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Brit Chadashah

Apr. 26, 2014
Nisan 26, 5774

Yom HaShoah


Lev. 19:1-20:27

Amos 9:7-15

1 Pet. 1:13-16;
1 Cor. 6:9-20


Holocaust Remembrance Day

Shoah is the Hebrew word for "destruction" and is another name used to refer to the  European Holocaust, when six million Jews - including one and a half million children - were systematically murdered by the Nazis during World War II.  In 1953 the Israeli Knesset designated Nisan 27 as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה), or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

During this day, in Israel, a morning siren sounds, all activity stops, and people stand in honor of those who died during the atrocities of those years. Jews around the world hold memorials and vigils, often lighting six candles in honor of the six million Holocaust victims. Many hold name-reading ceremonies to memorialize those who were murdered. This year, Yom HaShoah is postponed for one day and will occur Sunday, April 27th at sundown.

Torah Reading Synopsis...

Our Torah reading before Passover (Acharei Mot) concerned the yearly Yom Kippur ritual that purged the sins of the people and restored the Sanctuary to a state of purity (tahora). This week's Torah portion continues the theme of purity and begins with the LORD saying to the Israelites, "You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy." The portion then proceeds to list more commandments regarding practical ethics than any other portion of the Torah, thereby directly connecting holiness with obedience to God's moral truth.

After stating the foundational requirement to be holy, the LORD begins to explain, "Each of you must respect his mother and his father, and you must keep my Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God." The duty to revere (or honor) one's parents recalls the Fifth Commandment, which is the starting point of learning to respect other people in our lives. Notice that the word for "my Sabbaths" implies both the keeping of the weekly Sabbath as well as the "appointed times" of the LORD. Sanctifying time is a way we can express practical holiness and turn away from idolatry.

The Israelites were to practice mercy by providing for the poor and the stranger by leaving the edges of the fields unharvested (pe'ah) and leaving any pieces that remain during the harvest for the poor to gather as food (leket). They also were to leave fallen fruits from their orchards for the needy to eat. The Ten Commandments were then restated, and the people were further instructed not to insult the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind. They were to use a "good eye" when judging others and not to bear any grudges. Indeed, the essence of holiness may be stated as "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." God further instructs the people to love the stranger in their midst "kamocha" - as they love themselves, for the Jews were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Various other laws are given, including laws against various occult practices, including divination, eating blood, defiling or disfiguring the body, engaging in prostitution, and the heinous practice of child sacrifice. Sexual immorality is prohibited and punishments for sexual sins are defined. The people are warned to keep all these laws or to face being "vomited out" of the Promised Land. The portion ends: "You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine."

Counting the Omer - ספירת העומר

We are in the midst of Sefirat Ha-Omer (the "Counting of the Omer"), a 49 day countdown that runs from Nisan 16 through Sivan 5. The first day of the omer count begins on the second day of Passover, and the last day occurs the day before Shavuot ("Pentecost"). On our Gregorian calendars, these dates run from April 15th through June 2nd this year. This is a countdown period leading to the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit to Yeshua's disciples...

Blessing before Torah Study:

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Some terms:

  • Parashah is the weekly Scripture portion taken from the Torah. Each parashah is given a name and is usually referred to as "parashat - name" (e.g., parashat Noach). For more information about weekly readings, click here.
  • Aliyot refer to a smaller sections of the weekly parashah that are assigned to people of the congregation for public reading during the Torah Reading service. In most congregations it is customary for the person "called up" to recite a blessing for the Torah before and after the assigned section is recited by the cantor. For Shabbat services, there are seven aliyot (and a concluding portion called a maftir). The person who is called to make aliyah is referred to as an oleh (olah, if female).
  • Maftir refers to the last Torah aliyah of the Torah chanting service (normally a brief repetition of the 7th aliyah, though on holidays the Maftir portion usually focuses on the Holiday as described in the Torah).  The person who recites the Maftir blessing also recites the blessing over the Haftarah portion.
  • Haftarah refers to an additional portion from the Nevi'im (Prophets) read after the weekly Torah portion. The person who made the maftir blessing also recites the blessing for the Haftarah, and may even read the Haftarah before the congregation.
  • Brit Chadashah refers to New Testament readings which are added to the traditional Torah Reading cycle. Often blessings over the Brit Chadashah are recited before and after the readings.
  • Mei Ketuvim refers to a portion read from the Ketuvim, or writings in the Tanakh. Readings from the Ketuvim are usually reserved for Jewish holidays at the synagogue.
  • Perek Yomi Tehillim refers to the daily portion of psalms (mizmorim) recited so that the entire book of Psalms (Tehillim) is read through in a month. For a schedule, of daily Psalm readings, click here.
  • Gelilah refers to the tying up and covering the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) as an honor in the synagogue.
  • Divrei Torah ("words of Torah") refers to a commentary, a sermon, or devotional on the Torah portion of the week.

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