (Part 2)

Last week, we quoted the following comment from Rabbi David Wolpe, broadcast on a National Public Radio (NPR) program “The truth is that virtually every modern archaeologist who has investigated this story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.”

Also, during the program, the following statement was made by one of the NPR commentators:

‘“The story of the Exodus, the biblical account of the flight of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, is a central pillar of the Jewish faith. But for more than a hundred years, archaeologists have searched for evidence of the great journey to the Promised Land and have come up empty-handed.”’

“And, last week, we ended this space with a question?:

Why haven't the theologians, scholars, Rabbis, Priests, Reverends and Imams openly discussed the possibility that it is Blacks in America whose 400 plus year experience in America fulfills what is written of in the Book of Exodus?

It has always been interesting to us, to observe the manner in which Blacks, primarily Christians, are “steered” away from the Old Testament. The “steering” process, in our view, is part of a larger effort, well beyond the work of the Black Pastor, to deny Blacks access to the proper interpretation of the Torah and prophetic writings, contained within the 39 books of what is called the “Old Testament”; which would allow Blacks to see the more than coincidental correspondence between the history that they and their ancestors have lived in Africa and America, and the deep connection and importance that history has to the Supreme Being, also referred to as God, Jehovah and Allah.

It is no understatement to say that what is written in Genesis 15: 13-14 is central or at the core of the entire Biblical storyline or narrative. It can even easily be shown that what is written in Genesis 15:13-14 is also at the center of numerous narratives and sections of the Holy Qur'an – even the entire book.

But as most Blacks in the United States nominally, at least, describe themselves as Christians, we will place most of our emphasis on them and their perspective, which focuses on the Bible.

It has been our experience, roughly speaking, in 7 to 8 times out of 10, that most Black Christians (non-Pastors) that we have met are totally unaware of what is written in Genesis 15:13-14. This has been true, in our experience, with not all, but certainly most of the Black Christians that we have spoken to in various parts of this country – the United States of America who say that they believe in the Bible. Out of that number of roughly 7 to 8 of 10 Black Christians, we find that the overwhelming majority of those individuals do not see any connection between themselves and what is written in those verses.

What is way down at the root of the general ignorance that most Black Christians have of what is written in Genesis 15: 13-14 or Joel: 3 1-7? And furthermore, what is way down at the root of the Black Christian's inability to see any connection between the history that they and their ancestors have lived in Africa and America and the Bible in general? Lastly, what is it about what Black Christians are taught to believe in reference to the description of the mission of the Messiah, Jesus Christ and the Prophets of God, written of in the Old and New Testament, that seems to be so incompatible with the struggle and efforts to liberate Blacks and the indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere, in Africa and around the world? Specifically, what is it about what Blacks are taught in Church that leaves them thinking and feeling that there is largely or absolutely no connection between what is written in Genesis 15: 13-14; Joel 3: 1-7 and the entire book of Exodus, for example, and what they have experienced over the last 500 years, in particular?

Certainly, part of the answer to these questions would have to be the fact that nominal White Christians, for over 300 years, made and kept Blacks illiterate and prevented them, even those who were made “Christians”, from reading the Bible. The evidence of this is available in the public, in libraries throughout the country and in abundant supply.

Here, from the New Living Translation is Genesis 15: 13-14:

13 “Then the LORD told Abram, ' You can be sure that your descendants will be oppressed as slaves for four hundred years.

14 But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come out away with great wealth…'”

In the year 2001, it should be easy for most Black people, if reasonable and aware of enough facts, to admit and recognize that Black preachers did not form their ideas regarding the meaning of the Bible on their own. It is a fact, to this day, that what is most frequently referred to as the Black Church, operates from a theological base that was provided for them by the White Christian Church. That base has not changed much since the end of slavery. Among many other things, the interpretation of the scriptures – the Old and New Testament, is the major part of the theological base on which Black preachers stand and out of which they teach their congregations. Although not the most visible or popular of subjects on Sundays, most Black preachers do teach, several times during the year – directly or tangentially – that what is written of in Genesis 15:13-14 and the book of Exodus, in particular, occurred 4,000 years ago. Secondly, and less vocally, they teach that the people today, in the land known as Israel, are the direct descendants of those people who the Black preacher says, served as slaves in Egypt for 400 years - 4,000 years ago. The vast majority of Black preachers, teach this on Sundays, in churches filled with Black people, throughout the United States of America.

There are White Christians, like Rev. Pat Robertson and those who regularly appear on the popular show, The 700 Club, who state the above, more forcefully and repeatedly. There is no ambiguity about the manner in which the most popular of White Christian evangelicals teach that Jews of 4,000 years ago served for 400 years in bondage, in Egypt. They at times, even more overtly than the Black Pastor, state that the state of Israel was established by God's command and that the people who populate that nation are the direct descendants of those who are said to have been enslaved 4,000 years ago. Pat Robertson and others ask and enthusiastically encourage the viewers of the 700 Club to support the state of Israel on the grounds that the nation is backed by God and that its inhabitants are God's chosen people. They often refer to the Jews in Israel as “God's elect” or “the people of God”. Some of those 700 Club viewers are sincere Black Christians.

Programs like The 700 Club are part of what influences or justifies the United States of America's multi-billion support, in the form of government aid, of Israel. On the other hand, little to nothing is said of the fact that Israel receives more aid from the United States government than all of Africa combined. At the base of the lobbying efforts that seek to maintain or increase the amount of aid given to Israel by the United States is the belief held most visibly by White evangelicals that the Jews are God's chosen people and that they must be protected by their Christian brothers.

Beyond the confines of the 700 Club, many Black Preachers make similar arguments and speak and write that the most critical and significant of Biblical prophecies have been and are being fulfilled in what is called Israel. They also stress that the Jesus Christ that Black Christians believe in and expect to return will claim the Jewish people as His own when he returns, they believe and teach.

They say that Jesus Christ identifies with the suffering of the Jewish people above and beyond that of any other people in the world. Many Black Preachers teach that Jesus was rejected by Jews in his first coming but will be received and accepted by them on His second coming to them, in that part of the world that was once called popularly called Palestine. We have heard Black preachers openly state that the Jews will receive more mercy from God than any other people on earth – because they are His people.

Regardless to what the differences in presentation may be, the overwhelming majority of Black Pastors publicly teach that there is the deepest of connections between Jesus Christ, God, the Jews in Israel and what is written of in Genesis 15: 13-14 and the book of Exodus.

Again, why do they not see the same between Jesus Christ, God, Blacks in America and what is written of in Genesis 15:13-14 and the book of Exodus? Why don't they see what is written in the Torah as instructive to Black people in this country?

In the 20th century, the most public, prominent and consistent of national Black leaders to teach in the opposite direction of that of the Black Pastor was the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He did not receive his theological base from the White Christian Church and he did not receive what he publicly taught from any theological seminary that existed or exists today in the United States of America.

Among many other statements, here are a few from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad contained within his public teachings and writings in reference to the relationship between Black people and what is written in Genesis 15: 13-14 and the book of Exodus:

From page 20 in Message to The Blackman:

“…There are no historical records that there was ever a people lost from each other than we, the so-called Negroes. We have been so long separated from each other that we have lost the knowledge of each other.”

From page 137 of Message To The Blackman:

“…the so-called Negroes are blinded with a picture of the Jews' salvation and cannot see their own selves in prophecy”.

From pg. 38 of Message To The Blackman:

“…The prophecy – 400 years of slavery – as to the time the so-called Negroes must return to their own. The separation would be a blessing for both sides. It was the only solution, according to the Bible, for Israel and the Egyptians. It will prove to be the only solution for America and her slaves.”

From pg. 206 of Message To The Blackman:

“The white man in America is like Pharaoh in Egypt. He, the modern Pharaoh, is trying to control the 22 million so-called American Negroes as Pharaoh did the Israelites in Egypt. The white man's control over the so-called Negro makes them helpless in trying to follow Allah and His servant into a land they call their own and where they can rule themselves as other nations are doing”.

From pg.66 of Message To The Blackman:

“The people of Allah (so-called Negroes) are dumb to the time as the people were in the days when Moses was sent to Pharaoh to bring his people out of bondage into a land wherein they could enjoy independence. Instead of the Israelites being joyful to hear that Allah was ready to deliver them from Pharaoh and give them land of their own, they set out to contend with Moses and to help Pharaoh not God (Jehovah).”

The government of Pharaoh had no love for Israel, just as America has no love for the so-called Negroes. Pharaoh became afraid of the truth that Moses was teaching his people in the midst of his country.

So, Pharaoh began to plan the death of Moses and the future of Israel by killing off the babies. Pharaoh wanted Moses put to death because he was teaching his people the truth of Pharaoh and his government of wickedness. Today, America is afraid of the power our great number presents. She fears that if we ever unite we would, overnight become independent.

America desires to keep us a subjected people. So she, therefore, wants to stop our birth (as Pharaoh did).”

From pg. 12 of The Fall Of America:

“Now my beloved, you are faced with same problem that beset Moses and the children of Israel during the era of the Egyptian captivity.

Pharaoh did not want Moses to preach the religion of Jehovah in Egypt because he knew such preaching would bring damnation to his wicked kingdom. So it is that your oppressors did not want you to hear the gospel of the Black man, they know that this gospel will one day be their undoing.

Pharaoh did not want Moses to call the Jews to the wall to wail at sundown. He knew that once the Jews were united in the name of the religion of their fathers they would no longer abide in slavery with a docile air.

Pharaoh did not want Moses to teach the gospel of justice this side of the grave. He knew that once the Jews determined in their hearts to seek justice here and now they would rise up and demand a place in the sun.

So, then, it is with us. Our oppressors are determined to keep our eyes in the sky while they control the land under our feet. They are determined to bog us down in an impractical ethic of turning the other cheek the better that they may smite our cheeks and rob our pockets.

We must not be deceived by the rush toward integration that has become the theme of the past few years. Just as the Romans were to beware of slave masters bearing integration. Why, I ask you, after four hundred years of murder, rape and slavery, do our oppressors now come waving the olive branch of integration? Is it that they really love us; is it that they are sincerely sorry for their sins and seek restitution? If they love us, then why was there no evidence of this love in the hearts of their forefathers when they sold our forefathers like cattle on the auction block? If they are really seeking to atone, then why do they not offer us some measure of restitution – an area of this country we can call our own – to the sons and daughters of the embattled?

They are not come to this hour because they love us nor is integration a sign that they are sorry for their sins. The blunt fact is, our oppressors see fire coming. They see the handwriting on the wall and know what it means.”

It was and still is interesting to see Black Christian Preachers, White Christian Evangelicals and especially Jewish Rabbis state that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught “hate” because he advocated separation. Interesting and peculiar, we think, in light of the fact that it was separation from Egypt that Jehovah commanded Moses to advocate.

It was especially striking to see that Dr. Martin Luther King was referred to as a “modern Moses” by many inside and outside the Black community. Striking because Dr. King advocated integration and not separation like Moses did, according to the book of Exodus, among other places in the Torah. It is even more interesting when these same individuals did not complete the critique or analogy by comparing the United States of America to Egypt. You can't have a modern Moses without modern slaves. You can't have a modern Moses without a modern Egypt. You also can't have a modern Moses without a modern Aaron.

Are theologians, priests, rabbis and pastors involved (to varying levels) in a massive deception where Blacks and Genesis 15:13-14 and the book of Exodus are concerned?

Even if Rabbi David Wolpe is incorrect, and what is written in the book of Exodus did in fact occur, 4,000 years ago, why haven't religious leaders, especially Jewish Rabbis, recommended to Black leaders, the solution to their slavery problem that worked for them, according to the book of Exodus?

What is so different about the slave experience of Blacks in America from what is written in Exodus that would not warrant that Black leaders receive such advice and assistance from Jewish Rabbis who say they are interested and concern with the plight of Blacks in this country?

Finally, what would it take for Black Preachers to openly preach that Blacks in America fulfill what is written in Genesis 15: 13-14 and the book of Exodus? How would White Christian evangelicals and Jewish Rabbis react, if the Black Pastors, as one man, were to do so?”

Cedric Muhammad, Sunday, July 29, 2001



Genesis "Bereshit" 15: 13,14 - The Biblical Account Of The Exodus (Part 1)

Posted on May 25, 2018 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Why haven't the theologians, scholars, Rabbis, Priests, Reverends and Imams openly discussed the possibility that it is Blacks in America whose 400 plus year experience in America fulfills what is written of in the Book of Exodus?

Genesis “Bereshit” בְּרֵאשִׁית, 15:13,14

"13 And He said unto Abram: 'Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;”

14 and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”

It seems that every year, especially around the spring Passover season when Jews and many Christians commemorate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, newspapers and magazines publish articles questioning the validity of the Biblical account of the Exodus.


In 2001, for example, The Los Angeles Times ran a front-page story reporting that a liberal rabbi in the Los Angeles area caused quite a stir when he shocked his congregation by stating he had his doubts that the Exodus ever took place. “The truth is,” explained Rabbi David Wolpe, that virtually every modern archaeologist who has investigated the story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all (Watanabe 2001).  The Spring 2003 issue of Bible and Spade

Rabbi David Wolpe's sermon to his Temple Sinai congregation in Los Angeles hit them like a bombshell. [Rabbi Wolpe, named the Most Influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek and one of the 50 Most Influential Jews in the World by The Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple. Rabbi Wolpe previously taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Hunter College, and UCLA. A columnist for, he has been published and profiled in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post’s On Faith website, The Huffington Post, and the New York Jewish Week. He has been featured on The Today Show, Face the Nation, ABC This Morning, and CBS This Morning. In addition, Rabbi Wolpe has appeared prominently in series on PBS, A&E, History Channel, and Discovery Channel. Rabbi Wolpe is the author of eight books, including the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. His new book is titled David, the Divided Heart. It was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards, and has been optioned for a movie by Warner Bros.]

"A Jewish Rabbi Challenges Whether Ancient History Supports The Biblical Account Of The Exodus And Why Blacks In America Should Be Interested In The Controversy (Part 1)

A prominent Jewish Rabbi, David Wolpe, of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles has sparked an intense debate by outright stating that he does not believe that evidence supports the claim that Jews of 4,000 years ago served 400 years in slavery in Egypt. He is publicly challenging the dominant view in not just Judaism, but the mainstream of Christianity and Islam as well, that the Biblical narrative of slavery, written of the book of Exodus did not occur 4,000 years ago as it is written in the Bible. We recognize the explosive nature of his arguments, if proven true. If Rabbi Wolpe is correct it not only shakes the foundations of the world's three major religions but it also opens the door for the slave experience of Blacks in America to be reevaluated by the theologians, scholars, teachers and believers of the Torah, Gospels and Holy Qur'an.

We begin our look at this critical subject by running, unedited, the transcript of a recent program on National Public Radio that dealt with the subject and controversy. Emphasis in bold are ours.

SHOW: Weekend All Things Considered

DATE: June 17, 2001


The story of the Exodus, the biblical account of the flight of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, is a central pillar of the Jewish faith. But for more than a hundred years, archaeologists have searched for evidence of the great journey to the Promised Land and have come up empty-handed. NPR religion correspondent Duncan Moon reports that this research is causing a stir in the Jewish community.

DUNCAN MOON reporting:

For more than 2,000 years, the story of the Exodus has undergirded not just Judaism, but also Christianity and Islam. It has offered inspiration to such diverse struggles for freedom as the French Revolution, the American Revolution and the American anti-slave movement and, in the process, has become part of popular culture. In 1956, Cecil B. DeMille cast a young Charlton Heston as Moses in the epic film “The Ten Commandments.”

(Soundbite of “The Ten Commandments" 

Mr. CHARLTON HESTON: (As Moses) Lord, why do you not hear the cries of their children in the bondage of Egypt?

Unidentified Man: (As God) I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry by reason of their testimonies for I know their sorrows. Therefore, I will send thee, Moses, onto pharaoh, that thou whilst bring my people out of Egypt.

MOON: For Jews, the Exodus is bedrock to their faith. It is the history of their people and their relationship to God. So on Passover this year, Rabbi David Wolpe's sermon to his Temple Sinai congregation in Los Angeles hit them like a bombshell.

Rabbi DAVID WOLPE (Temple Sinai, Los Angeles):The truth is that virtually every modern archaeologist who has investigated this story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.

MOON: To use a biblical phrase, Rabbi Wolpe's announcement “reaped the whirlwind,” or at least created one. While many in his congregation applauded his courage, others were troubled. At an evening Torah class several weeks later, he was challenged persistently.

(Soundbite of Torah class)

Unidentified Man: We are not only Jews through religion, we are falk(ph), we are a nation. Consequently, when you tamper with the historicity of our nation, you are really on very dangerous ground.

Unidentified Woman: That's right.

Unidentified Man: You are taking a big chance when you put to question...

Rabbi WOLPE: OK.

Unidentified Man: historicity...

Rabbi WOLPE: I underst--I'll answer your question now.

Unidentified Man: ...our nation, our pride...

Rabbi WOLPE: I--OK. Shh. Let me...

Unidentified Man: ...our brotherhood.

Rabbi WOLPE: I understand.

MOON: Traditional Jews around the country responded with anger and disappointment, saying that denying that the Exodus was a factual event undercuts the roots of Judaism.

Rabbi SIMON JACOBSON (Meaningful Life Center): I would equate it with denying that the Holocaust happened for Jews.

MOON: Rabbi Simon Jacobson is the founder and director of the Meaningful Life Center.

Rabbi JACOBSON: It would be almost like asking African-Americans, `How important is it that you literally were enslaved several hundred years ago and then were freed?' It would be considered an insult that anyone should suggest that it never happened.

MOON: Rabbi Wolpe responds that whether the events actually happened or are metaphorical makes little difference. The Exodus, he says, is a spiritual journey, and the universal truths it teaches are what give it its power.

Rabbi WOLPE: From my point of view, literalism violates what the Bible is about. Did God literally rest on the seventh day? Of course not. You have to be able to read the Bible on a much deeper level than the level that believes that Noah actually took, you know, two of every single animal in the world on the ark, or that Adam and Eve actually dwelt in a place called Eden. The Bible is deeper and more complex than that, and expects us to be the same.

MOON: Archaeologists say they have known for nearly 10 years that the story of the Exodus was problematic. There is no Egyptian record that the Jews were enslaved. And while some say it's possible as many as a few hundred people might have crossed the Sinai Desert, it is impossible that several million people made the trek. But archaeologist William Dever of the University of Arizona says what really undercuts the biblical story of the Exodus is the lack of evidence to support what is called `the conquest theory,' that the Israelites took the land of Canaan by force.

Mr. WILLIAM DEVER (Archaeologist, University of Arizona): There just isn't any evidence of widespread destructions of Canaanite cities at the end of the Bronze Age around 1200. And it now appears that most of the early Israelite villages that we have, some 300 or so, are in the central hill country, which had been sparsely occupied before. And these new sites are not established on the ruins of old Canaanite towns, but are established on bedrock or virgin soil. So most mainstream scholars and all archaeologists today would regard these hill country settlers, or Israelites probably, as coming from somewhere within Canaan itself.

MOON: But Rabbi Jacobson says scientific proof is far from absolute; that just because archaeology cannot verify the Exodus doesn't mean it didn't happen. For example, he says, no one can prove God exists. That is an act of faith.

Rabbi JACOBSON: Is faith provable? I mean, that's a, really, entire discussion because if I were to say to you, for instance, `Listen to this piece of music. It'll really move you,' and you'll say to me, `Prove it.' There's a thing called experiential proof. Faith falls into that category, whereas science is more of an objective type of observation of nature's laws trying to understand it. And it is like apples and oranges.

MOON: Still, Rabbi Jacobson says doubt is not a problem in Judaism; that it is part of the journey, part of a healthy process of finding the truth. And on this point at least, Rabbi Wolpe is in complete agreement. He says his motive in raising the issue was to stir his congregation to a deeper understanding of the truth, to cross a wilderness that might help them build a faith that can endure regardless of whether the Exodus actually happened. Duncan Moon, NPR News, Washington.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Singer: Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt's land. Tell the pharaoh to let my people go.

The debate sparked by Rabbi Wolpe is not new. In fact many inside and outside of the Jewish community have doubted whether Jews have fulfilled what is written to have occurred in Exodus. The subject in many ways is taboo, for a variety of reasons, but possibly the most striking aspect of the discussion is that even among those who openly doubt the correspondence between recorded history and scripture in reference to the Book of Exodus and 4,000 years ago, there exists a failure or unwillingness to consider the possibility that what was written of in Exodus was not written as a historical account of something that happened 4,000 years ago but rather, what is contained in the book of Exodus is prophecy – a prediction of future events that would be fulfilled at a time in the future.

One writer who operated freely from this inhibition was Max Dimont who, in his classic book, Jews God and History not only doubts the historical authenticity of the Book of Exodus but also raises the possibility that what is written in Exodus may have originally been written as a prophecy of a future event. He writes:

It was under the leadership of Joseph that the famine-stricken Hebrews emigrated from Canaan to Egypt. The Book of Genesis tells us the fascinating story of how Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. Here he became a favorite of Pharaoh, rose to viceroy, and with Pharaoh's permission invited his brothers and fellow Hebrews to settle there. Here they tended their flocks peaceably until a new Pharaoh arose in the land who was not so kindly disposed to them and enslaved them. Except for the Bible, no source we know of makes any specific mention of this Jewish sojourn and subsequent captivity in Egypt, but the busy spade of the archaeologist has turned up convincing corollary evidence that these events did take place.

From the ingathering of the Jews into Egypt by Joseph in the sixteenth century B.C. until the outgathering of the Jews from Egypt under Moses, in the twelfth century, there is a four-hundred-ear silence. The Bible compresses these fateful four centuries into a few sentences. This silence raises many perplexing questions. What portion of this period did the Jews in Egypt live in freedom and what portion in slavery? What religion did they practice? What language did they speak? Was there intermarriage? How did they maintain their Judaism as slaves? Who were their leaders until the advent of Moses? No one knows.

Not all the Jews left Canaan to go into Egypt with Joseph. Many remained behind, surviving the famine and keeping their covenant with Jehovah. This remnant of Jews, still known as Hebrews, remained free men, while their brothers were enslaved in Egypt. Is this enslavement of the Jews in Egypt the fulfillment of a prophecy made by Jehovah to Abraham four centuries earlier? For it was written in Genesis (15:13-14), “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” Or is this prophecy an interpolation by later authors, who write with hindsight of history of the great fusion to take place in Canaan when Moses leads the Israelites, as they are now called, out of Egypt into the land of Canaan, to reunite them with the remnants of Hebrews who had stayed behind?

Meanwhile the Jews - Hebrews or Israelites - are slaves in Egypt. What will happen to Abraham's grand illusion that his seed will inherit the earth? Was it all a delusion? Or was it a prophecy to be taken up by other men appointed by God and fulfilled at a later date?”

Cedric Muhammad - Sunday, July 22, 2001  

Chief Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew the Visionary: Standing at Sinai

Posted on April 9, 2018 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

In the beginning, two thousand years before the heaven and the earth, before 4000 BC, Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'aretz "In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth;" with 7 powerful words and 28 powerful letters of a perfect synchronized text found in Genesis "Bereshit": 1:1. This is the first verse of the first chapter in the Book of Bereshit in the Hebrew Bible "Torah" and forms the opening of the creation narrative.

In the creation narrative, the Torah seeks to present the basic unit of belief, from which all belief stems: God "YHWH" created the world and YHWH is "the beginning of wisdom" (Hebrew "Reshit Chochmah"). This is the first principle that should be instilled in the readers’ mind that: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Without this understanding, the reader of this text will make no progress in true wisdom. Therefore, no knowledge or wisdom can connect us to YHWH until we devote ourselves, in holy obedience, to YHWH; or the knowledge of YHWH through practice.

According to Maimonides "Rambam": "the study of the laws of nature which are the laws of G-d will draw us nearer to Him. As he puts it: "Knowledge of the Divine can only be attained after knowledge of nature..." The observation of, and search into, the beginning of the universe through the laws of physics, and the beginning of life through the laws of chemistry and biology, will bring us closer to the source of wisdom to G-d." (YHWH)

Within 7 powerful words, YHWH contracted massive energies into creative vessels and configured them into the letters of the Aleph Bet (Hebrew alphabet). Through the configuration and arrangement of the 22 consonants of the Hebrew alphabet YHWH united divine energies above with divine energies below enveloped within the power of "black fire on white fire." YHWH combined both those divine energies above and below which gradually manifested into His brilliant master creation blueprint called "Torah;" a conduit for communication between YHWH and the dust of the ground "adamah."

Now, before you, the reader, turn the first page of YHWH’s Torah in Bereshit, know that the power of YHWH reveals the seen and unseen firmament, dimensions, boundaries, space, time and transcriptions of His world; that He, the Holy One Blessed Be He, created: all from nothingness "ex nihilo." Those of you who read the text of this blog; should come to know through this text, that, the cosmic energy "black fire (seen) on white fire (unseen)" revealed in the form of "text" (positive and negative space) as we know it was written in the opening pages of Torah. So what does all of this mean in the Twenty-First Century?

It means, that the power; meaning; and formation of the Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation – Beth Ha-Tefilah Headquarters, "Commandment Keepers" through the vision of Chief Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew zt"l, "Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l" in 1919, Commandment Keepers' foundation and identity was within the creation of the universe and the correspondence with adamah. Chief Rabbi Matthew’s zt"l vision began with all its physical, chemical, and biological systems in place. While the cosmic energy was unformed and void, time was not yet fundamentally structured in the universe as we know it, space simply was a vacuum, but not empty; the heavens above and the earth below were separated, and then YHWH formed ADAM "man" ‘adamah’ and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life "vayipach be'apav nishmat chayim;" and man became a living soul;" an original soul; encased in the body separate yet an indivisible partner in human life; the Commandment Keeper.

What connects YHWH and man, heaven and earth, spirit and matter; the Children of Israel and the Commandment Keepers? In 1919, Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l in his vision and formation of Commandment Keepers realized that there is a bridge and a ladder to YHWH. Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l in forming Commandment Keepers opened up the portal leading to the Fifty Gates of Wisdom; the gate for each soul of the Commandment Keeper to climb the ladder and cross the bridge to return to YHWH. Just as the encounter between YHWH and the Israelites at Mount Sinai was a totally unique event in all of human history; so too in 1919 the formation of Commandment Keepers symbolized a revelation of the Children of Israel in the United States of America. 

So, spiritually, the 50 Gates are really 49 days or 7 weeks (counting of the omer) of self-elevation and self-evaluation followed by one day of prophetic revelation, that the Israelites strived for from the time of the Exodus from Egypt until the time they received the Torah at Mount Sinai, where YHWH sealed His Covenant with the Commandment Keepers. It is during this time that all of Israel experienced prophecy at this time and heard the voice of YHWH declare the Commandments.

In 1919, eighty-three African-Americans are lynched- many of them soldiers returning home from World War I. At the same time the Ku Klux Klan is operating out of 27 states. From May 1919 to October 1919, a number of race riots erupted in cities throughout the United States. James Weldon Johnson names these race riots as the Red Summer of 1919. The summer of 1919 began the greatest period of interracial strife in U.S. history at that time, including a disturbing wave of race riots. The most serious was the Chicago Race Riot of 1919; it lasted 13 days and left 38 people dead, 537 injured and 1,000 African American families without homes. In response, Claude McKay publishes the poem, "If We Must Die." What's that saying? If life gives you lemons, make lemonade? That's kind of what happened here. The Red Summer occurred and then McKay wrote this poem, the first major sound of militancy in the Harlem Renaissance. As a result of housing tensions, many African Americans ended up creating their own cities within big cities, fostering the growth of a new urban, African-American culture. The most prominent example was Harlem in New York City, a formerly all-white neighborhood that by the 1920s housed some 200,000 African Americans. In all of this movement, events, and militancy, YHWH revealed Himself to Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l in Harlem New York City.  Legends of America

Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l in 1919, was given the ladder; bridge; the 50 Gates and portal connection called Torah. The ladder, bridge and 50 Gates of Wisdom is meant to lead the African American back to their true heritage. Therefore, Commandment Keepers’ connection to YHWH; connected Commandment Keepers to the original adamah, which is connected to heaven; and matter. Matter being the source of all physical manifestation that is eventually permeated by spirit and energy is the vision Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l used when he formed the Commandment Keepers back in 1919. Through a combination of both spirit and energy YHWH provided the bridge and the ladder and the 50 Gates of Wisdom as an instrument and tool for the Nation of Israel – Commandment Keepers to return and re-connect to YHWH.

So, in 1919 through YHWH, Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l was inspired with Reshit Chochmah-the fear of YHWH; the beginning of wisdom for the formation of one of the oldest Israelite congregations in North America and the Western Hemisphere. Reshit Chochmah; being the beginning of wisdom; preceded the beginning of creation. Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l in his legacy to Commandment Keepers; reminded Commandment Keepers of Reshit Chochmah by teaching Commandment Keepers the words now uttered in our liturgy "Adon Olam" congregationally sung at the close of Sabbath and festival morning services: Eternal master, who reigned supreme, "Adon 'olam, 'asher malakh…" "Adon Olam" ruled the world before creation and He is responsible for creation as the first verse of Bereshit teaches us.

The Commandment Keepers in its embryotic; and rudimentary stage in 1919; developed its philosophy out of the message of Bereshit, the creation narrative: "The Beginning of the Universe , the Beginning of Life; the Beginning of Wisdom" "In the beginning…was YHWH…" personified in the mission of the Commandment Keepers.

Though corporeal, the Commandment Keepers began its mission through the precision of the "microcosm" and "macrocosm" as it unfolded in the form of the universe. Our existence as the Commandment Keepers; further began in the beginning of life through: physics, chemistry and biology. The Commandment Keepers in its human form corresponds to Torah and reflects the highest level of spirituality. Thus, the Commandment Keepers connected to Moses, the Man of YHWH, who through His blessing with Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two Tablets of the Testimony in his hand… ("Exodus "Shemot" 34:29) And all the people answered together; and said: 'All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.' And Moses reported the words of the people unto the LORD." (Shemot 19:8 ) 

Now, as Commandment Keepers, we know YHWH is NOT the main concept of the verse: "Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'aretz." For as Commandment Keepers, we believe in YHWH, and understand without explanation, that YHWH created the heavens and the earth and everything else within and without it. Everything YHWH manifested in this world came to be formed from atoms (man’s theoretical thinking) organized into subatomic particles-protons, electrons, and neutrons from inanimate to animate; from the microcosm to the macrocosm. Then as Commandment Keepers, we read further that: "And God created man in His image." (Bereshit 1:27) Man in His image embodies a basic tenet that "as above, so below, as below, so above."

So, the message of the creation narrative, then, is that independently from the question of what the beginning of the universe is; is the basis of belief that YHWH is Reshit Chochmah the "Beginning of Wisdom." He created them both. Therefore, in the prayer book we come to know the verse which is directed toward man seeking the beginning of wisdom: "Reshit Chochmah Yirat Hashem," namely "the beginning of wisdom is the fear of YHWH" (Psalms 111:10).

In the year 1919, this visionary by the name of Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l" understood the depth of YHWH’s creation as manifested in every single thing in this world and therefore he understood that there was no need to mention that because YHWH is YHWH! Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l understood those 7 powerful words. But what is not clear and is a valuable piece of information for us is the ORDER of YHWH's creation and that is the reason why the Torah opens with the Hebrew word ‘Bereshit’ – ‘In the beginning…’

In its general framework, the creation narrative, unfolds itself to each reader through each reader’s reality and perceptions based on physical concepts; and senses. The reader through words and vocabulary is able to express spiritual concepts as the pages of the first book, Bereshit are turned. Each successive page reveals more and more of His Creation Plan to the reader; and the reader in turn is able to express an interpretation based on how the words manifest to their individual senses. If the reader continues to turn the pages of each book: Genesis "Bereshit," Exodus "Shemot," Leviticus "Vayikra," Numbers "Bamidbar," and Deuteronomy "Devarim" –the reader will come to personally know this God revealed in Torah; and revealed to Commandment Keepers: is One, not two or more than two, or a triad, or a trinity but is One!

The Torah contains the sacred names of the Creator, which represents the degrees of His attainment. The reader will come to know YHWH as: Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnibenevolent, YHWH the Creator; YHWH the Lawgiver; YHWH the Judge; YHWH the Merciful, in other words, based on the reader’s conceptual lexicon, the reader sets into words the Conception of God as they sense him; a key to "return" to YHWH for the African American in post-slavery.

In reality, the Torah as we understand it, can be perceived in terms of time, space and movement. We cannot envision something without volume, therefore, YHWH has no volume; no physical matter; we are unable to imagine Him, He has no form, no shape, yet, no proof is needed that He exists. In a nutshell, we know "God is God" and there is none else besides YHWH! Everything in the universe was created by YHWH, and only by YHWH. All comes from YHWH. As Isaiah said, "I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil. I am the LORD, that does all these things" (Isaiah 45:6-7).

Generally, the reader looks for the Torah’s message contained in the written words, the black fire "text." But, what if we look at the white fire, the negative spaces where there is no text, where words appear to be missing? What might we learn from what is not there? What if letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters were removed to conceal, into negative space, the true identity of the Children of Israel - the Nation of Israel – the Commandment Keepers?

As Commandment Keepers; the Children of Israel we are taught about the three Pilgrimage Festivals, in Hebrew Shalosh Regalim. Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles, Tents or Booths)—three times a year the Israelites would make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, as commanded by the Torah. "Three times in the year shall all thy males appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel." (Shemot 34:23); "Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which He shall choose; on the feast of unleavened bread, and on the feast of weeks, and on the feast of tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty..." (Devarim 16:16).

Shavuot 2018 will begin in the evening of Saturday, May 19 and ends in the evening of Monday, May 21 - our journey to return to YHWH is a step-by-step; and process-by-process experience. As the Children of Israel - the Nation of Israel – the Commandment Keepers; we strengthen our bond with YHWH through the number three; as embodied in the three Pilgrimage Festivals. In this case, three indicates a strong unit or bond, as it says in Ecclesiastes (4:12), "A chain of three cannot be undone." So, in our return to YHWH, three times a year when every Israelite harkens to the command to make a pilgrimage and appear before YHWH; we as the Commandment Keepers will re-connect with YHWH. We through our observance, will confirm that the bonds between YHWH remain strong and will not be undone. We as Commandment Keepers will be filling in the missing letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters that have been removed to conceal, into negative space, the true identity of the Children of Israel - the Nation of Israel – the Commandment Keepers.

So, on this day, the festival of Shavuot, we will reenact the entering into a covenant between YHWH, Israel - the Commandment Keepers: "And they took their places at the foot of the mountain (Shemot 19:17); and by saying na’aseh v’nishma "We will do and we will listen," (Shemot 24:7).

Back in 1919, Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l" heard the call: Na’aseh v’nishma "We will do and we will listen." He heard the call; he envisioned the foretelling of the prophecy; and envisioned that every man, woman, and child in North America, would herald to the call to readily and voluntarily accept the Torah; na’aseh v’nishma. Accordingly, through his vision, Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l connected the Commandment Keepers to their Heritage, and their ancestors, who stood 3,322 years ago at the foot of a mountain known as Sinai.

YHWH provided the ladder; the bridge; and the 50 Gates of Wisdom to unleash the tradition to Commandment Keepers. Chief Rabbi Matthew z"tl at that time, in 1919, not only connected the souls of every Commandment Keeper from the newly released slaves from Egypt but he connected every soul who were accompanied by the souls of all Israelites that would be born in the future; and into the Twenty-First Century. Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l when he found the Commandment Keepers in 1919, began the return of all those souls who stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Those souls who spoke those words na’aseh v’nishma set into motion the ladder; bridge and 50 Gates of Wisdom; we need only obey YHWH faithfully and keep His covenant.

So, the process was started in 1919; the gate was opened; now all we need to do is continue the work so that we will become His: "treasure;" "a kingdom of priests;" and "a holy nation" as it says; "Now therefore, if ye will hearken unto My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be Mine own treasure from among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine; and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." (Shemot 19:5-6).

3,322 years ago, at the foot of a mountain known as Sinai, the Children of Israel – Commandment Keepers had no hesitation and no dissent, no debate and no discussion on what was to be the most important decision in all of Commandment Keepers’ lives. The question for you the reader to answer, is if you "Commandment Keepers" was there at Sinai? Did you Commandment Keepers reply: "All the Lord has spoken we will do!" (Shemot 19:8)  Do you, Commandment Keepers, hear the call, in the Twenty-first Century na’aseh v’nishma?

Commandment Keepers, do you recall, YHWH first brought you out of Egypt, divided the sea for you, sent you manna, then quails for meat, and brought about the defeat of Amalek, so that when YHWH came to Commandment Keepers - Israel, He could recount those events and then ask if they would accept Him to which you replied, "Yes!"

Therefore, in the blessed memory of Chief Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew, z"tl, we don’t second guess our history. In 1919, just as in the Twenty-First Century, we know that on Shavuot each of us must answer in our personal lives; the same question that was presented at Mt. Sinai. In the Twenty-First Century, we want to obey YHWH and follow YHWH’s commandments. In the Twenty-First Century, we want to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. In the Twenty-First Century just as our ancestors, who we live, breath and have our being, in the breath of YHWH stood 3,322 years ago at the foot of a mountain known as Sinai; accepted "Malkuta de-Adonai": The Lord shall be King", "The Kingdom of God shall be revealed"; and the ancient liturgy culminates in the prayer that "God may establish His Kingdom speedily" (see 'Alenu; Kaddish).

We, Commandment Keepers, in the Twenty-First Century must continue to "take upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom of God" ("Ol Malkut Shamayim"). We the Israelites; the Commandment Keepers must take upon ourselves the yoke of the Kingdom of YHWH daily as we recite the Shema.

We the Commandment Keepers, must recall our history when we first sang the praise of YHWH's Kingdom; and recall at Mount Sinai that we stood; and we accepted the yoke of God's Kingdom just as our ancestors did; we continue to do so today. We the Commandment Keepers must then look within the Torah and within the tradition of our ancestors to find the way to make our lives meaningful and help ourselves to be a better people. In these words: "If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them…" (Vyikra 26:3); and "And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul…" (Devarim 11:13) "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day; and the curse, if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known." (Devarim 11: 26 – 2 ) 

Commandment Keepers – Children of Israel; choose you, this day a blessing or a curse! In 1919, YHWH ordained the formation of the Commandment Keepers - Know for a surety, nothing happens by accident. There are no ‘Accidents’ in this World – YHWH ordains all that happens above and below.  Commandment Keepers - recall your birth at the foot of Sinai; choose life; choose the Covenant; and choose the Commandments na’aseh v’nishma "We will do and we will listen."

Chag Shavuot Sameach!

The Omer

Posted on April 3, 2018 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (1)

The omer refers to the 49-day period between the second night of Passover "Pesach" and the holiday of Shavuot.

“You shall count from the eve of the second day of Pesach, when an omer of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks. The day after the seventh week of your counting will make fifty days, and you shall present a new meal offering to God (Leviticus 23:15-16).” 

"You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain [barley harvest – Passover]. Then you shall keep the Festival of Weeks [Shavuot] for YHWH your God, contributing a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing that you have received from YHWH your God. (Deuteronomy 16:9-10)"

The omer period symbolizes the thematic link between Passover and Shavuot "the Feast of Weeks."

The omer is counted each evening after sundown.

One stands when counting the omer, and begins by reciting the following blessing:

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tizivanu al sefirat ha’omer.

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer.

After the blessing, one recites the appropriate day of the count. For example:  Hayom yom echad la’omer "Today is the first day of the omer."

After the first six days, one also includes the number of weeks that one has counted. For example:  Hayom sh’losha asar yom, she’hem shavuah echad v’shisha yamim la’omer "Today is 13 days, which is one week and six days of the omer."