Did you know?

A general and a particular thank you

To read it in English, click here.

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Saying thank you is very important, not only amongst ourselves, but also to G-d. In Judaism, there are many prayers and blessings to say thank you to G-d.

One category is the blessings we say when fulfilling a Mitzvah, for instance the blessing for washing our hands, the blessing for the Tefillin, for the Tallit, for lighting the candles, for shaking the Lulav etc.

What does it mean to bless G-d for the Mitzvah? G-d commanded us to do something, so we need to do it. Why the need to say a blessing and express gratitude?

To understand this, we need first to understand the significance and value of a Mitzvah. When we do a Mitzvah, it is not only about a commandment from G-d and our fulfilling it. The very action of the Mitzvah connects us to Him. It is for this opportunity, for us finite humans to connect to the infinite G-d, that we thank Him.

This gratitude is double, a general one and a particular one. There is the general gratitude, because G-d gave us the Mitzvot that connect us to Him, i.e. G-d’s general wish we should connect to Him. There is also a particular gratitude because G-d gave us this specific Mitzvah to connect with Him, and we thank Him for this particular opportunity.

These two aspects of gratitude exist in each of the blessings for the Mitzvot which we recite. Let us take the example of the blessing for washing our hands: …asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetsivanu – who sanctified us with His commandments, in general, vetsivanu al netilat yadayim, and commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.

To conclude, there is something very interesting about the blessings. Usually, they are recited before the action of the Mitzvah, for instance, before putting the Tefillin or the Tallit, or before lighting the candles of Shabbat and the Holidays… But there are some that are recited after, for instance, the blessing for washing our hands.

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

The 4 categories of prohibited works on Shabbat

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How do we know which activities are forbidden? What does G-d (and not our logic) want us to refrain from doing on Shabbat?

There are a few places in the Torah where G-d commands us to keep the Shabbat. One such place is in Exodus 35:1-2, which speaks about the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.

Moses gathered the Jewish people to tell them that G-d wants them to build Him a Temple, the Mishkan. But he starts by giving some laws about Shabbat. Our Sages explain that Moses wanted us to understand that even though the construction of the Mishkan is very important, it is still forbidden to build it during the Shabbat. From this we learn that the works involved in the building of the Mishkan are forbidden on Shabbat.

These works are called Melacha (plural Melachot). There are 39 primary type of works (Avot Melacha), and each one includes more prohibited derivative works and activities (Toldot).

The Melachot are divided in 4 general categories:

1) The works of producing bread (and food generally), starting from the field activities (sowing, planting, harvest etc.) until the cooking and baking, including all the intermediate stages of preparation of food.

2) The works of producing cloth and leather, starting from shearing wool until the sewing, including all the intermediate stages such as dying, spinning, weaving etc.

3) The works of writing on a parchment, including the activities involved in producing the parchment and the ink.

4) The works of construction, that is all the activities related to building a house.

There is one Melacha that does not belong to one of these categories: the prohibition of carrying an object from a private domain to the public domain.

Thus, the Melachot forbidden on Shabbat are the activities that were involved in the construction of the Mishkan, and do not necessarily correspond to difficult or tiring works (as we explained last week).

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

Prohibited works on Shabbat: an introduction

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G-d commanded us to keep the Shabbat, Shamor et Yom HaShabbat (Deuteronomy 5:12-14).

Keeping the Shabbat, as we explained previously (The two aspects of Shabbat), means to refrain from specific actions which are forbidden on Shabbat,

Just as G-d created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th, i.e He stopped the work of creating the world, so too we must stop our workd on this day.

G-d created the world with speech, this means that this "work" was not "tiring". This shows that the rest on Shabbat is not only defined by how tiring or difficult the activity is. The actions that are prohibited on Shabbat are decided by G-d and not by our human understanding.

Resting on Shabbat is desirable of course, but this is part of another aspect of Shabbat, the Oneg, or pleasure (Read more here: What makes the Shabbat meal special?)

Thus, after explaining previously how we remember the Shabbat (for example with the Kiddush), we will explore in the next weeks with G-d’s help how we keep the Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

Do we or do we not want the rain?

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In the Amidah, the Silent Prayer which we recite three times a day, morning, afternoon and evening, there are two passages which change according to the seasons, i.e. we say one thing in autumn-winter and something else in spring-summer. Both are connected with rain.

The first change is found in the second blessing of the Amida: in autumn, precisely on Shmini Atseret (right after Sukkot), we start mentioning the rain and say: "Mashiv haruach umorid hageshem", “He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.” But we do not ask for rain yet.

On the 7th of the month of Cheshvan, in Israel*, we make the second change, in the 9th blessing, where we ask for rain: “ … veten tal umatar livracha” “Bestow dew and rain for blessing upon the face of the earth . . .”. Thus, we ask G-d to bless this year and this winter with the much-needed rain.

Why specifically on the 7th of Cheshvan?

The answer is found in the period of the Temple. A large part of the Jewish people would come to the Temple for the holidays (it is a Mitzvah). Trips were lengthy and difficult.  If rain fell right after Sukkot, the return would be even more difficult, since the dirt roads would become muddy, and the travelers would get wet and dirty. This is why they waited until the last Jew got back home (or crossed the river Prat, which constitutes the end of Eretz Israel) and only then asked for rain. This is why until nowadays, we do not start immediately after Sukkot to ask for rain (but only mention it).

Thus, until the 7th of Cheshvan, in a certain way, we still remain in the Holiday period, since there are still Jews on their way back from the Temple.  

This teaches us something very important: Rain brings joy to the world, especially in Israel which needs it a lot. Yet, if there is a chance that the rain will make it difficult for a Jew to travel to and from the Temple, we delay our requests for rain until he can also enjoy and rejoice with it.

We should care about someone else in the same way. Not to rejoice when the other cannot share in it. We need to make sure that they can be happy together with us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

*Outside of Israel, we start asking for rain on the 4th or the 5th of December. Find out why here

* What happens in the spring? At this time, rain is not desirable, for the grain harvest has begun and rain will cause the sheaves of grain lying in the field to rot. So we stop asking for rain and instead, we pray for dew to fall and moisten the crops without harming drying grain. In spring, we change both passages at the same time, on the first day of the Holiday of Pesach.

Why start again from the beginning?

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This week we will start again the cycle of the reading of the Torah. The Torah has 54 portions (Parashah, plural Parashiyot) and we read one portion (sometimes two) every week. On Simchat Torah which was just a few days ago, we completed the reading of the Torah, so this Shabbat we will start again the Torah from the beginning, from the first portion, the Parashah of Bereshit.

Why read again the same thing every year? We have read it already the previous year, and the year before that etc.

The answer is that the words may seem identical to us but there is always something we can comprehend better, a deeper level of understanding to explore. Likewise, there are many methods and approaches to study the Torah. There are countless books which explain the various ways to interpret the Torah. Thus, we can continue the study in a different and new way every year.

The holidays of the month of Tishri are beautiful, the Seder of Rosh Hashanah, the Shofar, the prayers of Yom Kippur, the meals in the Sukkah and the joy of Simchat Torah. But now, “boring” days are starting without holidays until a long while. This is why we start the Torah now. To take something from the month of Tishri along with us for the rest of the days of the year. We leave the Holidays and go into our everyday routine with the inspiration, the “project” and the goal to study the Torah week after week, Parashah after Parashah, until we complete the Torah again on the next Simchat Torah.

The Previous Rebbe encouraged everyone to read every day a part of the weekly portion (along with the classical explanation of Rashi). As we mentioned here (Why is the Kohen the first to be called up to the Torah?), we have 7 Aliyot each Shabbat, i.e 7 people coming up to read the Torah and each portion is divided in 7 parts, one for each Aliyah. Every day of the week, we study one part, one Aliyah, for instance on Sunday we will study the first Aliyah, on Friday the 6th Aliyah etc. This applies to Shabbat as well, where we study the 7th and last part of the Parashah, in addition to the Reading of the whole portion.

At every beginning, G-d gives us the powers to take a good decision, to start something new. May we all start the Torah with joy and health!

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

What do we do on the last day of Sukkot?

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Today (Monday 27/9/21) is the last day of Sukkot 5782. This day is called Hoshaana Raba. (Tuesday 28/9/21 and Wednesday 29/9/21 are in some way a continuation of Sukkot but they are in fact a separate holiday, Shmini Atseret and Simchat Torah).

What is the significance of Hoshaana Raba, literally, the Big Hoshaana?

Every day of Sukkot, we do once the round of the Bima in the synagogue, holding the Four Kinds and reciting Hoshaanot. The same happened in the Temple, where they did circles around of the Mizbeach, the Altar where sacrifices took place.

Hoshaanot (the plural of Hoshaana) are special supplications which are recited during those rounds. Every day of Sukkot, we recite different Hoshaanot. Yet, on Hoshaana Raba, the 7th day of Sukkot, we do 7 circles around the Bima and recite the Hoshaanot of all the days. This is why it is called Hoshaana Raba, the big Hoshaana.

What is the reason for the Hoshaanot?

Our Sages explain that even though the judgment of the world beings on Rosh Hashana and concludes on Yom Kippur, this is a general judgment.

However, there is on Sukkot a special judgement for the water, which is essential for human survival. Man cannot live without water. On a deeper level, water represents our livelihood, especially then when everyone lived off fields and agriculture and were directly dependent on the rain. Thus, on Sukkot, we are judged for the water, i.e the amount of rain which will fall during the year that just started. This judgment takes place during Sukkot and is completed on Hoshaana Raba.

What are the customs of Hoshaana Raba?

First, as mentioned before, we recite the Hoshaanot, making 7 circles around the Bima.

Another ancient custom from the times of the Prophets is to take 5 Aravot, willow branches (not the one of the Lulav) and with it we strike the ground five times, symbolizing the “tempering of the five measures of harshness.”.

In Greece, especially the Romaniotes, have the custom of putting those Aravot near the Mezuzah.

Another custom is to stay awake during the night of Hoshaana Raba and read the Chumash Devarim (Deuteronomy) and the Tehilim (Psalms), and generally study Torah.

Finally, another custom is to eat an apple with honey, as on Rosh Hashana.

Happy Hoshaana Raba and Chag Sameach!

Arie from the Yeshiva

Everything you need to know about the Sukkah

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What is a Sukkah?

The Sukkah (plural Sukkot) is a temporary construction, with a roof of cut plants called Schach.

What do we do inside the Sukkah?

The Torah, when giving us the commandment of Sukkah, says: “For a seven-day period you shall live in Sukkot” (Leviticus 23:42). The Talmud (Sukkah 28b) explains that living inside the Sukkah means doing whatever we do in our home inside the Sukkah. Thus, for 8 days (7 in Israel), we eat and drink, study, converse etc. inside the Sukkah.

Why do we build a Sukkah?

The Torah tells us about the Holiday of Sukkot: “…in order that your [ensuing] generations should know that I had the children of Israel live in Sukkot when I took them out of the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 21:43). When G-d took us out of Egypt, he led us in the desert and protected us from the sun, the wild beasts etc. with His Clouds of Glory. To remember this, we sit in the Sukkah, which surrounds us from all 4 sides and from above, like the Clouds of Glory. 

How do we build a Sukkah?

The basic thing in building the Sukkah is that it should be a solid construction, i.e, it must stay solid with normal winds. (For instance, we should not use sheets to make the walls). The height from every side should be at least 1 ½ meter, for it to be considered a proper construction. For the schach, the roof, we must use materials that grow from the ground, but are detached from the ground, for example, cut branches of a tree. It is also customary to decorate the Sukkah, in whichever way one desires.

There are a few important things we must be careful about when building the Sukkah:

1. The schach (roof) must be enough to provide shade from the sun, i.e. there must be more shade than sun in the Sukkah.

2. The Sukkah must be directly under the sky and its roof should only be the schach. We cannot build a Sukkah inside a house, in a roofed veranda, or under a tree.

3. We need to be able to easily see the schach when sitting, this is why we do not build a Sukkah higher than about 10 meters. If the schach does not cover the entire surface of the Sukkah, one should sit under the schach in order to be considered as sitting in the Sukkah.

4. The minimum volume of the Sukkah should be enough to fit a seated person with a table to eat (this limit concerns the width, length, and height). Yet there is no limit for the length and width of the Sukkah. (There is a limit for the height as we mentioned earlier).

What does the Sukkah symbolize?

There is something very interesting in the Sukkah, The Talmud tells us that all the Jewish people can sit together in one Sukkah (since there are no limits to its surface). When we sit in the Sukkah, there is room for everyone, it doesn’t matter who he or she is. There is a seat in the Sukkah for every Jew and the Sukkah surrounds us all together. Thus, the Sukkah symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people, one of the central messages of the holiday of Sukkot.

Chag Sameach!

Arie from the Yeshiva

What happens between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?

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Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we have 10 days which are called the “Ten Days of Teshuva” (including Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). Our Sages teach us that during these days, it is easier to do Teshuva (often translated as Repentance but literally meaning Return to G-d). It is an auspicious time because G-d is closer to us.

During these days, we add some prayers which are related to the judgement of the world happening during this period. We also add some sentences in the Amida (Silent Prayer).

We say the complete Avinu Malkenu (Our Father our King) instead of the regular one, where we ask G-d to listen to our requests, like a Father who loves His children and like a King who cares for His subjects.

Our Sages explain that these days connect Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The judgment of the world starts on Rosh Hashana and ends on Yom Kippur. It is important during these days of judgment to do Teshuva and behave appropriately, even if we do not do so during the rest of the year.  

It is interesting that if we take out the festive days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we have exactly 7 days, a complete week. Our Sages explain that each day of the week corresponds to this day of the week of the past year. I.e., on the Sunday between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we ought to make Teshuva for all the Sundays of the year. Thus, we will prepare for a good year materially and spiritually.

Shabbat Shalom and Gmar Chatima Tova,

Arie from the Yeshiva

What makes the year 5782 special?

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The year that will start next week with Rosh Hashana is special. It is called Shemita, the Sabbatical Year.

What is the Shemita year?

Every 7th year, we have special Mitzvot that apply to this year. We do Shemita (literally release) for the land and the money.

1. The land:

First, the Shemita concerns the land i.e we need to release, desist from cultivating our fields. We do not do field work such as plowing or sowing or putting fertilizer and instead we devote our time to study and to other spiritual pursuits.

Second, we relinquish personal ownership of their fields; whatever produce grows on its own is considered communal property, free for anyone to take.

Third, these fruits are considered holy, and we cannot simply discard them with disrespect if we don’t consume them.

These laws apply only to fields in the Land on Israel, until our days.


One of the explanations is that, in the same way the days of the week have the Shabbat to remind us of our Creator, the years have the Sabbatical year, the Shemita, where we stop to work the fields to remember that the land belongs to G-d.

It also reminds us that everything comes from Above. In the routine of our days, as we cultivate our fields, or in our different occupations, we can come to think that we are succeeding on our own merit. When we have an entire year where we don’t cultivate the fields because G-d has commanded us to do so, we recognize that the blessings of our lives come from G-d.

2. The money:

The Shemita also concerns the money i.e we need to release, to forgive the loans that are owed to us. If we lent money to someone and the year of Shemita comes, we are forbidden to ask for our loan back. If the lender wants to return it from his goodwill though, we may accept it. This Mitzvah applies to Jews all over the world, not only in Israel.

More than 2,000 years ago, Hillel the Elder saw that people were avoiding giving loans as the Shemitah year neared. In order to encourage people to continue lending money (which is a Mitzvah - to help those in need), he instituted the Pruzbul(פרוזבול) system. The Pruzbul is a simple declaration in front of the Beth Din that we transfer to them the debts that are owed to us, making it possible to redeem them even during Shemita.

Until today, this declaration of Pruzbul is done on the eve of Rosh Hashana of a Shemita year (as well as in the end, according to some), in front of a Beth Din (3 men).


This Mitzvah, as well as the Pruzbul process, is here to remind us that the money we have earned is thanks to G-d’s blessings. This is why we forgive our loans, to remember that we do not succeed (only) through our work, but with G-d’s help.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova,

Arie from the Yeshiva

The two aspects of Shabbat

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We discussed in a previous text (When G-d said two words simultaneously) the two words that G-d used when He gave the commandment of Shabbat: Zachor (remember) and Shamor (respect).

There is something deeper in these words. Each one refers to another aspect of keeping the Shabbat. The word Zachor (remember) refers to the positive actions related to Shabbat and the word Shamor (respect) refers to the negative actions we need to refrain from on Shabbat.

Zachor – the positive: On Shabbat, we should use our time for more spiritual endeavors, i.e. to connect with G-d. Study a little bit more Torah (there is no need for the Internet, there are books, or you can print reading material before Shabbat) and recite the Shabbat prayers, which are different from the everyday prayers.

Shamor – the negative: Our Prophets explain that on Shabbat we should not “perform your affairs on My holy day, […] by not pursuing your affairs and speaking words” (Isaiah 58:13). In other words, on Shabbat, our occupations and discussions need to be different from the other days of the week. This means that we should not discuss our everyday tasks, review the past week, or plan the next. We should not discuss business, errands, or payments, we should not even discuss preparations for an upcoming vacation. This, far from limiting us, allows us to free our minds and our time and spend it on spiritual matters.

Let us try to make this Shabbat different from the rest of the week, by spending time in prayer or study, or by avoiding (at least a bit) our everyday material discussions.

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

What makes the Shabbat meal special?

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Shabbat is a special day. We dress nicely, we eat special foods. The Jewish kitchen is full of dishes we encounter (usually only) on Shabbat. Why?

In our Prophets (Isaiah 58:13) we find two words associated with the observance of the Shabbat: Kavod, Honor and Oneg, Pleasure.

Our Sages explain that Kavod, Honor, means having clean and nice cloths that we do not use during the rest of Shabbat and are exclusively worn on Shabbat. Oneg, Pleasure, is enjoying the Shabbat with delicious food.

To distinguish the Shabbat from the other days, Jews in all generations always had special food (the best their economic situation allowed) put aside for the Shabbat. From a young age, everyone knew that Shabbat means a big table with good food, special Shabbat clothes etc.  

Let us try this Shabbat to make it different from the rest of the week, by preparing something special for the meals of Friday evening and Shabbat lunch.

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

4 questions about the Shabbat candles

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Our Sages instituted to light the Shabbat candles on Friday afternoon in order for the home not to be dark. Since it is forbidden to light a fire on Shabbat, a home where the candles were not lit would be dark. Someοne may stumble and fall, get upset that things are not organized and in their place and this would cause strain and trouble in the home. This is not fitting for Shabbat, which should be a day of rest and peace.

Besides for the above reason, to ensure to have light and peace at home, we light candles at the place where we eat, because we enjoy the meal better with more light. We say the blessing over the candles that light the Shabbat table.

Today, it is enough to leave the electric light on (which we are forbidden to open or shut during Shabbat), to be able to go around the house without stumbling and falling on something. But we still light the Shabbat candles in the room where we eat. It is customary to look at the candles when we start the Kiddush.


We must light the candles 18 minutes before sunset (this is the time written in the Jewish calendar) or a little earlier. It is a big Mitzvah to light the candles on time, but if we missed it, it is strictly forbidden to light them later, and we will show more respect to the Shabbat by not lighting them.

The Talmud mentions that someone who lights the candles of Shabbat in his or her home will have wise children. As it is written: “Ki ner Mitzvah veTorah or” “The Mitsvah is a lamp and the Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23). Our Sages explain that whoever lights the candles of the Mitzvah (of Shabbat) will merit to have children who will light the world with the light of Torah.


Basically, both men and women have the obligation to have at home Shabbat candles. But since the woman is the pillar of the home and responsible for it, the candle lighting was appointed to her. If there is no woman in the house, the man lights the candles.

It is customary that every girl from age 3 lights her own candle (after her marriage, she lights 2 candles). The Rebbe encouraged even young girls to light candles so they get used to this special Mitzvah and add more light to the world.

How many?

The custom is to light 2 candles, one for the word Zachor (remember) and one for the word Shamor (guard), the words that G-d used in the 10 Commandments for the commandment of Shabbat (more about those 2 words here). There is also the custom of adding one more candle for every child born to the family. For instance, if a family has 3 children, the mother lights 5 candles.

May the light of the Shabbat candles bring closer the light of the Redemption with the coming of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

What is the Haftarah that we read after the Reading of the Torah?

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Every Shabbat, after the reading of the Torah, we read the Haftarah. What is the Haftarah? It is (usually) an excerpt from the Prophets which is related to the portion of the Pentateuch that was read before. It is customary that the person reading the Haftarah also reads a few verses of the Torah. From the portion that was just completed. The reading of the Haftarah is not considered part of the 7 Aliyot of Shabbat, it is the 8th (to read more about the 7 Aliyot of the Torah, click here). This is what it is possible for a Kohen or a Levi to read the Haftarah.

There is no Haftarah during the readings of the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays. Besides for Shabbat, we read a Haftarah on special days such as Rosh Chodesh, fast days etc. In these cases, when we have only 3 Aliyot, the third person coming up to the Torah is the one who will read the Haftarah. It will be an Israelite, not a Kohen or Levi.

Why do we read the Haftarah?

Many years ago (2nd century BCE), one king decreed that the Jews could not read the Torah. The Sages of this time instituted to read (instead of the Torah which was forbidden) an excerpt from the Prophets corresponding to the Portion of the week. In this way, they kept the reading even during the period when it was banned. This continued even after the decree was canceled and this is how we read the Haftarah after the reading of the Torah.

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

Why is the Kohen the first to be called up to the Torah?

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Arye Leib (12).png 

As we explained here, every Shabbat we read in the Sefer Torah the weekly Parasha, the Weekly Portion. The Parasha is divided in 7 parts (Aliyot) and 7 people ascend to read from the Torah.

Who ascends to the Torah, in other words, who receives an Aliyah?

Every Jewish male who has become Bar-Mitzvah, i.e who has turned 13 and is considered an adult for religious matters, can receive an Aliyah. There are various customs regarding who has priority, but the basics are the following:

The first Aliyah belongs to a Kohen, i.e one of the descendants of the first High Priest Aharon. The Kohanim (Priests) “worked” in the Temple as representatives of the entire Jewish people. G-d granted them a special holiness, which carries on until today, even though we do not have the Temple.

For the second Aliyah, a Levi is called up, since the Levites also worked and helped in the Temple.

All Jews are important but since the Kohanim and the Levites had as their sole occupation the service of G-d and the work in the Temple, we honor them by calling them first for the Reading of the Torah.

If there is no Levi, the Kohen gets the first as well as the second Aliyah.

If there is no Kohen, then either a Levi or an Israelite comes up first.

If there is no Kohen or Levi, an Israelite comes up for the first Aliyah, another one for the second etc.

The 5 next Aliyot are for the Israelites, and it is customary for give an Aliyah to someone who just became Bar Mitzvah, or is getting married that week, or has the anniversary of the passing of a close relative.

While on Shabbat, 7 people ascend to the Torah, on the Holidays (Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana and Sukkot) there are five people being called to the Torah (i.e., there are 5 Aliyot) and six on Yom Kippur (i.e. 6 Aliyot). The first 2 Aliyot are for a Kohen and a Levi and the rest are for Israelites.

On Mondays and Thursdays, the order of the Aliyot is the same as Shabbat, first a Kohen, then a Levi and then an Israelite.

(In some communities, on Shabbat and Holidays, if there is a need to honor more than seven men, more Israelites are called to the Torah.)

Next week, we will read about the 8th Aliyah of Shabbat, the Maftir and the Haftarah

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva 

Why do we read the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays?

Για να το διαβάσετε στα Ελληνικά, κάντε κλικ εδώ

Arye Leib (8).png 

Besides for the reading of the Torah portion on Shabbat morning, we also read from the Sefer Torah during the afternoon prayer (Mincha) of Shabbat, as well as Monday and Thursday mornings.

What do we read?

The portion of the upcoming Shabbat. We take the beginning of the Torah portion (usually the first Aliyah, the part that will be read first during the reading of Shabbat) and we divide it into three parts, each one of them constituting one Aliyah

Why do we read the Torah on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat at Mincha?

The Gemara (Baba Kamma 82a) says that Moshe established the custom that the Jews should read the Torah three days a week, so that they would never go three days without hearing it read publicly.

The Talmudic sages find this alluded to in Exodus (15:22-27), where we read that our ancestors traveled for three days and thirsted for water—which allegorically also refers to the Torah. They had become spiritually ill after not studying Torah. In response, Moses and the prophets of his generation decided that three days should never pass without a public Torah reading. Thus, we read the Torah on Shabbat, then skip a day and read it on Monday, then skip two days and read it again on Thursday—then two days later we are back at Shabbat.

Another tradition in the Talmud says that it is Ezra the Scribe, who was the spiritual leader of the Jews during the construction of the 2nd Temple, who instituted the reading of the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays so that three days shall not pass without the Jewish people learning (hearing) the Torah, including the simple people who work all day and not have time (or can’t) learn Torah on their own. The market days when the villagers would go to the big city were set on Monday and Thursday because of the Torah reading, and other public functions were set already on those days.

During those years, there were people going around to the villages to sell their merchandise and did not have during the whole week the opportunity to pray with a Minyan and thus, did not hear the Torah on Monday or Thursday. Thus, Ezra instituted the reading of the Torah a second time during Shabbat, so that they should learn something more.

The Talmud reconciles these two traditions by explaining that they refer to different stages in the evolution of this tradition. In Moses' times only three verses were read (corresponding to the three general groups within the Jewish community: Kohen, Levi, and Yisrael) on the weekdays. Ezra and associates lengthened this quota to a minimum of 10 verses (divided into three Aliyot).

We will further explain who gets an Aliyah and why the Kohen always gets the first one next week.

Shabbat Shalom,

Arie from the Yeshiva

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