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What is Tisha B’Av?

On Tisha B’(the 9th day of the month of) Av, the Jewish people mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is one of the four mandatory fasts of the Jewish faith, and one of the more difficult ones, since it takes place during the heat of the summer months, starting before sundown and ending after sundown the next day. On Tisha B’Av, even pregnant women and those who have recently given birth are to fast, although they are not required to do so on the other three fast days. All are forbidden not only from eating, but also from bathing and other pleasantries that are permitted during the other fasts. The reason that the rules of mourning are so strict is that on this day, the Jewish people are remembering the greatest national catastrophe in our history. The devastation of our army, country, and the leadership of our homeland all culminated in that final tragedy, the burning of our holy Temple in our capital city, Jerusalem. The destruction of the central holy place of the nation of Israel symbolized the taking of our land and all of our dignity with it.

Read more at: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-are-we-fasting-for/2012/07/29/

What is Purim?

Purim is a meaningful celebration for the Jewish people, when we gather to remember the events of the Mordechai and Esther story at Shushan HaBira in Persia many years ago. It was after the destruction of the first Temple that the Jewish people spread out in the diaspora throughout the kingdom of the Achashverosh, who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. His evil antisemitic minister, Haman, plotted to wipe out the entire Jewish people. In the book of Esther, we read of the miraculous chain of events and the heroism of Mordechai and Esther, who put aside their own personal safety and concerns and acted to overturn the terrible decree. Our great sages, the rabbis of the Talmud, determined that these events would be marked on the Jewish calendar as a holiday to celebrate the salvation of the Jewish people throughout the ages. Halacha, the code of Jewish law by which we learn to observe the details of the Mitzvot, requirements of our faith, lists four deeds that the holiday mandates for each Jewish individual on Purim. The four Mitzvot are: Megillah, Mishloach Manot, Matanot L’Evyonim and a Festive Meal. Megillah is the book of Esther, written on a scroll of parchment which is read twice, first after the evening prayers and then again after the morning prayers on the day of Purim. Mishloach Manot means sending food to two friends, and Matanot L’Evyonim is giving charity to two needy people. After we have fulfilled these three Mitzvot, we can sit down with our family and friends and rejoice in the fourth Mitzvah, which is a festive meal in honor of the day.

What is Aliya?

The Hebrew term “Aliya” literally means “elevation.” The term is widely used in the Jewish culture to describe being called up to recite the blessings on the Torah reading in the synagogue, as well as to describe immigration of Jewish people to the land of Israel. Each of these Aliya opportunities is considered to be a great honor. In Jewish thought, the land of Israel is considered to be higher than the lands of the other nations. The diaspora is considered a punishment – banishment from our homeland, the special land singled out from among all others in the Bible and allocated by God himself for a nation which was also singled out for a special mission: to be a light unto the nations. Some ponder the reason God Almighty would give this land, of all others, to the people that he loves so much. Could he not have picked one with at least some natural resources? The Arabs got the oil, the Africans precious stones and metals. What does the land of Israel have to offer? With that in mind, the special connection of the people of Israel with their homeland is a phenomenon which is hard to explain in rational or pragmatic terms. But the fact remains that for 2000 years, the Jewish people retained their devotion to their land in a manner unique throughout all humanity. There is no other people in history that survived an exile for so long, while retaining their national identity and yearning to return to their homeland. The Jewish people spread our in a diaspora which reached every location in the world. Three times every day, all through that time, we would turn towards the holy capital city, Jerusalem, and pray that God would have mercy on us and allow us to return to our land and rebuild our country and again live as a sovereign nation. This new blog is about Aliya and living in the land. I will use this platform to share my own experiences and enthusiasm about this wonderful historic opportunity, as well as to discuss the unique challenges in making Aliyah and some practical aspects, in hopes of encouraging other Jews to make the move and return home to Israel.

Read more at: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/living-in-the-land/aliya-whats-it-all-about/2013/03/17/

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