Thank HASHEM after 5 months Aytan ben Sarah returned to the Synagogue where he was attacked. Also remove from prayers Chaim Yechiel ben Bella.
We now have established holiness for Am Yisrael and the highest level of Kedusha is that of the Cohanim. They cannot marry like the regular ben Yisrael as we shall see. It is not that a Yisrael or Levy is a crude person but rather Cohanim are in the service of HASHEM.
21:1 And the LORD said unto Moses: Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them: There shall none defile himself for the dead among his people;
The average person can bury the dead and wash the dead while a Cohain is meant to serve HASHEM in Tahara.
2 except for his kin, that is near unto him, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother; 3 and for his sister a virgin, that is near unto him, that hath had no husband, for her may he defile himself.
This is for a simple Cohain but not the Cohain Gadol.
4 He shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself. 5 They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corners of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.
The ordinary Jew can use scissors or chemicals for the corner of the beard but even an ordinary Jew as we have seen in chapter 19 above cannot makes cuts or tattoos.
6 They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God; for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, the bread of their God, they do offer; therefore they shall be holy.
This sentence is the explanation why they have to be holy.
7 They shall not take a woman that is a harlot, or profaned; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband; for he is holy unto his God.
In many cases the divorced woman is a wonderful wife but just did not get along with her ex-husband for whatever reason. But unlike the widow she has a slight blemish as one man did not want her.
8 Thou shalt sanctify him therefore; for he offers the bread of thy God; he shall be holy unto thee; for I the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.
Again the command and the reason is given.
9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father: she shall be burnt with fire.
Because she was born into holiness, if she commits adultery, her crime and punishment is greater than the ordinary Jew.
10 And the priest that is highest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil is poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not let the hair of his head go loose, nor rend his clothes;
The priests had very short haircuts and the Cohain Gadol, his haircut was that the hair touched the hair root of the next. (Chapter 2 Tractate Shabbos).
11 neither shall he go in to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father, or for his mother; 12 neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the LORD. 13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity.
An ordinary Cohain can take a widow or a non-virgin and even perform Yebum but not HaCohain HaGadol.
14 A widow, or one divorced, or a profaned woman, or a harlot, these shall he not take; but a virgin of his own people shall he take to wife. 15 And he shall not profane his seed among his people; for I am the LORD who sanctify him.
The Cohain Gadol goes into the Kodesh Kedoshim on Yom Kippur so has an extra degree of holiness.
16 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 17 Speak unto Aaron, saying: Whosoever he be of thy seed throughout their generations that hath a blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath anything maimed, or anything too long, 19 or a man that is broken-footed, or broken-handed, 20 or crook-backed, or a dwarf, or that hath his eye overspread, or is scabbed, or scurvy, or hath his stones crushed; 21 no man of the seed of Aaron the priest, that hath a blemish, shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire; he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy. 23 Only he shall not go in unto the veil, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not MY holy places; for I am the LORD who sanctify them. 24 So Moses spoke unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel.
Again this is due to the extra degree of holiness and even the body of the Cohain has to be as perfect as can be.
22:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 2 Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, which they hallow unto ME, and that they profane not MY holy name: I am the LORD.
A Cohain has to be certain of the Taharos of his body and the objects he is using in the Avoda in the Mikdash
3 Say unto them: Whosoever he be of all your seed throughout your generations, that approaches unto the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from before Me: I am the LORD.
If Taharos or Kedusha of the Mikdash and Korban are not kept then the punishment is Kares and in some instances dying on the spot.
4 What man soever of the seed of Aaron is a leper, or hath an issue, he shall not eat of the holy things, until he be clean. And whoso touches any one that is unclean by the dead; or from whomsoever the flow of seed goes out; 5 or whosoever touches any swarming thing, whereby he may be made unclean, or a man of whom he may take uncleanness, whatsoever uncleanness he has; 6 the soul that touches any such shall be unclean until the even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he bathe his flesh in water. 7 And when the sun is down, he shall be clean; and afterward he may eat of the holy things, because it is his bread.
The reason that extra purity is needed because he eats holy food before the l-RD.
8 That which dies of itself, or is torn of beasts, he shall not eat to defile himself therewith: I am the LORD. 9 They shall therefore keep MY charge, lest they bear sin for it, and die therein, if they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctify them.
This is a reinforcement of the prohibition to a regular Jew as these are Tamay to the touch.
10 There shall no common man eat of the holy thing; a tenant of a priest, or a hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing. 11 But if a priest buy any soul, the purchase of his money, he may eat of it; and such as are born in his house, they may eat of his bread. 12 And if a priest's daughter be married unto a common man, she shall not eat of that which is set apart from the holy things. 13 But if a priest's daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father's house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father's bread; but there shall no common man eat thereof. 14 And if a man eat of the holy thing through error, then he shall put the fifth part thereof unto it, and shall give unto the priest the holy thing. 15 And they shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, which they set apart unto the LORD; 16 and so cause them to bear the iniquity that brings guilt, when they eat their holy things; for I am the LORD who sanctify them.
These Pasukim define who may or may not eat holy Korbanos, Teruma and Maaser from the Levy to the Cohain.
17 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 18 Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them: Whosoever he be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, that brings his offering, whether it be any of their vows, or any of their free-will-offerings, which are brought unto the LORD for a burnt-offering; 19 that ye may be accepted, ye shall offer a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats. 20 But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not bring; for it shall not be acceptable for you. 21 And whosoever brings a sacrifice of peace-offerings unto the LORD in fulfilment of a vow clearly uttered, or for a freewill-offering, of the herd or of the flock, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. 22 Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scabbed, or scurvy, ye shall not offer these unto the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the LORD. 23 Either a bullock or a lamb that hath any thing too long or too short, that you may offer for a freewill-offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted. 24 That which hath its stones bruised, or crushed, or torn, or cut, ye shall not offer unto the LORD; neither shall ye do thus in your land. 25 Neither from the hand of a foreigner shall ye offer the bread of your God of any of these, because their corruption is in them, there is a blemish in them; they shall not be accepted for you.
These Pasukim establish the requirements for a Korban and who may or may not eat from a Korban.
26 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 27 When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam; but from the eighth day and thenceforth it may be accepted for an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 28 And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not slaughter it and its young both in one day.
The Torah recognizes the sensitivity of animals that see their offspring or parents slaughtered and not to be taken care of with the parents or eaten on the same day.
29 And when ye sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, ye shall sacrifice it that ye may be accepted. 30 On the same day it shall be eaten; ye shall leave none of it until the morning: I am the LORD. 31 And ye shall keep My commandments, and do them: I am the LORD. 32 And ye shall not profane My holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the LORD who hallow you,
33 that brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD.
You have to have the utmost behavior in the Mikdash for HASHEM.
23:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: The appointed seasons of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are My appointed seasons. 3 Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of work; it is a Sabbath unto the LORD in all your dwellings.
The Hebrew throughout this section uses the double emphasis that we saw last week in Acharei Mos regarding Yom Kippur “Shabbat Shabbaton וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן ”.
4 These are the appointed seasons of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their appointed season. 5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at dusk, is the LORD'S Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD; seven days ye shall eat unleavened bread. 7 In the first day ye shall have a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of servile work. 8 And ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days; in the seventh day is a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of servile work.
This is the first of the three Regelim mentioned in this week’s Parsha and restated in Parsha Pinchas.
9 And the LORD spoke unto Moses saying: 10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest unto the priest.
The first to ripen is the grain barley and this is the counting of the time of the Omer which starts in Pasuk 15 below.
11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you; on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And in the day when ye wave the sheaf, ye shall offer a he-lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt-offering unto the LORD. 13 And the meal-offering thereof shall be two tenth parts of an ephah of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savor; and the drink-offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of a hin. 14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor fresh ears, until this selfsame day, until ye have brought the offering of your God; it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
One might think the counting of the Omer is only upon entering the land of Eretz Yisrael therefore the Torah states: “forever”!
15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete;
When Pessach falls on a Shabbos then the Karites and the Jews count from Motzei Shabbos the Omer but if it falls during the middle of the week, the Jews start on Motzei Chag Rishon. I finally heard an interesting word why many Jews wait until the end of the Seder to count the Omer on the night of the second Seder outside of Israel. This is because they are saying basically. If we count the Omer like in Eretz Yisrael then there is no need for a second Seder and if we count it at the end it is because of the Sofek whether if this is the first or second day of Pessach. The Karites wait until Motzei Shabbos to count and I believe hold only one day as their calendar is based on viewing the moon and not the average Molad so they have only one day.
16 even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the LORD. 17 Ye shall bring out of your dwellings two wave-loaves of two tenth parts of an ephah; they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven, for first-fruits unto the LORD. 18 And ye shall present with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams; they shall be a burnt-offering unto the LORD, with their meal-offering, and their drink-offerings, even an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the LORD. 19 And ye shall offer one he-goat for a sin-offering, and two he-lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace-offerings. 20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first-fruits for a wave-offering before the LORD, with the two lambs; they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21 And ye shall make proclamation on the selfsame day; there shall be a holy convocation unto you; ye shall do no manner of servile work; it is a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
This is the description of the counting of the Omer and the feast of Bikurim or Chag Shavuos.
22 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corner of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleaning of thy harvest; thou shalt leave them for the poor, and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
This Mitzvah is called Peah like the Peyos of the beard but this is the corner of the field and left for the poor. This is in addition to the sheathes that fall by the way and the forgotten sheath.
23 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest unto you, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns, a holy convocation. 25 Ye shall do no manner of servile work; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
From here on we have a description of the high holidays through Sukkos and Simchas Torah.
26 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 27 Howbeit on the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; there shall be a holy convocation unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 28 And ye shall do no manner of work in that same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from his people. 30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any manner of work in that same day, that soul will I destroy from among his people. 31 Ye shall do no manner of work; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of solemn rest, and ye shall afflict your souls; in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye keep your sabbath. 33 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 34 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. 35 On the first day shall be a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of servile work. 36 Seven days ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD; on the eighth day shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD; it is a day of solemn assembly; ye shall do no manner of servile work. 37 These are the appointed seasons of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt-offering, and a meal-offering, a sacrifice, and drink-offerings, each on its own day; 38 beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill-offerings, which ye give unto the LORD. 39 Howbeit on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruits of the land, ye shall keep the feast of the LORD seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. 41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever in your generations; ye shall keep it in the seventh month. 42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. 44 And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the appointed seasons of the LORD.
The last few Pasukim describe the Lulav, Esrog, Hadas and Arava.
24:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 2 'Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually. 3 Without the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, shall Aaron order it from evening to morning before the LORD continually; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 4 He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the LORD continually.
Each Korban requires oil, wine, incense, and the finest flour.
5 And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth parts of an ephah shall be in one cake. 6 And thou shalt set them in two rows, six in a row, upon the pure table before the LORD. 7 And thou shalt put pure frankincense with each row, that it may be to the bread for a memorial-part, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leitner Shlita: From the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, our dinner table is symbolically in place of the altar. So too, what and how we eat is considered an offering. The son of Rebbe Michel of Zlotchov, Rabbi Zev of Zabritch, would take a few moments before beginning any meal and contemplate the holiness of the occasion. He would make a conscious decision about how he was going to act while eating. In this week's portion is the verse, "…and the bread was a reminder" (Lev. 24:7). If Rabbi Zev's mind would wander even for an instant from his decided course, the bread would be a reminder to get back on track.
This is the shew bread before HASHEM and they are placed and the old ones removed every Shabbos.
8 Every Sabbath day he shall set it in order before the LORD continually; it is from the children of Israel, an everlasting covenant. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons; and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire, a perpetual due.'
The eating of the shew bread is done each Shabbos by the Cohain in purity and it was set aside a week before and comes to the Cohain warm and smelling freshly baked as stated in the Medrash.
10 And the son of an Israeli woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and the son of the Israeli woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. 11 And the son of the Israeli woman blasphemed the Name, and cursed; and they brought him unto Moses. And his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. 12 And they put him in ward, that it might be declared unto them at the mouth of the LORD.
She was from Dan but her son had no tribe. There is a Medrash that says the taskmaster that Moshe murdered with the DIVINE NAME was a rapist of Shelomith. There is also a Pshat that it was a mixed marriage like we have today.
13 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 14 'Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying: Whosoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 And he that blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him; as well the stranger, as the home-born, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. 17 And he that smites any man mortally shall surely be put to death.
Both the blasphemer and the murderer had to be warned by two witnesses that saw each other and him at the same time. It was not enough for somebody to warn him on Thursday at 10 and the other on Friday at 11. Rather they had to testify together to give him the death penalty.
18 And he that smites a beast mortally shall make it good: life for life. 19 And if a man maim his neighbor; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him: 20 breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath maimed a man, so shall it be rendered unto him. 21 And he that killed a beast shall make it good; and he that killed a man shall be put to death. 22 Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for the home-born; for I am the LORD your God.'
This is a repeat of the laws found in Parsha Mishpatim.
23 And Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and they brought forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stoned him with stones. And the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.
This is what happened to the man who cursed HASHEM such as Yose curse Yose. It was a curse done with the NAME and not a foreign language of name such as G-D, L-RD, HASHEM, or other non-Tetragramation Name.
A Gift for King Moshiach by Rabbi Y. Tilles http://ascentofsafed.com/cgi-bin/ascent.cgi?Name=909-32
The Rabbi realized it wasn't by accident that he had twice dropped his pen; Heaven was preventing him from signing. He burst into bitter tears.
Connection: seasonal- Iyar 11 is the 178th yahrzeit of Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz.
A Gift for King MoshiachRabbi Menachem Mendel Rubin of Linsk/Lesko (the father of the renowned chasidic rebbe, R. Naftali of Ropshitz), would sign his letters with his name and the title, "Ohev Yisrael" - "lover of the Jewish people."
One time, when he was about to sign in his customary way, the pen fell from his hand. When he picked it up and tried to sign again, the pen fell again. The Rabbi realized that this wasn't by accident, and that Heaven was preventing him from signing. He burst into bitter tears and said, "Oy, the good trait that I crowned myself with, the attribute of ahavat Yisrael (love of a fellow Jew), was taken from me. What did I do wrong? Did I insult someone and is this my punishment?"
The Rebbe thought through everything that had happened that day, but did not find anything amiss. He called his family members and asked them, "Did I insult anybody unwittingly?"
The family remembered that in the morning a coarse man wearing a peasant cap had come to the door, and he wasn't allowed to enter. The man was insulted and left.
The Rebbe immediately told his aides to go and find the man. The aides searched the town but did not find him. They looked in inns and hostels, but he was nowhere to be found. They asked passersby, but nobody knew where the man was. Finally, someone said he saw the man enter a place of sin. They went there and found him.
The aides told him to hurry, for the Rebbe wanted him, but the man refused to go with them. They grabbed him and brought him to the Rebbe, and told the Rebbe where they had found him.
The Rebbe acted as though he didn't hear what they said, and greeted the man warmly. He asked the man's pardon for insulting him, and then he asked his household to prepare a nice meal for the guest.
When the man saw how much the Rebbe honored him, he regretted his actions and became a penitent. It was only after the man departed that the Rebbe explained why he had given the man such honor.
"In the Days of Moshiach there will be Jews who do not want to greet Moshiach, and will stay where they are. Ultimately, the gentiles will take these Jews and carry them to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
"Who will these Jews be? These Jews will be sinners who have sunk to the 49th level of impurity, who will be brought as a gift to Moshiach. And we insulted such a gift! That is why it was so important to appease and honor him."
Source: Supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from //lchaimweekly.org (#903), with permission.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Rubin of Linsk (Lesko) (c.?1740 - 1803 [23 Tishri 5564]) was a disciple of the Hasidic rebbes Yechiel Michel of Zlotshov, and Elimelech of Lizhensk. He is often considered the first rebbe of the Ropshitz dynasty, of which his son, Rebbe Naftali of Ropshitz, was the most famous.
Connection: seasonal- Iyar 11 is the 178th yahrzeit of Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz.
From Canada to Yerushalayim a story in conversion article by Gedalyah Author Ashirah Yosefah concludes the dramatic story of her conversion with a surprising revelation about her own family's history.
Installment I Reback http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/194211#.VUEAl_mqrBE
Conversion to Judaism is a unique story for all who go through the process. Experience varies from country to country and person to person. It might be different also depending on the background: atheist or religious; black or white; rich or poor. The variety is one of the primary reasons that Ashirah Yosefah coauthored her new book with Michaela Lawson, Spark Ignited: The Difficult Journey to Orthodox Judaism: The Process & The Perils.
"My Rabbi in Canada asked me, ’Why didn’t you tell the whole story?’ At some point you decide ‘I don’t need to air that' because it’s not an easy journey. I keep saying when I mentor conversion candidates, 'This will literally cost you a lot and you don't know how that’s going to affect you.' You have to be willing to let go of material things, relationships, friendships and family in some cases.”
While there is a lot of respect for individual choice as it goes for religion in Western countries today, deep divisions might still be sown within families or from the convert's former religious community.
“My family is a bit of a paradox. My family was not religious and I never knew my mother and father to go to church. As a little girl I had this sort of yearning to get to know who God is. As a 4 or 5-year-old girl I would either go with neighbors to the nearby Baptist church or I would walk myself along the train tracks. I became involved in Baptist youth groups yet it was sort of on again off again relationship."
But Ashirah never got caught up in it. Even in high school in the early 1970s, she says, the spiritual movements of the time did not speak to her.
"There was this whole Hebrew roots thing going on. I was asking thing like 'What about the Jews? What about Israel?'"
That inquisitiveness got her kicked out of three different churches, she tells Arutz Sheva.
"Suddenly, in 1996 this whole Jewish world became accessible thanks to the web. Hashem led me to connect with the Rabbi of the community.”
"The internet provides an opportunity to make a tikkun [amends] and work on the good and evil inclinations."
Yosefah speaks of being the marketing director for her region of the NewBrunswick province, where she wrote feature pieces in the local papers about events and communities across the province.
“I really wanted to write something about Hanukkah. I didn't want to publish something though until I had the Rabbi read it."
She refers to Rabbi David Spiro who ran the Synagogue in Frederickton, New Brunswick for 55 years.
"All of the sudden in the months that followed we couldn't stop running into each other. He never ever pushed me to convert; he just answered my questions. Before Shabbat each week, I would read Chumash (Torah). We'd discuss the Parshah (weekly portion) every Thursday." "I see where you're coming from but have you ever looked at this way," she paraphrases the Rabbi as saying.
She became interested in a number of revolutionary religious movements – the Noahide movement, groups trying to trace themselves to the Lost Tribes, or the Hebrew roots movement where Christians took a more introspective look at the Jewish origins of their own religious beliefs.
“I got involved in the Lost Tribes movement and rose up the ranks becoming one of their teachers. It was a process of getting rid of the baggage. If you're sincere, all the sudden Hashem starts showing you different perspectives on things. Sometime around 2001 or 2002, I jettisoned the rest of the Jesus baggage. From that time he was demoted from God to a man but still the messiah, then down to charismatic teacher, to the point I wasn't even sure this man existed. And if he had, he would probably be a composite of a number of different people who might be aghast by what people are teaching about him [now]."
“I came in 2003 [to Israel] knowing even in 2002 I had to convert.
After several months, she summarizes that, "I had no belief in him whatsoever.”
From that point forward she seems to have broken the reins. She shifted away from Christianity and was pulled in by Judaism.
“It was a like a magnet that was inside that turned on and one day I just realized 'I have to do this and not only do I have to do this but I have to do it in Jerusalem.' I knew that as clear as anything that it had to be here."
Once Yosefah arrived in Israel, she began looking for Rabbis to learn with and study under for formal conversion. She spoke to dozens of Rabbis in and around Jerusalem. It was a lengthy search process, possibly delayed because she had not made her own religious views clear to the Rabbis and herself. Continuing the world she had done in the past, she began leading tours for other like-minded Noahides or people involved in examining the Jewish roots of their faith.
“I was organizing these tours for 10-18 people at a time for like-minded people to meet 50 or 60 figures from all walks of life – from Judea, Samaria and Gaza; MKs, Rabbis, kids.”
A number of participants felt a special kinship, maybe even guilt, when it came toward the Jews they were meeting. They felt as if they were emissaries in another sense, being good-will ambassadors.
“It was an exhausting two weeks for everybody, who somehow wanted to make amends for the travesties the church had committed in the past.”
Her activism landed her at least one major interview on what she was doing in Israel, with someone fascinated by her work. That interview became a watershed moment.
“I was doing an interview and she asked me 'So tell me, who do you think Jesus was?' I was still under the radar. I was doing personal learning with them trying to show them Jesus wasn't the messiah.” But at that point, she felt she needed “to be straightforward and just lay it on the line. 'All I know is that whoever he may or may not have been he would probably be horrified by how he is being represented by the Christian church.'"
At that point, she cut her ties with her former religion once and for all with a dramatic statement.
"When we read what we see about the Messiah, it's clear he was not the Messiah.”
The backlash was immediate, says Yosefah. “Within 24 hours my inbox was filled with hate mail."
At that point, her months of searching for the right Rabbis to oversee her conversion became easier. Her path was clear and her motivations were equally apparent. She soon found a program affiliated with the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), but that only marked the next step in a long journey to and through the conversion process. Her spiritual ties with Christianity were effectively severed, but she would continue to face challenges in the months to come.
The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) used to run a program in Jerusalem for would-be converts. It worked in conjunction with the Chief Rabbinate, who took over the process once students finished the RCA's comprehensive course. The program closed in 2006, but Ashirah Yosefah is grateful to many Rabbis who stewarded the program, including Rabbi Yitzhak Rubin of Jerusalem.
"I converted here through the RCA with panel of five rabbis. I went through the whole process and was accepted. About a month and a half into the course I am sitting in class and they start pulling students out one by one for separate interviews."
"All of the sudden I felt a hand on my shoulder."
It was Michaela Lawson, Yosefah's coauthor on Spark Ignited: The Difficult Journey to Orthodox Judaism: The Process & The Perils, who was working closely with the RCA program at the time.
"I was supposed to be part of the interview committee but I was away," she told Yosefah.
There is an established tradition in Judaism to try and deter prospective converts, in order to ensure that only those candidates truly committed to accepting the stringent requirements of Jewish law will persist. It is spoken of in detail in the Talmudic tractate Yevamot (47b), where teachers would talk of the hardships of being Jewish to the person asking to join. If the would-be convert is not deterred after three of these attempts, he or she is accepted as a candidate.
In some modern conversion programs, a different approach is taken to deter candidates that is far less explicit (mainly because the abovementioned approach is quickly found by people searching for information about converting to Judaism in books or on the web).
In Yosefah's case, Lawson was also interested in testing to see if she still had any ulterior motives to go through the class. There have been rumors for years that people have completed the conversion process when really acting as undercover missionaries. With Yosefah's background, that seemed to have been on Lawson's mind when she pulled her into another room and surprised her.
“She was nose to nose in my face. Then she started screaming, 'You look like a goy! You sound like a goy! You talk like a goy! You're a goy! You're a goy! You're a goy!'"
Yosefah was surprised, but not frightened. Her reaction did not read like someone who had just been outted, rather someone simply bewildered by the situation - as anyone would be. That was enough for Lawson to confirm she was dealing with an authentic student.
"I passed the test. She knew that when I didn't freak out. “
But her 'trials' did not end there. While driving near Jerusalem in 2004, she was the victim of a terrorist attack that caused her to lose hearing in her right ear. The injury only expanded on the hardships Yosefah was facing living in Israel and committed to the orders of her teachers. At that point, her program's Rabbis urged her to move to Jerusalem. Still reeling from the attack, Yosefah moved from a caravan in Judea to a city apartment that more than doubled her living expenses. To help cover that drastic financial change, her instructors suggested she room with two other students from the conversion program, two German-speaking students from Switzerland.
After the physical shock of terrorism, Yosefah then had to contend with another emotional storm. When they would speak German, it would not bother her, until it became clear they were talking about her a lot. One day, one of the roommates asked to use her computer before Yosefah stepped out for the day.
"I come home and I'm deadbolted out of my apartment. Once they let me in, it's clear someone's been on my computer. She had gone into my email. We were to have no contacts with Christian organizations and we would accept no help from anyone who was not Jewish.
“I was still corresponding with some other people trying to make decisions like I did though, a select few people I knew were really sincere.
“She had printed copies and took them to Misrad HaPanim (the Interior Ministry), Rabbanut and the Committee. I get call from Michaela Lawson - what have you done?! We need to talk right away. I had no idea.”
One of those roommates and fellow students had some apparent, unknown psychological issues. There was a sudden and stressful period where Yosefah was challenged again for her Christian religious roots.
“Apparently she was alleging I was a missionary. There were five days of hearings I wasn't allowed to attend. She had my roommate testifying against me. All I could say was 'Hashem, you know I am sincere.'”
"Michaela Lawson was my interrogator!" referring to her fellow coauthor for Spark Ignited.
At this point the older roommate broke down and spilled she had been threatened by the younger roommate. The revelations exonerated Yosefah, but added another bump in her journey.
After that, she was able to push forward and finally achieve her goal in the summer of 2005.
“On the 12th of (Hebrew month) Av, 50 years to the day I was born, I went to the mikvah. That was like my own yovel (Jubilee). That’s when themagnet stopped; when the intensity stopped."
“On the 12th of (Hebrew month) Av, 50 years to the day I was born, I went to the mikvah. That was like my own yovel (Jubilee). That’s when themagnet stopped; when the intensity stopped."
When asked if she felt there might be too much finality to some of these conversions - that people converting might be led to think this was the culmination of a process rather than another step in one’s religious lifestyle - Yosefah did not think her conversion personally panned out that way.
“When I say the magnet turned off, I simply meant that being Jewish is a lifelong learning process and you never really arrive. It's not just Torah; you're becoming a part of the people. That's the thing about my conversion course. We took philosophy, history, psychology and comparative religion, all these things to learn to become part of the people. I was told at the time it would be 10 years before I settled into who I was as a Jew. I think it's much longer and it takes for the rest of your life.”
She speaks of one lesson that is inescapable for converts.
“Hold on, because the more Hashem shows you, the more your outlook changes.”
Finally breaking through and realizing her identity as a bona fide Jewish woman, Yosefah was still faced with the challenge of finding her precise place in it.
In the final piece in the series, Yosefah will discuss the challenge of living in Israel with her family back in Canada and the common obstacles that converts face - practically, psychologically and emotionally - when they realize that they are newly minted Jews who still have to grow their roots deep in Jewish soil.
Family ties can be complicated, no less and especially for converts to Judaism. The Torah often demands kindness for converts alongside other people who are without kin: widows and orphans.
The reasons for that association are abundantly clear according to Yosefah Ashirah, the coauthor along with Michaela Lawson of Spark Ignited: The Difficult Journey to Orthodox Judaism: The Pearls & The Perils. However, it became even more so after making the trip to Israel and converting on her own.
“We really are orphans. We really are. Jews love to play Jewish genealogy. When sitting around the Shabbat table asking if you're related to so and so or do you know so and so - I can't do that. Even though when my own daughter visits, she will say 'I am almost jealous.' She says 'you've got such a family here.’ Despite that network there are still those times that I feel I don't have a Jewish family here because holidays are such family times. As much as I have been accepted, there's still that bit of 'I can't really say that I am related to so and so.'”
Whats worse, “there are always some people who feel you're insincere based on those cases where someone breaks through who isn’t.”
It is that reputation - and her experience seeing the doubts of her peers given her devout past - that leads her to speak out now. She refers to the Halakha (Jewish law) not to ask converts about their backgrounds prior to Judaism for fear of embarrassing them.
“My Rabbi asks me 'Why do you talk about it? Why do you do interviews?' I feel that I need to for the sake of both Jews and for the sake of non-Jews who might be considering a choice between a conversion and remaining a ben or bat Noah. Hashem has put me in a position where I might help them to make that choice.”
She speaks of a blossoming movement with membership that might reach into six-digit figures. In the past only a few Rabbis lent support, but now she can think of at least a dozen prominent Rabbinical figures who are investing their own resources.
“You can't give up because you're like Avraham. You've burned the idols," she tells her students.
But her path would not have been possible without one painful sacrifice.
“This cost me a marriage. I was married. My husband picked me up at the airport, we went to dinner and I started describing to him everything I could about Israel. He looked at me and said 'I did not marry a Jew,’ and he told me to get out. I could not have converted if that hadn't happened.”
Yosefah is grateful for that sudden clarity – and the ease of the divorce considering her husband was a lawyer. She emphasizes that it was a very difficult situation for everyone involved, but it was painless and since the divorce, they have become friends again.
“We’re friends today! He was very tolerant of my learning Torah in the house with a group of 20 or so people for seven years, but at that point he couldn't do it anymore. He was very angry. Today we’re best friends! He’s getting married in a couple months.”
Yosefah closed our interview by noting that her family’s own origins are murky, but in light of the limited research that her family is done, she knows that little is known of them before the 1700s, with the glaring exception the family left London around 1290 - the same year Jews were expelled from the city.
“I had a fascinating thing happen with one emissary of a prominent Rabbi,” she tells.
Yosefah was on a trip to the Interior Ministry to sort out visa information to stay in Israel. “I was sitting in the office of this Rebbetzin who was working as a lawyer in the Interior Ministry, when she got a phone call. She came back in and told me, ‘A very prominent Rabbi just called me.’ He told her to tell me ‘there is a woman with you right now who wants to convert to Judaism. Tell her that her mother was Jewish.’”
But, says Yosefah, “I never spoke to him.”
When she prodded the Rebbetzin for the Rabbi’s name, she refused to divulge. But based on what she knew of the Rebbetzin, she had a pretty decent idea it was likely a prominent Kabbalist.
“’Who? It doesn’t matter who,’ she told me. But I knew her father was close to Rabbi [Yitzhak] Kaduri.”
Suffice to say, she got the visa.
THERE ARE RABBIS and then there are “rabbis” or the Kapo’s of J Street: http://www.timesofisrael.com/can-an-intermarried-rabbi-truly-lead-a-jewish-congregation/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=bd72746d78-2015_04_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-bd72746d78-54396909
I want to restate what I say every year in the spring. There are laws of modesty for both men and women. I am not like Rav Falk's book on the subject which requires women almost wear a collar in the summer. The requirements are a dress that covers the knees when sitting down (please don't tell me that even some Orthodox females wear minis as they are not working on conversion and they are incorrect). Sleeves should be elbow length what my wife calls in Hebrew 3/4ths length. And the blouse should be that if you bend forward or some male is standing behind you that your top part is not overly exposed. Males are required to watch their language and dress smartly. (There is a Hetir for blue collar workers and farmers) but the minimum is the covering of the heart area aka chest/back and a belt or elastic to separate the heart from the lower extremities of the body. The Sephardim require sandals and socks according to the Ben Ish Chai and the Ashkenazim sandals.
Saudi ends cease fire in Yemen http://debka.com/article/24548/US-Yemen-ceasefire-bid-founders-as-Saudis-resume-air-strikes-Iranian-warships-on-course-for-Gulf-of-Aden
The Druze on the Golan are more loyal to Assad but helpless in Syria as Israel steps in: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/193627#.VTaJHDp8MeH
Part of a statement that Gail sent me written by Shai Tekoa: You saw this week more beheadings of, what, 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya; then there were the 12 Christians thrown overboard into the Mediterranean. Our enemies are satanic monsters of cruelty -- but unlike their Christian victims whom everyone sees as true innocents murdered for their religious faith, when the Ishmaelites slaughter us, they have “good” reason.
IDF replies to rocket attacks: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/194486#.VThXz5PEaM8
It could be the Saudi attacks that turned back the ships and not the USA: http://debka.com/article/24548/Iranian-naval-convoy-bound-for-Yemen-turns-back-toward-home
Plot to attack the Pope by members of the “religion of peace”: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/194517#.VTj2uJPEaM8
Israel reportedly attacked Hezbollah storage facility in Syrian being supplied by Iran. http://debka.com/article/24558/Arab-sources-report-Israel-air-strikes-against-Syrian-Hizballah-missile-bases-Hizballah-arms-convoys-DEBKAfile-Hizballah-secret-airstrip-possible-target-
Another attack on the missiles reported while Israel and Syria are quiet: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/194611#.VT2tOTqJgeE
Four terrorist dead on the Syrian border as they are spotted trying to plant a bomb: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4650925,00.html
Secret cooperation with Hamas: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4650733,00.html
Egypt may take out ISIS in Libya as it poses a threat: http://debka.com/article/24560/Large-scale-Egyptian-army-massed-for-operation-to-capture-eastern-Libya-from-ISIS
This is not Johnny Cash or Kenny Rogers singing “Burning ring of fire”: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/194646#.VT8TUiGqqko
Inside the bunker of the IDF: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4650265,00.html
Kerry is more and more optimistic on Iran! http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/194670#.VT8uwyGqqko
Two policemen attack a black IDF soldier for no apparent reason caught on camera: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4651102,00.html
Ed-Op about the Kapo Jews of today: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4651083,00.html
Mortar shells fall on the Golan: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/194681#.VT-PbpvfrIU
Former wounded soldiers is lost in Nepal and his parents are climbing the wall. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4651622,00.html
Plan to escalate in the Golan and Lebanon formed by Iran and Hezballah. http://debka.com/article/24565/DEBKA-reveals-Hizballah-officers-land-in-Tehran-with-Syrian-defense-chief-Iran-OKs-anti-Israel-strategy
Chabad in Nepal running out of money if you want to donate google them: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/194767#.VUFCofmqrBE
Have a wonderful Shabbos,