November 27, 2018
On December 2 through December 10th, we will be celebrating the festival of Channukah, the “Festival of Lights” the miracle of how a small cruse of oil, enough for but one day, lasted for eight; Channukah ,celebrating not the military victory, but the miracle of a Menorah,whose oil gave light well after it should have been consumed. Channukah is the embodiment of the supremacy of right over might ,of the delivery of the strong into the hands of the few, the corrupt into the hands of the poor, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, the arrogant into the hands of the Torah.The prophet Zechariah culminates the entire story of Channukah very succinctly ” Not by force, nor by might, but by my spirit, says the L–d of Hosts.”
I would like to share with you a famous story of General George Washington and a lone Jewish soldier at the Battle of Valley Forge.
It was the winter of 1776 the soldier waits until his fellow comrades are asleep.He removes a small menorah from his back pack and remembers the words of his father who lived in Poland.
“My son when you light the menorah it will illuminate the way for you.”He recited the blessings for the first night of Channukah.
He watched the gentle flame and tears welled up in his eyes, he could not help but remember how his entire family had suffered under the cruel Polish lords.
Many of the American soldiers wanted George Washington to give up, so that the war would end.
He wanted America to win and become a free country, where Jews and all people of the world could live in peace in a free society.
Suddenly he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Why are you crying soldier?Are you cold? It was General George Washington. The soldier sprang up.”I am praying that you should win the war General.
What are all these candles? Asked the General.
These are the candles that all Jews light for eight days in honor of a great miracle!”
George Washington’s face lit up.
“Jew’s are the children of the prophets, and you say we will win.”He shook the soldiers hand and left.
The war came to an end; George Washington led his army to victory.He became Americas first President and the soldier settled in New York.
The next year the first night of Channukah, there was a knock on the veterans door, upon opening it ,he came face to face with George Washington. President Washington entered the small apartment on Broome Street in New York City and told the veteran ,”Behold the wonderful light.The light of hope of the Jewish people”. Washington continued,”It was your menorah and inspiring words that led me to win the war.Soon you will receive the Medal of Honor from the United States of America, together with all the brave men of Valley Forge.But tonight, please accept this medallion”the veteran looked at the medallion and saw an etching of a Channukah Menorah under it was written:” A token of appreciation for the light of your candle.George Washington”
When I came across this story I thought how appropriate it would be to share it with our members on this beautiful festival of lights.
May the radiance of the Channukah Menorah lights, bring abundant health and peace, to you and your dear families.
TU B’SHVAT- ט”ו בשבט
January 14, 2018
בראשית א,יא: “וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים
תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע עֵץ פְּרִי עֹשֶׂה פְּרִי לְמִינוֹ אֲשֶׁר זַרְעוֹ בוֹ עַל הָאָרֶץ וַיְהִי כֵן.”
Genesis chapter 1, verse 11: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”
Tu B’shvat-ט”ו בשבט- the 15th of Shvat- this year January 21st, is a day Jews worldwide celebrate the honored time of blessing G-d for the variety of fruits He has provided mankind since creation.
When God led Adam around the Garden of Eden, God said, ‘Look at My works. See how beautiful they are, how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil or destroy My world–for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13)
As a way of gratitude for these wonderful gifts of life from G-d, one is obligated to offer a blessing prior and after for every type of food one consumes. It is also the responsibility of each person to properly care for the earth that is leased to us by G-d to continue to enjoy the nourishment He provides for all humanity. There is enough food for all of mankind annually, as long as its distributed properly.
The Seven Species (Shvat HaMinim-שבעת החינם in Hebrew) are the seven types of fruits and grains named in the Torah (Deuteronomy 8:8-דברים ח,ח) as the main produce of the land of Israel. In ancient times these foods were staples of the Israelite diet. They were also important in the ancient Jewish religion because one of the Temple tithes derived from these seven foods. The tithe was called the bikkurim-ביכורים, which meant “first fruits.
Today the seven species are still important agricultural items in modern Israel but they no longer dominate the produce of the country as they once did. On the holiday of Tu B’Shvat -ט”ו בשבט- it has become traditional for Jews to eat from the seven species.
The Seven Species-שבעת המינים
Deuteronomy 8:8 -דברים ח,ח tells us that Israel was “a land of wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil olives and date honey.”
The seven species are:
- Wheat (chitah-חטה in Hebrew)
- Barley (se’orah-שעורה in Hebrew)
- Grapes (gefen-גפן in Hebrew), usually consumed as wine
- Figs (te’enah-תאינה in Hebrew)
- Pomegranates (rimon-רימון in Hebrew)
- Olives (zayit-זית in Hebrew), usually consumed in oil form
- Dates (tamar-תמר or d’vash in Hebrew)
In conclusion, thank and bless G-d for all He provides. He in turn will bless the world with peace.
Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz
Rockwood Park Jewish Center
National Conference of Shomrim Societies