25 Sivan 5775 (June 12, 2015) - present
Shabbat Nachamu (Shabbat of Consolation)
Fri, 16 August 2019 at sundown (16th of Av, 5779)
Nachamu, Nachamu, Nachamu ami:
be comforted, be comforted, be comforted my people...
(Yeshayahu (Isaiah): 40:1)
Tthe haftarah speaks of "comforting" the Israelite people for their suffering.
It is the first of seven haftarahs of consolation
leading up to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Israelite New Year.
On Tisha B'Av 5779
"I have set YHWH before me always" (Psalm 16:8)
A Day Of Synagogue Mourning.
8th of Tevet, 5764, Friday, January 2, 2004
(The break in that changed Commandment Keepers’ jurisdictional history)
|Posted on October 14, 2018 at 6:00 AM||comments (0)|
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 (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
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”)?
|Posted on September 7, 2018 at 3:30 AM||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).
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..."
L'SHANA TOVA TIKATEVU VITECHETEMU "MAY YOU BE INSCRIBED AND SEALED FOR A GOOD YEAR"