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Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog

REMEMBERING

The twentieth day of Sivan was marked as a remembrance day on the calendar of Ashkenazic Jewry for centuries. It commemorated the terrible pogroms that Jews suffered in the Christian countries of Europe throughout the Middle Ages and it marked the culminating pogroms of 1648-9 led by Bogdan Chmielinicki. It is estimated that over two hundred thousand Jews were murdered in that war of Ukrainian...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

SHAVUOT

Shavuot is represented in the Torah as being the chag habikurim - the holiday of the first fruits. In the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, the bikurim offering was an annual event, an obligation placed on the Jewish farmer to bring the first of his crops to the altar in the Temple. There is an entire tractate in Mishna dealing with the ritual and laws of this event of bikurim. An integral part...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

SHAME

One of the three main character attributes that the Talmud ascribed to Jews is a sense of shame, of reticence and embarrassment. The other two are the traits of being merciful and of being kind to others in an active way. The Talmud goes so far as to say that any Jew who lacks this sense of being ashamed and embarrassed casts doubt as to whether his ancestors truly were present at Mount Sinai for...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

GOOD FORTUNE

The rabbis of the Midrash stated that "everyone and everything requires good fortune - mazal - for successful existence." They added that this rule of life applied "even to the sefer Torah that is in the ark." Over the ages there have been many comments and interpretations offered for this enigmatic statement of Midrash. The two most commonly quoted explanations are as follows: In its simplest...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

RABAN SHIMON BEN YOCHAI

One of the leading figures in Jewish history, one who is intimately connected with the sefira period of the Jewish calendar through which we are now passing, is Raban Shimon ben Yochai. This great sage who lived in the second century of the Common Era was a primary disciple of Rabbi Akiva. He inherited from his great mentor a strong antipathy towards Roman rule and culture. After the defeat of...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

REMEMBERING THE CRUSADES

One of the reasons why the sefira period of time between Pesach and Shavuot is marked as a period of semi-mourning on the Jewish calendar is the haunting memory of the pogroms that accompanied the First Crusade in 1096. The first thirty-three days of the sefira period mark the deaths of the twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva in the times of the Roman persecutions initiated by Hadrian in...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

RABBI AKIVA

The current period of time between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot are the times of the sefirat haoemer- the counting of the seven weeks of forty-nine days that are between these two major holidays on the Jewish calendar. As is well known this period of time is also a period of semi-mourning because of historical tragedies that occurred to the Jewish people during this particular period of...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

PESACH WEATHER

Pesach falls in the month of Nisan - the month of aviv, springtime. In the southern hemisphere it falls in the beginning of the autumn, but since the Jewish world is centered on the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, Pesach is always thought of as being the holiday of the springtime. Spring is a time of warmth and renewal of beauty and fragrance. There is a special blessing that the rabbis composed...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

JEWISH POPES

There have been persistent legends circulated in the Jewish world over the centuries about the fact that certain Jews who either posed as Christian converts or were actually converted, rose to become pope. There was an excellent book written about the subject a number of decades ago entitled <i>Three Jewish Popes.</i> Alas, none of the legends have ever been authenticated. There is one favorite...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

SHABAT AND PESACH

As we are all aware, this year erev Pesach, the day before the holiday and the Seder, falls on Shabat. This phenomenon occurs at irregular intervals within the confines of the Jewish calendar. Sometimes, it comes every four or five years as it has during the last few decades and as it will occur again in this decade, and then at times it does not occur for many years. In any event, whenever it...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein