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Pesach Chol Hamoed/ Sephirat HaOmer

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Yaakov Ben Sarah our Grandfather Mr Jack Braha A’h

Pesach Chol Hamoed / Sephirat HaOmer

The Omer and Pirke Avot

Now that we've completed the first two Sedar nights and we're nearing the end of Pesach, we are commanded to count the 49 days of the Omer untill Shavuouth. Hashem came down from the heavens and with a strong hand He saved us from the 49th level of Tumah (impurity) in Egypt to raise us spiritually so that we would be ready to receive our Holy Torah at Har Sinai.

Something else tragically happened during these 49days and that is that we mourn the loss of 12,000 pairs of Rabbi Akivah's students...24,000 great Rabbi's that died in a plague over the course of just 34 days within the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuouth. The Gemara in Yevamot page 62b says very briefly on this topic that the reason that these 24,000 students died was..."Because they did not treat each other with proper Respect". This is all that the Gemarah says, but the Midrash Rabah elaborates a little further and says that they were "Guilty of Stinginess". The disrespect they showed towards each other was an outward manifestation of their inner flaw, a stinginess of the spirit. Each student begrudged the others success in their studies. They allowed themselves to feel that another students advancement in learning was somehow a setback to themselves. This led to a feeling of dissatisfaction that others were learning Torah at a higher level. The students should have viewed their Yeshivah of Rabbi Akiva as a collaborative group, where each individual helps and is concerned for the other, instead their own selfishness became their ultimate final downfall.

Immediately following this episode, the Gemarah says..."And the world was left barren of Torah until Rabbi Akiva came to our Rabbi's in the south and taught the Torah to them". They were Rav Meir, Rav Yehudah, Rav Yose, Rav Shimon and Rav Elazar ben Shamua and it was these Rabbi's that upheld the Torah at that time or the Torah 'Has ve Shalom' could have been lost forever.

“Love Your Neighbor As You Love Yourself”

We learn from this event that Rabbi Akiva then quoted the famous phrase...from the Torah in parashat Vayikra...perek 19, pasuk 18..."VeAhavta Lerecha Kamocha" which means "Love Your Neighbor as you Love Yourself". In Rabbi Zelig Pliskin's book "Love your Neighbor" he quotes from Bereshiit...perek 1, pasuk 27 "And Hashem created Man in His own Image". The Chofetz Chaim explains that "The image of G-d" means the ability to emulate G-d, who bestows kindness on people. Someone who performs a kind act reflects Hashem's attributes therefore, the very survival of humanity is dependent on 'Chesed'. We as Jews are obligated from the Torah to love doing chesed for others, as the prophet Michah states: "He (Hashem) has told you, what is good and what does Hashem require of you but to act justly, to love chesed and to walk humbly with your G-d". We must always look for ways to aid others, we must always be on alert to practice chesed whenever possible. A person who loves chesed and looks for ways to help others will encourage others to do chesed as well.

From this tragedy that befell the students of Rabbi Akiva, we have a custom to learn "Pirke Avot" or "Ethics of our Fathers" during these 49 days as we count up in anticipation of receiving our Holy Torah! We learn from our Rabbi's that this is the time that we should fine tune our character traits by learning Pirke Avot which teaches us of our obligations to be considerate and helpful to our fellow Jewish brothers. We also learn so that we can be better prepared to receive the Torah and celebrate that event through our holiday of Shavuouth!

This concept of chesed, doing mitzvot and fine tuning our character brings to mind a story about the Skulener Rebbe who recently passed away. In the precarious period, right after the Holocaust, it was very difficult to get matzot for Pesach. The Skulener Rebbe was able to get a very limited amount of matzot, and deicded to limit his generosity to one matzah per family, due to the severe limitation of matzot available. Suddenly, the son of the Viznitzer Rebbe zt”l arrived, demanding to get three matzot. Everyone was shocked that he demanded more that anyone else, but eventually they acceded to his demand and gave him three matzot. On Erev Pesach, shortly before the Yom Tov started, the Skulener Rebbe and Rebbitzen realized that they had given away all the matzot they had, and there was none left for their own family. Then, the son of the Viznitzer Rebbe arrived, giving back two of the matzot. He explained that his father predicted that the Skulener Rebbe would probably give away all of his matzot, and would have none left for his own family. This was why he sent his son to procure three matzot, so as to ensure that the Skulener Rebbe would have at least two matzot for his own family.

May we all take the time to learn Pirke Avot during this time to refine our charecters as learned from the Ethics of our great Rabbi’s. May we also learn from the midot of the Rabbi’s in our generations like the story of the Skulener Rebbe. Amen!

Chag Sameach, Shabbat Shalom and Tizku Leshanim Rabot!

Discussion Points:

· Do we follow the words of Hillel to actually Love our Neighbor as we Love Ourselves by doing acts of kindness as we saw in the above story?

· Do we make it our business to learn Pirke Avot during the 49 days of the Omer?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah

Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam

Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal

Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther

Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal

Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal

Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami

Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel

Yaakov Ben Leah Saadia Ben Miriam

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

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