Omer—Counting

Beginning with the second night of Pesach we count the Omer until we arrive in our calendar at Shavuot. To help you with the counting, we have prepared a leaflet for you with a calendar, the blessings and the numbers (download link below and available in the Shul).

Traditionally the Omer is counted in the evening, after sunset.

Chag Sameach

COUNTING THE OMER 2019 PDF FILE

 

Mark the Omer time in a significant way

Many of us know that Passover takes place during the Hebrew month of Nisan. In contrast, most of us do not know that the month of Nisan also includes another observance which begins on the second day of Passover. In ancient times, as set forth in the Book of Leviticus, our ancestors would start bringing a ceremonial measure of barley, called an “omer” to the Temple on each of the 49 days between the 15th of Nisan and Erev Shavuot (the 6th of Sivan). The number 49 has special significance in Jewish tradition because it constitutes a week of weeks (7×7), a significant number in the story of creation and in the beliefs of the Jewish mystics.  According to the rabbis of the Talmud, these 49 days also represent the length of the journey from Exodus from Egypt to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

According to Jewish tradition, the “Counting of the Omer [Hebrew: Sefirat HaOmer ]” represents a spiritual journey from slavery to freedom and from chaos to the giving of the law. In the absence of the Jerusalem Temple, many Jewish communities have sought to imbue the counting of the Omer with daily spiritual significance. We at Bet David have adopted the Kehillah feeding scheme as a way to mark this time in a significant way.

I believe that education is one of the major ways to empower all parts of our society and to fulfil the dream of Nelson Mandela of a better South Africa. However, we have seen that many families still struggle on a daily basis to put food on the table because education is expensive and, too often, after paying the school fees there isn’t enough money left for a decent meal for those learners.

Several years ago, a former student of our own Mitzvah school started a feeding scheme in Alex, in an attempt to combat this situation. By providing one full, hot meal a day for more than 200 children, she managed to take away some of the burden those families have to carry every day.

With each parcel donated, we bring a little bit of healing (Tikkun) into our world.  Please support Kehillah also this year generously. May we, on our journey from Pesach to Shavuot, bring some additional light into the world.

Chag Pesach Seamach – Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Bet David Kehillah’s Omer Project

Counting of the Omer begins on Sunday, 21 April for 50 days in support of Kehillah’s Feeding Schemes. Place your name and those of your loved ones on the list to donate one day’s food parcel for only R100 to Kehillah. Sign up on the sheet on the notice board in the Bet David Gallery, or call the shul office.  Please EFT to Bet David Sisterhood, Nedbank Sandton Account 1970476214, branch 197005.

Thank you for your great support!

 

 

 

Metzorah: Only one month to go, and election day is here.

25 years after the first democratic election. Many things have changed since then, and still much more needs to change, bringing more healing and more equality to our country.

Therefore, it is no wonder that campaigning has returned to South Africa, as many politicians and parties have very different ideas on how to solve the problems we are facing. As a result, it is inevitable that there will be debates about race, empowerment of different classes and the status of foreigners in South Africa. Once again, political leaders will try to explain to us who is in and who is out. All too often, they will try to score points by being harsh towards one group in our society and soft to others. In my humble opinion, this has nothing to do with the colour of our skin, our backgrounds, reconciliation, or real interest in problem solving — this is unfortunately only politics. At times, when listening to these politicians who are fighting about your votes, it seems to me that they try more to convince you who is more acceptable to be a part of „our“ group and who is not, rather than seeking to find ways to include everyone in our society.

In this week’s Torah Portion, we appear to get a similar kind of situation where the Torah lays down a legal system and laws for who is considered clean and unclean. And, by virtue of a person’s uncleanliness, who needed to be removed or kept separate from the camp for a period of time.

At first glance we can therefore assume that it is about exclusion, searching out the unclean and excluding them from society. However, I would suggest that it is the opposite. This part of the Torah reminds us of the importance of finding ways to include all, so that when a person was removed from the camp for what ever reason, the law provided a way back, based on open and trans-parent principals. Ultimately, these people would be returned and re-admitted into the camp and into society, because a healthy society needs all of its members to flourish. My hope and my wish for this year’s election campaign is, that our politicians follow the example of the Torah and strife for inclusion rather than to polarise and divide this society more than it already is.

Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Tazria: There is always the possibility of Teshuva

The portions of Tazria and Metzora are perhaps, for many of you, very uncomfortable portions of the Torah, dealing with all kinds of issues related to ritual purity and impurity.

Ritual impurity, or tumah, has nothing to do with hygiene. Instead, tumah is a spiritual state that prevents a person from participating in the worship life of the community. One becomes impure through a variety of means, all of which are perfectly natural, such as illness, childbirth, physical
discharges and contact with a corpse. Purity and impurity are not related to good or evil. However, impurity is considered to be a spiritual disability.

For example, tzaraat, the skin affliction that is discussed at length in this part of the Torah, is not the biological disease Leprosy – as it has historically been translated – but rather a state that the Torah understands as the physical manifestation of a spiritual or ritual problem. This is not a medical treatise, nor are the Kohanim (the priests) serving as paramedics. Rather, tumah is a purely ritual concern, and as the ritual leaders of the community, it falls upon the priesthood to facilitate purification for those who find themselves in a state of impurity.

The laws presented in this and the next parasha have long been the basis for numerous rabbinic homilies against the spread of lashon ha-ra — literally “evil speech” or gossip. Metzora, the rabbis conjectured, sounded just like motzi-ra — the bringing forth of evil with the mouth. Cause and effect: if one is guilty of lashon ha-ra, one will be afflicted by tzaraat and thus becomes a metzora. But the Torah tells us that tzaraat is not a permanent condition. One can become healthy again. Neither the condition, nor the sin that precipitated it, is hopeless. There is always the possibility of Teshuva — expiation for one’s misdeed — and a process by which the unclean metzora could again become pure and rejoin the community. This process always exists for us, no matter what our sin was.

Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: R’ JD. Cohen)

 

Shabbat Parah Adumah ?!

Shabbart Parah Adumah ?!

The Shabbatot surrounding holidays are often  permeated with the holiday themes, creating the mood for an upcoming festival, reflecting or enhancing festival themes, or easing the transition from a holiday back into the weekly flow of Shabbat.

A special Shabbat usually includes a special Torah or Haftarah [prophetic] reading that either replaces the standard weekly reading or is read in addition to it, as well as a maftir, or final aliyah, that reflect’s the holiday’s theme and is read from a different Torah scroll.

Shabbat Parah, the Sabbath of the Red Heifer, occurs on the last Shabbat of the month of Adar. The final Torah reading read on that Shabbat, Numbers 19:1-22, deals with the red heifer whose ashes were combined with water to ritually purify anyone who had been in contact with a dead person. Because only people who were pure could eat from the Passover sacrifice, in ancient times a public announcement reminded anyone who had become impure to purify themselves before making the Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The Haftarah, Ezekiel 36:16-38, also deals with issues of being cleansed from contamination, but the impurity in this case symbolizes human sinfulness. But, like physical impurity, sins can be overcome. As God says in Ezekiel 36:25,26: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: I will cleanse you from all your uncleanliness and from all your fetishes [idolatrous practices]. And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you.” This renewal of self and nation reflects Passover’s theme of redemption.

Shabbat Shalom — Rabbi Adrian M Schell

[Source: MyJewishLearning.com]